By editorial board • 

Linfield College moves into upper wine education echelon

Linfield College took another major stride this week toward becoming a player of national and even international note in wine studies.

This time it came through an announcement of a new program aimed at awarding bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field. The master’s degree track, limited to just five students initially, will combine three years under Linfield’s direction with two under the guidance of France’s Ecole Superieure d’Agricultures, located in the Loire Valley town of Angers.

Linfield hasn’t offered graduate degrees since it dropped its master’s in education program more than 30 years ago. That lends added significance.

The national leader in wine education remains the University of California at Davis. However, other schools have come to offer associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or even doctoral degrees. In addition to California’s Sonoma State, Cal Poly and Cal State Fresno, the roster includes Cornell, Missouri, Washington State, Oregon State and Chemeketa Community College.

Wine studies majors can earn master’s degrees at Davis, Sonoma, Cornell, Washington State and Oregon State, and doctorates at Cornell and Oregon State.

Like Linfield, most of the schools are taking advantage of locations in centers of wine production. For example, Cornell lies in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes region.

Wine sales count for more than $60 billion in annual revenue in the U.S., with domestic production accounting for more than two-thirds of that. So there is plenty of opportunity growing grapes, making and marketing wine, conducting research in the field and filling other industry niches.

Linfield has hosted the prestigious International Pinot Noir Celebration since the event’s inception more than 30 years ago.

Building on that history, the college went on to establish the Oregon Wine History Archive; began offering wine studies certificates, and later minors; forged exchange agreements with the French universities of Burgundy and Avize; and founded the Center for Wine Education, since expanded and enhanced by a $6 million gift from highly regarded Oregon vintners Grace and Ken Evenstad. Along the way, it was able to lure nationally prominent wine educator Greg Jones, a leading expert in the industry.

The college took the next major step this fall by adding an interdisciplinary wine studies major. The cooperative graduate program with Ecole Superieure d’Agricultures flows naturally out of that.

If the Willamette Valley can become a national and international leader in the production of notable wine, there’s no reason Linfield can’t become a national and international leader in the production of notable practitioners.

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