UCC’s SOWI named “Organization of the Year” by wine publication
The Southern Oregon Wine Institute at Umpqua Community College was named the “Organization of the Year” by the Oregon Wine Press (oregonwinepress.com) in its January 2011 edition.
“In a few years,” the McMinnville-based monthly said in an article by freelance writer Janet Eastman, “the college’s Southern Oregon Wine Institute (SOWI) has grown from administrators compiling a wish list from members of the Umpqua Valley Winegrowers Association to providing the industry with vital lab services, access to cutting-edge research and invitations to confab at Wine Cluster Conferences. But perhaps most important, SOWI is set up to produce ready-to-work employees.”
The same issue of the Oregon Wine Press also had an article, “Selling Southern Oregon,” about SOWI’s Wine Cluster Conference II held in December at Grants Pass.
“This is a tremendous honor,” said interim UCC President Rita Cavin. “The article does an excellent job of summarizing our hard work getting this program to where it is today. It goes into our relationship with the wine industry and the economic development community and the success our graduates have had already finding jobs despite SOWI’s short history.”
The article makes note of the practical side of the instruction at SOWI as well as the academic. “If you take theory, and connect it to practical knowledge,” SOWI director and viticulture instruction Chris Lake is quoted saying, “light bulbs come one.”
“For that reason,” the article explained, “SOWI’s students endure frost, rain and intense heat in vineyards to prepare soil, then plant, fertilize, water and prune vines. They harvest, sometimes at odd hours as they did to bring in what’s affectionately referred to as the ‘midnight Merlot.’ Then they stand for endless hours on concrete crush pads sorting, de-stemming and crushing grapes.
“In a winery,” the article continued, “they inoculate, ferment, punch down and press, then monitor aging, test and adjust the juice. After blending, they bottle, design a label that earns government approval and store the finished product.
“Still, they’re not finished,” Eastman wrote. “They can learn to write business and marketing plans, find financing and practice selling their wine to real consumers. Finally, they emerge with degrees. A few are ready with wine, contacts, support and experience to launch a new winery. Most, however, just want a job assisting a pro and to join the ranks of those intending to make wine better here.”
The article mentioned southern Oregon winemakers Scott Henry (Henry Estate), Jim Delfino (Delfino’s), Earl Jones (Abacela) and John Olson (Palotai Vineyard & Winery) who, the article mentioned hired one of SOWI’s graduates, Linda Donovan (the Pallet Wine Co., a custom crush operation in Medford), graduate Jennifer Jackson of Sutherlin, Danny Lang, whose gift began the capital campaign leading to the construction of the winery, and retired UCC President Blaine Nisson, who led the College every step of the way in the development of the viticulture/enology program up to the beginning of the construction of the Lang Teaching, Learning and Event Center.
The Southern Oregon Wine Institute at UCC serves the industry in Lane, Douglas, Josephine, Jackson, Coos, Curry and Klamath counties. Consequently a “hybrid” approach to providing instruction is necessary. Students take their classes online five days a week and come to Roseburg five Saturdays a term to work in local vineyards or in enology labs on campus.