This morning, Domaine Serene founders Grace and Ken Evenstad announced their pledge of $6 million to Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. The Dayton winery’s gift will go down in history as one of the largest donations to Linfield, and is intended to expand the wine education program at the college.
With this gift, Linfield will be launching the Grace and Ken Evenstad Center for Wine Education with a primary focus on a Wine Studies degree that, according to the press release, melds “historical, geographical and environmental aspects of growing grapes and the making, bottling and selling of wine.” This will be the United States’ first interdisciplinary liberal arts bachelor’s degree in wine studies.
“What’s unique is that [Linfield is] working to get a major in Wine Studies approved, a set of coursework that not only covers viticulture and enology but stresses the business of wine, branding, marketing and social media, and all of the other aspects of running a successful wine business,” says Ryan Harris, Domaine Serene’s president. “That’s where it is different from other programs that focus primarily on wine, this educates the student on all the aspects of an ongoing, long-running wine business.”
The four-year liberal arts college currently offers a wine studies minor that can be coupled with other programs, while the center offers wine management and wine marketing certificates online, holds wine lecture series and provides a summer Wine Industry Immersion Program.
“In our opinion, the real benefit is that it focuses on building a high level of quality throughout the entire business of wine,” Grace Evenstad stated in the press release. “This gift will enable thousands of future students to follow their passions in the wine business. It will prepare them for success and will enable the American wine industry to benefit for generations, even centuries, to come.”
Harris adds that the team has seen firsthand the need for well-educated professional to come up in the wine business. “The business is sustained through on-the-job training and, especially in smaller wineries, there isn’t a lot of expertise to bring to bear and people have to learn the hard way. That’s why so many wineries fail; this will really help to teach people on what it takes to succeed in the wine business.”
The donation to the center will also endow a faculty position, the Evenstad Chair in Wine Studies, first to be held by wine climatologist and current center director Gregory Jones. Since opening in 1989, this gift adds to the now $20 million Domaine Serene has donated or raised for philanthropic efforts across the country, now with an investment in the leaders of the global wine industry.
“It’s going to be amazing for Linfield because it really allows a small liberal arts college to be a unique education center in the world of wine,” Harris says. “It bridges the gap with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Burgundy because [Linfield has] partnered with the University of Bourgogne, Dijon for an exchange program. It’s a small college making a big impact in the world of wine education, and this gift allows that to happen.”