Best Paper (Yet Again!), Organic Vineyards

WSU Wine Scientists Add another Jewel to the Crown

WSU scientists have a long string of Best Paper Awards from the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture. And the string is getting longer.

Early each year, a committee appointed by the prestigious American Society of Enology and Viticulture, which publishes the journal, reviews all the papers published the previous year, looking for the two — one in enology and one in viticulture — that are deemed outstanding in their content and that make a substantial contribution to the industry and to the science of wine.

WSU enologist Jim Harbertson taking samples of grapes for analysis. Photo: Brian Clark/WSU.
WSU enologist Jim Harbertson taking samples of grapes for analysis. Photo: Brian Clark/WSU.

For the third year in a row, WSU scientists have won an AJEV Best Paper award. The 2009 Best Paper in Enology was awarded to James Harbertson and his coauthors for their paper on the “Chemical and Sensory Effects of Saignée, Water Addition, and Extended Maceration on High Brix Must.” (For the low down on the science in the paper, see the March 18, 2010 Voice of the Vine at

“It’s humbling to be recognized by my peers and colleagues like this. Some great enologists have been recipients of this award. It’s exciting and professionally satisfying to be recognized and to join that group,” said Harbertson, associate professor of enology based at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser.

“This work is very much the product of team work and partnerships with industry. We’re especially grateful for the tireless efforts of Chateau Ste. Michelle winemakers Josh Maloney and Bob Bertheau, who made the wine at their facility at Canoe Ridge and without whom this research could not have been completed.”

Harbertson’s coauthors on the award-winning paper are Maria S. Mireles, Eric Harwood, Karen M. Weller and Carolyn Ross.

“The criteria for evaluating papers this year was simplified to avoid re-reviewing papers,” said this year’s selection committee chair, Sara Spayd. “The paper has to be good science, it has to have an impact on industry or science or both, and it has to be well written and well organized.” Spayd is a professor and viticulture extension specialist in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University.

Sara Spayd, center, with North Carolina colleagues Jack Loudermilk, left, Yadkin County Extension Director (retired) and Dr. Trevor Phistor, Assistant Professor (Enology-Microbiology, Food Science, NCSU). Photo: Suzanne Stanard, News Editor, CALS Communications Services, NCSU.
Sara Spayd, center, with North Carolina colleagues Jack Loudermilk, left, Yadkin County Extension Director (retired) and Dr. Trevor Phistor, Assistant Professor (Enology-Microbiology, Food Science, NCSU). Photo: Suzanne Stanard, News Editor, CALS Communications Services, NCSU.

“We thought this year’s enology winner was important because a lot of what winemakers do is based on unsubstantiated assumptions,” Spayd said.”The work Harbertson and his colleagues did is research a small winery wouldn’t have been able to do. Large wineries may have already done this type of research, but the information wasn’t previously available to others.”

Spayd is herself the winner of three Best Paper Awards in Viticulture — and she won all of them while an Extension Enology specialist at WSU. For 26 years, Spayd was based in Prosser at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center.

“I love Prosser, and I loved working with the Washington wine industry,” Spayd said. When she started her tenure at WSU in 1980, there were only 15 wineries and 4,500 acres planted in wine grapes. “We were like a big family,” Spayd said. “A lot of us were about the same age, so we watched each other grow personally and with the industry. There were lots of marriages and a lot of kids were born.”

Walter Clore, the pioneering WSU horticultural scientist named the father of the Washington wine industry by the state legislature, was Spayd’s colleague and good friend. Chas Nagel, who helped evaluate grape varieties by investigating their winemaking potential, and ag economist Ray Folwell were also great friends and collaborators.

Spayd is back on her home turf at NC State, where she earned her undergraduate degree. “We’ve got a very young wine industry in North Carolina,” she said. “Sound familiar? We’ve got about 100 wineries and 1,500 acres in what we call here ‘bunch’ grapes. A lot of my job is varietal evaluation. With our warm nights, we’re looking at high-acid, high-pigment reds, especially. We’re finding that Cabernet Franc does well. Among the whites, there’s Chardonnay, which does well everywhere. We’re also seeing some great Viogniers.”

