Over the past several decades, the wine industry has experienced significant change, growing from a handful of farmers and backyard vintners making wine as a side business or hobby, to a booming trade in a highly competitive market. The Pacific Northwest, in particular, has made its way onto the map as a wine-growing region known especially for wine quality. In fact, in the past decade, Washington state’s wine industry has doubled in size, making it the second largest wine-producing region in the United States.
Industry-wide growth has fueled demand both locally and nationally for professionals who not only have a technical understanding of wine science and production but also the business skills to market and sell their products competitively. As one of the only U.S. academic institutions that offer degrees in both wine business management and viticulture and enology (V&E) in one place, Washington State University (WSU) is uniquely positioned to help meet this need and build a strong talent pipeline for the industry.
WSU Wine Science Center One of the Most Technologically Advanced Hubs of its kind
Today, WSU maintains strong ties with the local wine industry as a source of talent, research, and industry support. Near the Tri-Cities campus, there are more than 870 wineries, 60,000 acres of wine grapes, and 13 American viticulture areas. That is why WSU Tri- Cities is home to the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, one of the most technologically advanced hubs of its kind for innovation, education, and collaboration.
The University’s extension program also benefits the region’s winemakers and grape growers by providing hands-on education research to help them cultivate healthy plants and craft wines. Whereas previously, one might have to go to California or Bordeaux to study V&E, the local program is more in-tune with the technical needs of Washington winemakers with regards to climate, soil types, acid levels, fruit varietals, and seasons.
Preparing Students for the Future Wine Industry
On the business side, the WSU Carson College is preparing students to navigate the various aspects of the industry through development of business skills they didn’t need 20 years ago. With courses covering a range of topics—from financing and logistics, to marketing and customer service—students develop a well-rounded understanding of the components crucial to running a successful wine business. Cocurricular activities, such as the Coug Wine Society and Viticulture and Enology Club, allow students to network and bring in guest speakers.
Looking to the future, WSU is growing and evolving its program offerings to better connect the dots between wine business and wine science and to attract students from a variety of backgrounds. Many students major in one program and minor in the other. Additionally, the University offers a suite of online, on-demand certificate programs geared toward current industry professionals looking to continue their education or learn the other side of the industry. To continue the momentum, WSU is planning to add a master of science in international wine business. This will help ensure the University continues to meet the evolving needs of the workforce— in the office, in the vineyard, and beyond.
Carson College of Business alumnus Doug Charles is one of the cofounders of the specialty retail store Compass Wines in Anacortes, Washington, founded in 2001, as well as the ded.reckoning wine co. and BBQ wine co. He has nearly 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry, including restaurants, retail, winery, manufacturing, consulting, and education. He is considered one of the nation’s authorities on the wines of Washington state and was the first retailer to ever be awarded the prestigious Walter Clore Honorarium by the Washington State Wine Commission. He has been featured in books and publications regionally and nationally for his historical perspective on the foods and wines of the Pacific Northwest. He resides on a small farm in Skagit County with his wife and assorted animals.
For more information about the Wine And Beverage Business Management Program,
contact Byron Marlowe, program coordinator,