Skip to main content Skip to navigation

WSU’s Voice of the Vine- Red Debut, Terroir, Greenhouse

Posted by | February 26, 2014

Introducing the Red Blend

Student-winemakers are featured on the bottle.
Student-winemakers are featured on the bottle.

The second wine from the WSU Blended Learning student-made wine series made its debut this month. The new red blend is a combination of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and was made in partnership with students in the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program and Horse Heaven Hills. The new tradition of blended learning is bringing together students, alumni, winemakers, growers and wine enthusiasts to “uncork the possibilities.” The students made 200 cases of the wine and it is now available at the WSU Brelsford Visitor’s Center in Pullman and at WSU Connections in Seattle.

A seasonal Cougar Cheese, Rainbow Pepper, is also now available at the WSU Brelsford Visitor’s Center as well as at the WSU Creamery on campus. The WSU Creamery has taken their Viking cheese and infused it with a mélange of white, green, pink and black peppercorns–what better to then pair with the WSU student-made wine than classic Cougar Cheese?

Listen here for more on the student winemaking program. For more information about wine education opportunities at WSU, visit wine.wsu.edu

-Rachel Webber

At the center of Washington wine

The Wine Science Center at WSU will be housed in a 39,900 square-foot LEED-certified facility at the WSU Tri-Cities campus. Rendering by Lydig Construction/ALSC Architects.
The Wine Science Center at WSU will be housed in a 39,900 square-foot LEED-certified facility at the WSU Tri-Cities campus. Rendering by Lydig Construction/ALSC Architects.

You don’t have to travel very far in the world of wine before you encounter the term “terroir.” It’s a French word with a complicated meaning that seeks to explain some of the mystery in every bottle of good wine. “It is a concept almost untranslatable, combining soil, weather, region and notions of authenticity, of genuineness and particularity—of roots, and home,” wrote Steven Erlanger in his recent New York Times article “Vive le Terroir.”

Terroir most commonly describes the combination of factors provided by Mother Nature that give a wine its character. It’s firmly rooted in the embodiment of a place. While these factors certainly play a big role in the development of a wine’s flavors and aromas, there is a more recent, local ingredient helping Washington winemakers create distinctive wines: science.

“Terroir does not just happen,” said Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the WSU Viticulture and Enology program. “Some people think you just find this special place, plant some grapevines, harvest the grapes, crush them, and you get great wine.” The best vineyard sites won’t produce great wine without the knowledge of expert growers, winemakers, and researchers, according to Henick-Kling.

Read more in the latest ReConnect e-magazine>>

-Kate Wilhite

Mercer Greenhouse to support wine research

The greenhouse will include two 18-foot by 20-foot greenhouses attached to a headhouse located adjacent to the Wine Science Center.
The greenhouse will include two 18-foot by 20-foot greenhouses attached to a headhouse located adjacent to the Wine Science Center.

Patsy J. Mercer, the Mercer Family and Mercer Canyons Inc. announced a combined donation of $250,000 this month that will go toward the Wine Science Center under construction at Washington State University Tri-Cities, in Richland.

The family’s $250,000 gift will establish the Bud Mercer Greenhouse, in memory of Milton “Bud” Mercer, Jr., for his pioneering role in Washington agriculture. The gift was announced at the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers Conference held at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.

“Bud was a great leader, businessman, husband and family man,” said Patsy Mercer, his wife. “He invested his time, effort and resources to support people, ideas and opportunities he believed would make a difference to the industry and to our community.

“The Wine Science Center will play a vital role in the Pacific Northwest as a center for research and education,” she added. “It is a fitting tribute to honor Bud’s memory by ensuring that the facility has a research greenhouse to support the needs of the Washington wine industry.”

Prior to his passing in 2010, Bud and Patsy lived in Prosser and in the Horse Heaven Hills, where he became a leader in the farming business over the course of his life. In 1959, the family founded Mercer Ranches, Inc., which now operates as Mercer Canyons under son Rob Mercer’s leadership. Rob and Bud, together with Mike Hogue and Ron Harle, founded Mercer Estates Winery. Bud also was instrumental in the creation of the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser.

Bud Mercer working out in the potato fields.
Bud Mercer working out in the potato fields.

The research greenhouse, proposed to be named in Bud’s honor, will service the Washington State University Viticulture & Enology program, based at WSU Tri-Cities. The greenhouse will include two 18-by-22-foot greenhouses attached to a headhouse located adjacent to the Wine Science Center.

Construction started in fall 2013 on the Wine Science Center, a 39,300-square-foot, LEED Silver facility in the heart of Washington wine country. The $23 million facility now is about 15 percent complete. When it opens in early 2015, it will be the most technologically advanced wine research and education center in the world. Designed to attract world-class researchers and students, its research and educational efforts will focus on the challenges and opportunities faced by Pacific Northwest grape growers and winemakers. More details on the project and its unique partnerships are at tricity.wsu.edu/wsc.

WSU has been involved in wine-related research since the 1930s, and is the only university in the Pacific Northwest offering bachelor’s and graduate degrees in viticulture and enology, plus a wine business management program and a distance education program to earn a professional certificate. Henick-Kling joined WSU in 2009 as director of the Viticulture and Enology program, which has more than 30 faculty members in the Tri-Cities, Prosser, and Pullman.

Learn more about the dynamic educational experiences available at WSU Tri-Cities at tricity.wsu.edu.  

-Melissa O’Neil Perdue