Faculty Mentorship and Industry Experience Help Student’s Wine Career Take Flight

By Sue McMurray

Wine and beverage management student Jack Costa grew up in Roseburg, Oregon, a small lumber town whose Mediterranean climate is not only conducive to trees but also grapes. Some even go so far as to say the growing number of vineyards and wineries is turning the region into the next Napa Valley.

The irony is not lost on Costa, who moved with his parents from California’s wine country to Roseburg, where he eventually got a job at Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards. Working a gamut of duties from vineyard maintenance to winery operations provided a deep exposure to wine production and hospitality, he says.

“From my first day there, I knew I wanted to work in the wine industry,” he says. “I started researching college degree programs, and Stephen Reustle introduced me to Byron Marlowe, director of WSU’s wine and beverage business management program.”

Costa says the introduction was life changing.

“After we met, Byron scheduled a call with me to talk about WSU’s wine business program. He convinced me to apply to WSU and pursue a career focused on the wine industry,” he says. “I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t met him; a lot of my peers in Roseburg didn’t consider going to college.”

Marlowe knew Costa was making a good decision.

“Because Jack participated in Umpqua Community College’s unique wine studies program, I was confident he would be a good fit here at WSU Tri-Cities,” says Marlowe. “We quickly developed a rapport upon his arrival, and he continues to develop as a student and person in ways that reinforce he made the right decision in his choice to study here.”

WSU Tri-Cities a perfect fit

After attending Umpqua Community College, Costa transferred to WSU Tri-Cities, a decision that “seemed like a perfect fit,” he says. He completed a research internship at the university’s Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center and was involved in several winemaking research projects at that location, as well as irrigation-related research at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser during the summer.

Those experiences fueled his interest in winemaking and enology and pushed him to explore further educational opportunities.

Costa began contributing articles to Wine Folly, a wine education website, and Michigan Uncorked, an online wine magazine. He says his connection to the WSU wine research center helped him secure the opportunities. “These writing experiences are incredibly useful and have taught me how to be a better communicator,” he says.

He earned a scholarship from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust that enabled him to complete the organization’s Level 2 Award in Wines certificate. He’s also looking forward to taking the certified sommelier examination in the near future. Currently, he’s gaining more experience by working at Col Solare Winery, an opportunity that stemmed from Marlowe’s professional connections.

“Byron helped me think critically, engage in countless learning opportunities, and see my greatest strengths,” says Costa. “He also became a friend—it’s the best of both worlds.”

Costa graduates in May 2022 and is planning to go to graduate school in Austria. While he has several options for his future career in wine business, two most likely paths are international wine trade or marketing and communication within the wine industry, he says. But above all, he hopes to one day follow Marlowe’s example and be a mentor to others entering the wine industry.

*Please note this story was developed before the unexpected loss of our dear colleague Professor Byron Marlowe on December 28. WSU Tri-Cities plans to establish an endowed scholarship in his honor. In the meantime, if you would like to send a note to his family, please reach out to Brenda Alling, interim director of marketing and communication, at brenda_alling@wsu.edu, and she will coordinate.