Linfield College to offer minor in Oregon wine studies

By on February 16, 2016
Pioneer Hall, the oldest building at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., opened for classes in 1883. It offers wine marketing and wine management programs. It established the Oregon Wine History Archive in 2011 and recently created the Oregon Wine Industry Experience.

Pioneer Hall, the oldest building at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., opened for classes in 1883. The school offers wine marketing and wine management programs, established the Oregon Wine History Archive in 2011 and recently created the Oregon Wine Industry Experience. (Photo courtesy of Linfield College)

McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Linfield College, home of the International Pinot Noir Conference, is preparing to launch what the school in Oregon’s Willamette Valley said will be the first wine studies program of its kind in the United States.

Officials at the four-school school in McMinnville said the new wine studies minor being offered is designed to give students an overview of the history, culture, production, business, science and appreciation of wine.

“Because of the growth and global recognition of the Oregon wine industry, Linfield continues to expand its commitment to wine studies for undergraduates and the general public,” Susan Agre-Kippenhan, vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty at Linfield, wrote in Monday’s news release. “The addition of a wine studies minor distinguishes Linfield as an innovative institution, expanding on the interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching to which the college is clearly committed.”

Ellen Brittan, past chairwoman of the Oregon Wine Board and past president of the Oregon Winegrowers Association, was named director of wine education at Linfield in fall 2014. She still has two years as an OWB director and will continue to help coordinate Linfield’s program and provide student access to members of Oregon wine industry.

Jeff Peterson, associate professor of sociology and director of the Linfield Center for the Northwest, is program coordinator for the wine studies minor. He works with members of the Willamette Valley wine industry to create education and internships for Linfield students.

School with Baptist roots adds Oregon wine classes

Jeff Peterson, associate professor of sociology at Linfield College, serves as program coordinator for the wine studies minor.

Jeff Peterson, associate professor of sociology at Linfield College, serves as program coordinator for the wine studies minor. (Photo courtesy of Linfield College)

Linfield College, which opened as a Baptist school in 1858, has an enrollment of 2,500 students and offers wine marketing and wine management certificate programs. The private school established the Oregon Wine History Archive in 2011 and recently created the Oregon Wine Industry Experience.

The goal of the new minor – combined with the student’s primary focus of study – is to benefit the Oregon wine industry by producing a graduate with a better overall understanding of the world of wine, the school said. Course curriculum will explore wine’s cultural, social and economic significance in Oregon and internationally. Brittan’s connections to the wine industry will share their knowledge and experience with Linfield students.

Brittan, who co-owns nearby Brittan Vineyards with her acclaimed winemaking husband, Robert, also remains on the International Pinot Noir Conference board. The University of Washington product with degrees in French and Spanish literature spent nearly five years as general manager of the innovative Carlton Winemakers Studio prior to joining Linfield.

“Our rapidly growing Oregon wine industry needs a bigger pool of qualified candidates for jobs,” Brittan said upon her appointment at Linfield. “Small wineries don’t have the time or resources to develop training programs. They need people who can hit the ground running. If Linfield can help bridge that gap by providing a basic skills set and some basic knowledge, it will really help those smaller wineries.”

She pointed out that 75 percent of Oregon’s wine industry is made of small vineyards and wineries that produce on average fewer than 5,000 cases of wine a year.

Brittan’s career in finance, wine fits Linfield

Winery owner Ellen Brittan, director of wine education at Linfield College, is chair emerita of the Oregon Wine Board and past president of the Oregon Winegrowers Association.

Winery owner Ellen Brittan, director of wine education at Linfield College, is chair emerita of the Oregon Wine Board and past president of the Oregon Winegrowers Association. (Photo courtesy of Linfield College)

A 20-year career in finance followed by an interest in wine led Brittan to a job as executive director of the Rudd Group in California’s Napa Valley, where she oversaw branding, marketing and communications for companies such as Dean & DeLuca, Oakville Grocery and Rudd Winery. Along the way, Brittan helped develop Rudd’s Center of Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa as well as its Center of Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

According to Linfield officials, students who combine a wine studies minor with a major in management, marketing, accounting, mass communications, biology, chemistry or international business will be positioned to pursue careers in the wine industry. They also would be better prepared as graduate students in viticulture, enology or wine business programs at schools such as Washington State University, University of California-Davis, Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute and the Oregon Wine Research Institute at Oregon State University.

Linfield’s alumni include winemaker Remy Drabkin and 1998 World Series MVP Scott Brosius, who will coach in the Seattle Mariners organization after eight storied seasons and a national championship as head baseball coach at the McMinnville school.

Those interested in Linfield’s new wine minor are encouraged to contact either Peterson via [email protected], calling 503-883-5269 or Brittan at 503-883-2218 and [email protected]

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for 15 years. He is a frequent wine judge along the West Coast and contributor to Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, the region's longest-running golf publication.

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