Cornell Shows Off New Teaching Winery
Equipment designed to teach viticulture and enology students real world skills with small-scale examples
Ithaca, N.Y.—Cornell University is giving the New York wine and grape industry a peek at its new teaching winery. Located on the ground floor of the newly constructed research tower addition to Stocking Hall—long the home of the Department of Food Science at Cornell—the 3,900-square-foot winery is equipped with a range of small-scale winemaking equipment specifically selected to facilitate the teaching of different winemaking processes to undergraduates using small lot sizes. This month members of the state’s wine industry traveled to Ithaca to tour the facility.
The opening of the teaching winery marks another step toward the full implementation of a four-year degree program through Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to train the region’s future viticulturalists and enologists. The project began in 2000 under former dean Susan Henry and has continued under dean Kathryn Boor, who took over for Henry in 2010. The four-year viticulture-enology major (or VIEN) was launched in 2008 with the goal of teaching both the theory and practice of grapegrowing and winemaking to undergraduates. A total of 37 students have graduated from the program, and there are currently 27 students majoring in the department and 26 earning minors. (To see more photos of the winery in action visit the Wines & Vines Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/winesandvines.)
Gavin Sacks, associate professor in the Department of Food Science, said the teaching winery will help students apply their classwork to practical experiences and learn how to evaluate different problems. “This is not technical training,” Sacks told Wines & Vines. “We’re a training program for scientists in viticulture and enology. We want students to use their classroom knowledge and become comfortable in the production stage of winemaking.”
Sacks continued, “Our goal is that the teaching winery will have one or two of everything found in commercial wineries. It may be able to handle 2- to 5-gallon lots, but it is designed to scale up to commercial size.” The staff has looked for pilot and bench-top equipment with the same quality that would be found at working wineries. For example, the two Scharffenberger grape presses are research-grade membrane presses, one with an open tank and a 100-liter capacity, and the second with a volume of 300 liters, a closed tank and an internal drain channel. Both have the features and the same control panel as full-size presses for commercial production.
Other equipment includes a Delta E1/F1 destemmer-crusher that can be adjusted for speed, a small rotary vacuum filter for lees, and a 0.4 square-meter vertical pressure leaf DE filter. The school purchased 64 jacketed 15-gallon stainless steel tanks from Vance Metal Fabricators; the adjustable-volume tanks are independently temperature controlled and will have racking elbows and pump-over devices. Prospero Equipment Co. adapted a small GAI bottling line (capable of packaging with either cork finish or screwcaps) with a 5-gallon fill tank to allow for the bottling of small lots.
While about half of the equipment is currently in place—some of it arriving just in time for the facility’s first crush last fall—other pieces have yet to arrive. For example, a 50-liter still has been ordered from Christian Carl in Germany, and there are plans to purchase both sparkling wine and brewing equipment as well as a custom-designed cross-flow unit.
Stocking Hall, which housed the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was originally constructed in 1923. Renovation of the building began in 2011 with the removal of part of the original building, and the new three-story Research Tower building was then constructed with the teaching winery and food sensory laboratory on the ground level. The $105 million project, which includes a dairy plant, is part of the State University of New York Capital Plan.