Coug Wine Society offers WSU students networking, learning opportunities

By Angela Sams

Students on the Washington State University Tri-Cities campus are learning the intricacies of winemaking while creating meaningful industry connections through the Coug Wine Society.

Open to all majors, the student-led organization’s activities include field trips, wine tastings, and lectures from faculty, students, and guest speakers. Many members are employed at wineries in the area, allowing the group to set up tours that showcase the operations of different facilities while allowing local winemakers to meet prospective interns.

“Club members experience the vineyard side and the winery side, and they also get to see different jobs that exist outside of school,” said Sydney Cross, a senior viticulture and enology major and club president. “I’m excited to spread the word about the Coug Wine Society and watch it grow throughout the year.”

Sydney Cross stands in a vineyard.
Sydney Cross

Cross, who has been involved with the organization for more than two years, hopes to increase participant diversity by attracting students from a wide range of fields.

“It would be fun to bring in more people from outside the viticulture and enology degree this year,” Cross said. “We’ve previously had participants from other majors, like engineering or nursing, and they always offer different perspectives and ask different questions.”

The Coug Wine Society may also add wine and food pairing to its list of activities, thanks to vice president Jared Grace, the creator of a wine pairing column for The Daily Evergreen student newspaper.

Head shot of Jared Grace
Jared Grace

In his role as vice president, the senior viticulture and enology major is looking forward to interacting with students who have similar interests.

“I’m excited to meet and work with more peers in my major,” said Grace, who recently relocated from the WSU Pullman campus to the Tri-Cities campus. “I also hope to gain more wine industry connections and experience.”

Now in her third year as communications officer, Bella Pretlow is working to increase the organization’s social media presence and spread awareness to the wine science and wine business students in her classes.

“This club is really good for the Tri-Cities campus,” said Pretlow, a senior wine and beverage business management major in the Carson College of Business. “Even if its impact is small right now, I think it could be much more significant.”

Pretlow added that the Coug Wine Society is especially beneficial to WSU Tri-Cities business students interested in learning more about the surrounding wine country.

“Our club is attractive for wine business students and hospitality students,” Pretlow said. “If you’re going to work in hospitality, you need some knowledge of wine.”

Bella Pretlow stands in a vineyard on a sunny day.
Bella Pretlow

Pretlow said joining the club helped her gain the knowledge and experience necessary to obtain a job in a local tasting room when she turned 21. It has also benefitted her academically.

“I wasn’t able to take a lot of the wine science classes until my last year of college,” Pretlow said. “Being able to join the club before I turned 21 helped motivate me to continue pursuing my degree.”

In many ways, the Coug Wine Society also readies its members for a career after graduation.

“The organization is preparing me for a future in the wine industry,” Pretlow said. “It has helped me get to know prominent local wineries and winemakers.”

Cross agrees, noting the valuable leadership and networking skills she is acquiring as president.

“Developing the confidence to interact with people in the industry and ask them to come speak is big,” she said.

Those interested in joining the Coug Wine Society or being a guest speaker can contact Sydney Cross for more info at Meetings typically take place at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center.

Note: Students of all ages and majors are welcome to join the Coug Wine Society. Per legal requirements, viticulture and enology majors and wine business majors can join in wine tastings at age 18 but must spit out any wine they taste prior to turning 21. Students in all other majors must be 21 years old to wine taste.