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Freshman year switch to plant science leads to Wine Spectator Student of the Year honor

Megan Meharg came to Washington State University with plans to become a veterinarian. In a freshman class that explored both animal and plant science, she realized she wanted to switch sides.

“I had planned a whole class schedule and career path, but I decided to change it,” Meharg said.

A young brunette woman in a black vest poses in front of a rack of wine with a bottle of wine.
Megan Meharg is the Wine Spectator Wine Student of the Year for 2021.

She switched her major to Viticulture & Enology, and dove into the world of wine. Meharg worked on greenhouse projects as a soil science intern, got involved with Viticulture & Enology (V&E) Club and Coug Wine Society, and still serves as a CAHNRS Ambassador to mentor incoming students new to college. This fall, she will work her second harvest with a local vineyard and winery.

Drawn to the experimentation side of fermentation chemistry, Meharg said the study of wine encapsulates everything she is passionate about.

“It’s business, marketing, biology, plant physiology, chemistry – I really love how it touches every single aspect of life,” she said.

Now a senior and poised to graduate in May 2022, Meharg has been named the Wine Spectator Wine Student of the Year.

“We were in a meeting for something totally different, and I’m glad I was sitting down when they told me. I didn’t even know I was in the running,” she said.

Wine Spectator is a print and online magazine featuring news, research, and stories about wine from grapevine to wine glass with an audience of nearly three million readers worldwide.

Each year, the Student of the Year is awarded annually to a WSU V&E student in recognition of their academic achievements and research benefitting the wine industry, and the award includes a $15,000 scholarship from the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation.

“I feel so honored and grateful to have received this award. It makes me appreciate all the time professors, advisors, and mentors have put into encouraging me,” said Meharg, who said the financial support will help her stress less about how to pay for her last year of school.

Two women in white coats work in a wine science lab.
Meharg at work in the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Wine Science Center in Tr-Cities, Wash.

“This award recognizes value in my hard work, and give me motivation for finishing strong,” she said.

“As the advisor for the V&E club in Pullman, I have watched Megan bloom,” said Ade Snider, academic and internship coordinator for the Department of Horticulture. “She hasn’t missed a single fundraiser or pouring event, takes initiative, and reinvigorated the V&E Club despite everything being virtual last spring.”

Meharg plans to travel after graduation and follow the wine harvest season in New Zealand or Italy before returning to school to pursue a graduate degree.

“I really want to keep studying, because I’m passionate about sustainable agriculture and working with grape genetics. I think our future is in breeding traits that help plants become more resilient to drought and disease,” she said.

After working in the industry, Meharg said one of her long time goals is to be an educator, in the hopes of inspiring other future students to study the science of wine. “I’m all about helping people find their purpose in life,” she said.

To learn more about the Viticulture & Enology program at WSU, visit the V&E website.

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Kaury Balcom, Public Relations & Communications Coordinator,