In the wine world, and in the curious niche it occupies in Oregon agriculture, it is big news that a professor, a wine climatologist, is moving from one college to another.
Greg Jones, although as unassuming an academic as you’ll find, carries that kind of heft.
Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., in Yamhill County where the state’s wine industry came of age, announced that Jones has been hired to oversee its Wine Education Program. The college offers an interdisciplinary minor in the subject, which seems unfair to previous generations of college students.
Nonetheless, Jones is leaving Southern Oregon University in Ashland, where he directs the Division of Business, Communication and the Environment and is a research climatologist with SOU’s Environmental Science and Policy Program. He’s considered an expert on how climate variability and change affect grapevine growth and wine production.
The website Great Northwest Wine said Jones’ move to Linfield is “international news.” Tom Danowski, president and CEO of the Oregon Wine Board, described Jones as a “longtime friend to Oregon’s grape growers and winemakers.”
“His stellar global reputation for excellence in his field continually reminds us how lucky we are to have him here in Oregon’s wine community,” Danowski said in a prepared statement.
Linfield President Thomas Hellie said Jones has “earned an international reputation for his research on wine, climate and the environment.” In a prepared statement, he said Jones is a “perfect fit for Linfield.”
Jones agrees. The opportunity was unexpected, he said, but came at a time when he was ready for change and new challenges after 20 years in Ashland. The move puts him physically at the nexus of Oregon’s expanding and well-regarded wine industry, with 100 wineries within 50 miles.
Equally exciting, Jones said, is the chance to shape Linfield’s wine education program. The first task, he said, is to make wine studies an academic major in addition to a minor. He said Linfield will not compete with universities to crank out winemakers, but instead will offer a broad liberal arts overview of how wine functions as a business and a sustainable agricultural enterprise.
He envisions students getting a four-year degree in wine studies from Linfield, then perhaps going on to master’s degrees in viticulture from Oregon State, Washington State, the University of California-Davis or elsewhere.
Jones organized the industry’s Terroir Congress that was held at Linfield in the summer of 2016, with about 100 scientists attending from around the world. Wine Business Monthly named him one of the top 50 industry leaders last year as well. The Oregon Wine Press chose him Wine Person of the Year in 2009 and the website intowine.com picked him as one of the 100 most influential people in the industry in 2012 and 2013. He’s one of 10 Americans honored for his work with the Portuguese wine industry.
Jones, 57, said his interest in wine climatology is a “chicken or egg” question. His parents, Earl and Hilda Jones, founded Abacela Winery in Roseburg, Ore., in 1995. It was questions his father asked while starting the Tempranillo varietal winery that started Jones thinking about the niche science of wine climatology.
Jones said he still has projects in Southern Oregon and will remain involved with the region and will continue producing his email climate reports.
“I’m really not leaving, I’m just residing somewhere else,” Jones said.
“I’m grateful for all SOU and the Southern Oregon wine region have allowed me to do,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful 20 years.”