A Gift to Washington Wine's Future: Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation Donates $1 Million to Washington State University

The pledge will help complete the Viticulture & Enology Program's new home and provide scholarships to budding vintners

A Gift to Washington Wine's Future: Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation Donates $1 Million to Washington State University
The WSU Wine Science Center features an impressive fermentation lab with dozens of small batch vats. (ALSC/Benjamin Benschneider)
Aug 21, 2017

As part of its continuing efforts to support the next generation of great American winemakers, the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation has announced that it will donate $1 million to Washington State University's Viticulture & Enology Program. The donation will be dedicated to help complete cutting-edge teaching labs and facilities at WSU's Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Wine Science Center, as well as to scholarships for WSU Viticulture & Enology students.

Thomas Matthews, Wine Spectator executive editor, announced the gift at the annual Auction of Washington Wines gala in Woodinville, Wash., on Aug. 19.

"Wine Spectator is the premier wine publication," said WSU president Kirk Schulz. "This grant helps establish our credibility as an institution."

Half of the $1 million donation will support the completion of the Life Science Teaching Laboratory at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, a state-of-the-art facility on the WSU Tri-Cities campus in Richland, Wash. The remainder will fund viticulture and enology student scholarships—$100,000 every year for five years. In recognition of the Scholarship Foundation's gift, the atrium of the Wine Science Center will be named the Wine Spectator Atrium.

"The gift is key to finishing our infrastructure," said Schulz. "But the scholarship piece is just as important. We have a lot of first-generation college students. These funds will help these students pursue their passions."

"Washington State University has demonstrated a leadership position in wine education in the United States, and we are therefore proud to recognize your university's high achievement with our commitment," said Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator.

WSU has been researching enology and viticulture since the legendary Walter Clore worked at the university in the 1930s. The Viticulture & Enology Program enrolled its first undergraduates in 2004. Today the school has 125 undergrads, 30 graduate students and 70 certificate students currently enrolled.

Ted Baseler, president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, says his company has been hiring graduates of the program for several years. "The people coming out of WSU are turnkey. They are already up to speed," he said. Baseler has helped raise funds for the Wine Science Center, helping to grow his state's industry. "This gift from the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation is a significant milestone for the WSU Wine Science Center. It will help educate future leaders in the Washington wine industry."

Washington state is arguably the most dynamic wine region in America today. Three decades ago, it was home to 20 wineries; now there are 850, with close to $1 billion in annual revenues, according to the state wine commission. The Wine Science Center is proof that the university sees a big future in the industry. With a price tag of more than $20 million, the facility opened to students in 2015.

It houses specialized labs, including a climate simulator that houses plant-growth chambers that can simulate temperatures from -30° F to 150° F to test varieties and clones on how they handle harsher growing climates, and a fermentation tank room filled with 192 stainless-steel tanks, each with a capacity of 52 gallons for small-batch fermentations.

Behind the center, professors have planted several rows of vines of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Chardonnay, for studying different viticultural techniques. Inside, the Wine Center's library houses sought-after verticals from some of the more famous producers of Washington's wine history—Leonetti, Quilceda Creek, Woodward Canyon, Ste. Michelle and others.

"There's something important about having a center, a place where the industry, the academics and the students can all come together," said Prof. Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the Viticulture & Enology Program. "This grant from Wine Spectator will allow us to complete our Wine Science Center Life Science Teaching Laboratory."

For 37 years, the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation has provided grants and scholarships to a variety of wine-related and culinary programs. To date, the foundation has raised more than $20 million, and supported programs like the University of California at Davis' Department of Viticulture and Enology; the Culinary Institute of America; the Florida International University Hospitality School; and Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute. The Wine Spectator Learning Center at Sonoma State is scheduled to open in 2018.

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