Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute Celebrates 25 Years

January 11, 2021

Sonoma County, CA - Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute announces the commemoration of its 25th anniversary to celebrate the institute’s legacy as a pioneer Wine Business Institute 25th anniversary logoin providing wine business education and research. In 1998, the WBI was the first in the U.S. to offer an undergraduate degree focused on the business of wine, followed by a Wine MBA in 2008, and an Executive Wine MBA in 2012. The institute has conferred 1,196 wine business degrees, including undergraduate and graduate, and awarded 551 certificates. The institute’s faculty have produced over 700 publications. Celebrating Achievement, Looking Ahead underscores the year as the Wine Business Institute reflects on the last 25 years and launches a new strategic plan. More information about the institute’s 25th anniversary can be accessed here.

“The 25th anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the Wine Business Institute’s achievements and look ahead,” says Dr. Jean-Francois Coget, dean of the School of Business and Economics. “I look forward to discovering new ways the Wine Business Institute can be of service to the wine industry, including advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

“This is a celebration of the partnerships and many stakeholders that have made our vision of providing exemplar wine business education and research a possibility.  Our faculty, our board members, and all who have supported our mission with their time, talent, and treasure have made our achievements possible.  It is also a celebration of our students and alumni who advance the reputation of the institute, today and into the future, through the many accomplishments of their careers, in the many places where they work and thrive throughout the wine industry,” says Ray Johnson, executive director of the Wine Business Institute at SSU. 

Today, the WBI has alumni in all echelons of the wine business, from Claire Hobday, chief financial officer at C. Mondavi & Family, to Nate Weis, vice president of winegrowing at Silver Oak Cellars & Twomey Cellars, to Shannon Donnell, grower relations and vineyard operations manager at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards.

“Congratulations to the Wine Business Institute on its 25th anniversary. I am proud to be an alumna of this game-changing institution at Sonoma State University,” says Hobday. “I would not have secured my current role as CFO at C. Mondavi & Family were it not for my networking and the education I received in the Executive Wine MBA program.”

“In 1996, Walt Klenz and I sat down with then SSU President Ruben Armiñana and SBE Dean Larry Clark with a critical business need. Together we came up with a vision to educate future wine business leaders,” says Gary Heck, owner of F. Korbel & Bros. and WBI board chairman. “In only 25 years, the Wine Business Institute has exceeded our vision to become an intellectual and resource center for students and industry alike.” 

Twenty-five years of milestones include:

  • Opening of the Wine Spectator Learning Center in 2018
  • $500,000-plus scholarship dollars raised to date
  • 10,400 enrollments in wine business professional development courses
  • 980 bachelor’s in wine business alumni 
  • 216 master’s in wine business alumni 

“The Wine Business Institute has much to celebrate, and is one of the jewels of Sonoma State University,” says President Judy Sakaki of Sonoma State University. “From partnering with industry in providing quality wine business education and research to creating opportunities for under-resourced and first-generation college students, the Wine Business Institute is at the forefront of creating social change at SSU and in our global community.”

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About the Wine Business Institute

The Wine Business Institute serves as an intellectual and industry hub for faculty, students, and the business community. Founded in 1996 as a partnership between the wine industry and the School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University, the WBI provides cutting-edge research that informs policy, industry best practices, and program curriculum. The WBI offers online and in-person wine-focused degrees and industry certifications. For more information about our wine business research, or degree and certificate programs, please contact us at, or visit