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Sonoma State University Unveils Wine Spectator Learning Center

May 31, 2018

It’s not every day that an $11 million, 15,000-square-foot temple to wine industry knowledge opens its doors. More than 600 guests, including wine industry leaders, gathered Tuesday in Sonoma County for the grand opening of the Wine Spectator Learning Center at Sonoma State University. The facility is the new heart of the University’s Wine Business Institute, a one-of-a-kind program working to train tomorrow’s leaders of the wine industry.

“Get crackin’,” was Wine Spectator editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken’s advice to the students in the crowd. The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation anchored the financing of the new building, contributing $3 million.

In her opening statement for the ceremony, Dr. Karen Thompson, interim dean of the School of Business and Economics, said, “Twenty-two years ago, Gary Heck had a vision.” The president and owner of Korbel, Heck believed the community needed to prepare future generations for leadership roles in the wine industry. Heck teamed with Sonoma State’s then-president Ruben Armiñana and several local industry leaders to develop a business education program that would meet the demands of the wine industry. Together they founded the Wine Business Institute in 1996, the first academic program in the United States to offer degrees focused exclusively on the business aspects of the wine industry.

Heck donated $1 million to the building of the new center, which took two years of construction. Additional contributors include Tom Klein, proprietor for Rodney Strong Vineyards; the Gallo Family of E.&J. Gallo Winery; Chris and Vern Underwood of Young’s Market Company, and several other industry leaders and organizations.

Shanken called the building a symbol of the last 40 years of hard work and journalism at Wine Spectator. The Sonoma State University program is just one of several that the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation has contributed to. It has raised more than $20 million to support wine and food education over the past 30 years, including students at the University of California at Davis Department of Viticulture & Enology, Washington State University’s Viticulture & Enology program, the Culinary Institute of America, Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, and Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. Wine Spectator has more.—Aaron Romano

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