Student-made Blended Learning wines will be poured at the grand opening of Washington State University’s Wine Science Center. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
Washington’s wine industry will fittingly toast the grand opening of the new Wine Science Center with wines made by students of Washington State University’s viticulture and enology program.
The wines to be poured for the celebration were made by students who have taken part in a winemaking class initiated three years ago by Viticulture and Enology Program Director Dr. Thomas Henick-Kling.
The yearlong course, which he calls Blended Learning, takes a handful of students from the vineyard to winery and beyond.
The wines, bottled under a Blended Learning label featuring the iconic WSU cougar logo, represents what the Wine Center at WSU Tri-Cities is all about—blending student learning with faculty and researchers, alumni, winemakers, growers, and wine enthusiasts.
The capstone course takes everything the students have learned in the classroom and internships and applies it from the ground up, explains Henick-Kling. The student team must decide what wines they want to make and where to source fruit, and then harvest, crush, barrel, and bottle the wine.
They learn about labeling issues and tax requirements, can offer their wines for critical review, and watch their product being sold in WSU visitor centers.
A key element is the partnership between students and professional winemakers who provide their production facilities for the winemaking.
In the first Blended Learning class that began in spring 2012, six students made a Riesling wine from grapes sourced from Columbia Valley’s Lonesome Spring and Olsen vineyards.
Four of the students (Lora Morgan, Dane Day, Colin Hickey and Robb Zimmel) worked with consultant and winemaker Co Dinn and the winemaking team at Hogue Cellars in Prosser.
The 2012 Riesling wine was rated “excellent” by Great Northwest Wine, an online platform of wine reviews and news, when it was released in January 2014.
Two students from the first class focused on making a Rhone-style red wine of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc from vineyards of Columbia Crest Winery in Horse Heaven Hills.
Charlie Hoppes, wine consultant and owner of Red Mountain’s Fidelitas Winery, mentored students Joel Perez and Garrett Grover in making the red wine. About 300 cases of both wines were made.
Since the initial two Blended Learning wines, two more have been produced by students—a 2012 Syrah and 2013 Barbera.
All six students from the inaugural Blended Learning class have graduated from the viticulture and enology program. Perez is in graduate school, working on his master’s degree under WSU’s Dr. Markus Keller; Zimmel is working at Barnard Griffin Winery in Richland; Grover and Day are working at Columbia Crest in Paterson; Morgan worked at Ste. Michelle Winery; and Hickey graduated in May 2015 and was seeking employment. •
Melissa Hansen is the research program director for the Washington Wine Commission. Hansen previously was an associate editor at Good Fruit Grower from 1996 through 2015.
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