Higher education geared toward the American wine industry received a major boost today with the announcement of a $6 million gift to significantly expand the wine education program at Linfield College, a small liberal arts institution in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
While many universities in the United States teach enology and viticulture to aspiring future winemakers and viticulturists, Linfield College currently offers a minor in wine studies. Soon, it will offer the only interdisciplinary liberal arts bachelor’s degree in wine studies. The gift, pledged by Domaine Serene Winery founders Grace and Ken Evenstad, places Linfield at the forefront of a movement to provide students with an education geared toward winery sales, hospitality, and management careers. Says Grace Evenstad, “We think it will bring a level of professionalism that is much needed in our industry to all of our wineries.”
Established as a Baptist college in 1858, Linfield College is located in the wine-country town of McMinnville, in the Willamette’s McMinnville subappellation. Since its launch in 1987, the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) has been held at the verdant Linfield campus, despite some initial pushback from Linfield trustees concerned about the optics of a religiously affiliated institution joining forces with the wine industry.
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The wine industry prevailed. In 2011, Linfield established the Oregon Wine History Archive, a compendium of photographs, documents, interviews, and video footage that is the only collection of its kind in the nation. The following year, the college began offering a wine studies curriculum in conjunction with an internship program that places students in area wineries, as well as a professional lecture series. In 2016, Linfield hosted the International Terroir Congress, a gathering of scientists from all over the world to discuss grape growing and wine production. In June 2017, internationally known wine climatologist Gregory V. Jones joined the college as director of Linfield’s Center for Wine Education.
Focusing on marketing, sales, finance, and general leadership, the Linfield program will be the first interdisciplinary wine studies degree in the U.S. In January, Linfield signed an exchange partnership with the University of Burgundy for undergraduates as well as graduate students.
Wine-studies students who participated in Linfield’s January study-abroad program this year visited the Evenstad’s French winery, Château de la Crée in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune. The $6 million Evenstad gift to Linfield College, the largest for wine education in Oregon’s history, will fund the design and construction of a wine laboratory and will endow the Grace and Ken Evenstad Center for Wine Education at Linfield, as well as a faculty position, the Evenstad Chair in Wine Studies.
It arrives in a moment when the $5.6-billion Oregon wine industry is showing the strongest growth of any American wine region. Says Linfield College president Thomas L. Hellie, “This is an investment in creating leaders for Oregon’s growing wineries.”
Katherine Cole is the author of four books on wine, including Rosé All Day. She is also the executive producer and host of “The Four Top,” a James Beard Award–winning food-and-beverage podcast on NPR One. She is currently working on a fifth book, Sparkling Wine Anytime (Abrams), to be published in Fall 2020.