Students from all over the U.S. traveled last week to WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser to participate in a weekend-long “wine camp.” The weekend intensive for students enrolled in WSU’s Enology Certificate Program gave them a close-up view of the inner working of Washington’s booming wine industry as well as hands-on experience in mission-critical jobs such as filtration and bottling.
Students toured wineries large and small, participated in filtering and bottling at Thurston Wolfe and Vine Heart wineries, and learned about plate and frame, and membrane filtration from expert Ken Stewart of Gusmer Enterprises.
In addition to the scientists and staff at the WSU research winery in Prosser who coordinate the curriculum and logistics of the two-year-long professional certificate program, many industry professionals contributed time and resources to make the weekend an educational success. WSU enologist Kerry Ringer expressed her gratitude to co-organizer Gordon Taylor of Davenlore Winery as well as the companies that contributed to the weekend wine camp: Jon Martinez of Maison Bleue Winery; Meryl Rickey of Snoqualmie Winery; Brian McKee and Scott Kopf of Pacific Rim Winery; and the staffs of Willow Crest Winery and Airfield Estate Winery.
Expanded WSU Professional Certificate Programs
In response to demand from students and the burgeoning Washington wine industry, online viticulture and enology professional certificate programs through WSU now start yearly.
The viticulture and enology courses are separate two-year programs that educate students in all facets of grape and wine production through online lessons and hands-on experience. The programs are tailored for people interested in wine-grape growing and winemaking, but who are not interested in obtaining a college degree.
Both programs offer a balance of online interactive learning and hands-on activities at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser to give students industry-relevant knowledge and experience. In the grape production class, for example, students study pruning online and then physically prune vines in a WSU research vineyard in Prosser.
“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.
Do-It-Yourself Online Education Options
In addition to the two-year professional certificate programs in viticulture and enology offered by WSU, the same courses are now available individually through a self-directed option. Students who go this route will view the same presentations and get the same valuable information as the certificate program students, but without the assignments, exams, instructor contact or hands-on weekends.
This “do it yourself” option is for those who want the information but are not interested in the full certificate due to time or resource constraints, or who simply want to round out their education in certain areas. The courses can answer questions about irrigation, insects, virus or mildew diseases, soils and nutrients, grapevine anatomy, or trellising and pruning.
The self-directed viticulture courses currently available include Grapevine Anatomy and Physiology; Grape Production; Nematodes of the Grapevine; Powdery Mildew Disease of Grapevines; Insects, Mites and Biocontrol; Weed Management; Principles and Practices of Grapevine Irrigation; Soils and Nutrient Management; Viticulture-Enology Interface; and the Economics of Grape Production. For more information or to purchase a course, please visit http://tinyurl.com/selfvit.
Self-directed enology courses currently available include Wine Production; Wine Chemistry; Wine Microbiology, Winery Equipment; Enology-Viticulture Interface; Sensory Evaluation; Winery Sanitation; and the Economics of Starting a Winery. For more information or to purchase a course, please visit http://tinyurl.com/selfeno.
Dentist Turned Winemaker Channels Passion through WSU Certificate Program
Jon Martinez has a passion for making quality wine. In 2007, the desire to pursue that passion led him to enroll in WSU’s Enology Certificate Program.
The two-year program, offered through WSU Extension, is tailored for people who are interested in working in the wine industry but are not interested in obtaining a college degree.
Martinez holds degrees in biology and chemistry from the University of Kansas, and a doctorate in dental surgery from the University of Iowa. He owned a dental practice for nine years in Overland Park, Kan. before deciding to move to Prosser, Wash., last year to start his own winery.
“I knew I had to find the perfect place to achieve my dream,” Martinez said. “Years ago, I had the pleasure of tasting some Syrah and Viognier wines from Washington state. I was surprised. I found the fine balance of elegance and richness to be very similar to what I experienced in France.”
WSU’s enology program, Martinez said, helped him focus on the science side of wine production and look more analytically at the winemaking process. But he said some aspects of winemaking just come with practice and experience.
“Winemaking is something you are learning all your life,” Martinez said.
Martinez’s winery, Maison Bleue, is focused on Rhone grape varieties from southern France. While visiting friends in France, Martinez said he “fell in love with the food and wine.”
One of the most popular wines that Martinez has made was his 2007 Maison Bleue La Vie Douce Roussanne, a rich wine that blends the aromas of honey and apricot with the sweet flavors of pineapple and pear. He also released two new wines in March, a 2008 Notre Vie Viognier and a 2008 Au Contraire Chardonnay. The Au Contraire is the first wine to be made of grapes from Martinez’s own French Creek Vineyard. Its grapes come from the nine acres of chardonnay among the 21 acres of land Martinez owns. Martinez said he plans to plant Grenache and Syrah as well.
“This is my future,” Martinez said. “I came here to be the best.”
— Bethany Carpenter,
CAHNRS Marketing and News Services intern