SSU wine program launches finance certificate

[caption id="attachment_73061" align="alignright" width="372"] Ray Johnson, Rick Boland, William Silver[/caption]

ROHNERT PARK -- Few would disagree that the North Bay is a hub for the production of award-winning wines, a region synonymous with quality grapes and home to a roster of expert winemakers from around the world.

Yet while those wines are a subject of widespread intrigue, enthusiasm for the first-ever Wine Industry Finance and Accounting certificate program at Sonoma State University speaks to another key concern for current and would-be wine industry professionals -- romance aside, winemaking is pure business.

"A winemaker can create great wine -- there's certainly an artistic and scientific side. But there's also a financial side," said Ray Johnson, director of the school's Wine Business Institute.

Offered for the first time this year, the eight-course certificate program took many of the financial skills taught in the school's full-blown wine business degree programs and broke those topics out for focused instruction to a non-student audience, Mr. Johnson said.

Participants could elect to take individual courses, or the full certificate involving four core financial courses and four electives on a broader variety of topics.

Enrollment was double the average seen in other seminars offered by the Wine Institute, with as many as 50 participants per course, Mr. Johnson said.

"It's short, sharp content for people who didn't have time to go back to school for a full degree," he said.

That high level of attendance pointed towards a growing demand for number-savvy professionals in an industry that has seen margins narrow in the past few years, said Rick Boland, senior wine industry consultant at Moss Adams in Santa Rosa. After surviving inventory shortages and recession-driven changes in consumer habits, small-to-medium-sized wineries in particular are embracing skills that allow an analytical approach to their operations, he said.

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