New scholarship endowment to support minority and under-represented students in Viticulture and Enology

A three-way partnership between Woodinville Wine Country, Chateau Ste. Michelle, and DeLille Cellars will aim to recruit students from diverse backgrounds for WSU’s wine science program.

As racial justice protests erupted across the country last summer, Amber Schmitt, Director of Marketing for Woodinville Wine Country, said the organization was challenged about what they were doing to help.

“It made us take a look inward and realize really quickly that there are not a lot of Black owned breweries and wineries in Washington,” said Schmitt. “We contemplated the best way to use our combined voice and resources for greater inclusivity and diversity within the wine industry.”

Three students, two in white lab coats and one in blue, work in the WSU wine science laboratory using pipettors.
WSU wine students work in the laboratory extracting liquid nitrogen in June 2019.

The Woodinville Wine Country Association represents the winemakers of the Woodinville area, which features a plethora of tasting rooms within a three-mile radius.

Schmitt said the scholarship endowment for WSU’s Viticulture and Enology program is the perfect way to support diversity amid future winemakers and industry professionals throughout the state. “This is a small step toward solving a bigger issue.”

“This Viticulture & Enology scholarship will enable us to continue working toward equitable opportunities for students from all backgrounds,” said André-Denis Wright, Dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.

DeLille Cellars is the third oldest operating winery in Woodinville, Wash., known for pioneering Bordeaux-style blends from grapes sourced across Washington State.

Keri Tawney (’98), a WSU graduate and director of marketing for DeLille Cellars, said being part of the team that brought this endowment to fruition has been rewarding.

“DeLille has provided me a wonderful opportunity to combine my advertising degree from WSU with my passion for Washington wine. Now it comes full circle with DeLille being a founding member of this scholarship for the V&E program to further enhance and create more inclusivity in our amazing wine community,” she said.

When awarding the scholarship, special consideration will be given to students who have overcome socioeconomic obstacles, educational disadvantages or disabilities, or are the first in their family to attend college.

“WSU has a world class viticulture and enology program, and we’re honored to partner with Chateau Ste. Michelle and Woodinville Wine Country in creating this scholarship,” said Tom Dugan, CEO of DeLille Cellars. “It reflects the great collaboration and community of Washington wine.”

Chateau Ste. Michelle has supported the WSU wine science program steadily for over 30 years by contributing funds for research and student scholarships. In 2015, WSU dedicated the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center in recognition of these significant contributions.

Photo of center at sunrise
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center

“We believe diversity is important not just for our winery, but for the wine industry overall. It brings a wealth of creativity and innovation to our teams, research and most importantly our winemaking,” said Melody Zhang, Chief Human Resources Officer at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. “We know there is more to be done, and believe that by helping to establish this scholarship, we are taking the first of many steps to develop future leaders in the wine industry that represent diverse cultures, backgrounds, experiences and insights.”

Details of the scholarship are still being finalized, with the first scholarship most likely being awarded for the 2022 academic year.

Community members who would like to make a donation to grow the endowment fund for the Woodinville Wine Country Diversity Scholarship Fund can donate via the WSU Foundation.