ST. HELENA -- Sonoma State University's master of business administration degree program targeted at wine industry executives is coming to Napa Valley this spring under a partnership with a large local trade association announced Tuesday.

The Rohnert Park-based institution is accepting applications for wine executive MBA classes set to start April 12--14 at the St. Helena offices of Napa Valley Vintners. The application deadline is Feb. 29.

The 17-month Executive Masters of Business Administration program allows people with at least five years of professional experience to earn an accredited degree. The format is tailored for executives, with cohort-style classes on alternating Fridays and Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The program runs year-round, except for a harvest break, set for Sept. 1 to Nov. 8 this year.

Sonoma State's School of Business and Economics, which administers the wine executive MBA program, expanded it eastward to help those who couldn't commute to the campus for a work and other reasons, according to Robert Eyler, Ph.D., program director.

"In the last cohort, which is the one going on now, a few dropped out at the last minute because it interfered with harvest," he said.

For a place to hold classes, the school reached out to Napa Valley Vintners. The program hasn't reached out to other trade associations because the main campus is closer to their members, Dr. Eyler said.  

Twenty-three people currently are in the wine executive MBA program. Another 20 are set to graduate in May, making the total who have completed the 36-month-old program 62. Program classes on the Rohnert Park campus start in October.

What makes this unique among MBA programs is the emphasis on wine industry issues, according to Dr. Eyler. Courses cover strategic brand management, global wine operations, social media as a strategic marketing tool in distribution, regulatory compliance and government relations, financial-statement analysis, and talent management.

Off-site class activities include a San Diego team sailing exercise as a metaphor for business operations and leadership as well as international travel and business experience associated with the global operations course.

Books, materials, travel and other needs are included in the $45,000 fee for the upcoming cohort of the program. Potential offsets for that cost are up to $20,500 a year in federal loans and some assistance from certain employers.

A capstone on the program is for participants to craft a strategic plan for a new or existing business.

To apply, visit the wine executive MBA program website at, call Dr. Eyler at 707-664-4256 or program coordinator Shalyn Eyler at 664-2260, or send a message to