SSU Wine institute gets another major gift

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Ron Rubin, owner of a Russian River Valley winery and a Novato-based tea company, committed a “generous gift” to the Wine Spectator Learning Center, the future home of Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute.

The undisclosed sum, which the institution describes as “one of the largest gifts in the campaign,” will go toward construction of the center’s student meeting and institute information area, to be called Rubin Student Commons.

“The Sonoma State Wine Business Institute and my vision are one-and-the-same: to be the number one university in the world for wine business education and research,” Rubin said in a statement. “This learning center is essential for creating the wine industry’s future leaders.”

Joe Freeman, winemaker for The Rubin Family of Wines, is a graduate of the institute’s Wine Entrepreneurship program, and winery Operations Manager Lori Knapp is a current student in the Executive Wine MBA program.

Rubin has been on the institute board since 2012.

The center’s commons will include a wine-entrepreneurship laboratory, outdoor study terrace and a student hub with a multimedia experience that connects students around the world with those studying on campus.

“The Ron Rubin Student Commons will be a modern and inspiring space for students, faculty and the wine industry,” said Ray Johnson, institute director, in a statement.”

Construction on the center at the university’s main campus in Rohnert Park is expected to begin in early 2016. The project cost is estimated to be $9.1 million. Classes there are set to start in early 2017.

Recent large gifts toward the project include $250,000 from Young’s Market Co. late last year, bringing fundraising past the half-way point at the time, and $3 million from Wine Spectator Editor and Publisher Marvin Shanken last summer. Committed funds so far total $5.8 million.

“The wine industry’s enthusiasm and support has been wonderful,” Johnson said.

Ron Rubin purchased The Republic of Tea in 1994 and subsequently built the Novato-based company into a purveyor of more than 300 kinds of teas. He bought River Road Vineyards & Winery near the west Sonoma County community of Forestville in late 2011.

The institute (, operated by the university’s School of Business & Economics, directs interested donors to the learning center to contact Jessica Pozzi at or 707-664-3347.

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