March 1, 1956 – June 20, 2015
Let me emphasize our long-term commitment to supporting the Washington wine industry from vineyard to glass with the very best teaching, research and extension we have to offer. Together, we have made great strides in building one of the premiere viticulture and enology programs in the nation.
– President Elson S. Floyd
Dr. Elson Floyd was a true champion of the Washington State wine industry. He understood our agricultural history, witnessed the explosive growth of our industry and wanted to ensure a solid, bright future for Washington State wine. We were very lucky to call him both colleague and friend. His charisma, enthusiasm and quest for knowledge will live on through the generations of students who pass through the Wine Science Center.
– Steve Warner, president, Washington State Wine
To honor President Floyd and the positive impacts he has had on grape and wine research and education, we are seeking your input.
Harnessing wild yeasts to produce refined wines
Wine comes from grapes, but the alcohol comes from yeast. Most wine is made by fermenting grapes with specifically chosen species of yeast, leading to predictable wines for vintners.
But wild yeasts grow naturally on grapes, and researchers at Washington State University are looking to find what impact those wild yeasts have on the finished product.
“Winemaking is more sorcery than science,” said Dean Glawe, a WSU plant pathology professor. “Part of what makes particular wines special is what’s growing on the grapes.”
“We know that grapes from some vineyards make better wines,” said Glawe, who is working with plant pathology and food science colleagues on this project. “One possibility is that yeasts in those vineyards are unusual – so we want to find them.”
Wild, rich, complex
The team has found 55 species of yeast – including a new one – on grapes from around the state. That’s more than have been found anywhere in the world, though Glawe said that is possibly because his team is looking more closely than anyone else.
A few wineries around the state produce batches of wine that rely on natural fermentation from wild yeasts – they don’t add yeasts during fermentation.
“I have discovered that the wines wild yeasts create are richer and more complex,” said Flint Nelson, winemaker at Kestrel Vintners in Prosser, Wash.
“Of course there are some risks associated from wild ferments,” he added. “You don’t know what you’re getting. There is a possibility of the native yeasts developing unpleasant aromas and flavors in the wine, and there is an even greater risk of the native yeast being unable to ferment the juice to dryness.”
Kestrel has sold a special bottling of Wild Yeast Chardonnay for several years, and Nelson said customers have always responded to it positively.
The goal for the WSU research, however, is to reduce some of the risks Nelson mentioned.
Pat Okubara, plant research geneticist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and WSU adjunct professor, said the team plans to sample the frequency of each type of yeast on grapes to learn how each species ties into good or poor wine quality.“It’s essential for the future of natural fermentation to make consistently good wines,” Glawe said. “Research can really help with this. We can show what’s happening in the vat, barrel and bottle, so winemakers can spot things going wrong before they happen.”
Also, “we’re looking at the genetics of specific yeasts, both on grapes and in fermentations,” said Okubara, who will take over as lead for this research when Glawe retires later this month. “Our graduate student Xuefei Wang will then look at strains that we think make good quality wines.”
Pathology and chemistry
They haven’t published any results concerning wine yet, but they have discovered a new species of yeast in Washington vineyards, and they have published some of their early survey work.
And for greater impact, the scientists are hoping to work more with the wine industry.
“The plant pathologist’s view of making wine is, we’re rotting grapes,” Glawe said. “It’s a powerful combination to work with winemakers, who are more like chemists. We’re all learning from each other to help increase wild fermentation in the state.”
– Scott Weybright
WSU opens new Ste. Michelle Wine Science Center
RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University dedicated its new wine science center Thursday, June 4, and announced that the center will bear the name of its top supporter.
“For more than 25 years, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has supported the WSU wine program with their own contributions as well as shepherding support from others,” said WSU President Elson S. Floyd. “In recognition of their outstanding commitment and contributions, I am pleased to announce the center will be named the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center.”
