Although nationwide protests in the summer of 2020 were largely centered around racial injustice in policing, the message about systemic racism resonated for many others who decided more could be done in just about every industry.
In Woodinville, the protests sparked conversations what progress could be made in the business of winemaking.
“After (the protests) is when organizations really started to look at their diversity programs and how they could help,” said Cara Connor, community relations manager at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. “And I think that’s when I started, and other people within the Washington wine industry, really started to see that there’s a discrepancy in the wine industry all over the world.”
Around the same time, DeLille Cellars CEO Tom Dugan had a similar desire to help make a difference, said DeLille Marketing Director Keri Tawney. Dugan began discussing the issue with others and learned that Ste. Michelle Estates and Woodinville Wine Country, an association of vintners and affiliates, had been having similar discussions. A partnership with Washington State University’s wine science program was born, and from that an endowment to support students from minoritized communities in the program.
“It was kind of amazing in that so many people in the community were on the same page, that we wanted to do something to make a difference in the industry,” Tawney said.
Woodinville Wine Country leaders had already expressed interest in doing a one-time scholarship to help promote diversity, but through the partnership with DeLille and Ste. Michelle, enough money could be raised to create an ongoing endowment, said Woodinville Wine Country Executive Director Jackie Sturn.
Students who are pursuing a degree in WSU’s viticulture and enology program should be able to apply for the scholarship starting next fall, according to Tawney.
When awarding funds, special consideration will be given to applicants who have overcome socioeconomic obstacles, educational disadvantages or disabilities, or are the first in their family to attend college, according to a statement from André-Denis Wright, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at WSU.
"Our hope is to bring more diverse voices into the viticulture and enology program not just for the benefit of our college and program, but to improve diversity and inclusion throughout the wine community of Washington state," Wright said.
The Woodinville Wine Country endowment fund may be contributed to through WSU Foundation’s website, www.foundation.wsu.edu/give/.
“It’s such a great industry here in our state,” Tawney said. “It’s just such a strong opportunity. We want to make sure everyone has access to that opportunity and that passion.”