When you think about Gretchen Boock’s background, it’s unsurprising she chose a career in the wine industry. She grew up in Mt. Angel, Oregon, a beautiful, hilly town known for its proximity to some of the most fertile agricultural lands in the state. She spent her summers helping her family tend to their strawberry and broccoli fields, and spent the rest of her free time outside.
“We rode 4-wheelers, drove tractors and played in the dirt,” Boock says. “It was what we did.”
Her passion for the land certainly helped her land her current position as the Vice President of operations at Dobbes Family Estate and Wine by Joe in Dundee, the heart of Oregon wine country. But so did a strong work ethic and a degree in general agriculture from Oregon State.
When thinking about college, Boock initially had her eyes on a small private school, but fell in love with Oregon State’s campus when she visited for a high school leadership seminar.
“I loved the feeling on campus, and I realized quickly that I could fit in and that it was the place for me,” Boock said. Despite its size, Oregon State felt small, friendly and intimate to Boock.
And that feeling stayed with her when she arrived as a first-year student, making her transition from high school to college easier. “At first, I was trying to decide what my major would be with different advisors. Everyone was so helpful and friendly, and I just thought, ‘Perfect,’ she says.
Boock started as a business major, but as her freshman year wound down, she realized it wasn’t for her anymore. She had to think about what she really loved to do.
“I just thought, ‘What about my roots? What about all the things I did as a child?’” she says.
Boock reached out to OSU’s advising staff and met Greg Thompson, an adviser for the College of Agriculture Sciences. She decided on a double major in general agriculture and Spanish – general agriculture would give her a breadth of career choices, and Spanish would enable her to continue studying the language she loved learning throughout high school. Not only would the second language be a resume builder, it would also be key to allowing her to communicate with the Spanish-speaking workers who help tend Oregon’s fields.
During her junior year, Boock developed an interest in wineries, and started looking for a job in the field. She found one with Joe Dobbes, then of Willamette Valley Vineyards.
Boock spent the majority of her summer working as a cellar assistant, informally known as a “cellar rat,” where she was simply thrown into the grunt work of the operation.
At the end of the summer, Dobbes offered Boock a long-term position. Now, 8 years later, Boock and Dobbes are still working together for Dobbes’ company.
OSU’s contribution to the wine industry isn’t limited to talented alumni like Boock. OSU pioneered a system for predicting crop loads more than twenty years ago, and researchers like Patty Skinkis are developing new methods to increase productivity.
“I know how good the college is, and I know that the kids coming out of OSU’s wine program know their stuff,” Boock explained.
Boock also says that the Oregon wine industry is unique, calling Oregon “its own animal.” “Because Oregon’s climate is so different compared to the rest of the country, research becomes very important, and OSU does a great job of that,” Boock says.