Theodor (Ted) Baseler, president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates who also served as chair of WSU’s Wine Campaign, said the company understands the direct correlation between the most successful wine regions of the world and proximity to higher education institutions conducting wine science.
“We have always recognized the importance of a vibrant wine industry in the Pacific Northwest, and quality education is a key component,” he said. Over the past several years, the company has established an endowed professorship in viticulture, supported the endowed chair of the director of the Viticulture and Enology Program, and raised more than $40,000 per year for student scholarships.
“Our support will continue,” Baseler added. “Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is pledging an additional gift of $500,000 to directly support the Wine Science Center.” The gift completed the fundraising for the construction of the building.
He also noted that the Wine Science Center, which is located on the WSU Tri-Cities campus, is a culmination of industry support that reached broadly across the Washington wine community. “This industry made an early statement by initiating a $7.4 million gift through the Washington State Wine Commission.”
Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, agreed. “Through the Washington State Wine Commission, every grower and winemaker in the state is contributing to the Wine Science Center—a true vote of confidence in the future of research and education at WSU.”
In addition to private support, the $23-million Wine Science Center project was funded with $4.95 million from the state and a $2.06-million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. It is built on land donated by the Port of Benton in Richland.
Ron Mittelhammer, dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, emphasized the importance of the institution’s close partnership with the wine industry. “Our goal is to continue building a program that is informed by and mirrors the excellence of the Washington wine industry,” he said.
Keith Moo-Young, chancellor at WSU Tri-Cities, noted the strategic location of the new center and its benefits to the state’s economy.
“The Wine Science Center is a boon to our campus, community and the Washington wine industry,” he said. “This center supports a critical industry in our state, and to have it strategically located here in the heart of wine country further demonstrates our role—as a land-grant university—to foster economic prosperity.”
The new teaching and research facility, considered one of the most technologically advanced wine science centers in the world, features research laboratories and classrooms, a research and teaching winery, a two-acre vineyard, and greenhouses to train technical personnel to support Washington’s large and expanding wine industry. It includes meeting and event space with a large atrium, Washington wine library and conference rooms. Industry members, students and researchers from around the globe are invited to use the center as a gathering place to spark innovation, fuel economic development and support local, regional, national and international collaboration and provide a catalyst for research breakthroughs.
Washington is the second largest premium wine producer in the United States.
– Matt Haugen, Erika Holmes, Seth Truscott
State-of-the-art Wine Science Center supports industry
Through research and education, the newly opened Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center supports Washington’s expanding wine industry.
Washington has over 850 wineries, 50,000 acres of wine grapes and 24,000 acres of juice grapes. The state is the second largest premium wine producer in the United States, generating more than $4.8 billion annually.
To continue solving problems and improving this important industry, the Wine Science Center opened Thursday, June 4, 2015, on the Washington State University Tri-Cities campus in Richland. The center gives wine professionals the technical know-how to meet industry needs with a research and teaching winery, laboratories, classrooms and meeting spaces.
Refining grapes and minds
ALSC Architects designed the 40,000-square-foot Wine Science Center following a “rough-to-refined” concept that is evident throughout the building. The facility concept represents raw, or “rough,” grapes entering the research winery and transforming into premium Washington wine. It also represents the refining of students’ minds as they learn and gain experience through the Viticulture and Enology Program.
Julie Pittsinger, who earned an enology certificate from WSU and now operates KARMA Vineyards in Chelan, Wash., helped celebrate the center’s grand opening with two commemorative sparkling wines. She poured them with KARMA winemaker Craig Mitrakul, who studied with WSU Viticulture and Enology Director Thomas Henick-Kling when he led the wine science program at Cornell University in New York. These limited-edition Brut and Brut Rosé sparkling wines can be purchased at the Brelsford WSU Visitors Center in Pullman or by contacting Debbie Schwenson at 509-372-7224.
