Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, Leah Adint wanted to travel someplace new for a science degree. After graduating high school in 2005, she enrolled at WSU to pursue a degree in Viticulture & Enology.
She said when it came to studying wine, WSU ticked all the boxes.
Adint received the Château Ste. Michelle scholarship her first two years, a merit-based scholarship for a WSU student seeking a degree in the V&E program. She was also awarded a Les Dames D’Escoffier scholarship in 2007, a scholarship for WSU women studying agriculture.
“When I first met Leah in class, it was clear that she would eventually become a respected leader within the wine industry,” said Charles Edwards, a WSU food scientist and professor for the V&E program. “We are quite fortunate that she chose to return to Washington to continue her journey.”
Adint enjoyed the immersive, hands-on nature of her V&E degree, learning how vines grow, how tree fruit ripens, and the role of soil science and bugs in fruit production.
“Every winemaker says it starts with great fruit,” she said.
Upon graduation, Edwards suggested she pursue a master’s degree, and travel the wine world.
“I ended up doing both,” she said.
Adint traveled to a seasonal harvest in Australia, working with grapes on the Southern coast in the Adelaide Hills, where she pursued her master’s degree in Enology at the University of Adelaide.
After five years in Australia, it came down to deciding whether to stay down under, or come back to the United States. Adint noticed a job posting from Château Ste. Michelle.
Adint started out as the Assistant Traveling Winemaker in 2015.
When she arrived, she noticed the winery had four traditional red varieties of wine, and one white.
“Ste. Michelle immediately let me start playing around with the wines,” she said.
She blended four traditional Portuguese varieties to make her first wine. Called the Whidbey’s Reserve Vintage Port, it was released before Christmas last year and sold out in six weeks.
“That was a great feeling,” she said.
One of Adint’s biggest challenges in working for such a large wine company is trust.
“If you worked at a winery that had 50 barrels, you could probably look at them every week. We have over 80,000 barrels. You have to trust a lot more what other people are doing, and that they’re going to catch the details.”
Adint said the partnership between industry and WSU’s program continues to strengthen. Whenever she sees Cougar students out in the tasting room or for class discussions, she advises them on research projects, talks about fruit, and encourages them to travel.
“See how many wineries, how many regions you can get to, how many different wines you can taste,” she said.
She is now working at the Canoe Ridge Estate, Château Ste. Michelle’s red wine making facility, and continues to tweak and experiment with new wine blends. She finds ways to give back, sharing knowledge with students and other professionals from her travels and career.
“It’s a great feeling to join that company and begin working with students on the other side,” she said.
Adint’s advice to aspiring winemakers is that there are a billion ways to make wine.
“You should never be satisfied with just one.”
To learn more about WSU’s degree program in Viticulture & Enology, visit wine.wsu.edu.