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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2022 Features

Wine Tasting Room Certificate Pours Knowledge into Beverage Industry

By Sue McMurray

Illustration by Monique Van Sant Coppinger

As one of the sectors most severely impacted by the global pandemic, the food and beverage industry is starting to rebound. Washington state wineries are strategizing to return to postpandemic normality that will likely be different as experts predict a shift toward more personalized experiences for guests and smaller groups.

To meet industry needs, the Carson College of Business at WSU Tri-Cities developed the online Wine Tasting Room Certificate that is growing in popularity.

The program trains winery and tasting room servers on wine business customer service, knowledge of Washington wines, sensory attributes of wine, as well as suggestions for selling wine.

“Noncredit professional certificates that are online and on demand are a unique selling point,” says Joan Giese, career-track associate professor of marketing and director of lifelong learning at WSU Tri-Cities. “It’s the only way this type of training could meet fast-paced industry needs.”

Benefits of the certificate program are its affordable $249 price tag and rapid completion time. The course’s four modules take approximately eight hours to master and cover the following topics:

  • Exploring wine
  • Wines of Washington
  • Keys to proper wine service and sales
  • Wine tasting, evaluation, and food pairing

Industry partners help refine content

Giese and WSU Tri-Cities hospitality faculty Bob Harrington and the late Byron Marlowe developed the certificate through an iterative process with winery owners and tasting room managers, building in a midway checkpoint and feedback from servers who evaluated the material.

“Halfway through the course development, we learned we were missing a section on wine flights,” says Giese. “Lots of legwork went into it before launching.”

Anyone interested in wine may benefit from the certificate, especially wine tasting room servers seeking to add a credential to their résumés. Individuals who complete the course will learn about the unique aspects of Washington wines, how they are made, and wine service.

“WSU’s certificate is a valuable resource for wineries and their current and potential tasting room staff, says April Reddout, founder of Reddout Wine Consulting. “The training offers a foundational understanding of the industry’s history and highlights so employees can focus on learning the story and specific operations of their employers.”

Role-playing and historical knowledge slated as possible training opportunities

Giese notes winery owners have indicated the value of in-person role-play as a possible add-on credential to the Wine Tasting Room Certificate. Currently, WSU Tri-Cities faculty are discussing plans to further develop supplemental role-playing and other training content, for example, a “watch list” of films significant to the history of the wine industry.

“The outcomes of the certificate program are well-trained servers who are confident in their abilities to know, serve, and sell wine, as well as well-served guests who are delighted with enjoyable tasting room experiences,” says Giese.

Excerpts taken from “WSU Tri‑Cities Launches Online Certificate Program to Train Winery, Tasting Room Servers” by Maegan Murray, published November 16, 2021, in the WSU Insider.