Korbel donates $1 million to Wine Business Institute

In 1995, Sonoma State University founded its very own Wine Business Education Program. The program consists of a curriculum that gives students insight into every business aspect of the wine industry and prepares them for diverse situations.

What separates Sonoma State’s wine program from viticulture or enology programs offered at other universities is that Sonoma State is the only school in the United States that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in Wine Business. 

The Institute offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees with focuses in business administration, making it unlike any wine program in the United States. In the past at Sonoma State, the Institute has never had a permanent residence of its own on campus. 

Currently, the Wine Business Institute only occupies a few offices on the second floor of Stevenson Hall. 

President Ruben Armiñana announced on Jan. 7 that the Wine Business Institute would be relocating to the former University Commons building, which is now vacant due to the opening of the Student Center.  

This move was all made possible by the donation of $1 million on behalf of Korbel Champagne from Gary Heck, president and owner of Korbel. Heck also serves as the chair of Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute board, and previously served on the board of directors to the institute. 

In addition to his positions in the institute, Heck has been a key contributor to the Wine Business program since its startup. The board’s plan is to completely renovate the Commons to fulfill the current needs and demands of a Wine Business program. 

“The donation made by Gary is just an example of his immense generosity and dedication to bettering our program,” said Ray Johnson, director of the Wine Business Institute.  “This donation is exactly what was needed to get the ball rolling on creating a new space for the institute.”

Johnson explained that the idea to relocate became a key issue in the Institute’s board meetings prior to the fall 2013 semester due to the positive growth and expansion of the program since its arrival at Sonoma State. 

The board believed that with the right renovations to the former Commons, the students would benefit substantially from the improved resources. The 14,580 square-foot building will now include three brand new classrooms and a central commons area where students can come together to work on projects as well as other business opportunities. 

The building will also have an industry center that will be used for student-run businesses and projects as well as providing spaces for professional and academic faculty.  

“The amount of production that will now be able to take place in the new center will only open more and more opportunities for us students,” said Pat Ward, a current Wine Business student. “With having all the new space for the program, the possibilities are going to be endless for current and future students to come.”

Architectural plans are still in development but the renovations of the University Commons are to begin and be completed in 2015. 

The new area of campus will be named the Korbel Industry Center in recognition of Gary Heck’s contribution to Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute.