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Wine Spectator Learning Center opens at Sonoma State University

by Kerana Todorov
May 30, 2018

The Wine Business Institute is moving into a new home at Sonoma State University, its first dedicated building since it was established more than two decades ago.

On Tuesday, the school celebrated the grand opening of the $11 million Wine Spectator Learning Center at the former University Commons building on campus with sparkling, cheers and speeches. The 15,000-square-foot building features classrooms designed for group learning, tastings, and equipped to host virtual guests.

Ninety-percent of the costs of the two-year renovation project were covered with private donations, including $3 million from the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation.

“Our vision is to be the global leader in wine business research and education,” Ray Johnson, executive director of the Wine Business Institute, told the crowd gathered in front of the new Learning Center.

“And today we have a home, a place, a learning center that really is fitting for such a vision. It’s the place from which we can now realize this vision,” Johnson added.

The institute is a division of Sonoma State’s School of Business and Economics. The school has conferred more than 1,000 undergraduate degrees focusing on the business of wine since 1998; 50 master’s in business administration in wine business since 2008; and another 112 Executive MBAs since 2012.

“We are quite pleased to say that Sonoma State is the premier university in the country for the study and research of the business of wine,” Sonoma State University president Judy Sakaki told the guests.

U.S, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, presented a plaque with the remarks he made on the House floor to honor the Wine Spectator Learning Center.

Thompson said the wine industry represents $180 billion a year in economic activity. “That’s important for agriculture. It’s important for our environment, our economy, jobs, taxes and it’s important for our way of life.”

The data generated from research will help public policy makers, Thompson said.

“The research aspects of what’s going to take place in this building, is not only going to help the wine community, it’s not only going to help the business aspect, but it’s going to help public policy folks as well,” Thompson said.

“Our wine business programs exemplify the university’s commitment to meet local workforce needs. Clearly, in our region, with nearly 450 wineries, there is an interest and demand for individuals who are knowledgeable, experienced and can successfully run a wine business.”

Marvin Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator Magazine, told the students “Get crackin’!”

He also joked that his one contribution was to insist that students have a place to eat in the building.

He thanked the donors and the magazine’s staff for their contribution to journalism over the past 40 years. “This is our building too,” Shanken said.

Gary Heck, owner of Korbel Champagne Cellars, who envisioned the program 22 years ago, led the toast to the Wine Business Institute and the Wine Spectator Learning Center, as dignitaries gathered to cut a blue ribbon and allow the guests into the building. “Cheers everyone!”


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