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New V&E Director, First Crush

Posted by | October 16, 2008

International Wine Expert to Lead WSU V&E Program

Thomas Henick-Kling is the new director of WSU's program in viticulture and enology. Photo courtesy of Cornell University.

Thomas Henick-Kling is the new director of WSU’s program in viticulture and enology. Photo courtesy of Cornell University.

Thomas Henick-Kling, an international leader in wine research and education, is the new director of WSU’s viticulture and enology program.

Dan Bernardo, dean of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, announced the appointment Oct. 6. Henick-Kling is scheduled to assume his new responsibilities on a full-time basis in March 2009.

“Dr. Henick-Kling is a scientist, educator and advocate of the highest caliber,” Bernardo said. “He has led the development of viticulture and enology programs at Cornell and in Australia, and is therefore the perfect person to take the WSU program and Washington’s burgeoning wine industry to the next level.”

Rick Small, president of the Washington Wine Commission, agreed. “I’m delighted that we have someone of Dr. Henick-Kling’s caliber on board at Washington State University,” he said. “His reputation speaks for itself, and his international expertise will certainly benefit the Washington wine industry and broaden our perspective. Any time you can attract someone with experience from outside you move the program forward with great strides.”

Henick-Kling currently is professor of enology and director of the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre at Charles Sturt University in Australia. “For a long time, I have admired the Washington wine industry in its vision and enormous potential for quality and growth,” he said. “I am excited about the possibility of being able to add strength to the V&E program and support the Washington wine industry.”

For more details, please visit:
http://tinyurl.com/4mvhet.

First Crush at WSU’s New Research Winery

Top: Harvesting grapes in WSU's research vineyard. Middle: Just a few minutes from the vineyard, Markus Keller (left) and James Harbertson unload freshy picked chardonnay grapes. Bottom: Custom-made fermentors allow precise control of fermentations across multiple replications.

Top: Harvesting grapes in WSU’s research vineyard. Middle: Just a few minutes from the vineyard, Markus Keller (left) and James Harbertson unload freshy picked chardonnay grapes. Bottom: Custom-made fermentors allow precise control of fermentations across multiple replications.

One morning early in October, WSU viticulturist Markus Keller backed his pickup onto the loading dock of the new white winemaking facility at the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser. Enologist James Harbertson helped him unload about half a ton of freshly picked chardonnay grapes.

“We designed the winery for small-lot, research-scale production,” said Harbertson as he plucked sample berries from the clusters and dropped them into plastic baggies. The berries will be chemically analyzed for a wide variety of compounds.

With the new winemaking facility, Harbertson said, “there are lots of questions we can now address. But our main issues are pretty much all practical. How does one piece of equipment affect the winemaking process compared with another? And how do viticultural practices affect grape quality and, in turn, wine quality?”

“The winemaking facility represents another leap forward for viticulture and enology research at WSU,” said Dan Bernardo, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “By conducting winemaking research at this level of detail, we’re going to be able to support the state’s premium wine industry in new and exciting ways.”

Currently, Harbertson is collaborating with Keller to compare wines made from own-rooted versus grafted vines. The majority of Washington grape vines are own-rooted. California and other wine industries typically use disease-resistant rootstock to which varietals are grafted. Washington producers have not needed to graft vines as root diseases are so far not a problem in the state.

“We want to be prepared if there is an invasion,” said Harbertson. The researchers plan to make wine from grapes from both own-rooted and grafted vines that are grown in the same vineyard. Chemical analysis and sensory evaluation methodologies will be used to compare the wines. Currently, the team is working with Merlot, Chardonnay and Syrah varietals.

This is the second in a series of reports on WSU’s new research winery. The first part is available in the Voice of the Vine archive: http://tinyurl.com/4hdndf.