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The University of California at Davis has opened the most environmentally sophisticated facility for making, researching and teaching wine, brewing beer and processing foods. 

Although the building was actually completed in July and wine-grape crushing and beer brewing began there in September, campus leaders threw a party last Fridayto celebrate the new facility — and to announce an important new gift: Jess Jackson and Barbara R. Banke of Jackson Family Wines are donating $3 million for a new facility to develop sustainable production techniques for winemaking. 

The new, separate but adjoining building, will complement the winemaking facility, itself highly sustainable, but focus on improving production techniques to save water, energy and reduce carbon emissions.

Hundreds of supporters, faculty, friends, students and alumni braved biting cold to hear campus leaders and supporters describe the importance of the new facility to the university and industry.  

Following the brief talks, the visitors enjoyed products of the winery, brewery and food-processing facility as well as other snacks, then took tours of the sophisticated building.

The new 34,000-square- foot teaching and research complex is part of the UC Davis’ Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and it was financed entirely by private gifts totaling more than $20 million. It was first building at UC Davis to be build entirely with private funding officials said. 

Napa Valley’s presence was prominent at the event. The lead gifts came from Robert and Margrit Mondavi, as did the initial gifts for the whole Robert Mondavi Institute for Food and Wine, as well as the entertainment complex nearby.

In addition, Ron and Diane Disney Miller were major donors, and many other Napa vintners have contributed to the project. The Jacksons live in Sonoma County but have extensive holdings of vineyards and wineries in Napa Valley.

Even Jerry Johr of J. Lohr Winery in San Jose, a prime force behind the project, owns a vineyard in St. Helena though most of his vineyards are in Monterey and Paso Robles.

Napa Valley wine interests contributed heavily to the facility; the research carried out there, along with the graduates, have had a big impact in California’s prominence in the wine business, and that’s especially try true for Napa Valley. 

The campus lies largely in the First Congressional District served by St. Helena’s U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson. 


A ground-breading facility

The new facility breaks ground in many areas. It is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certified, the highest rating for environmental design and construction awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. It is the first winery to receive such certification officials said.

The building also incorporate advanced technology, including the world’s first wireless wine fermentation system, a 152-tank network with real-time monitoring of temperature, alcohol and sugar levels and other advanced features. This was conceived, designed and donated by T.J. Rodgers, founder of Cypress Semiconductor and owner of Clos La Tech Winery in the Santa Cruz mountains.

“We are so very proud of this state-of-the-art teaching and research complex,” said UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, herself a computer scientist. “It is a crown jewel for UC Davis. And it is proof of our enduring commitment to food, wine, beer and agriculture, overall — here in our region and globally. And it was built in tough times without state or federal funds.”

“This facility really embodies everything that UC Davis stands for today. And at the same time, it is a symbol of where we are headed,” she said. “We want to be a driver of innovation — and a partner in economic development to improve our economy and quality of life. We want to be stewards of our natural resources and a model of sustainability.”

Neal Van Alfen, dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said: “This research complex is a landmark for UC Davis and the wine, brewing and food industries in California. It will allow us to conduct cutting-edge research and train the next generation of food-industry leaders.”

Other speakers during the grand opening ceremony were U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), who noted that it wasn’t the outdated former winery that produced the wine leaders from UC Davis.

Andrew Waterhouse, chair of the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, noted that moving into the new winery from the old facility was “like jumping forward a century. It’s a 21st century model, not 19th.”

He added that the winery’s controls are so precise that it will allow researchers to study subtle and difficult issues. “Students will be learning in the world’s most advanced, safest and sustainable  winery.”

Jerry Lohr lent his time to reviewing the plans and also led the campaign committee as well as donating $1 million himself. The fermentation room bears his name.  In his remarks, he noted than many naming opportunities remain within the facility.

Also present for the event were Margrit Mondavi, representatives from Anheuser-Busch InBev and other leaders from the California wine industry.

The new one-story complex is constructed in two adjoining wings and is adjacent to a new 12-acre teaching and research vineyard as well as two high-rise academic buildings.. The complex’s north wing houses the new Department of Viticulture and Enology Teaching and Research Winery. The south wing of the complex is home to the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory, which includes the Anheuser-Busch InBev Brewery; the California Processing Tomato Industry Pilot Plant for processing a variety of foods; and the Milk Processing Laboratory. 

The new winery, brewery and food-processing complex was designed to serve as a test bed for production processes and techniques that conserve water, energy and other vital resources.

Its environmentally friendly features include onsite solar power generation and a large-capacity system for capturing rainwater and conserving processing water. The stored rainwater will be used for landscaping and toilets.

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The new winery also has been designed to capture carbon dioxide from fermentation from a port in each of the new fermentors. An innovative process will be used to remove the carbon dioxide from the winery, reducing the building’s energy requirements for air quality and temperature control. 

Other environmentally responsible features of the building include maximum use of natural light, rooftop photovoltaic cells to provide all of the facility’s power at peak load, new food-processing equipment that minimizes energy and water requirements, use of recycled glass in the flooring, interior paneling recycled from a 1928 wooden aqueduct, and use of lumber harvested from sustainably certified forest operations.


The Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building

The planned Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building will house the technology needed to maximize the environmental capabilities of the adjacent new winery, brewery and food-processing complex.

It will add an automated system to clean barrels, tanks and fermentors. The system will make it possible to reuse 90 percent of the captured rainwater, serving as a demonstration of how businesses with limited water can become self-sufficient. Plans call for the facility to eventually operate independent of the main campus water supply.

The planned building also will house equipment needed to sequester the carbon dioxide captured from the winery’s fermentation system, thus preventing damage to the atmosphere. 

This is expected to make it the first winery to have a net-zero carbon footprint, meaning that it captures and sequesters at least as much carbon dioxide as it produces.

“Jess and Barbara are visionaries who have helped shape the California wine industry as we know it today,” said Roger Boulton, an enology professor. “Their long commitment to sustainable practices in their vineyards and wineries are simply extraordinary, and we are proud to have them as founding partners in the LEED Platinum winery at UC Davis.”


Private funds make vision a reality

The late Robert Mondavi started the funding drive for the facility with a $5 million contribution in 2001. That was followed in 2002 by a $5 million pledge by the Anheuser-Busch Foundation. In all, more than 150 people, alumni, corporations and foundations contributed funds to make the new complex a reality. These included major contributions from the Department of Viticulture and Enology’s Board of Visitors and Fellows headed by Bill Murphy of Clos La Chance Winery.

In spite of all the advanced technology on display, a highlight for many attendees was the appearance of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses pulling a traditional beer wagon; the facility is as sophisticated a laboratory for beer as it is for wine, and also produces excellent ice cream.

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