ROSEBURG, Ore. — Western Oregon produces a lot of wine and winemakers thanks to the growing Southern Oregon Wine Institute (SOWI).
The program at Umpqua Community College has been developing its program since 2008. Now it’s finally making wine all on its own.
The institute has been making wine for about three years now, but this wine will be different, as it’s going to be made in its brand new facility.
SOWI’s inaugural batch is a Southern Oregon Syrah fresh from student Lesa Ray’s vineyard.
“It’s very exciting to have the honor of being the first crush through the facility,” Ray said.
Ray and her fellow SOWI students have been borrowing equipment at other facilities and wineries to make wine until now. Associate Director Dwayne Bershaw and all the other SOWI faculty have been anxiously awaiting.
“I was hired with the idea that there would be a building on campus that would be dedicated to wine making and grape growin and now that building is here and it’s up and we’re using it to make wine with our students, so it’s sort of a dream come true and it’s fantastic,” Bradshaw said.
“This building is really special to us. It’s really purpose built. It’s the model of what we think commercial wineries look like and it’s where we want to put our students’ hands on things in the scale of wine making that goes on down here,” said Chris Lake, SOWI director.
Students are getting their hands on all sorts of things, from grapes to gears, getting a viticultural experience like none other in this area. It’s inspiring to students like Ray who could be doing this herself someday.
“We’ve been discussing the prospects of in the future maybe putting a winery in, and it’s going to be exciting to watch it go through the whole process,” Ray said.
The wine-making process, like the learning process SOWI students are going through, will take some time. But one that’s progressing well is this first crush, just another completed step in the success of SOWI.
It’s the first batch of many to be processed at the Lang Center. The next step is fermentation, and it will be about 18 months before all the Syrah grapes are bottled and ready to drink, and it will be an important bottle for the SOWI.