Celebrate dads, grads, and more this summer with sparkling wine made by WSU students

Close-up of a glass of sparkling wine.
Sparkling wine made by WSU graduates is now available for summer celebrations.

Every week since they started college at Washington State University, viticulture and enology (V&E) students Gabriel Crowell, Andrew Gerow, and Matt Doutney would buy and drink a different bottle of Champagne. They wanted to understand the different flavor profiles and imagine the possibilities of crafting their own sparkling wine.

While living on campus at WSU Tri-Cities, Crowell, Gerow, and Doutney had another weekly ritual: taking a walk through the Albert Ravenholt Research and Teaching Vineyard to observe the growth of the wine grapes.

The trio decided to create a sparkling wine for their Blended Learning course, a hands-on winemaking class in which students have creative control. Their sparkling wine is now available for purchase through the WSU Wine Store and at the WSU Visitor Center.

The team made a request to use grapes from the teaching vineyard.

“There is a lot that goes into the process of making a traditional method sparkling wine. It’s technical, and you have to be precise,” said Crowell.

Harvested, fermented, and bottled within a month, this wine is different than others on the Blended Learning label.

“Grapes were grown at WSU, the wine was fermented at WSU, and it was bottled at WSU,” Doutney said.

Featuring 13% Chardonnay, 66% Gewürztraminer, and 21% Riesling grapes, Crowell said the wine has a fresh ginger taste with hints of rose, lemon, and lime.

The three friends have since graduated and are now alumni of the V&E program.

All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Sparkling wines (as opposed to still wines) contain carbon dioxide gas produced by a second fermentation in the bottle to give them a fizzy, effervescent taste.

Only sparkling wines bottled in the Champagne region in France can claim the title of “Champagne.” Sparkling winemaking started in Champagne in the 1700s, and continues today, taking advantage of the region’s cool climate and chalky, mineral-rich soils.

Unlike still wines that can be corked and saved for later, sparkling wines lose their carbonation over time and once opened, can go flat like soda.

Champagne is often marketed as a celebratory drink to enjoy socially due to its temporary nature.

“Once you pop it open, you have to drink it in one sitting,” Doutney said.

Crowell, Gerow, and Doutney run a small wine store in Richland, Wash. The trio also runs a winery completely dedicated to the production of sparkling wines.

“Because we have this knowledge and experience, we’re expanding our wine industry careers, selling wine, and helping to grow the Washington wine scene,” Crowell said. “The V&E program is all about how you take advantage of what you have around you.”