Lowell Ford, owner of Illahe Vineyards, is the recipient of the NW Wine Studies Center’s inaugural Legacy Builder Award.DANIELLE PETERSON / Statesman Journal
Guests at the Northwest Wine Studies Center open house on Thursday enjoyed wine, food, music and honored three people who received the program's first recognition awards.
Lowell Ford, owner of Illahe Vineyards and a former Chemeketa staff member, was honored with the Legacy Builder Award; Pattie Bjornson, co-owner and winemaker of Bjornson Vineyard, was honored with the Emerging Leader Award; and Rebecca Moore, a current student at Chemeketa, was honored with the Student of the Year award.
The student of the year award was nominated by the faculty members and then the winner was selected by Joel F. Keebler, director of agricultural sciences and the Northwest Wine Studies Center at Chemeketa Community College. Bjornson and Ford were nominated by a sub-committee and chosen by the Wine Studies Committee, Keebler said.
As part of the award, Moore will receive free tuition for a three semester-hour course, Keebler said. Ford and Bjornson received crystal plaques.
Ford was honored because he has facilitated the success of students and the Oregon wine industry, according to Keebler.
Ford was instrumental in starting the wine studies program at Chemeketa and the NW Wine Studies Center. He started at Chemeketa as a counselor and later became dean of students. He was tapped to teach a viticulture (grape growing) class in 1998.
"The thing that really excites me is when you have a dream, and then the dream turns out to be far more than what you ever expected it would be," Ford said. "That makes it even more enjoyable and important. When I originally had this idea, I only thought about teaching viticulture, grape growing. But getting other people involved, it just grew and got bigger and more important and more influential."
Since the program started, winemaking and wine business have been added to the curriculum.
"We had to change the name of the program to reflect our growth and I would never have thought that this would happen in 1998 when I was tapped to teach the first class," Ford said.
Bjornson was honored as a former wine studies student who has exhibited substantial and effective engagement with the Oregon wine industry, Keebler said. Bjornson has been deeply involved with the Eola-Amity Hills AVA.
Bjornson came to the wine industry from a career in information technology and took courses at Chemeketa. She and her husband moved from Minneapolis to Oregon to pursue a dream of starting a vineyard and winery. When the Eola-Amity AVA was starting, she worked to build its first website and wrote all of the text on the website. She was also involved in Equinox, an annual wine event that showcased wines and vineyards from the Eola-Amity AVA, organizing the volunteers and helping to run the event.
"I feel very honored and humbled to receive the award," Bjornson said. "One of the things I really love is the camaraderie that is unique to the Oregon wine industry. We've had the luxury of asking questions of anybody and everybody and they've given us guidance. And having worked in a professional world it's just really refreshing and a lot of fun. And I've enjoyed giving back in return."
Bjornson and her husband, Mark, purchased a 107-acre property in 2006 and have since planted 28 acres with pinot noir, gamay noir, chardonnay and auxerrois, a sister of chardonnay. After they purchased the property, both took viticulture, enology, chemistry and agribusiness management classes at the NW Wine Studies Center.
Victor Panichkul is wine, food and beer columnist at the Statesman Journal. Reach him at (503) 399-6704, Vpanichkul@StatesmanJournal.com, follow at Facebook.com/WillametteValleyFoodWine and on Twitter @TasteofOregon.