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Fall vineyard and wine science graduates prepare for next stage

Posted by | January 27, 2015

With Washington being the second largest premium wine producer in the United States, the outlook for Washington State University viticulture and enology graduates is much like the weather during growing season in Washington’s wine country: sunny. Seven new vineyard and wine scientists from WSU are ready to enter the grape and wine industry around the world.

Viticulture and enology education at WSU is a multi-campus experience with courses at the Pullman and Tri-Cities campuses and research opportunities at facilities located throughout Washington.

Students who completed viticulture and enology bachelor’s degrees in December are Roxann Austin, Clint Hepper and Doug Moore (in Pullman) and John Hockersmith, Helena Konstacky and Les Walker (in the Tri-Cities).

Enrique Proano Garcia earned a master’s of soil science, studying possible causes of a disorder affecting Concord grapes when a new vine is replanted where another previously grew (learn more in the July 2013 issue of Voice of the Vine).

While earning his degree, Les Walker researched grapevine viruses with Professor Naidu Rayapati at the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser. Walker plans a poster presentation explaining the research findings at the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers annual meeting in February.

“I’m excited to begin working in the wine industry, including in the southern hemisphere while it’s still winter and early spring here,” Walker said. “I have an offer to work at a New Zealand winery for harvest, assuming a work visa comes through in time!”

Roxann Austin’s near-future plans include a spring internship in Argentina wine country and a fall internship in Washington’s wine country.

“Developing a vineyard and winery on my own property in Montana is the ultimate goal,” said Austin. “I’m also looking forward to being involved in the newly established Montana Grape and Wine Association. Being a part of Washington’s wine industry has given me a great foundation.”

Over 27,000 people in Washington hold wine-related jobs, collectively earning $1.17 billion each year, according to the Washington State Wine Commission.

For more information on the WSU viticulture and enology program, visit

– Erika Holmes