Linfield University scholarship honors late wine journalist Lisa Shara Hall

Lisa Shara HallBy Michael Alberty, The Oregonian/OregonLive

Journalist Lisa Shara Hall advocated tirelessly on behalf of Oregon and Washington wines. She died in March 2019 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This fall, Linfield University will honor her legacy with a new wine and journalism scholarship created by her husband, Kirk Hall.

The Lisa Shara Hall Wine Education and Journalism Scholarship is available to Linfield University sophomores, juniors and seniors with declared majors or minors in wine studies and/or journalism and media studies. Special consideration will be given to students with demonstrated interests in the Oregon and Washington wine industries and female students with similar interests. Financial need will also be taken into consideration.

The first donations to the scholarship, which Kirk Hall hopes to eventually build to $100,000, have been made.

In 1970, Lisa Shara Hall drove a heavily loaded Volkswagen Beetle across America to enroll at Reed College. How she coaxed that tiny bug over the Rocky Mountains is anyone’s guess.

“Nothing could ever stop her,” Kirk Hall said.

After college, Hall worked in civil rights enforcement for The City of Portland, followed by stints in commercial litigation and working community relations for a local hospital. In addition to advocating for the “little guy,” Hall had a passion for food.

Hall’s hobby led to a friendship with Karen Brooks, a food writer and arts editor at Willamette Week. According to Brooks, “Lisa was the most obsessive person I knew, even more than me. She seemed to know everything and everyone – where to get this great fish or cheese or find the best tacos or some great little sandwich shop you never heard of.”

Kirk Hall describes his late wife as a “born critic” capable of detecting the subtlest of differences in a dish and deciphering its importance. She also wasn’t afraid to defend her opinions.

“The best critics have a point of view that can be argued like a prosecuting attorney. That was Lisa. She made you laugh. She made you think. She made you stand up taller,” Brooks said.

Brooks eventually offered Hall a food column.

“She was the first writer who brought together all the great food gossip and food finds in the city – for dining out or at home,” Brooks said. When Brooks left Willamette Week to work for The Oregonian, Hall followed.

After a decade of food writing, Hall succumbed to the siren song of wine. The food scene was static compared to wine. Wines changed every year with the climate, and Oregon and Washington’s wine regions were exploding with new players. Besides, Kirk Hall said,” how many times can you write about roast chicken or arctic char?”

Brooks agrees with Hall’s assessment. “Lisa gave so much to Portland’s food world, but ultimately, wine called. I believe she found it more challenging, more intellectual and mysterious.”

Hall tackled wine with her typical zeal. She published numerous articles in global wine publications and contributed to such prestigious books as “The Oxford Companion to Wine.” Hall’s own book, “Wines of the Pacific Northwest,” published in 2001, remains a highly-regarded regional survey.

During her numerous travels to wine regions worldwide, Hall acted as an “unofficial envoy” for Oregon and Washington’s wine regions. Always one to fight for the underdogs, Hall’s persistence drew the wine world’s eyes to the Pacific Northwest.

Hall also noticed a shortage of people writing about Oregon and Washington wines, especially women.

“Lisa was always interested in doing something for wine education and journalism. We just never found the time while she was alive. This scholarship is something I want to do in her honor,” Kirk Hall said.

Applications for the scholarship open this fall, with the first awards in the spring of 2021. Scholarship decisions will be made by the Wine Education Advisory Council on behalf of Linfield University’s Evenstad Center for Wine Education.

Gregory V. Jones, director of the Evenstad Center, would like the scholarship to include opportunities to write for Linfield’s Oregon Wine History Archive or intern at the Oregon Wine Press.

“We don’t want to just give them money and say ‘off you go.’ We’d like to connect them to something bigger,” Jones said.

Lisa Shara Hall would be rooting for that bigger connection.

“No one would be happier than Lisa to see someone deserving get the opportunity to plunge into the wine world and perhaps discover a life-long passion,” Brooks said.

Contact wine@linfield.edu for more information about donating to the Lisa Shara Hall scholarship.

Originally published Sept. 5, 2020 by The Oregonian/OregonLive. See the original article online. Read more about Oregon wines at oregonlive.com/wine.