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Professional Certificates, Alumni in Business, Expect Perfect Pairings

Posted by | May 1, 2008

Viticulture, Enology Online Certificate Programs Expand

Students in WSU's professional certificate program at a Grape Camp in Prosser.

Students in WSU’s professional certificate program at a Grape Camp in Prosser.

In response to demand from students and the burgeoning Washington wine industry, online viticulture and enology professional certificate programs through Washington State University Extension will now start yearly.

The viticulture and enology courses are separate two-year programs that teach students all facets of grape and wine production through online lessons and hands-on experience. The programs are tailored for people who are interested in wine grape growing and winemaking, but are not interested in obtaining a college degree.

Both courses offer a balance of online interactive learning and hands-on activities in Prosser to give students the knowledge and experience they will need. In the grape production class, for example, students study pruning online and then physically prune vines in a vineyard at WSU’s Prosser Research and Extension Center.

“We used to start the programs every two years but the demand was so high that we had to come up with a way to meet the needs of students and the industry,” said Mercy Olmstead, director of WSU’s Professional Certificate Programs in Viticulture and Enology. “The best way to do that was to run both programs concurrently instead of consecutively.”

The result is that 30 additional students will be able to enter each program every year. In turn, more graduates of the program will be working in the industry sooner.

“Originally, this program was a course offered on the weekends in a classroom setting but we created the online courses to give more people a chance to learn from highly educated professionals and it keeps growing,” said Olmstead.

— Desiree Kiliz, CAHNRS and WSU Extension Marketing and News Services

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Hotel Business Management and Wine Industry Make a Perfect Pair

Cougar Allison Helfen and husband Scott are the owner-operators of The Wine Alley in Renton.

Cougar Allison Helfen and husband Scott are the owner-operators of The Wine Alley in Renton.

Are you a Coug in the grape or wine industry? Drop us a line, as we’d love to tell your story, too. Send email to Brian Clark,

After 20 years in the hotel industry, Allison Helfen had no idea that her education in Washington State University’s Hotel Business Management program would lead to such a success in the wine industry.

For the past three years, Allison and her husband Scott have owned and operated The Wine Alley, a specialty wine shop located in Renton, Wash. The couple recently won Evening Magazine’s “Best Wine Selection” award in recognition of their efforts to bring the best of eastern Washington to the West Side.

“We were inspired by the wine shops we visited while in Tuscany in 2004,” said Helfen. “When we came back we wanted to have a shop where people could come in, taste, purchase and then go home.”

The Helfens gather a variety of Washington wines and bring them to their customers in western Washington.

“We thought that if people can’t make it to Walla Walla, then we’ll bring Walla Walla to them,” said Helfen.

Allison’s background in HBM prepared her to know the business side of the industry, such as accounting and customer service, but the Helfens’ WSU network contributes significantly to The Wine Alley’s success.

“I have definitely run into lots of Cougars at vineyards around the state and the camaraderie has been helpful,” said Helfen. “It is lucky for anyone to be a Cougar because they are so loyal to each other.”

For more information, visit:

— Desiree Kiliz, CAHNRS and WSU Extension Marketing and News Services

“Expect Perfect Pairings”

Expect Perfect Pairings

“Expect Perfect Pairings” is a four-page brochure that presents the fruits of WSU’s long partnership with the Washington wine and grape industry.

Response to our offer to send you copies of “Expect Perfect Pairings,” our award-winning brochure about WSU’s ongoing partnerships with Washington’s viticulture and enology industry, was overwhelming. We’ve just reprinted the brochure and would like to re-extend the offer.

If you’d like copies of this award-winning brochure for your tasting room, wine shop or agritourism destination, we’d be happy to supply you with some. Just drop Voice of the Vine editor Brian Clark ( a line with your request and we’ll get those in the mail to you.

Voice of the Vine writers Kathy Barnard and Brian Clark won a Gold ACE Award for their work on “Expect Perfect Pairings.” ACE is an international professional organization with an emphasis on agricultural communications.

“Expect Perfect Pairings” covers WSU’s educational offerings (undergraduate, graduate, and professional certificate programs), current research projects, as well as WSU’s 70-year history of outreach to the state’s growers and winemakers.

For more information on viticulture and enology at WSU, please visit: