After working most of the past decade to pull it off, Oregon's thriving wine industry finally has a face to put with the notion of a coordinated statewide research effort. It comes with Oregon State University's appointment of Neil Shay as first director of the 3-year-old Oregon Wine Research Institute.
We applaud OSU and the wine industry for sticking with it and making the deal that brings Shay to Corvallis. When he starts work Aug. 15, Shay brings to the table his own recent research on bioactive compounds in wine that lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, plus a reputation as a competitive amateur winemaker.
The institute is the brainchild of many of the state's winery owners, a bridge between academic research, university extension agents and the folks who grow grapes and process them into wine. Neighboring states already have similar university-based research institutes specializing in wines.
OSU made a key change after the first effort to recruit an institute director failed last year. It designated the position part of the tenure track, making it attractive to research professionals.
The industry stepped up in grand style, raising $2 million to go with the initial $1 million state appropriation that launched the institute in 2007. Industry support is secured over the long haul through work of the Oregon Wine Board, which uses a tax on producers to fund research, marketing and consumer education. A leader in the formation of the Wine Board, David Adelsheim, is chairman of the OSU institute's policy board.
We look forward to Shay's contribution to the mix. It has the promise of taking Oregon wine to new levels. We've come a long way from the time when tree fruit and berry researchers at OSU did double duty helping grape growers get started.
With a top-flight food scientist like Shay at the helm, this decade promises to be a wonderful one for vineyard owners and winemakers.
And for connoisseurs of Oregon wines.