LC Bulletin: Nurturing a wine culture

April 26, 2013. Retrieved online April 29, 2013 from Alta LeCompte, Las Cruces Bulletin

Bobby Lee Lawrence Wine Academy opens

The word “wine” is on the tip of many Las Crucens’ tongues this week as New Mexico State University holds two major events – the grand opening of the Bobby Lee Lawrence Wine Academy and a wine conference stu­dents are planning for Saturday, April 27. (See story on page B8.) Both events celebrate a strong and growing wine culture on campus and in the community.

On Saturday, April 20, about 150 guests of NMSU’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management stepped into a labora­tory unlike any other on campus, the Bobby Lee Lawrence Academy of Wine laboratory.

They gathered to celebrate the grand open­ing of the academy and to remember Lawrence, a nationally known food and wine expert.

There is no stainless steel in this laboratory, and instead of glass beakers, there are wine glasses housed in dark wood cabinets remi­niscent of a Tuscan wine cellar. The cabinet hardware, hand-hewn woodwork and natural travertine floors evoke the mellow look of a centuries-old wine cellar.

Everywhere the eye lights in the window­less room, it is treated to architectural de­tails carefully overseen by Lawrence’s widow Marion Lawrence.

Asked how the project began, HRTM Director Janet Green, said: “Wine showed up on our doorstop.”

The academy was born when Marion Lawrence walked in and expressed a desire to make a memorial gift.

“Mrs. Lawrence had thought about endow­ing a golf scholarship, but a friend reminded her of his love of wine,” Green said.

“I met with her and we discussed creating a scholarship or an endowed chair. She re­ally liked the idea of a tangible environment to honor his commitment to education.”

Green said Bobby Lee Lawrence would give “boot camps for people who didn’t know a thing about wine.”

“He had a national presence as a somme­lier,” she said.

Lawrence trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and the Culinary Institute of America. Through his career as head of engineering at NBC News, Lawrence traveled the world, building his knowledge of wines.

He wrote a wine column for the Southwest food magazine, ¡Sabroso!, presented and taught courses at local and regional wine festi­vals and was celebrated for his blog “Southwest Wine Guy.”

When Marion Lawrence next visited cam­pus in summer 2010, she told Green she want­ed to do a wine education classroom.

In November 2010, Lawrence made a $250,000 memorial gift and she and Green started re-energizing plans for the space, which previously was conceived as a retro-­style lounge where bar management, merchan­dizing and inventory and spirits would be the curriculum.

After demolition of the space, former­ly a food tech lab, the buildout began in March 2012. Construction was completed in September.

Read the Las Cruces Bulletin article

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