Wine making has a new home at UC Davis after twelve acres of vineyard were planted next to the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science on Wednesday.
The teaching vineyard will be used by undergraduate and graduate students in the viticulture and enology department to help familiarize them with the process of grape harvesting from beginning to end and to work with a vineyard in each season.
In the VEN 101 series of viticulture classes, students learn grapevine identification, pruning and propagation and vineyard establishment and training. These courses, which span over three quarters, require the use of a vineyard because they focus on hands-on education and require direct contact with the vines.
The main block of the vineyard will be used for the student rotation, in which students work with vineyards in each stage of the maturation process, from one to six years, said Chik Brenneman, manager of the teaching vineyard and wine cellar.
The block system is composed of six rows of fifty vines each, with six different trellis systems and students training each block. After harvest, enology students use the grapes for winemaking. The wine produced by enology students is only experimental, however, and is disposed of at the end of each school year.
Included in the vineyard are the student rotation block and production blocks for teaching winemaking in the department’s courses, as well as a reference collection of the world’s major grape varieties arranged alphabetically by region.
The new teaching vineyard was planted to help facilitate students and professors of viticulture, who currently must drive themselves to the Hopkins vineyard, located near the UC Davis Airport. Until the new vineyard starts to mature and reaches production, the department will continue to use the Hopkins vineyard.
“Two major donations made this vineyard possible,” said Dr. Andy Walker, a professor and geneticist of the viticulture department, in an e-mail interview. “One from Wendell Jacob in honor of his father, Harry Jacob, a former professor of viticulture, and the other in memory of John Gist, a prominent grapevine nurseryman and supporter of the campus.“
UC Davis also has 40-acres of vineyard in the Napa Valley at the Oakville Experimental Vineyard. Oakville is used for experimental purposes to research the interaction between field practices and wine quality. The vineyard includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel vines. UC Davis is one of the only universities in the world to own a vineyard in one of the finest winegrowing regions.
UC Davis faculty and students also conduct wine research in the Kearney Agricultural Center, located in the San Joaquin Valley. Kearney is the University of California’s largest off-campus agricultural research facility and is used by UC Davis faculty primarily for in-the-field research on raisins and table grapes, as well as for its laboratory facilities.
UC Davis owns over 100 acres of vineyards, but the school cannot sell wine because it is not a bonded winery, and has no plans to become one.
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