Being in the middle of wine country, Sonoma State University students interested in the wine industry may already think they’re getting to know everything there is about wine. However, professors wanted to open students up to the knowledge of how diverse and innovative wine can be.
Wine business professors Liz Thach from Sonoma State and Natalia Velikova from Texas Tech wanted to hold a friendly competition between their students. While attending the Wine Industry Financial Symposium last September, they hoped to create a fun and informative competition about wine mixology.
The Wine Mixology Competition called for 42 Sonoma State and 24 Texas Tech students in teams of two to three, to create wine cocktails that would be judged by a panel of experts.
After presenting their projects during the first week of April, it was up to each of the universities to vote and submit their top three cocktails.
“The purpose of the project was to develop creative wine cocktails as a potential marketing method to create more excitement around wine,” said Thach. “Craft beer and spirits mixology are gaining market share, and we wanted to try to ensure that wine continues to grow in popularity as well.”
Students from Sonoma State developed 33 original wine cocktails with the hope of bringing attention to the trendiness and diversity of wine.
“While there are countries around the world with a healthy culture of wine cocktails, the U.S. hasn’t really shown much creativity around wine mixology,” said Velikova in a prepared statement.
Four of the nine judges are Master Sommeliers, a title only 140 professionals have earned in North America. The others have an extensive background in wine recipes, making the stakes higher for those students competing.
After a blind taste test, judges Ian Cauble, Gillian Balance, James Tidwell, Melissa Monosoff and Tim Hanni selected the top three winning cocktails. The top two winners were Sonoma State students, while two Texas Tech students took third place.
Lavender Lady was the winning cocktail, created by Sonoma State senior Laina Carter and junior Jessica Piel. Judges said the drink was unique in its ingredients and provided a creative flavor.
“We were very excited to do the project because it’s not really a typical class project and it allowed us to be creative,” said Carter. “Jess and I put a lot of thought into the drink we wanted to make and tried different variations of it before we decided which ingredients we wanted to use.”
Tasteful Blush, the second place cocktail, was created by Itze Pena-Andrade and Miranda Aswad from Sonoma State. Connor Hudspeth and Kady Augustus from Texas Tech came in third place for their cocktail called Mendoza Margarita.
Each of the winning cocktail teams received a cash prize for their creations ranging from $100-$200 donated by the Wine Industry Symposium Group, Young’s Market Company and Dolan Family Ranches.
Their creations will also be featured on a wine cocktail blog managed by Thach. The blog contains wine cocktail original recipes that allow students to contribute their ideas. Each post consists of the ingredients needed, directions of how to make the cocktail and a video of one being made.
The results from this contest made professors and students from both Sonoma State and Texas Tech enthusiastic for the next competition. Professor Thach said if possible, she would like to continue to hold competitions each semester and perhaps invite other wine universities, such as UC Davis, Fresno State or Cornell to participate in the contest.