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Premiere Issue, Stan Clarke, The Art of the Nose, Expect Perfect Pairings

Posted by | January 10, 2008

Remembering Stan Clarke

Stan Clarke working in a Washington vineyard.  A video memorial made by Esquin Wine Merchants of Seattle, and posted to Wine Press NW’s blog, is available on youtube: http://tinyurl.com/27q6o2.
Stan Clarke working in a Washington vineyard. A video memorial made by Esquin Wine Merchants of Seattle, and posted to Wine Press NW’s blog, is available on YouTube: http://tinyurl.com/27q6o2.

When Stan Clarke died November 27, the Washington wine industry lost a pioneer and a friend. We also lost a great teacher. Starting in 2002, Clarke taught at Walla Walla Community College, where he helped build the college’s program in viticulture and enology and served as the program’s coordinator.

Clarke was a graduate of the Air Force Academy, held a B.S. in viticulture from U.S. Davis, and a Master’s in teaching from WSU. He worked in the Washington wine industry for many years, as grower relations manager for Chateau Ste. Michelle, general manager of Covey Run Vintners, and as a winemaker and general manager for Hyatt Vineyards.

Clarke also taught at Grandview High School, where our Marketing and News Services colleague, Samantha Graf, knew him.

“I’ve knew Stan since I was about 5 years old,” Graf said. “His youngest son Brian was in my grade and we were friends while he was in the Grandview School District. Stan wrote a wonderful wine section for the Yakima Herald and pretty much got the WWCC viticulture and enology program up and running. Wine was such a passion for Stan and it was nice to see that feed into his passion for teaching. He truly was an amazing person.”

Kathleen Williams, associate professor of horticulture and extension viticulturist, was also a long-time friend of Clarke’s.

“Working with Stan over the years, I grew to deeply appreciate and respect his passion for teaching, making wine, working with the industry and living by the ‘Golden Rule,’” Williams said. “Stan was also a little ‘rebellious;’ one wouldn’t count him as a dapper dresser or a strict conformist. Often he was in his favorite khaki shorts and a Hawaiian print shirt at an industry meeting. But get Stan on the podium and all doubts about his knowledge quickly evaporated. He was a man of well-chosen words which could both teach and inspire. I could always count on Stan for his support of the WSU Viticulture and Enology program. He always was happy to work with WSU students to train them in practical viticultural techniques, such as auguring post holes, planting nursery stock or pruning vines. One of the projects that Stan and I enjoyed working on together was the ‘Research Roundtable’ which brought in WSU research personnel to the Walla Walla industry to a day-long session. Stan was a friend and colleague; his passing will leave a void for many of us in the industry.”

Science and the Art of the Nose

Kerry Ringer, assistant professor of food science and extension enologist. Photo by Brian Charles Clark
Kerry Ringer, assistant professor of food science and extension enologist.

What do we mean when we describe a wine as “citrusy” or “berrylike”? These terms, wine lovers know, refer to the aroma, nose or bouquet of the wine, and using them accurately is an art attempted by many but mastered by few.

For assistant professor of food science Kerry Ringer, there’s more to know than the vocabulary of the bouquet. She’s after the chemical components of aroma, and wants to expose the terpenes lurking behind the nose.

It’s not just a matter of being able to identify the terpene limonene as the source of that citrus note you detect. Ringer is after the genes that regulate and express terpenes in grapes.

“Understanding the genetics of terpenes might allow growers to fine tune their viticultural techniques in order get particularly desired combinations of terpenes to express in the grapes,” Ringer explained.

“For instance,” she mused, “are terpenes still being formed late in hang time?” Growers often leave grapes hanging on the vine until the last possible moment in order to increase sugar content, and reduce vegetative characteristics, astringency and bitterness  But this might be risky, as terpenes bind to sugar molecules, making them unavailable to volatilize as the compounds we savor in the wine’s aroma.

The complex science of terpenes also holds the lure of potential breakthroughs in basic science.

“In doing this research,” she said, “we might find some enzymes of interest. We’re trying to gain a better understanding of how enzymes respond to agronomic variables.”

Enzymes are biochemicals that accelerate the production of still other chemicals. They’re of particular interest to wine and food scientists because enzymes are involved in the biochemistry of taste, aroma and texture. For instance, it’s the enzymes in meat tenderizers that break down certain proteins, making the meat easier to chew.

Understanding how grapes on the vine respond to the way they’re grown is critical in an industry where flavor and aroma are key selling points. For Ringer, that’s why basic and applied science go hand in hand.

“I’m interested in the whole picture,” Ringer said, “and that’s what motivates me and keeps me moving from the field to the lab bench to the winery.”

Expect Perfect Pairings at “A Celebration of Washington Wines”

Fine wines paired with excellent cuisine. A fun evening enjoyed with old friends and new acquaintances. A good time that serves a good cause.

The 7th annual gala black tie dinner and auction “A Celebration of Washington Wines” benefiting the WSU Viticulture and Enology program will offer it all.

And of course if you attend you’ll have the opportunity to “pair” your wine cellar with some of the best and rarest examples of Washington’s world-renowned premium wines – or yourself with a unique experience or exciting getaway.

The event will be held at the beautiful Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville on Saturday, January 26, starting with a reception and silent auction at 6 pm. Tickets are still available but going quickly.

One of the most unique auction offerings this year: A private four-hour reception and gourmet dinner for 10 personally hosted by the President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Scott Carson. The four-course gourmet meal with fine wines will be served in the private Boeing B&W Suite in the historic Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle.

For the die-hard Cougar fan, how about bidding on the fist-class tailgate party for four including lobster and all the fixings hosted by Jeff and Vicky Gordon of Gordon Brothers Cellars? The package includes four game tickets, hotel accommodations for homecoming weekend, and a six-pack of Gordon Brothers acclaimed 2002 Tradition presented in a beautiful wooden box.

You can see the full list of dining certificates, wine tasting events, dinner parties, getaways, unusual experiences – and of course, the bottles and collections of fine Washington wines – that will be on the auction block this year by visiting www.wineauction.wsu.edu/.

For more information or to make reservations contact Britta Nitcy at nitcy@wsu.edu or 509-335-6479.