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WSU’s Voice of the Vine- Vineyard Expansion, New Zealand, Wine Auction

Posted by | July 23, 2014

New vineyard expansion supports teaching and trellising

When it came time to plant new vines at the expanding WSU teaching vineyard early this summer at WSU TriCities, the TriCities Vineyard Advisory Team and a vineyard crew from Sagemoor Vineyards came to help.

The crew planted about 800 Syrah vines and installed new irrigation systems at the campus vineyard, which now spans 1.5 acres. They donated their time, plants, and all of the tools needed to establish the new vineyard block: tractors, hammers, shovels, drills- even the nuts and bolts.

The expansion will not only support students as they train to enter the grape and wine industry, but will also provide an opportunity to explore the different ways vines are trained around the world. Grapevines cannot be grown commercially without some form of trellis system, which is constructed according to the chosen training system, said WSU grapevine physiologist and associate professor, Bhaskar Bondada. A trellis system is a framework that supports the vines, facilitating various cultural practices for optimizing yield and fruit quality.

The new vineyard block is supported by the Washington Wine Industry Foundation and lies next door to the grape variety block and just a short walk from the WSU Wine Science Center, which is under construction and will open in early 2015. Some popular trellis systems commonly adopted worldwide for commercial grape production and that will be used at the WSU teaching vineyard include:

VSP2 WinePhotos geneva2
Left to right: Vertical Shoot Positioning, Goblet, and Geneva Double Curtain. Photos by Bhaskar Bondada.
  • VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioning) system: This system is used throughout the world. As its name indicates, this system sets shoots vertically positioned by tucking them between catch wires, resulting in undivided canopies that resemble hedgerows with a narrow vertical canopy (all the grapevines grow in a straight line in one row of vertically growing shoots).
  • Goblet (Bush vine/free-standing): This training method has been used since ancient times. Goblet trained vines are very common in warmer regions such as the Rhone Valley of southern France and some areas of California (used for Zinfandel). In this system, vines are trained to be self-supporting and are trimmed to stay low. The fruit spurs are arranged on a short arm in a circle at the top of a short trunk and the foliage is unsupported.
  • Geneva Double Curtain (GDC): GDC was originally developed by Dr. Nelson Shaulis of Cornell University, at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station for Concord grapes, to reduce shade within a dense canopy. GDC results in a horizontally divided canopy with shoots trained downwards into two distinct, parallel, free-hanging curtains (layers of branches and leaves) with the fruiting zone positioned at the top of the canopy.

Learn about several other systems coming soon to the WSU teaching vineyard, here.

Bondada said because Syrah is a popular variety and grows vigorously, it’s an ideal cultivar for trellis research and understanding the influence of different trellises on grape production, and ultimately wine quality, in Eastern Washington.

“We can educate students about different trellis systems adopted around the world, how they are designed, their canopy characteristics, and how the different systems impact fruit and wine quality,” Bondada said.

The crew from Sagemoor Vineyards helps plant the new vines at WSU Tri-Cities teaching vineyard. Photo by Bondada.
The crew from Sagemoor Vineyards helps plant the new vines at WSU Tri-Cities teaching vineyard. Photo by Bondada.


The WSU Viticulture and Enology Program would like to extend a special thanks to Jerry Harris, Ewing Irrigation; Kevin Judkins, Inland Desert Nursery; the team at Sagemoor Vineyards, including Derek Way, Vineyard Manager; Servando Rodriguez, Production Manager; Miguel de la Mora, Weinbau Production Manager; and Ken Ashley, Wilmer Cervantez, Irvi Cervantez, Eddie Garcia, Victor Perez and Victor Perez Jr. Thank you also to Tom Waliser, Waliser Vineyards and Beresan Winery; Jason Schlegel, Milbrandt Vineyards; Roger Gamache, Gamache Vintners; WSU Tri-Cities Facilities Staff, including Carrie Anderson, Assistant Director, Facilities & Operations; Sergio Avila, Grounds & Nursery Specialist; Andy Percifield, Building Maintenance Lead; Kyle Arsanto, Grounds Nursery Specialist. We appreciate your hard work and your continued support of wine education in the Pacific Northwest.

