WSU wine industry research liaison recognized with Walter J. Clore Award

Melissa Hansen holds her trophy.
Melissa Hansen is the 2022 winner of the Walter J. Clore Award.

GRANDVIEW, Wash. — When Melissa Hansen interviewed Walter Clore decades ago, she had no idea she would someday receive an award from the Washington State Grape Society named after the father of the Washington wine industry himself.

Hansen, Washington State Wine Commission research program director, is the 2022 Walter J. Clore Award winner, selected by a committee comprising the current Grape Society president, past award winners, and Washington State University faculty in the Department of Viticulture and Enology. Winner selection criteria include service to the Washington state grape industry and active Grape Society participation.

“Melissa is a wonderful advocate for WSU’s viticulture and enology research and Extension programs,” said Catherine Jones, Grape Society president. “She helps inform the industry and the public of the great work being done. She has consistently supported the Grape Society over the years, and we are happy to give her this award.”

Given the many industry giants and renowned growers previously honored, Hansen said the unexpected recognition is especially meaningful.

“It’s humbling and surreal to see my name next to theirs,” she said. “The award recognizes the Wine Commission and the wine industry’s robust research program, and it confirms the difference we are making.”

Hansen said her current role as research program director was tailor-made for her skillset. Since 2015, Hansen has used her experience to share scientific research results with the wine industry and worked alongside the Wine Commission research committee to build a million-dollar research program backed by WSU, the Wine Commission, and the Auction of Washington Wines.

Hansen is also involved nationally, helping bolster awareness of the Washington wine industry and WSU.

“Melissa has represented Washington on several national boards, keeping the state on the radar,” said Michelle Moyer, viticulture Extension specialist at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research Extension Center in Prosser, Wash. “She is also extremely supportive of Extension and the research conducted by WSU graduate students, and always takes the time to promote their efforts.”

Hansen has worked hard to establish a strong research partnership between the wine industry and WSU. The recent creation of WSU’s Department of Viticulture and Enology adds another exciting component to her work.

“The crowning jewel is the new V&E department,” she said. “The Wine Commission is very involved in helping make sure the department gets off on the right foot and providing support.”

Hansen has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture journalism from California Polytechnic State University; her career also includes previous roles at the Council of California Growers, the California Grape and Tree Fruit League, and the California Table Grape Commission. She and her husband have lived in Ellensburg, Wash., since 1995.

Prior to joining the Wine Commission, Hansen spent two decades writing about grape research for Good Fruit Grower magazine. During that time, she built strong connections with WSU viticulture and enology researchers, distilling the scientific language of their reports into applicable information for farmers.

Hansen’s favorite part of working in the wine industry is interacting with growers and researchers. She is encouraged by the willingness of the Wine Research Advisory Committee (a Wine Commission subcommittee) to take risks on supporting research that could eventually have a significant impact on the wine industry’s future.

“It’s exciting to see completed research proposals that have real application and the potential to move the needle for the industry,” said Hansen.

The Wine Commission has built a research program that other states look to as an example, but Hansen is quick to emphasize it’s not a one-woman show.

“It’s reinvigorating to know that people recognize the effort,” she said. “This award reflects the Wine Commission’s commitment to research. I’m the one carrying it out, but I have the whole Wine Commission team, board, and two industry research committees behind me.”

Media Contacts

Angela Sams, PR/Communications Coordinator