New bill may allow underage students taste wine outside of classroom

Legislation would extend to vineyards; plans to pass in April



Viticulture and Enology Junior Rebecca Bartelheimer pours a glass of homemade wine and discusses the passing of HB-1563 on Wednesday in Clark Hall.

CODY SCHOELER, Evergreen reporter

An important bill for viticulture and enology students now includes allowing underage students in the major to drink at wineries.

The new legislation has passed out of its house committee and is on its way to becoming a law.

Chris Mulick, WSU director of state relations, said this is an extension of a bill passed several years ago that allows minors to taste wine in classes. He said it has been a significant enhancement to the program.

“It has been amazingly beneficial in the classroom,” Mulick said. “All this does is extend that to the other learning environments that our students operate in, including the vineyard and the winery.”

WSU did not instigate the bill, he said, but they testified for it and support it. The new bill would give students under the legal drinking age the same allowance at vineyards and wineries that they have in the classroom, he said.

“The learning environment is not restricted to the classroom,” Mulick said.

Rebecca Bartelheimer, junior viticulture and enology major, said this is a good thing for the program because it would extend to field trips.

She said field trips are a big part of the viticulture and enology major, and most all viticulture classes have field trips.

“You are in the setting with this background knowledge and learning about where this came from,” Bartelheimer said. “It means more than just sitting in a class learning about ‘these are the flavors you should be picking up.’ ”

Mulick said the enrollment for viticulture and enology has started to trend younger, which means there are more underage students in the major.

He said it is one thing for a faculty member to tell students about a flavor, but it is another thing for them to experience it.

Bartelheimer said she just turned 21 in December so she understands the frustration of being an underage viticulture and enology student.

“Seeing the process and the fields and what they do but then not being able to taste the end product really sucked,” she said.

Bartelheimer said the change will be helpful for students because there is only one tasting class offered in the program. Being able to taste wines outside of class will give students a broad spectrum of wines to taste.

Mulick said the process of getting the bill passed has been smooth because of the previous bill in place.

“We have been able to demonstrate that this has really worked well in the classroom,” he said. “It makes for an easier conversation about transitioning this to also include the winery and the vineyard.”

Mulick said the best case scenario is getting it passed in mid-April if the bill is not changed.

Bartelheimer said she is optimistic for the future of the viticulture and enology program.

“I think as a whole it is going to be more encouraging for students,” she said. “Being able to actually go and taste things that you make or that you see the process [of].”