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Chancellor’s Seminar Series brings wine culture to campus

The world of academic research is often claimed to exist in its own insular sphere, sequestered from all surroundings. WSU Vancouver aims to turn that perception back and invite everyone in to see its programs. Once per semester, the chancellor’s office holds a seminar to connect the community “to the research and educational happenings at WSU Vancouver,” said Kimberly Lawrence, an office assistant in the chancellor’s office. Fall semester’s seminar is titled “The Promise of Washington Wines,” and will be taking place on Friday, October 10.

Lawrence said that these seminars began in 2008 because then-Chancellor Hal Dengerink “saw that we could greater strengthen the local industry and perpetuate growth.” With that in mind, Lawrence said that this seminar’s topic was chosen because “viticulture and the wine industry are growing rapidly in our local area. The industry is creating jobs and helping power the economy.” There are currently 16 wineries in Clark County alone, the majority of which are located in Ridgefield and Battle Ground, with more appearing frequently.

The speaker for this seminar will be Thomas Henick-Kling, the director of the upcoming Wine Science Center and professor of Viticulture & Enology at Washington State University Tri-Cities. The owner of the Mill Creek Pub, Russell Brent, and the owner of the Bethany Vineyard & Winery, Walt Houser, will also be present to give a local perspective on the industry.

While only recently becoming prominent in the greater wine market, viticulture has a long history in the Pacific Northwest. Hudson’s Bay Company was the first to plant wine grapes, at Fort Vancouver in 1825. In 1903 Eastern Washington began using irrigation from the run-off of the Cascade’s snow caps. Wine making quickly became an important part of the Pacific Northwest. Prohibition slowed the industry down, but within five years of its end, there were 42 wineries in the state of Washington. The industry began commercializing plantings in the 1960s, and by the 1970s a new winery was opening approximately every two weeks. The Washington Wine Institute decided to create the two and four-year degree programs for viticulture in 2003. They wanted to continue to improve the quality of Washington’s wine by creating a place for research and growth in the wine industry.

WSU Tri-Cities is the only place in the Pacific Northwest where a student can get an undergraduate degree in viticulture. They also have a wine business management degree program, which is the only one in the country. The ground was broken on the Wine Science Center on September 26, 2013 and it is predicted to be open to students in January 2015. The Center is going to have its own greenhouse thanks to a donation from the Mercer Family in memory of “Bud” Mercer Jr. There are to be 192 fermentation tanks in the Center, in an area referred to as the research winery, there will also be a wine library. While the Center is being built to allow for more room for research, the researchers will also continue to work in their current lab in Prosser.

The seminar will be in Firstenburg Student Commons from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tickets to the seminar are $25, which includes lunch parking. Tickets can be purchased online at Vancouver.wsu.edu/css. For more information about the viticulture program at WSU Tri-Cities, visit wine.wsu.edu

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