Wine Spectator Learning Center celebrates first year

April 09, 2019 Clark Fahrenthold

It has been almost a year since the grand opening of the Wine Spectator Learning Center here at Sonoma State University. The project turned the once-dated Commons Area into the state-of-the-art Learning Center, which has three brand new classrooms and social and dining areas for students and university visitors. The Learning Center has also provided a place for Sonoma State Business Majors to call home.  

The center was built after multiple generous donations and gifts -- totaling $11 million -- were given to Sonoma State University, thus allowing the project to be conceptualized. 


The Wine Spectator Learning Center has provided both students and staff with one of the most unique opportunities and buildings in the entire California State University system. Ray Johnson, the director of the Wine Business Institute, raved about the of the building, much like many of the students on campus.

Johnson was notably enthused by how busy and frequented the center has become by students. “It is delightful to see the students utilize the space,” he said. “If you could have seen the lobby today at the change of classes at 2:00 p.m. -- a room full of students sharing their day together -- it was a beautiful site.”

The space the Learning Center has provided has quickly become the preferred place to meet for some students and groups. “The building is a great success. Just ask our students,” said Johnson. “We had a group that was studying offsite, a program for our students and colleagues in the Napa Valley. They voted overwhelmingly to move the class to the Wine Spectator Learning Center.” 

“They would rather drive for an hour to convene their classes here than study someplace more convenient [like] home and work,” he said.

Not only has the building provided a new workplace and classrooms for students, but it has also served as another dining and food destination for students, staff and visitors on campus as well. 

Neil Markley, the Associate VP for Administration and Finance, runs the cafe and dining services for the Learning Center. “Sales have met our expectations,” he said. “We have been happy to not only provide this service, but to also support the creation of another campus gathering spot.”

Many students have also expressed their happiness with the new center, like Daniel Freiburg, a current Sonoma State senior and business major. 

The Wine Center showed Freiburg and other students how dedicated Sonoma State really is about their students, not only for the short term, but for the long term as well.  

“I mean, paying $11 million for a new building on campus is never cheap, so to me it really shows how committed and how much the university cares about its students,” Freiburg said. “And at the end of the day, I can’t really ask for much more than that.”


With the positive reviews flying in from both students and staff alike, Johnson does not feel like there is anywhere in particular that the Wine Spectator Learning Center can improve. “It’s a great building and a great place to collaborate and learn,” he said.

With it closing in quick on their one year mark, it appears that the Wine Spectator Learning Center has checked all the boxes and is clearly one of the best and most desired destinations on Sonoma State’s campus.