Ste. Michelle steps up for Institute of Masters of Wine

By on August 12, 2016


LONDON – For several years, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has been a global player. Now the Northwest’s largest wine producer has become a major supporter of the Institute of Masters of Wine.

“It is a real pleasure to welcome Ste. Michelle Wine Estates into the family of our supporters,” said Sarah Jane Evans, chairwoman of the Institute of Masters of Wine. “They share our commitment to excellence and learning. MWs and students alike will welcome the opportunity to draw on their expertise.”

The Institute of the Masters of Wine is a London-based organization that awards the title “Master of Wine” to those who pass a rigorous multi-year study and examination. Worldwide, there are 341 Masters of wine from 25 countries. MWs work as educators, retailers, winemakers, writers and consultants.

In Washington, there are two Masters of Wine: Bob Betz of Betz Family Winery in Woodinville and Joel Butler of World of Wines in Redmond. Both have worked as executives for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Butler was the company’s education director from 2006 to 2010. Betz started working for the company in January 1976 and stayed there for 28 years.

Betz earned his Master of Wine degree in 1998 while working for Ste. Michelle.

“This is a perfect marriage,” he said of Ste. Michelle’s support for the Institute of Masters of Wine. “For decades, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has conducted wine education programs internationally. This formal sponsorship will create additional opportunities for the institute’s already robust learning curriculum.”

Masters of Wine strong in United States

Bob Betz loves Washington Grenache.

Bob Betz earned his Master of Wine degree in 1998. He worked for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates for 28 years and went on to launch Betz Family Winery in Woodinville, Wash. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

According to the Institute of Masters of Wine, there are 38 Masters of Wine in the United States, and the highest proportion of students are in the MW study program. Among them is Nicolas Quillè, general manager and head winemaker for Pacific Rim Winemakers in West Richland, Wash.

The Institute of Masters of Wine said the new support from Ste. Michelle combined with the existing major supporters Constellation Brands and Jackson Family Wines should help increase the program’s presence in the United States.

“Supporting students and institutions of higher learning has always been a priority for our company,” said Ted Baseler, president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. “We are very proud to join the institute in its mission to continually raise the bar for wine professionals across the globe.”

Ste. Michelle is – by far – the largest wine producer in Washington, where it uses two out of every three grapes grown in the state, thanks to such brands as Chateau Ste. Michelle, 14 Hands and Columbia Crest. In Oregon, it owns Erath. And in California, it owns Patz & Hall in Sonoma and Conn Creek and Villa Mt. Eden in Napa Valley. It co-owns (with Marchesi Antinori) Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa Valley.

A Masters of Wine visit to the Pacific Northwest will take place for next spring, and Ste. Michelle has helped to organize it with the Washington State Wine Commission and the Oregon Wine Board.

On Sept. 5, the institute will announce its newest MW graduates.


About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is founding partner of Great Northwest Wine LLC and a longtime wine columnist. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books.

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