Renowned WSU wine scientist Tom Collins selected as inaugural Jackson Family Wines Endowed Professor

Jackson Family Wines partners with WSU on endowment to develop research and study impacts of smoke exposure within the viticulture & enology department

RICHLAND, Wash., and SANTA ROSA, Calif. — A longtime working relationship between Washington State University (WSU) scientist Tom Collins and Jackson Family Wines has evolved into the creation of an endowed professorship that recognizes Collins’ impactful wine science research and supports WSU’s Department of Viticulture & Enology (V&E).

Tom Collins stands next to winery equipment.
Tom Collins pictured at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center in Richland, Wash.

The Jackson family has recently committed $300,000 to the University to create the Jackson Family Wines Endowed Professor, with Tom Collins selected as its first recipient. The funds will support Collins’ innovative wine & grape research, promote sustainability in viticulture and enology, and further elevate WSU’s V&E program, which officially became a department on Jan. 1, 2023.

Collins, who was named Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Innovator of the Year in 2022, has long collaborated with Jackson Family Wines on a variety of projects to further research and development on wine quality, including research related to smoke-exposed grapes. “An endowed professorship is a terrific honor, and I’m thrilled to be the recipient,” says Tom Collins, now officially the V&E department’s Jackson Family Wines Endowed Professor. “This is a great opportunity for my program. The endowment provides yearly assistance and flexibility to support projects that arise in the middle of a grant cycle.”

Discussions regarding the endowment began in 2022, when Collins and a graduate student were developing techniques to quantify novel smoke related compounds in grapes and wine. To advance their research, Collins requested access to instrumentation equipment at Jackson Family Wines’ facilities in California. What started as a conversation about sharing costs for supplies and student travel eventually evolved into an endowed professorship representing a commitment to continued partnership between WSU and the family-owned wine company.

In 2022, Jackson Family Wines purchased 61 acres of an existing 117-acre property located in Mill Creek in the eastern region of Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. The family’s venture into Washington complements the company’s existing holdings in the Pacific Northwest, namely in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The family is currently planning for the release of wines produced from the vineyard under the care of winemakers Chris Carpenter and Gianna Ghilarducci as part of a new brand currently under development. 

“Since acquiring our first vineyard in Washington state last year, we’ve sought to strengthen our connections in the region and find opportunities to support the local Washington wine industry,” says Christopher Jackson, second-generation proprietor of Jackson Family Wines. “We’ve long admired Tom Collins and his commitment to research that brings more innovation to viticulture and winemaking. We’re proud to create this endowment that brings more resources to studying the impacts of smoke on winemaking. Our hope is that Tom’s continued research will not only benefit the local Washington winemaking community, but the global wine industry as well,” he added.

A man in a grey shirt and wide brimmed hat prepares a smoking device draped in a black cloth.
Tom Collins prepares his first smoke trial in 2017.

Jackson Family Wines believes in the concept of leading through action.  The company takes pride in the role they play in advancing sustainability projects and initiatives to preserve and protect land, enhance biodiversity, improve water habitat, implement climate solutions, and support and fund critical research that improves sustainable vineyard practices, viticulture methods, and winemaking quality. In addition to the creation of this endowment at Washington State University, the Jackson family has supported other universities and research. This includes funding the Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building within the Department of Viticulture and Enology at U.C. Davis, a 8,500 square-foot winery that is the first self-sustainable, zero-carbon teaching and research facility in the world. The Jackson family has also collaborated with other research institutes and universities, local resource conservation agencies, Fish and Wildlife Services, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), Trout’s Unlimited to improve watersheds, study water conservation methods, and more.

“The endowed professorship recognizes Tom’s influential smoke-affected grape research and demonstrates Jackson Family Wines’ commitment to the future of WSU’s V&E department,” says Wendy Powers, Cashup Davis Family Endowed Dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS). “The funds will enable CAHNRS to foster a more resilient Washington and support the state’s wine industry as we adapt to a changing climate.”

“The endowment is an investment in the future of our department, an inspiration to our stakeholders and the faculty team, as well as a welcome acknowledgement of Tom’s record of research excellence,” adds V&E Department Chair Jean Dodson Peterson. “We are truly grateful for this gift and look forward to the continuation of research that guides the future of the grape and wine industry.”

About Washington State University’s Viticulture & Enology Department
The WSU Viticulture & Enology (V&E) Department is a comprehensive education and research program that prepares students for successful careers in the wine industry and supports the region’s winemakers and grape growers. Enhanced by renowned faculty and state-of-the-art facilities, the V&E Department takes a hands-on, multidisciplinary approach, offering students technical, scientific, and practical experience.

About Jackson Family Wines
Jackson Family Wines is a family-owned, vineyard-based company with a penchant for exploration. Founder Jess Jackson placed his faith in farming and a meticulous expression of wine with his first landscape-changing vintage in 1982, an ethos that chairman Barbara Banke and the Jackson family continue to uphold to this day. The Jackson family’s collection of 40 wineries spans significant winegrowing regions, from California, Oregon, Washington, Canada, France and Italy in the northern hemisphere, to Australia, Chile and South Africa in the southern half of the globe. Vineyard ownership and sustainable practices remain key to consistent quality and artisan winemaking is built to scale, underscoring a steadfast commitment to making wines of character and integrity. For more information, visit