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Celebrate Washington Wine, New Viticultural Specialist, Deflate Windbags with Science

Posted by | December 16, 2010

Celebrate Washington Wine

The 10th anniversary Celebrate Washington Wine black-tie gala dinner and auction is Saturday, January 22.
The 10th anniversary Celebrate Washington Wine black-tie gala dinner and auction is Saturday, January 22.

The 10th anniversary Celebrate Washington Wine black-tie gala dinner and auction is a little more than a month away and the excitement is building. This year’s event will be held on the evening of Saturday, January 22, in the intimate setting of the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville. All proceeds benefit the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program.

Back by popular demand for the live auction this year is a week-long stay in a luxurious South African game lodge located within what is considered one of the world’s finest wilderness conservation areas. Another perennial auction favorite, a one-hour session flying a commercial airliner in the Boeing flight simulator, is also back on the auction block.

As always a wide array of fine dining and wine tasting experiences, golf getaways, sporting events and memorabilia, and special wine collections will be up for bid.

“Glass Art and Art in a Glass”

This year’s auction will feature beautiful, handcrafted glass centerpieces by award-winning fused glass artist Deborah Barnard. That’s notable because Barnard’s studio is located in Richland’s Barnard Griffin Winery, which she co-owns with her husband, Rob Griffin. They refer to the arrangement as “glass art and art in a glass.”

Each of the 20 pieces she is creating specifically for Celebrate Washington Wine will be unique, and all will be available for bidding.

Tickets for the gala are $250 and include a reception and gourmet dinner with wine pairings in addition to the exciting silent and live auctions. For more information, to donate an auction item, and to register for the gala visit

Renee Stout with WSU V & E program seniors Jason Stout, Cameron Rushton, and Dane Scarimbolo at the 2010 auction.
Renee Stout with WSU V & E program seniors Jason Stout, Cameron Rushton, and Dane Scarimbolo at the 2010 auction.

Can’t Wait?

If you can’t wait until January for a little auction excitement, please check out our online auction. We will be adding new items until the January gala, so check back periodically to see what new treasures come up for bid.

Go to and look for the online auction on the right.

Housing Help for Students in Woodinville

Once again this year we are inviting the seniors in the Viticulture and Enology Program to join us in Woodinville for the gala, and for educational tours of some of the area’s wineries. We need to identify housing for the weekend of January 21 and 22 for up to 20 students, preferably in the Woodinville area. If you can help or have suggestions please contact Debbie Schwensen at 509-372-7224 or Thanks!

New WSU Viticultural Extension Specialist Tackles Statewide Responsibilities

Michelle Moyer in a vineyard in Oppenheim, Germany. St. Catharine's Church is in the background. Photo by Franziska Doerflinger.
Michelle Moyer in a vineyard in Oppenheim, Germany. St. Catharine's Church is in the background. Photo by Franziska Doerflinger.

The newest member of WSU’s world-class viticulture and enology faculty is a self-described “farm kid” from Wisconsin.

Michelle Moyer will take on statewide viticulture extension responsibilities starting Feb. 1.

Moyer is joining the viticulture industry with a horticulture background. “My family wanted me to come to work in the nursery and landscaping business they own in Wisconsin but I fell in love with grapes while living in New York,” she said in a phone interview during a layover in the Detroit airport.  “Luckily, the ornamental horticulture and viticulture industries are very similar in terms of business practices. That made it easy to convince them I wasn’t really leaving the family trade, only expanding to a new, exciting area in horticulture.”

Developed Powdery Mildew Risk Assessment Model

Moyer recently graduated from Cornell University with a Ph.D. in plant pathology. While at Cornell, she studied the biology of grapevine powdery mildew, and developed a powdery mildew risk assessment model.  “I have a strong background in horticulture,” Moyer said, “so the math-intensive powdery mildew modeling was a good challenge.” The goal of her research at Cornell was to develop a risk index that would help enable grape growers in the eastern U.S. to decide when to spray and to optimize control strategies. In addition, the modeling efforts took her to the Riverland wine region of South Australia for two growing seasons, to compare and contrast management strategies and disease development in these two very different viticulture areas.

“The model is probably applicable to western Washington conditions,” she said. “New York is very wet, and growers typically spray up to 15 times per year. So anything we can do to minimize that is money in their pockets, whether through reduced spraying, or more effective control with the current spray programs.

Washington Issues

Moyer said that economic issues were one of the priorities she hopes to address in Washington.

