Wine scientist Tom Collins selected as Jackson Family Wines Endowed Professor

A longtime working relationship between Washington State University scientist Tom Collins and Jackson Family Wines has evolved into the creation of an endowed professorship that recognizes Collins’ impactful wine science research and supports WSU’s Department of Viticulture & Enology.

The Jackson family has committed $300,000 to the university to create the Jackson Family Wines Endowed Professor, with Collins selected as its first recipient. The funds will support Collins’ innovative wine and grape research, promote sustainability in viticulture and enology, and further elevate WSU’s V&E program, which officially became a department Jan. 1.

“The endowment is an investment in the future of our department, an inspiration to our stakeholders and the faculty team, as well as a welcome acknowledgement of Tom’s record of research excellence,” said V&E Department Chair Jean Dodson Peterson. “We are truly grateful for this gift and look forward to the continuation of research that guides the future of the grape and wine industry.”

Collins, who was named Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Innovator of the Year in 2022, has long collaborated with Jackson Family Wines on a variety of projects to further research and development on wine quality, including research related to smoke-exposed grapes.

“An endowed professorship is a terrific honor, and I’m thrilled to be the recipient,” said Collins. “This is a great opportunity for my program. The endowment provides yearly assistance and flexibility to support projects that arise in the middle of a grant cycle.”

Strengthening a partnership

Discussions regarding the endowment began in 2022, when Collins and a graduate student were developing techniques to quantify novel smoke related compounds in grapes and wine. To advance their research, Collins requested access to instrumentation equipment at Jackson Family Wines’ facilities in California. What started as a conversation about sharing costs for supplies and student travel eventually evolved into an endowed professorship representing a commitment to continued partnership between WSU and the family-owned wine company.

“The endowed professorship recognizes Tom’s influential smoke-affected grape research and demonstrates Jackson Family Wines’ commitment to the future of WSU’s V&E department,” said Wendy Powers, Cashup Davis Family Endowed Dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “The funds will enable CAHNRS to foster a more resilient Washington and support the state’s wine industry as we adapt to a changing climate.”

In 2022, Jackson Family Wines purchased 61 acres of an existing 117-acre property located in Mill Creek in the eastern region of Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. The family’s venture into Washington complements the company’s existing holdings in the Pacific Northwest, namely in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

“Since acquiring our first vineyard in Washington state last year, we’ve sought to strengthen our connections in the region and find opportunities to support the local Washington wine industry,” said Christopher Jackson, second-generation proprietor of Jackson Family Wines.

“We’ve long admired Tom Collins and his commitment to research that brings more innovation to viticulture and winemaking. We’re proud to create this endowment that brings more resources to studying the impacts of smoke on winemaking. Our hope is that Tom’s continued research will not only benefit the local Washington winemaking community, but the global wine industry as well,” he added.

A commitment to sustainability

Jackson Family Wines takes pride in the role it plays in advancing sustainability projects and initiatives to preserve and protect land, enhance biodiversity, improve water habitat, implement climate solutions, and support and fund critical research that improves sustainable vineyard practices, viticulture methods, and winemaking quality.

In addition to the creation of this endowment at WSU the Jackson family has supported other universities and research.

Jackson Family Wines is a family-owned, vineyard-based company with a penchant for exploration. Founder Jess Jackson placed his faith in farming and a meticulous expression of wine with his first landscape-changing vintage in 1982, an ethos that chairman Barbara Banke and the Jackson family continue to uphold to this day. The Jackson family’s collection of 40 wineries spans significant wine-growing regions, from California, Oregon, Washington, Canada, France and Italy in the northern hemisphere, to Australia, Chile and South Africa in the southern half of the globe. Vineyard ownership and sustainable practices remain key to consistent quality and artisan winemaking is built to scale, underscoring a steadfast commitment to making wines of character and integrity.

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