The rough-to-refined concept is repeated in the Columbia Center Rotary Charity Garden behind the center. The plants are arranged roughly, resembling a wild landscape, transitioning to deliberately like a manicured garden, representing WSU’s pioneering contributions to Washington agriculture and the wine industry.
Horticulture instructor Gretchen Graber, along with Henick-Kling, Bruce Schwan with SCM Engineering and Gamache Landscaping designed this two-acre garden with sustainability in mind. Of the 600 plants featured, 80 percent are native to the Columbia Basin’s natural shrub-steppe habitat, providing an example of the ingredients—climate, soil, plants and insects—that make up southeastern Washington’s unique landscape and premium wine. (View photos of the Columbia Center Charity Garden planting party held April 11, 2015.)
“I look around, and I see the fruits of a long journey,” said Casey Fox, director of development for wine sciences in the Viticulture and Enology Program, at the grand opening.
The state’s Wine Commission and wine industry, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and dozens of private donors helped bring the Wine Science Center to fruition over a 15-year period.
“The industry has been extremely receptive to this project,” Fox said. “They understand the research that has been done, and the possibilities of what can be achieved with state-of-the-art facilities. They get a direct benefit from the research that will go on here.”
To date, $21.5 million has been fundraised for the center’s construction. About $1.5 million is still needed.
“The building is done,” Fox said. “The rest is equipment. We’re still working, and we have some great partners. By the end of summer, we’re hopeful we will be done.”
Donors to the center are recognized in a unique glass art installation by Deborah Barnard, owner of Db Studio at Barnard Griffin Winery. The glass panels etched with donor names are hung in the center’s atrium, which has a curved wall with metal beams to resemble a wine barrel.
The donor wall also presents views a wine scientist might see under a microscope, such as yeast cells, molds, crystals or bacteria. The microscope “slides,” infused with reactive glasses to create shading and depth, are overlaid with clear glass framed in oak with donors’ names embossed in black glass powder. All materials used were made in the Pacific Northwest.
For Jim Harbertson, associate professor of enology, the potential of a new research laboratories at the Wine Science Center is limitless.
Touring the Ron and Ann Morford Wine Chemistry Instrument Room with its namesake donors during the center’s grand opening, Harbertson explained the sophisticated wine chemistry and spectrometry that will soon happen here.
Once it’s stocked with equipment, he’ll share the lab with other researchers and PhD students. They plan to get right to work exploring ways to improve Washington wine.
“We want to make the best science in collaboration,” Harbertson said. “As long as we have good instruments, and keep the people coming and the projects going, the sky’s the limit.”
The Morfords live on Bainbridge Island, and were among hundreds of supporters who donated to build the new center.
“We love wine, and we wanted to give back to WSU,” said Ron Morford.
“We’re Cougs,” added Ann. “We want to see WSU succeed in ways no other school has.”
As Viticulture and Enology Program faculty, students and staff settle into the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, they look forward to expanding their research, teaching and collaboration with national and international institutions.
The center has capacity for seven faculty, 14 post-doctoral students or visiting scientists, 24 graduate students, two administrative support staff, and 10 technical support staff for the research winery and laboratories.
Wine at WSU
WSU offers the region’s only four-year degrees in viticulture and enology or wine business management, preparing future leaders for the industry in state and out. Its scientists conduct research on everything from tannins and grape leaf-roll virus to yeast viability and deficit irrigation in vineyards.
WSU hired Thomas Henick-Kling, one of the world’s premier wine scientists, to lead its program using an endowment supported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and the Washington wine industry. He has spent time visiting with industry representatives in every wine-growing area of the state and led the planning of the new center and changes in the teaching program.
WSU is the sole state institution supporting agricultural industries in Washington through research, technology transfer or “extension” and the awarding of bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees. The WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences is academic home to over 30 faculty working on wine-related issues, who are stationed across the state at research and extension centers (Mt. Vernon, Prosser and Wenatchee) and two campuses (Pullman and Tri-Cities). The college maintains these research centers, several agronomy farms and extension offices in every county in the state.
