McMINNVILLE, Ore. — Nov. 28, 2023 — Anna Maria Ponzi, former owner, chief executive and president of Ponzi Vineyards, will serve as interim director of Linfield University’s Center for Wine Education after Tim Matz announced plans to step down at the end of the year.
Ponzi is a second-generation wine producer who was instrumental in establishing Oregon’s Willamette Valley as a world-renowned winegrowing region. She grew up on one of the first vineyards in Oregon, which her family established in 1970, and has served as a champion for and ambassador of Oregon wine her entire life.
She has been recognized for growing the family business from a garage operation into a global brand and for playing a significant role in the transformation of the valley into a world-class wine destination overall. Ponzi brings decades of wine appreciation, wine culture and wine business acumen to Linfield University.
“I am incredibly excited that Anna Maria is assuming the interim role,” said Jennifer Madden, dean of Linfield’s School of Business. “The globally recognized, interdisciplinary wine programs at Linfield are signature, and I can think of no one more qualified. We are lucky to have her.”
Ponzi and Matz will work together for the next several weeks to ensure a smooth transition. As director, she’ll oversee undergraduate and graduate degrees, Linfield wine events including the upcoming BIPOC Wine Symposium, WSET certifications, the Oak and Vine Society and Acorn to Oak Wine Experience, a student-run tasting room on McMinnville’s Third Street. Meanwhile, a national search is underway to find a permanent director (see the job description and qualifications).
The enthusiasm for Ponzi’s leadership extends across campus. Oregon Wine History Archive Director Rich Schmidt, who has worked closely not only with the Ponzi family but a wide range of leaders in the Oregon wine industry, described her as a “fantastic choice to be the interim director.”
“Maria grew up in the industry and has given much of her life to helping put Oregon wine on the map. Her unique perspectives on the industry and connections throughout Oregon and beyond will be an enormous asset to the Linfield wine studies programs,” Schmidt said. “At the same time, she understands the importance of the student experience and will always put students first.”
For her part, Ponzi said she was “delighted for the opportunity to be part of such a dynamic program.”
“I come from a time and place that had no wine grapes, no wineries, no industry. It’s remarkable how far we’ve come, and Linfield University has been at the epicenter from the start,” Ponzi said. “I look forward to working with the staff and faculty to see how much farther we can take these exceptional programs as we continue to grow future leaders in wine.”
Ponzi holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon, and worked in Boston’s publishing industry before returning to the Willamette Valley to run the family business in 1991. Soon after, she was joined by her winemaking sister. They increased the size of the business from an annual production of 10,000 to over 50,000 cases and increased its vineyard holdings from 20 to 140 acres. This ownership distinguished Ponzi Vineyards as the nation’s only winery solely owned and operated by second-generation sisters at the time.
She serves on the board of directors for Women in Wine, is president emeritus of the Oregon Winegrowers Association, a commissioner for Travel Oregon’s Tourism Commission and the chair of Linfield’s Maria Stuart Scholarship. Previously, she served president and board director of OWA, director and chair of ¡Salud!, board director of Travel Portland, chair and director of Oregon Pinot Camp, and board director of the Willamette Valley Winery Association, among others.
About Linfield University
Linfield University is an independent, nonprofit university with campuses in McMinnville and Portland, Oregon, as well an eCampus for online learning. Since 1858, Linfield has connected a traditional liberal arts experience with practical education through 54 majors, including wine studies, sport management and nursing. Linfield also offers interdisciplinary master’s degrees in business, nursing and sports sciences. For five years running, U.S. News & World Report magazine has named Linfield one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation when it comes to social mobility. Thirty-eight percent of Linfield students are first-generation college students, and 38% are U.S. students of color. Linfield competes in the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference. Learn more at www.linfield.edu.