Chateau Ste. Michelle endows professorship
A $250,000 gift from Chateau Ste. Michelle will strengthen viticulture research at Washington State University and further enhance the quality of Washington wines, said Allen Shoup, Chateau Ste. Michelle president, and Dean James Zuiches, WSU College of Agriculture and Home Economics.
The gift will endow a distinguished professorship at WSU-Prosser. Long-time viticulture researcher Robert Wample, WSU-Prosser, will be appointed to the professorship.
Shoup noted that the state's wine industry rose from very humble beginnings 50 years ago to being recognized as a world-class viticultural region today.
"Washington State is producing some of the world's finest wines," Shoup said. "With this distinguished professorship in viticulture, our state can continue to be on the forefront of wine quality and excellence."
Chateau Ste. Michelle has played a seminal role in development of the Washington wine industry. The winery has been growing grapes and making wine since the repeal of Prohibition.
Wample's vinifera research already has influenced vineyard practices and attracted national attention.
"He was lead author in a paper that was recognized as the best viticulture article published in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, in 1993," Zuiches said.
The article reported results of research by a team of WSU scientists who, in collaboration with Chateau Ste. Michelle at their Cold Creek Vineyard, showed that growers don't need to apply as much nitrogen fertilizer as had become the industry standard. The result is an economic savings for farmers and less risk of nitrogen infiltration into ground water.
"Dr. Wample also has a long-standing research project on deficit irrigation, which already has changed irrigation practices by some of the state's leading growers," Zuiches noted.
The research, which continues, has thus far shown that viticulturists can produce the same amount of grapes and enhance wine quality with 30 percent less water than has been recommended in the past. It was done in collaboration with Chateau Ste. Michelle's sister winery in Eastern Washington.
Today, Washington farmers grow 11,000 acres of wine grapes. During the last three years, their value at the farm gate has averaged $32 million, but the value to Washington's economy is much greater as the product moves through processing and marketing. Washington's market niche is in premium wines.