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Student Winemakers, Wi Sci Center, Scholarships, Italy

Posted by | November 15, 2012

Six Pack of WSU Students Team Up to Make Premium Wines

A handful of juniors and seniors majoring in viticulture and enology at WSU Tri-Cities are engaged in a winemaking project that takes them from the vineyard to the winery and beyond. Their capstone course involves every aspect of the winemaking process, said Thomas Henick-Kling, director of WSU’s program in viticulture and enology.

A WSU student picking grapes in early October. Photo: Thomas Henick-Kling/WSU.
A WSU student picking grapes in early October. Photo: Thomas Henick-Kling/WSU.

“We have six students enrolled in the course,” said Henick-Kling. “They’ve been partnered with professional winemakers who have generously offered their production facilities for the project. So, although they are closely mentored, the success of the project is entirely up to the students. As a group, they had to figure out what wine they wanted to make, then source the grapes from local growers. Once their wines are bottled, they’ll learn some of the business side of winemaking, such as the requirements for wine bottle labeling and tax reporting. This course takes everything they’ve learned in the classroom and in previous internships and applies it, literally, from the ground up.”

WSU students tour a wine production facility. Photo: Brian Clark/WSU.
WSU students tour a wine production facility. Photo: Brian Clark/WSU.

The three-semester group project started last spring, when the students began planning. The six students decided they wanted to make both a red and a white wine. Although the six are a tightly knit team–having first worked together to plan their project and in the vineyards to pick grapes, then helping each other dragging hoses and cleaning the production facilities in the winemaking process–they knew that to make both a red and a white, they would need to divide and conquer.

Four members of the team, Lora Morgan, Dane Day, Colin Hickey, and Robb Zimmel, are working with Co Dinn and his award-winning winemaking team at Hogue Cellars to make a Riesling. Students Joel Perez and Garrett Grover are working with Charlie Hoppes, the acclaimed owner and winemaker at Fidélitas, to make a Grenache-based, Rhone-style red wine.

“The idea,” said Joel Perez, “is to have two professionally created commercial wines ready for release at roughly the same time as the opening of the new Wine Science Center.”

A WSU student working in a wine production facility. Photo: Brian Clark/WSU.
A WSU student working in a wine production facility. Photo: Brian Clark/WSU.

Lora Morgan said, “Our goal is to learn from the talented winemakers at Hogue and Hoppes to produce a Riesling and a Rhone blend that encompass the true expression of the grapes grown in Washington.”
“We all collaborate when it comes down to the final blend, marketing, label design, and packaging,” said Dane Day. “Our goal is to make wines that WSU, its alumni and, most importantly, its students can be proud of.”

Now that their wines are made, the students took a few minutes out of their busy schedules to talk about the roads that led them to Richland, about WSU, and about their passion for fermentation science.

Not so long ago, Robb Zimmel explained, he was working as a LifeFlight paramedic in Portland. “Talking with colleagues, I realized they loved their jobs. I just didn’t feel that fire. I was fascinated by fermentation science, having made beer. But, at 40 years old, I didn’t think it made sense to go back to school to get a degree in enology. I’d be 43 by the time I graduated! A friend of mine said something that changed my mind: ‘You’re going to be 43 no matter what. You can either be 43 without the degree or with it.’ The rest, as they say, is history.”

A WSU student checks a fermentation at a wine production facility. Photo: Brian Clark/WSU.
A WSU student checks a fermentation at a wine production facility. Photo: Brian Clark/WSU.

This resonated with Perez, who said, “After the Marine Corps, I was exploring my options. I, too, am fascinated by fermentation science. After I researched the programs out there, I decided to come to WSU to study viticulture and enology.”

Morgan nodded, adding, “I wanted a B.S. because I wanted the depth of scientific understanding of the biochemical and microbiological processes that are so important in winemaking.”

Grover, too, shared the interest in science. He started as a chemistry major at the University of Puget Sound but, when he learned about the viticulture and enology program, he moved to Tri-Cities.

Day said he moved from Phoenix to study at WSU because the program and the industry are “growing exponentially.”

Colin Hickey concurred. “I picked WSU — and specifically the Tri-Cities campus — because it is in the heart of Washington wine country.”

The six are now working with a professional graphic designer who has experience with wine labels, while they are also working through some of the intricacies of the wine business. They’ll all graduate within a year or so –- long before the wines they’ve made are ready to pour. But they’ll be back, to uncork and pour the Riesling and the Rhone blend, to share stories of their successes, and to help inaugurate the opening of the Wine Science Center.

Learn more about WSU’s world-class wine science educational opportunities by visiting http://wine.wsu.edu/education/.

–Brian Clark

Wine Industry Leaders Announce $17 Million Raised to Date for Future Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities

Dedicating the site of the future WSU Wine Science Center on the campus of WSU Tri-Cities.
Dedicating the site of the future WSU Wine Science Center on the campus of WSU Tri-Cities.

In mid-October, about 150 people, from donors to students, joined Governor Christine Gregoire and WSU President Elson S. Floyd to dedicate the site of the future WSU Wine Science Center at the corner of George Washington Way and University Drive in Richland. At the dedication, wine industry leaders also announced that $17 million had been raised for the future center.

“Every world-renowned wine region has a research university partnering in its success. In Washington, that’s Washington State University,” said Ted Baseler, President and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, a WSU Regent and chair of the WSU Campaign for Wine.

The research and teaching conducted at the Wine Science Center will be specific to the challenges and opportunities faced by grape growers and winemakers in the Pacific Northwest, and will help triple the economic impact of an industry that already is worth $8.6 billion.

“Having this research facility is critical to the continued growth of our Pacific Northwest wine industry,” Baseler said. “Research will ensure that we produce the best wine grapes. Research will then help us make great wines with distinctive flavors that become sought after internationally. This facility and the teaching program at WSU will produce a workforce pipeline of trained WSU graduates — for our vineyards, for our wineries, and for all the allied industries that work with us.”

–Melissa O’Neil Perdue

Tour Italian Wine Regions with Experts in Viticulture and Enology

Come visit with, and learn from, expert viticulturists and winemakers in some of Italy’s most renown wine regions during a two-week educational trip. Offered by the WSU V&E Program, the tour will take participants through the wine regions of Piedmonte, Tuscany, and Veneto. Each regional stop will educate participants about local grape varieties and vineyard management practices, and will also focus on a specific technical topic. Field visits are also scheduled to highlight regional differences and local use of technologies. The intensive schedule will still allow for sightseeing in some of the most beautiful cities in Italy.

The intensive schedule allows for a few breaks for sightseeing in some of the most beautiful cities in Italy.

For more information, including photos from previous tours, please visit http://bit.ly/ve-italy-2012. Contact Theresa Beaver at tbeaver@wsu.edu to register for the tour.

Raise A Glass, Fund a Scholarship

Chateau Ste. Michelle is proud to partner with Washington restaurants to support the fifth annual “Raise a Glass, Fund a Scholarship” program to benefit viticulture and enology programs at Washington State University and other Northwest universities. Nearly 200 restaurants in Washington participate in this annual program, which runs through the end of December 2012. Since the program started in 2008, together we have raised over $200,000 for future wine industry professional scholarships. 

Participating in this cause is simple. Next time your plans call for dining out, we hope you select one of the participating restaurants and Raise a Glass, Fund a Scholarship.

For a complete list of participating restaurants, please visit http://bit.ly/veglass.