Mar 132008
 
Authors: Bijah Gibson

For Stephen Menke, CSU’s new “wine guy,” working with wineries across Colorado and teaching students about wine-making is the perfect job.

Menke, whose official title is associate professor of Enology in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, began working for CSU University on Feb. 1.

Menke is currently based at CSU’s Western Colorado Research Center in Grand Junction. Although he has only been there a short while, Menke sees a lot of potential in the Colorado wine industry.

“It’s on the right track and producing the right wines, but the purpose needs to be solidified and we need to focus more on quality control,” Menke said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Working as an enologist for CSU also brings with it an unofficial title, that of State Enologist.

Much of Menke’s work will involve dealing with Colorado wine producers and helping them with the technical and chemical aspects of wine production. One of his first projects will be to conduct a survey of Colorado’s wineries.

“I’ll be traveling around to each winery to see where they are, where they’re going, and what kind of research they want done,” Menke said.

Menke also said he will be helping those new to the industry to get started on the right foot with sound business plans for their wineries.

“Start-ups have been one of my specialties,” Menke said.

Menke’s qualifications for the job of CSU enologist come from years of experience in the field.

He earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wyoming.

His post-doctoral work took place in Arizona, where he studied the effects of Pierce’s Disease, a disease that has a severe effect on grape crops.

He also worked as a wine maker while in Arizona. Menke then went on to work in Illinois and Pennsylvania before coming to CSU. For Menke, who was not yet ready to own his own winery, the combination of education and wine-making is much to his liking.

“It’s a very satisfying job,” Menke said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Menke will begin teaching classes on the CSU campus late in the spring semester. The first class he will teach will be HORT 277, which will be a one-credit introduction to viticulture, the science of grapes.

Menke will also teach a second course over the summer, which will include an internship with Colorado wineries. Viticulture classes will be open to general curriculum next fall. According to Menke, almost anyone can learn to be a wine-maker.

“Concentration in detail is the secret of making good wine,” Menke said. “It’s a very experiential thing. The longer you do it the better wine you’ll make.”

Staff writer Bijah Gibson can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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