A new director has been announced for the Walla Walla Community College Institute for Enology and Viticulture.
Officials said after a comprehensive search, Stylianos Logothetis has been hired as head of the college’s wine industry program.
Logothetis is slated to begin his role at WWCC on July 6. He is replacing interim director Sabrina Lueck, who is heading to Germany to work for renowned winegrower Weingut Keller.
Known by his friends and colleagues as “Stelios,” Logothetis is drawn to Walla Walla by the area’s 130 wineries and 25 — at least — micro-climates, he said.
“For me, the Valley is like a brand-new ocean liner that is just waiting to sail to (a) new destination. I want to be the captain of that ship.”
That ship has substance. More than 400 students have graduated from the institute, many of whom have stayed in the area. The program has garnered awards and accolades and is seen as key to the success of the industry here and beyond, WWCC officials said.
The program, founded in 2000, is steered by a mission to facilitate alliances with vintners and viticulturists in the Walla Walla Valley and in the state, as well as to promote the economic development of the wine industry and to provide education and training, according to WWCC.
Students get hands-on experience in winemaking, growing practices and wine sales. The institute boasts several acres of teaching vineyards where students participate in vineyard management. As well, WWCC’s College Cellars commercial winery puts students in charge of winemaking and wine-related chemistry.
Logothetis has 27 years of experience in the wine industry, including work as an oenologist, university professor and industrial consultant to the wine industry.
He earned a master’s of philosophy and a doctorate degree in yeast physiology and fermentation biotechnology from Abertay Dundee University in Scotland.
Logothetis, who came to the United States eight years ago, is “100% Greek,” he said, but spent many years in Scotland. He is a member of the Scottish Microbiology Society, European Federation of Biotechnology and International Wine Organization.
He’s bringing all that to the Walla Walla campus, where he will take time to observe how the college operates before considering making any changes to the Institute for Enology and Viticulture, he said.
Anything done from that point will be “to create a program that is even more attractive, rigorous and one (with) a strong scientific base,” Logothetis said.
“As I understand, the majority of our graduates are moving straight into production. We want them to be abreast of the latest in scientific knowledge and techniques and to be ready to manage any production difficulty.”
It’s fair to say upcoming wine program graduates will be facing a different landscape in a new, pandemic-influenced era, Logothetis said.
“Sales in liquor stores increased enormously during the pandemic, since all the end selling points like restaurants, bars and wine bars had been closed. Upon reopening, we are facing an uncertainty. Will the consumer return to restaurants and wine bars? Will they continue to consume mostly at home? Will consumption return to normal levels? No one knows, and the uncertainty of the pandemic is not yet over.”
Inflation is sure to have a negative effect on sales, he added.
“Wine sales are not a necessity, and some may choose to do without. On the other hand, consumers may cut back on eating out, but still entertain with wine at home. It’s hard to say which way the pendulum will swing.”
But wine itself does not trend in and out with life’s circumstances, Logothetis noted.
“Wine is representing a philosophy of life and the dreams of the producer.”
That said, any new wine or production idea, new area or new variety is a trend, he said.
“We will do our best to make the Walla Walla Valley the new trend for the wine world.”
Workforce education is essential to the goal, and while some are new to the field, many WWCC students are already working in the wine industry, Logothetis said.
“Our program needs to meet the challenges of educating them in specific ways that will enhance their careers as fermentation specialists, cellar managers, irrigation managers, canopy management and all of the many aspects of the industry.”
Logothetis has started his own homework, coming to Walla Walla to meet many of the regional winemakers and visiting local wineries. He anticipates forging strong new relationships as he has done throughout his careers, he said.
“Winemakers all over the world find each other and share the magic.”
Sheila Hagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8322.
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