“Wine grape production is getting more and more competitive,” she said, “so it makes sense to develop really robust economic modeling systems to help with various aspects of viticultural enterprises. I’m also really interested in learning and expanding the cultivar options that  the various regions of Washington can grow.”

Moyer said she hopes to work on a site-selection tool for growers incorporating her work with disease models. She’ll have a good foundation to build on, as WSU soil sciences graduate student Ian Yau has spent the last two years creating a tool based on soil profiles and weather data, while Vinifera Euro Master’s student Linn Scott has recently done some preliminary flavor mapping of Washington Rieslings.

“A lot of what I do and how I prioritize my research and extension activities will be based on what growers tell me they want and need when I arrive in Washington,” Moyer said.

In collaboration with WSU’s viticulture and enology team and the state’s burgeoning industry, Moyer will provide leadership in developing and conducting educational and applied research programs that address the major issues in the production of wine and juice grapes in Washington.

“I want to get to know the industry,” Moyer said. “The first few months will be going on a listening tour, including attending growing meetings in western Washington.  The industry is large and diverse, both geographically and economically, so meeting all of the players is an absolute must.”

Washington State’s wine industry is the second largest and fastest growing wine industry in the nation with a global economic impact of close to $6 billion annually. Her research will focus on the economic aspects of grape production and on wine quality. She will also mentor and teach graduate and certificate-program students.

“I’m thrilled to be joining this incredible industry,” Moyer said.

–Brian Clark, with additional reporting by MNEC intern Victoria Marsh

For more information on WSU-based efforts to create a vineyard site-selection tool, see

For more information on research into wine flavor profiles, see

Seven Ways to Puncture a Wine Windbag

Photo by Brian Maki/Center for Distance and Professional Education
Photo by Brian Maki/Center for Distance and Professional Education

Uncle Patrick gargles his wine. “I taste blackberries and cherry and oak,” he says, “and a lot of tannins.”

The only thing you know about wine is that it comes in different colors. But, with holiday meals approaching, here’s how to puncture wine windbags with science, thanks to WSU associate professor of horticulture Kathleen Williams:

  • Precipitate saliva. When Patrick says he tastes tannins, you say: “Tannins don’t have a taste. They create a sensation as they precipitate the proteins out of your saliva.” Tip: Stroke your chin sagely as you pronounce “precipitate.”
  • Throw in a German word.  Patrick swirls the glass. “Good legs,” he observes. You say, “The French call them tears. The Germans call them Kirchenfenster or church windows, because they form an arch.” Want more? Try this: “Water has more surface tension than alcohol. The evaporating alcohol pulls the water up with it. When the alcohol breaks through, the water runs down.”
  • Hit him with Brix. Patrick looks at the label. “Oh my,” he says, “14.9 percent alcohol.” You’re ready for him. “Did you know that wines from hot areas tend to have more alcohol? That’s because the grapes have more sugar. As a rule of thumb, every 2 percent of sugar will produce about 1 percent alcohol. So this wine was originally almost a third sugar. Of course, wine makers don’t call them sugars. They call them Brix.” Tip: Refill his glass. Keep refilling his glass. This becomes important later.
  • Diamonds are your best friend. He holds the glass up to the light. Tiny crystals stick to the sides. “It’s going bad,” he says. “Not really,” you say. “Those are potassium tartrate crystals, same thing as cream of tartar.  They’re a naturally occurring acid in grapes.” Smile tolerantly, and add, “In Canada, they call them wine diamonds.”
  • Herbal harmony. Patrick says, “A red wine would overwhelm the turkey.” You say, “It’s not really about the turkey. It’s about the herbs with the turkey, such as onion, celery and sage. What works well is to contrast the herbs with a fruity wine, such as a Beaujolais Nouveau or a Gewürztraminer.”
  • Make something up. By now, Uncle Patrick should be a bit toasted, so hit him with something ludicrous, but difficult to disprove: “Gewürztraminer has an umlaut,” you say. “The word umlaut is derived from the word omelet and Gewürztraminer pairs well with omelets. As a matter of fact, most umlaut wines go well with egg-based dishes, such as quiche. It’s called a bio-linguistic reaction.”
  • Fancy footwork. As he sputters to object, quickly change the subject: “Do you know what the best pairing is? Scientists in England proved that it is milk and chocolate chip cookies. Speaking of dessert, how about some pie?”

By Richard H. Miller, Washington State University

WSU’s viticulture and enology program offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees, and certificates. For more information go to