Linfield College, McMinnville, Oregon.

WSET in Wine Country

Linfield College lands London-based certification program

By Natasha Bailey

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is coming to McMinnville, thanks, in large part, to the work of Dr. Greg Jones and Chelsea Janzen of the Evenstad Center of Wine Education at Linfield College.

Based in London, WSET certifies people of different knowledge levels in wine, saké and spirits. The 50-year-old organization has helped establish alcohol education and certified trade professionals around the world. Janzen further explains: “It is a global certification process for novices who just want to learn more all the way to people in the industry who want WSET credentials on their résumés. It provides standardized certification, so if you’re in China, you’re going to get the exact same information as if you were taking it in McMinnville, Oregon.”

WSET’s new location in the wine-rich Willamette Valley simply makes sense. “There is only one other location in Oregon, and that’s in Portland, and there is no diploma center,” says Janzen. “So, if you’re an industry member and you want to further your career and knowledge with WSET, you can do a two-year intensive program called the WSET Diploma in Wines.”

Unfortunately, the West Coast’s only diploma centers are located in California and Vancouver, British Columbia, leaving Oregonians and Washingtonians high and dry. This need is something Jones and Janzen plan on filling, and a lot of work is already underway.

Janzen explains, “We had to go through a very formalized process; it took about a month to write policy, and the application process was intensive. It had to be approved a few times through Linfield and through the U.K. governing bodies. It was all very formalized, but we got approved.”

And yet, Linfield still needed one more person, a nominated educator, to help get the program running. Enter Bree Stock, a Master of Wine and prominent industry consultant and educator who was already familiar with the organization. In fact, “she was instrumental in starting a WSET APP (Approved Program Provider) in Australia and has more than a decade of experience teaching every level of the program,” says Janzen.

So, how exactly is the WSET structured and how will it be executed at Linfield? Jones wants to first focus on what the Willamette Valley is known for: wine. “The WSET has training in wines, saké and spirits — we plan on doing all of that — but, we plan on rolling wine out first and working our way up to the others.”

He continues, “In the wine part of the certification, there is a Level 1 for novices; Level 2 does a deeper dive into varieties and characteristics of wine and tasting profiles; and Level 3 goes even further.”

Stock believes the Level 3 certification is ideal for tasting room staff, sommeliers and winemakers who need to understand global quality, wine style and price benchmarking and be able communicate this effectively to the Oregon wine enthusiast.

Ultimately, Jones, Stock and Janzen plan to expand the WSET program, hoping to become eligible for diploma certification within three years. Many reasons exist as to why WSET remains such a great fit for Linfield, but for Jones and Janzen and their team of certified WSET educators, it comes down to supporting their community.

Jones says, “If you think about Linfield’s Center for Wine Education, we are obviously serving our students’ needs, but we also feel like there is an obligation to the community here to be a resource.

“We have companies just large enough that would like to have their whole training room staff take courses,” he continues. “We have other larger companies outside the wine industry that would like to have it be team building for their employees. WSET can be very versatile.”

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