– Erika Holmes, Seth Truscott
WSU, Wine Commission open Wine Science Center to industry
The Washington State University Viticulture and Enology Program and the Washington State Wine Commission held a wine and grape industry open house Friday, June 5, to celebrate the grand opening of the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center.
Over 100 guests enjoyed networking with other professionals while sipping premium Washington wine and touring the center’s research laboratories, winemaking facilities and classrooms that will help improve their products and train a skilled workforce. (View photos of the Wine Science Center industry open house on Facebook. Please help us identify people — tag yourself and your friends!)
Industry steers WSU wine research
WSU viticulture and enology research priorities are set on a two-year cycle by the Wine Advisory Committee. The committee is 10 industry members who review research proposals and make funding recommendations.
A 2008 Research Report, commissioned by the Washington wine industry, identified key research focus areas and concluded that the WSU research and teaching facilities available at that time “were inadequate to conduct the research needed by the industry for both today and tomorrow.” Research priorities include:
Improving Washington’s distinct, premium wine
- Identifying optimum locations for new vineyards and their best cultivar matches
- Understand differentiation between vineyard sites and climates
- Gain understanding on how flavors are formed on the vine and in winemaking
- Improve wine microbiology management during wine production and aging, to deliver consistent and distinct flavor profiles free of defects
Creating healthy plants, environmentally sustainable vineyards and flavorful grapes
- Increasing profitability by finding new ways to keep soils healthy, reduce inputs, thwart pests, and nurture vigorous plants
- Address issues of winter freeze damage unique to the growing region
- Determine the link between vine nutrition and wine quality
- Keeping vineyards healthy by preventing the spread of plant viruses, phylloxera, and other diseases
- Better methods for diagnosing virus-infected grape vines
The 2008 report’s findings sparked the campaign for a wine science center in Washington, and the wine industry has played a major role in funding the new facility.
Wine lovers, together we can make life brighter and taste better
Auction of Washington Wines‘ events fund vital research projects, incoming graduate students and equipment necessary for research and teaching in the Washington State University Viticulture and Enology Program.
Donations have improved vineyard practices in Washington’s Columbia Valley by funding research into removing leaves from vines earlier in the growing season to open up the canopy, reduce disease pressure and improve grape quality. Donations also fund research that helps identify, manage and prevent the spread of grapevine diseases, such as Leafroll and Red Blotch, which affect grape quality and yield. Thanks to this funding, winemakers can purchase an affordable, research-based, step-by-step manual for completing microbiological and chemical analyses that improve wine quality and provide more options for controlling the finished product.
The Washington wine industry depends on research projects like these to continue to grow, improve and produce excellent wine — so why not get out and have some fun with a purpose this summer?
Excellent wine, food at Vintners in the Vineyard on Red Mountain
Thank you to the 135 guests who joined us for Vintners in the Vineyard at Col Solare winery June 6! The evening was filled with majestic vineyard views of Red Mountain, a delicious dinner and more premium Washington wine selections than one could taste in a single evening.
Twenty-five exceptional winemakers poured three to five of their latest releases. Washington State University wine science students Brooke Kietzmann and Joe Sperry served Blended Learning wines, crafted by undergraduates studying viticulture and enology in partnership with commercial vineyards and wineries in Washington. Gourmet food was catered by Jake Crenshaw of Olive Marketplace and Cafe in Walla Walla.
We’d also like to thank the Auction of Washington Wines for organizing this annual fundraiser, formerly known as Revelry on Red Mountain, that generated $13,700 for the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program and Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Missed out? Get ready for Sip. Savor. Swirl. 3 Days, 3 Ways to let your palate run wild with the best of Washington wines!
Please join WSU at the Auction of Washington Wines’ annual three days of wine events from Thursday, August 13 to Saturday, August 15. There is an event for every wine lover!
