Wine center assistant credits WSU offerings, opportunities

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Colin-HickeyRICHLAND, Wash. – Classes, internships and study abroad through Washington State University Tri-Cities has taken Colin Hickey around the world to land in his dream job – assistant winemaker at the Ste. Michelle Estates WSU Wine Science Center.

“I kind of got lucky in that I talked to the right people and said the right things, but I also worked hard,” he said. “It’s not like this came easy. I took what I learned in the program and ran with it.”

Hands-on learning

Alumnus Colin Hickey at work at the WSU Wine Science Center.

After a geography class exposed him to the wine culture in Europe, he enrolled in viticulture and enology at WSU Tri-Cities.

He was among the first class in the Blended Learning program started by Thomas Henick-Kling, WSU director of viticulture and enology. Students design wines and work with commercial wineries to produce them.

“That was probably the most beneficial learning experience I received through classes at WSU,” Hickey said. “It gave me the hands-on experience of what the wine world would be like.”

Prost! Studying wine in Germany

He took part in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, a German study abroad program.

“I was only one of three out of a couple thousand applications they received that was interested in wine,” he said.

He was placed at the Weingut Martinushof winery in Bodenheim, Germany, to learn about all aspects of the wine business, but especially viticulture. On his days off, he traveled throughout Europe, including France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

“In many of those places, I made a point to experience the country’s wine,” he said. “I learned a lot about the wines overseas. I would compare the new world to the old world where everything is based on tradition and they make wine from centuries-old vines.”

Landing the dream job

Hickey did a summer internship with Markus Keller, WSU professor of viticulture, at the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser.

That was followed by an internship assisting the head winemaker at the Ste. Michelle Estates WSU Wine Science Center – where Hickey is now the assistant winemaker.

“This place has taught me a lot,” he said of WSU. “I’m working in this amazing facility … but it’s only the beginning. I plan to use everything I’ve learned here to keep growing.”