New interdisciplinary wine studies minor offered

Elizabeth Stoeger, News editor

Drawing on the vibrant, rich wine industry in Oregon, Linfield will be one of the first colleges to offer a wine studies minor this fall.

The new minor will be an interdisciplinary look into the field of wine, focusing on the “history, cul- ture, production, business, science, and appreciation of wine,” according to the course description.

Jeff Peterson, an associate professor of sociology and director of the Linfield Center for the Northwest (LCN), is the coordinator of this new program.

“[A wine studies minor] is the next logical step for Linfield in our relationship with the Oregon wine industry.”

Yamhill was named first on a list of America’s best wine destinations, surpassing Napa Valley and Sonoma County.

SmartAsset compiled information on the 98 counties with at least 5 wineries and analyzed the data with the number of wineries in each county and geographical density of wineries in mind.

According to an article from The Oregonian, Jackson Family Wines, which is based out of California, acquired buildings at the Ever- green Aviation Museum for $4.6 million in January to start a wine production facility.

In Yamhill County, there are 80 wineries, which translates to roughly one winery ever 8.9 square miles. This is the third highest concentration of wineries in the nation.

“McMinnville, frankly, is at the heart of Oregon wine country. It makes total sense for us to be a part of that,” Peterson said.

Though Linfield has long main- tained a robust connection to the Oregon wine industry, the process of creating a program centered on wine began about 7 years ago with an archives project surrounding wine history.

Rachael Woody, Linfield archivist, preserved the wine history of Oregon through interviews and artifacts, all protected and digitized in the Oregon Wine History Archive (OWHA).

In addition to the archives project devoted to wine, a yearly faculty-student collaborative research project is dedicated to a particular area of wine studies.

In order to complete the wine studies minor, students must finish 20 to 25 credits.

The required courses are Public Speaking, Fundamentals of Wine, Contemporary Business, and a capstone experience.

Electives classes include Wine Career Exploration, the Microbiology of Grapes and Wine, and The Art and Science of Brewing. Another course from a different department may be substituted for one elective if at least one- third of the grade in the class was “devoted to wine-related topics.”

Sophomore Zoya Miller commented, “The wine industry in this area is rapidly growing and it’s a great opportunity for students.”

For Peterson, this minor is an important way for Linfield to stay relevant as an institution of higher education, “At some point in time, the currency of an educational institution like Linfield is programming.”

What makes this minor extremely unique, and one of the first of its kind in the nation, is its interdisciplinary approach.

Even for Linfield, this minor will include a varied mix of disciplines. “There is perhaps no more interdisciplinary, broader, liberal arts base to a minor than that one,” Peterson said.

Since “wine is everything from a science to an art, and everything in between,” Peterson believes that taking a liberal arts approach is essential.

Ellen Brittan, Linfield’s director of wine education, said, “If you want to be a general manager or an owner of a winery, having a broad liberal arts education and an understanding of the wine industry is the perfect combination.”

“To really understand the world of wine, you have to have a multi-disciplinary approach so
it lends itself perfectly to a multi-disciplinary degree in a liberal arts college.”

The program was created using feedback from vineyards as well as Linfield graduates. Both said that having a public speaking as well as a business background was tremendously helpful.

Because many vineyards are small or medium sized, “you wear so many hats” when working in a vineyard that having a multitude of skills is essential. Those hired as accountants will rarely only be accounts but also have to contribute to the marketing of the wine.

Brittan will play a large part in facilitating this relationship between Linfield and the Oregon wine industry.

Brittan lived in California’s Napa valley for 10 years before quitting her job in financial services to work in a winery.

Eventually she felt it was time to open her own winery.

Along with her husband who is also in the wine business, Brittan bought a property in Oregon and opened Brittan Vineyards. They have been in business for 10 years.

She will be the “industry liaison and industry expert” bringing an “industry perspective and an understanding of the business of wine as well as the science of wine and the culture of wine.”

Brittan said she believes this minor would be advantageous for students in many ways. “They would be prepared to maybe go on to doing a deeper dive into viticulture or enology . . . if they fully understood the breadth of the business but also had a specialty in one of the sciences.”

This would work similarly well with business, marketing, accounting, and most other majors offered.

Peterson hopes that “this is just a start” and the program will continue to expand. Specifically, he eventually would like to teach a class on the sociology of wine as well as one on the role of women in the wine industry.

He will teach the Fundamentals of Wine as well as the Oregon Burgundy Experience in the fall.
The Oregon Burgundy Experience will focus on Oregon’s connection to the French wine industry with a 10-day excursion to Burgundy in January.

Brittan pointed out that the Fundamentals of Wine class “could even be beneficial to someone who just wants to be conversant on wine so when they are out in a social setting or a business, entertainment setting they have a knowledge base that most graduates don’t have of a topic that many well-traveled, sophisticated people enjoy and appreciate.”

This summer there will be an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the wine industry, the Wine Industry Immersion Program. From June 16 to August 4, students will be able to experience everything from physically taking part in the wine making process to marketing and selling the finished product.

“It’s unique, we have found no other program like this in the United States. It’s filling a need that no other school is filling . . . it’s a broad interdisciplinary approach,” Brittan said.