Spayd won Best Paper Awards in 1994, 2002 and 2009. Her publications are among the AJEV’s top 50 most cited papers, a significant indication of their ongoing importance to both the science and industry of wine.

Other contributions by WSU scientists are also among the journal’s top fifty most cited papers. The 2008 Best Paper in Viticulture, authored by Chateau Ste. Michelle Distinguished Professor of Viticulture Markus Keller in collaboration with Lynn Mills, is in that distinguished company, as are two others that Harbertson coauthored with his UC Davis mentor, D.O. Adams.

“The awards I received went to teams,” Spayd said. “None of those papers could have happened without the other team members. Multidisciplinary research is key to success, so regardless of where the co-authors name is in the list of authors, the work couldn’t have happened without them.”

Spayd pointed out that although she was the chair of this year’s selection committee, she did not vote in the selection process. “I read all the papers,” she said, “but it was the committee members’ decision. My role as chair was organizational, to facilitate the decision-making process without biasing the results.”

For more information:

Here’s a list of ASEV Best Paper awards won by current or former WSU scientists. A list of all winners, along with complete bibliographic information, is available on the Society’s Web site at

  • 2009 Best Paper in Viticulture: Julie M. Tarara, Jungmin Lee, Sara E. Spayd, and Carolyn F. Scagel. “Berry Temperature and Solar Radiation Alter Acylation, Proportion, and Concentration of Anthocyanin in Merlot Grapes.” See Voice of the Vine:
  • 2008 Best Paper in Viticulture: Markus Keller, Russell P. Smithyman, and Lynn J. Mills. “Interactive Effects of Deficit Irrigation and Crop Load on Cabernet Sauvignon in an Arid Climate.” See Voice of the Vine
  • 2007 Best Paper in Enology: L. Conterno, C.M.L. Joseph, T.J. Arvik, T. Henick-Kling, and L.F. Bisson. “Genetic and physiological characterization of Brettanomyces bruxellensis strains isolated from wines.”
  • 2003 Best Paper in Viticulture: Sara E. Spayd, Julie M. Tarara, D.L. Mee, and J.C. Ferguson. “Separation of Sunlight and Temperature Effects on the Composition of Vitis vinifera cv. Merlot Berries.”
  • 2002 Best Paper in Enology: C.M. Egli and T. Henick-Kling. “Identification of Brettanomyces/Dekkera species based on polymorphism in the rRNA internal transcribed spacer region.”
  • 1994 Best Paper in Viticulture: Sara E. Spayd, Robert L. Wample, R. G. Evans, R. G. Stevens, B. J. Seymour, and C. W. Nagel. “Nitrogen fertilization of White Riesling Grapes in Washington: Nitrogen and Seasonal Effects on Cold Hardiness and Carbohydrate Reserves.”
  • 1991 Best Paper in Enology: Charles G. Edwards, R.B. Beelman, C.E. Bartley, and A.L. McConnell. “Production of Decanoic Acid and Other Volatile Compounds and the Growth of Yeast and Malolactic Bacteria During Vinification.”

Organic Vineyard Consideration

If you’re considering establishing an organic vineyard, or transitioning an existing one to organic status, have a look at the fact sheet recently published by WSU horticulturalists Carol Miles, Jonathan Roozen, Gale Strerrett and Jacky King. Entitled “Trellis and Planting Stock Considerations for an Organic Vineyard,” the fact sheet reminds growers that “The primary difference between organic and conventional vineyard establishment is the requirement for non-treated wood posts for all trellising, including end posts.”

The fact sheet covers constructing a trellising system from the ground up and includes as well a sample worksheet to help growers calculate the costs involved.

Download the “Trellis and Planting Stock Considerations for an Organic Vineyard” fact sheet as a PDF by visiting