Wine Institute welcomes new facility, to open next year

Within the next two years, students in the School of Business and Economics with a wine business strategy concentration will have a new facility to learn and grow in on campus. The Wine Business Learning Center will be replacing the current University Commons building on campus. The 14,580 square feet building will be created into a new space that is organized around three focal areas, an education core, student common area and industry center. 

The building will be housing to new and improved classrooms, common areas, a boardroom, a lakeside terrace and a hospitality garden. Currently, Sonoma State University is the only university to offer a graduate degree program in wine business.

 “We’re very grateful to be the people who invested in it. It really is the people in the industry that have supported it, and made all this possible,” said Ray Johnson, director of the Wine Business Institute.

Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of the Wine Spectator Magazine recently donated three million dollars to Sonoma State University for the construction of the Wine Spectator Learning Center; Shanken is one of many who has contributed to the funding of the new building’s construction

With the help of Ron Rubin, owner of River Road Family Vineyards and Winery and Walt Klenz, who is a part of the Vincraft group a wine business investment group here in the North Bay, the construction of this new facility has been made possible. Together Rubin and Klenz reached out to Marvin R. Shanken, a mutual friend, to help contribute to the Sonoma State Wine Business Institute. 

Gary Heck, chairman of the board of directors of Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute, contributed the initial one million dollars to the construction of the upgraded facility. Heck contributed the first million to lead the campaign and to encourage others to contribute like Marvin R. Shanken. 

“As an alumni, I have enjoyed the opportunity to go back to the university myself and do the best I can to add value to the program by way of being the President of the Wine Business Institute alumni council. I have been delighted to work with the faculty and staff off the Wine Business Institute and I am thrilled to see the program continue to succeed,” said Paul Finn, who is one of the first graduates of the wine business program in 2001. 

Finn added, “A brick and mortar building dedicated to the Wine Business Institute will usher in a whole new era of continued success and will continue to add value to both the institution and the wine industry.”

“One of the greatest aspects of Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute is its location, in the heart of Sonoma County Wine Country. We have a unique opportunity here as students to experience the industry unlike any other schools because we are surrounded by world class vineyards. Having a building dedicated to the Wine Business Institute will solidify our stature as a unique Wine Business school and program,” said Christina Vizcaino, president of the Sonoma State University wine club. 

Vizcaino also stated, “As a wine business student currently enrolled in the program, it is incredibly exciting to see that we will finally have our own building to call home and also to cache our wine glasses. We are a leading program in the industry and deserve to reflect that in our educational facilities. As President of the Wine Sense Club on campus, I know we will all be extremely proud of bring our visitors and guest speakers from around the world to present in this world class building.”

The Wine Business Strategies program began almost 18 years ago, when a group of industry leaders wanted to create a program where students of future generations could study wine business. 

“Right now over 600 people each year study with us in one way or another, that’s in the master’s program, the bachelor’s program, or one of our certificate programs for people in the wine industry,” said Ray Johnson.

Sonoma State University was the first university within the United States to offer a bachelor’s degree in the field of wine business beginning in 1998, and the first wine master’s program in 2008. Sonoma is one of the leading schools with a degree in wine business in the United States. 

 In 2011, the university began offering the first online certificate in wine business management.

In 2012, the program offered the first MBA in executive wine and hosted the first global conference on wine business education.