WSU opens new Ste. Michelle Wine Science Center

The sign atop the new Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center is unveiled.
The sign atop the new Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center is unveiled.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University dedicated its new wine science center Thursday, June 4, and announced that the center will bear the name of its top supporter.

“For more than 25 years, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has supported the WSU wine program with their own contributions as well as shepherding support from others,” said WSU President Elson S. Floyd. “In recognition of their outstanding commitment and contributions, I am pleased to announce the center will be named the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center.”

Theodor (Ted) Baseler, president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates who also served as chair of WSU’s Wine Campaign, said the company understands the direct correlation between the most successful wine regions of the world and proximity to higher education institutions conducting wine science.

CAHNRS dean Ron Mittlehammer speaks to the crowd
CAHNRS Dean Ron Mittlehammer speaks to the crowd at the Wine Science Center opening June 4.

“We have always recognized the importance of a vibrant wine industry in the Pacific Northwest, and quality education is a key component,” he said. Over the past several years, the company has established an endowed professorship in viticulture, supported the endowed chair of the director of the Viticulture and Enology Program, and raised more than $40,000 per year for student scholarships.

“Our support will continue,” Baseler added. “Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is pledging an additional gift of $500,000 to directly support the Wine Science Center.” The gift completed the fundraising for the construction of the building.

He also noted that the Wine Science Center, which is located on the WSU Tri-Cities campus, is a culmination of industry support that reached broadly across the Washington wine community. “This industry made an early statement by initiating a $7.4 million gift through the Washington State Wine Commission.”

Provost Dan Bernardo, center, pops a celebratory cork with WSU Regent Mike Worthy. At right is Regent Lura Powell.
Provost Dan Bernardo, center, pops a celebratory cork with WSU Regent Mike Worthy. At right is Regent Lura Powell.

Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, agreed. “Through the Washington State Wine Commission, every grower and winemaker in the state is contributing to the Wine Science Center—a true vote of confidence in the future of research and education at WSU.”

In addition to private support, the $23-million Wine Science Center project was funded with $4.95 million from the state and a $2.06-million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. It is built on land donated by the Port of Benton in Richland.

Ron Mittelhammer, dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, emphasized the importance of the institution’s close partnership with the wine industry. “Our goal is to continue building a program that is informed by and mirrors the excellence of the Washington wine industry,” he said.

Keith Moo-Young, chancellor at WSU Tri-Cities, noted the strategic location of the new center and its benefits to the state’s economy.

Associate Professor of Enology Jim Harbertson shows new equipment to visitors at the new Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center.
Associate Professor of Enology Jim Harbertson shows new equipment to visitors at the new Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center.

“The Wine Science Center is a boon to our campus, community and the Washington wine industry,” he said. “This center supports a critical industry in our state, and to have it strategically located here in the heart of wine country further demonstrates our role—as a land-grant university—to foster economic prosperity.”

The new teaching and research facility, considered one of the most technologically advanced wine science centers in the world, features research laboratories and classrooms, a research and teaching winery, a two-acre vineyard, and greenhouses to train technical personnel to support Washington’s large and expanding wine industry. It includes meeting and event space with a large atrium, Washington wine library and conference rooms. Industry members, students and researchers from around the globe are invited to use the center as a gathering place to spark innovation, fuel economic development and support local, regional, national and international collaboration and provide a catalyst for research breakthroughs.

Washington is the second largest premium wine producer in the United States.

>>View the WSU Tri-Cities Flickr album of  Wine Science Center grand opening photos.

>>Learn more about the Viticulture and Enology Program at WSU.

– Matt Haugen, Erika Holmes, Seth Truscott

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