Construction Continues for UC Davis' Showcase Winery

There's still time to get your name on a facility that will change the future of winemaking

by Paul Franson
UC Davis winery
Rendering of the UC Davis winery
Davis, Calif. -- The new teaching winery now in the final stages of construction at the University of California, Davis, will be a vast improvement over the school’s present antiquated facility, and it will be far more than a modern science lab for students. It is being built as a site for research to raise wine quality, improve production processes and demonstrate and enhance techniques that will preserve resources, meet upcoming regulations -- and save money.

It is also providing a vehicle for members of the wine community to demonstrate their appreciation for the school’s work, although the biggest plum remains unclaimed -- the name on the door.

Andrew Waterhouse, chair of the Viticulture and Enology Department at UC Davis, recently gave Wines & Vines staff an intimate look at the new facility. The winery under construction is part of the hands-on side of the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science; classrooms and offices have already been built and are in use.

The winery shares a building with a teaching brewery funded by Anheuser-Busch and food sciences laboratories including a dairy and new artisanal cheesemaking operations.

The whole facility is designed to meet the tough Platinum LEED classification, the highest standard bestowed by the United States Green Building Council. Only 24 other such buildings exist in California.

The winery lies adjacent to new vineyards that also will be used extensively for research.

Some of the features of the 12,500-square-foot winery would make most winemakers drool with envy. Other facets might be more inspiring to the growing segment of the industry that is concerned about the environment. The brilliance of these innovations will become more important when laws, regulations and water shortages become more common. And some aspects will prove vital to the research performed by students and faculty.

The winery will contain 152 200-liter automated research fermentors, all precisely controlled and suitable for red or white wines with automated, reproducible pump-overs and mixing. It also will have 14 2,000-liter tanks. Hot and cold water will be used for temperature control of the tanks, rather than glycol.

Standout winery features

A large experimental fermentation area and controlled temperature rooms will enable high-precision, highly controlled, highly reproducible winemaking. This is critical for experiments, because levels of control (e.g.: temperature, microbial content, atmosphere and time) determine what factors can actually be tested.

This high-precision winemaking greatly extends researchers’ ability to test how vineyards affect wine quality, since winemaking using grapes from those treatments will be more consistent than at today’s facility.

Winemaking will be controlled by a wireless computer network that will allow researchers to check on their experiments from their computers and smart phones.

Advanced production and sanitation systems including in-place tank cleaning derived from those used in the dairy business will allow the next generation of winemakers to encounter best sustainable water and energy saving practices. This includes cleaning and recovery of water and cleaning materials.

Barrel and bottle cellars have full temperature control for experiments as well as ML and other processes.

The winery includes a classroom for full-time students and short courses plus a testing lab. A separate facility will be used to teach students how to test and monitor grapes, must and wine.

A separate bottle cellar will maintain donated wines used for classes and functions.

The facility includes many sustainable and environmentally friendly features allowing the staff to experiment with:

•    Onsite solar power generation
•    A large capacity rainwater capture and water conservation system
•    Piped carbon dioxide removal from tanks and removal for future sequestration experiments
•    Use of local and recycled construction materials
•    Reduction of building site waste
•    Natural light and thick thermal insulation to save energy.

In a unique private-public partnership, many industry members have donated to the building of the facility and its features, including industry suppliers who are providing state-of-the-art winemaking equipment at cost or even free. Many of the rooms have already been claimed, but no one has yet offered the $6 million to name the winery itself, and many other features like tanks await angels.

Present and potential naming opportunities at UC Davis’s new teaching and research winery
UC Davis winery gifts
In addition, Robert Mondavi, Diane and Ron Miller, Barbara Banke and Jess Jackson, and Jerry Lohr also have made substantial contributions.

Gifts of cash and securities can be pledged up to five years. To support this project, contact Andrew Waterhouse, chair, alwaterhouse@ucdavis.edu or (530)752-0381; or Kathy Barrientes, director of development, ksbarrientes@ucdavis.edu, (530) 752-1602 or (530) 219-3203.

The one feature that won’t be found at the teaching and research winery is wine for sale to the public. Waterhouse says that because the facility will be used for research as well as teaching, “The students have to be allowed to make mistakes so they can learn.” He fears that if the winery were used to make wine to sell, it would create another organization that wouldn’t further the institution’s aims.
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