Picnic & Barrel Auction Thursday, August 13, 5 p.m. Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Woodinville
The kickoff to the weekend of events where you’ll have the opportunity to meet and mingle with over 100 Washington winemakers, nosh on gourmet picnic fare and enjoy live entertainment on the lovely concert grounds at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. Take a peek at the slideshow featuring last year’s festivities; you won’t want to miss it!
Winemaker Dinner Series Friday, August 14, 6:30 p.m., Private Estates around the Puget Sound
Fight, Fight, Fight for fabulous wines! WSU alumnus Greg Rankich and his wife Heidi invite you to a Palouse-enhanced dinner overlooking Lake Washington at their Juanita Bay home. Here you will enjoy not one but three amazing Washington wines paired with an unforgettable dining experience by Chef Aaron Leopold of Crush. This evening will celebrate the opening of the new world-class Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, where practical research and education will grow the Washington wine industry’s skilled work force and premium products in the years to come. Go Cougs!
This dinner is limited to 40 guests, with only a few seats reserved for Huskies.
Columbia Winery Charity Run & Walk Saturday, August 15, 8:30 a.m. Columbia Winery, Woodinville
Participate in a 5K or 10K course in Woodinville wine country with over 1,400 others!
The Winemaker Gala Saturday, August 15, 5 p.m. Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Woodinville
Join winemakers, wine collectors and philanthropists at the grand finale event celebrating Washington wine. Meet and mingle with over 100 Washington winemakers, enjoy live music and indulge in mouthwatering food from top local chefs at Chateau Ste. Michelle on Thursday, August 13th.
2015 Participating Sponsors
– Erika Holmes
Toasting WSU V&E achievements, June 2015
Did we mention the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center opened June 4?!
Caroline Merrell is pursuing her PhD in food science at the center with help from a recently awarded $3,500 American Wine Society Educational Foundation scholarship. The funds will go toward her wine chemistry research with WSU Enologist Jim Harbertson. Merrell is from Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and received a B.S. in Chemistry from Bucknell University before studying at WSU.
The WSU Wine Science Center Grand Opening issue of Voice of the Vine would not be complete without recognizing the following two groups who were integral to its creation.
Wine Campaign Members
- Theodor Baseler, Committee Chair, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
- Steve Burns, O’Donnell Lane
- Martin Clubb, L’Ecole No. 41
- Dennis DeYoung, Grand Slam Licensing Inc.
- Jeff Gordon, Gordon Estate: Gordon Brothers Winery, Kamiak Vineyards
- Stacie Hamilton, Hamilton Cellars
- Matt Haskins, Southern Wine & Spirits
- Tom Hedges, American Wine Trade Inc.
- Lane Hoss, Mad Anthony’s Inc.
- Janet LeDuc, Washington Wine Country Consortium
- Kari Leitch, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
- Greg and Stacy Lill, DeLille Cellars; O Wines; Cashmere Corporation
- Jesse Lyon, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
- Norm McKibben, Pepper Bridge Winery
- Reed McKinlay, Wyckoff Farms; Coventry Vale Winery
- Rob Mercer, Mercer Estates Winery
- Rick Middleton, Anderson & Middleton Company; Middleton Family Wines
- Carol Munro, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
- Chris Sarles, Young’s Columbia Wine Company
- Lyn Tangen, Vulcan Inc.
- Don Transeth, School of the Legends
- Eileen Votteler, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Wine Science Center Public Development Authority
- Rob McKinney, Chair, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
- David Forsyth, Vice Chair, Zirkle Fruit Company
- Bob Tippett, Secretary, Tippett Companies
- Pat Dineen, Dineen Vineyards
- Tim Kennedy, Don Carlo Vineyards
- Coke Roth, Coke Roth Law
- Bruce Schwan, SCM Engineering
Do you know a WSU student, faculty member or alumnus who deserves a cheer? Submit their achievements to Voice of the Vine Editor Erika Holmes at email@example.com!