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Virginia Tech Names Extension Enologist

Molly Kelly arrives after five years at Surry Community College in North Carolina

by Hudson Cattell and Linda Jones McKee
virginia tech
Blacksburg, Va.—Molly Kelly joined Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., as enology extension specialist in the Food Science and Technology Department on Dec. 25. Previously she held the position of enology instructor at Surry Community College in Dobson, N.C., where she had developed the enology curriculum and managed all aspects of the college’s 1,000-case bonded winery. Under her direction, Surry produced numerous international award-winning wines. Prior to her position at Surry, she was a biodefense team microbiologist with the New York State Department of Health.

Kelly’s appointment is the first to be made at Virginia Tech following the retirement of Dr. Bruce Zoecklein as professor of enology and state enologist. His position has been divided in half, and a search committee has been formed to find someone for the enology research position. Zoecklein said he expects the position to be filled before the 2013 harvest.

According to her job description, Kelly is expected to develop and implement an extension program for Virginia grape and wine producers. She will also support the growth and development of the Virginia wine industry through educational programs and applied research that provides an educational bridge between vineyard practices and wine production practices that directly impact wine quality.

Kelly earned a bachelor’s degree in medical technology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in biology from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is currently completing a Ph.D. in food science under the direction of Zoecklein. Her dissertation research focuses on the characterization of the aroma composition of Petit Manseng. She explains that she decided to work with Petit Manseng in part because many Virginia wineries have the cultivar planted, and it is becoming an important grape for the industry. “In the vineyard, Petit Manseng can get to 24°-29°Brix on a regular basis, and it’s resistant to bunch rot. In the winery, it’s a versatile grape and can be made into dry, sparkling or dessert-style wines.”

Kelly told Wines & Vines, “It is an honor to be part of the Virginia wine industry and helping to serve its needs.” She plans to visit all 230 wineries in the state to identify their needs. The overall goal is to improve wine quality so that Virginia wines achieve global recognition and, at the same time, find ways to lower production costs.

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