-Rachel Webber

In pursuit of Pinot Noir

Winemaking may seem like an unlikely field for someone who once attended a university that required students to sign a contract stating they would not drink, but Peter Virtue (’13) couldn’t be happier with his career choice.

Peter Virtue ('13), cellar lead for harvest at Kosta Browne Winery in Sebastopol, Calif.
Peter Virtue (’13), cellar lead for harvest at Kosta Browne Winery in Sebastopol, Calif.

After attending a school that strongly discouraged alcohol consumption, Virtue and his wife spent a year abroad in Israel. “We noticed how much of the culture and religion of the Jews intermixed with wine, and decided to jump in, headfirst,” Virtue said. “During that year in Israel, it was as though someone had given us a part of life that we had been missing out on — now it’s my job.”

After graduating from WSU, Virtue’s desire to work with Pinot Noir led him to New Zealand where he worked as the vintage assistant winemaker for a 25,000-case production winery. According to Virtue, no two days on the winery job are exactly the same.

“A typical day includes tasting fruit, analyzing data from the current and previous vintages, writing out work orders and sometimes fulfilling them, and preparing previous vintages’ wine for bottling,” Virtue said. “During harvest, every day is processing fruit—and treating that fruit to a specific stylistic process has been a learning experience, but every day presents challenges that are necessary to overcome — bad fruit, bird damage, Botrytis, et cetera.”

The knowledge he gained from previous internships and coursework at WSU has been integral in overcoming those issues in order to produce a premium wine, Virtue said.

“The dedication of the faculty to the holistic education of students, from the basic foundations of science and its role in enology and viticulture, to encouraging students to engage in internships to learn the craft of winemaking, was an enormous aid,” Virtue said. “The classes offered and required, the open-door policies, and the industry connections were all part of the support that I drew on to be well-prepared.”

Continuing his pursuit of ultra-premium Pinot Noir, Virtue returned to the U.S. in June and began working at Kosta Browne Winery in Sebastopol, CA as the cellar lead for harvest.

Learn more about education opportunities through the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program at

– Hannah Shirley

Washington students dominate national competition 

WSU students won 7 of 22 scholarships awarded by the American Society for Enology and Viticulture this year, the largest number of scholarships any university has been awarded by the organization in a single year, so far.

Historically, these national scholarships have been predominantly awarded to students from California schools. Michelle Moyer, WSU extension viticulture specialist and a past recipient of the same student scholarship, was pleased to see WSU students being recognized by the national organization that got started in Davis, Calif.

“We’re really starting to attract top quality students as shown by our students’ ability to compete for national scholarships,” Moyer said.

She attributes the positive trend to the combination of the growth of the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program and increasing support from the thriving grape and wine industry in Washington.

Left to Right: Caroline Merrell, Kenneth McMahon, Zachary Cartwright, and Allison Baker
Merrell, Caroline Cartwright, Zachary cropped Kenny headshot Allison Baker

Four of the scholarship recipients study enology in the Department of Food Science: doctoral students Allison Baker, Kenneth McMahon, and Zachary Cartwright; and master of science student Caroline Merrell. Eric Gale is a master’s student in horticulture, Leslie Holland is master’s student in plant pathology, and MacKenzie Ellis is a sophomore interested in viticulture.

The American Society for Enology and Viticulture is a national organization represent growers and researchers in the wine and grape sciences. Scholarship winners were announced at the society’s annual meeting in Austin, Texas, in June.

Learn more about supporting students in wine science at

-Sylvia Kantor

Celebrate Washington Wine Month with Auction of Washington Wines

CirclesThomas Henick-Kling, director of WSU’s Viticulture and Enology Program, extends a personal invitation to all wine lovers to stop by the WSU table at the Picnic & Barrel Auction at Chateau Ste. Michelle on Aug. 14. The fun starts at 4 p.m., with picnic games and activities on the beautiful winery grounds. Participants will rub elbows with Washington winemakers as they mingle among the crowd to pour tastings of their newest and oldest releases.

Guests can also enjoy bidding on some of Washington’s most coveted limited-release wines during the Barrel Auction, while enjoying gourmet picnic fare presented by a talented team of chefs from the Tulalip Resort Casino. Click here to purchase tickets. Your participation in both the Picnic and Barrel Auction and the Auction of Washington Wines Gala helps support wine science research and education at WSU.