Southern Oregon’s wine grape growers gathered at DANCIN Vineyards in Medford on Monday to catch their breath after the season’s hard work, review the 2016 harvest and welcome four invited guests — new faculty at Southern Oregon University (SOU) and Oregon State University (OSU).

With new wines safely aging in tanks and barrels, “the wine is already tasting good, so I can only imagine how it will taste after a year or so in the barrel,” said John Pratt, President of the Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association of this year’s harvest. 

Dr. Alex Levin is the new Viticulture Specialist at the OSU Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center (SOREC). SOREC Director Richard Roseberg says, “We’re excited to have a tenure-track viticulturalist on the faculty because of the increased importance of the wine industry in Southern Oregon.” Levin is a recent University of California, Davis graduate. Dr. Levin started at a run, and is working with local growers on a federal grant to fund research in crop water use and moisture stress on grape yield and quality.

Dr. Achala Nepal KC also joined the OSU faculty at SOREC this fall as plant pathologist. She completed her doctorate at North Dakota State University and did a post-doc at the University of Florida. “We’ve had a strong plant pathology research program at SOREC for decades thanks to the work of David Sugar,” says Roseberg. “There a real economic value to solving plant disease problems in tree fruit, wine grapes, and other crops.”

“Southern Oregon University’s two new faculty bring technological and cultural skills to the region,” says Dr. Greg Jones, Director of the Division of Business, Communication and Environmental Science and Policy, and a well-known climatologist.

Dr. Golnaz Badr (Washington State University) works with geographic information systems and both satellite and drone remote sensing technologies in Southern Oregon University’s Environmental Science and Policy Program. She has real world, big data set, research experience in climate indices, site selection of vineyards, and plant phenology. “I have a passion for understanding the effects of climate on wine!” Dr. Badr says.

Dr. Pavlina McGrady (Colorado State University) leads the SOU Hospitality and Tourism Management Program. “I am excited to work on the new SOU Wine Business Certificate program and train a new generation of Southern Oregon's hospitality professionals,” she says. Just a couple of weeks into the semester, Dr. McGrady and her classes have already visited a number of wineries and are set to host the first ever Fundraiser for the Farm at Southern Oregon University. The event will be held at Edenvale Winery on Friday, Oct. 28 (see story, A3).

For more information on programs and services of the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center and to contact Drs. Levin and KC, call 541-776-7371. To reach Dr. Badr at Southern Oregon University call 541-552-6727. To reach Dr. McGrady at SOU and for more information on the Fundraiser for the Farm at SOU, call 541-552-6484.

Maureen Flanagan Battistella is an assistant professor in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Southern Oregon University.