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Freshly Minted Masters’ Used to Grow Great Grapes

Posted by cahnrs.webteam | December 10, 2012

Richard Hoff
Richard Hoff

Coming from Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Arizona, three recent WSU graduates now have two things in common—master’s degrees in viticulture earned under the mentorship of Markus Keller, and good jobs in great vineyards.

“We’ve had great success in seeing our students take jobs in the viticulture industry,” said Keller, the WSU Chateau Ste. Michelle Distinguished Professor of Viticulture. “We barely have time to hand them their degrees before they are out the door to go work in vineyards all over the world.”

Laura Deyermond
Laura Deyermond

Amherst, Massachusetts, native Laura Deyermond studied the consequences of irrigation and pruning regimes on vine growth and development. “I wanted a better understanding of grapevine physiology and how to gauge vine water status based on external symptoms.” She reported the experience of graduate school gave her confidence and trust in her instincts and the skills to continue learning. Her current position as an assistant viticulturist in the Napa Valley meets a goal she’s had since her first vineyard job on Long Island in New York.

Coming from River Falls, Wisconsin, Richard Hoff studied berry shrivel, a ripening disorder that sometimes plagues grapes. “I mostly worked with Cabernet Sauvignon,” he said. “Berry shrivel results in berries with low sugar and low pH, making them extremely sour!” Graduate studies gave him a good foundation in the biology and chemistry of grapevines and the practical application of viticulture, he said, which prepared him for employment as a viticulturist with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

Matt Halldorson
Matt Halldorson

“Arizona had some viticultural endeavors that piqued my curiosity, and that’s what ultimately brought me to WSU,” said Matt Halldorson. He combined several important aspects of viticulture for his master’s project, including pathology, water relations, and winter cultural practice. “And before I even graduated, I had an offer of an assistant viticulturist position with Wycoff Farms in Prosser.”

“All of us involved in WSU’s viticultural research and education programs are proud of Laura, Richard, and Matt—and all our graduates,” said Keller. “As we know, a great bottle of wine begins in the vineyard, so it makes me happy about the future greatness of the vineyards they are working in, and the fine wines that are sure to follow.”

– By Brian Clark