Q&A: Dr. Liz Thach, MW

Wine writer, consultant, distinguished professor of wine

Dr. Liz Thach, MW (pronounced “tosh”) is a wine writer, consultant, and the Distinguished Professor of Wine and a Professor of Management at Sonoma State University where she teaches in both the undergraduate and Wine MBA programs. Liz’s passion is wine, and she has visited most of the major wine regions of the world and more than 65 countries. In addition, she is an award winning author who has published over 200 articles and 9 wine books, including Call of the Vine, Best Practices in Global Wine Tourism and Luxury Wine Marketing. A fifth generation Californian, Liz finished her Ph.D. at Texas A&M and now lives on Sonoma Mountain where she tends a small hobby vineyard and makes pinot noir wine. She also works as a wine judge in various competitions, and has served on many non-profit wine boards. Liz obtained the distinction of Master of Wine (MW) in May of 2011.

What made you first become interested in wine?

Even though I was born in California, I grew up in Idaho and New Mexico and there was never wine or any alcohol on our dinner table. Therefore, it wasn’t until I went to college in the San Francisco Bay area and a friend took me to Napa Valley for my birthday, that I first encountered wine and fell in love on first sight and taste. There is something very magical about wine for me… Seeing the vineyards, learning about the wine making processes, tasting the wine and then experiencing the wonderful atmosphere it brings, in terms of enhancing moments, friendships, and life.

After earning a Ph.D. in Human Resource Development from Texas A&M University, what compelled you to then pursue the Master of Wine title?

It actually happened after my first wine textbook was published. Two MWs, Peter Marks and Tim Hanni, encouraged me to apply, along with some of my students.

A Distinguished Professor of Wine at Sonoma State University and author of several books– including six textbooks, what do you most want to teach students? In turn, what have they taught you?

My mission in life is to help people achieve their career goals in the wine business. Part of that is teaching them the joys of wine, how to treat it with respect and moderation. And how to share that joy with others. Wine is such a perfect trilogy of mother nature, science and art coming together to create a beautiful masterpiece in a glass. Every wine is someone’s child.

My students have taught me so much and encouraged me in so many ways. They have taught me to laugh more, to learn more, to be patient, and we’ve had a great time traveling the world together to different wine regions.

What is the latest wine that changed your perception of the variety, region, producer, etc.?

I just got back from the Montefalco wine region of Umbria, Italy. It is a place I’ve always wanted to visit because one year at Vinitaly I tasted a Sagrantino wine from there and fell in love. it is such a rare grape and really only grows well there. I was able to spend five days in Umbria and meet with the CEOs of two of the very top wineries. They showed me the vineyards and let me taste all of their exquisite Sagrantinos. I recently published an article in Forbes about the experience. I really enjoy visiting new places and tasting wine grape varietals, blends or styles.

As a prolific wine journalist, how do you choose your subjects?

Like many journalists, I’m always looking for a good story. If something catches my attention or someone is doing something really unique in the wine industry, I want to interview them and write about it. Or if it’s a new wine style, I really want to taste it and write about it. Another thing I try to do in my writing is to provide coverage for as many wine regions and wine countries as possible. Therefore, if I get too many story pitches about a certain region and I’ve already written about it recently, I will save those until it seems fair to write about that region again.

Your thoughts on Oregon wine? Favorites (varietal, brand and/or region)?

Oregon is near and dear to my heart because my grandparents, mother and many of my other California relatives all migrated to Oregon in the 80s and 90s. I have visited there frequently over the years and always enjoy going wine tasting. It’s hard to pick a favorite but if I’m forced to, I will say the Pinot Noirs of Eola Amity Hills are usually on the top of my list.

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