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Sonoma State's Wine Business Institute Names Liz Thach as Korbel Professor in Wine Business

April 08, 2011

Hundreds raised a toast Thursday evening to the first-ever F. Korbel & Brothers Professor in Wine Business, Dr. Liz Thach. The Korbel Professorship will support Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute and its vision to be the global leader in wine business education. Thach’s appointment was announced at the School of Business and Economics Spring Career Mixer, which networked industry professionals with up-and-coming students.

“The Korbel Professorship supports the excellence expected of us by the wine industry and the students that we serve,” noted Ray Johnson, director of the Wine Business Institute. As the Korbel Professor, Thach will support the Institute’s professional and academic network, as well as expand her input on pressing wine industry challenges like engaging Millennials, increasing direct to consumer sales, and using social media and Web 2.0.

Thach’s existing success in scholarship and teaching is noteworthy. In addition to 116 different contributions to books, trade and academic journals and conference proceedings on management, human-resources and business subjects, she has presented at 78 local, national and international conferences like the “Unified Wine & Grape Symposium” and the prestigious “Wine Industry Financial Symposium”. William Silver, dean of the School of Business and Economics, added “Professor Thach is an internationally recognized scholar and teacher whose record of accomplishments in the area of wine business is outstanding: six books, three book chapters, seventeen peer-reviewed articles, thirty-three trade journal articles, and six conferences proceedings and more. She will be a tremendous ambassador for our program and the university.”

Peter Marks, Vice President of Education for Constellation Wines U.S., noted the impact of her publications in his recommendation. “I know (her) books are not only used by students at universities around the world, but some are on the recommended reading list for the Institute of Masters of Wine and the Wine & Spirits Trust. This contribution to the body of knowledge in wine business is truly outstanding.” Nick Frey, President of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, applauded her passion for the industry, which has even translated into a hobby vineyard that she planted several years ago and about which she continually seeks new knowledge.

“It is a special honor to receive this professorship since Korbel is the oldest continually operated champagne house in the USA and a shining example of a successful wine business,” stated Thach. “I am excited about the new opportunities it presents. I will be able to hire more students to assist with wine business research, which will not only help our students learn and grow, but will allow us to focus on critical wine research needs in the community,” she concluded.

Gary Heck, owner, president and CEO of Korbel Champagne Cellars, announced the creation of the professorship in January, continuing his visionary support of Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute, which dates to its founding fifteen years ago. Heck along with well-known industry leaders like Walt Klenz garnered the support of close to 150 different wineries and related businesses to establish this unique public-private partnership. Offering the first undergraduate and graduate programs in wine business in the United States are just two accomplishments to date.

“Being one of three universities in the world that offers a master’s degree in wine business places Sonoma State University in the top reaches of wine education,” said Johnson. “And we’re right here in the North Bay!” Johnson added, “Working with partners like Korbel ensures that we have the pulse of the industry and are serving their needs in our education of its next generation of leaders.”

In addition to her research and work to extend the impact of the SSU Wine Business Institute regionally and internationally, Thach’s goals as the Korbel Professor include:
· Completing her book on the ten top vineyards of Napa and Sonoma;
· Working the harvest season at a winery to further her already deep knowledge of the wine industry with a hands-on experience;
· Publishing her Masters of Wine dissertation in a refereed journal;
· Developing her research stream on the wine preferences of Millennials and segmentation strategies;
· Continuing her work on various boards and not-for-profits in the wine industry; and
· Producing an annual report of the research work of the Wine Business Institute focusing on its practical applications.

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