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Amista Vineyards

Amista Vineyards
May 7, 2024 | The Amista Blog | Amista Vineyards

Spotlight on Amista Vineyards Brian Shapiro and The Wine Business Institute

Amista Vineyards Brian Shapiro in Front of the Tasting Room

We’re thrilled to share that Amista Estate Director, Brian Shapiro, was recently featured in an article about the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University. A 2010 graduate of the program, Brian reflected on his experience, saying, “I knew I wanted to study at the Institute and appreciated the interconnection between business and academia.” His unique blend of practical experience and academic knowledge, along with the strong network he built during his time at the Institute, has been invaluable to our team. “I valued the opportunities to work and learn with people in the industry,” he added. This connection between academic coursework and industry professionals is a hallmark of the Wine Business Institute, where many courses are taught by seasoned industry veterans.

What is the Wine Business Institute?

Founded in 1996, the Wine Business Institute was established in collaboration with Sonoma State University’s School of Business to address the business aspects of the wine industry. Sonoma State was the first university in the United States to offer an undergraduate degree (since 1998), an MBA (since 2008), and an Executive MBA (since 2012) specifically in wine business. While many programs focus on viticulture and winemaking, the Wine Business Institute stands out for its unique emphasis on the business side of the wine industry. Even today, it remains the only program of its kind in the U.S. and one of only three worldwide.

Gary Heck, Owner and President of Korbel Winery, was an early supporter and continues to serve as Chairman of the Board. The board includes leaders from various sectors of the wine business, from small to large wineries, online retailers, distribution companies, corporate finance and accounting, winery M&A, and wine associations.

Amista Proprietor Vicky Farrow’s Longstanding Connection to Wine Business Institute

Amista’s own Vicky Farrow has a rich history with the Institute, having served on its Board of Directors since 2022. Her involvement began in 2011 when she met Executive Director Ray Johnson and was inspired by his innovative work. Vicky’s enthusiasm led her to volunteer in expanding the board and facilitating strategic planning sessions. Over the years, she has witnessed the Institute’s growing impact and the rise of its graduates as the next generation of wine business leaders.

Amista Celebrates Our Wine Business Institute Graduates

At Amista, we take great pride in our team members who are graduates of the Wine Business Institute. One standout is a team member working in hospitality and sales in our tasting room. He took a brief leave to gain hands-on experience as a harvest intern at Kosta Browne Winery and returned to manage our local wholesale program. Starting as an intern during his senior year, he has continually grown in expertise and confidence.

We have welcomed several Sonoma State graduates over the years, each bringing fresh ideas and energy. We are dedicated to supporting their development, offering hands-on experience and opportunities for growth. While we know many will move on to bigger roles, we take pride in watching their careers blossom and knowing we played a part in their journey.

Amista Salutes the Wine Business Institute's Track Record of Success

In 2016, the Institute broke ground on the Wine Spectator Learning Center, a dedicated facility on the Sonoma State University campus, funded in part by a three-million-dollar gift from the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation. Marvin Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator, along with California Governor Gavin Newsom and Representative Mike Thompson, attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

Bill Silver, then Dean of the School of Business, remarked, “Success in the wine business depends on human capital. In the future, we will see the children of winemakers and vineyard workers coming through those doors." His words were prophetic, as today, dozens of children of vineyard and winery workers have graduated from Sonoma State thanks to the Wine Industry Scholars Program (WISP) launched in 2017. These graduates, with determination, family support, and financial assistance from WISP, have become the first in their families to earn a college degree.

Arguably, the most notable accomplishment of the Institute is the number of graduates who represent the next generation of leaders in the wine business. They are making their marks in renowned wineries and distributors such as Silver Oak, J Vineyards, Rombauer, Korbel, Tablas Creek, Duckhorn, Jackson Family, Gary Farrell Winery, Young’s Market, and Constellation Brands, to name a few. At Amista, we are committed to the growth and development of everyone on our team and look forward to welcoming future WBI graduates.

Learn more about the Institute and its graduates in From Root to Shoot, SSU's Wine Business Institute Grows Success Stories.






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