Letter from the Chair

David E. Block, Department Chair

This is an exciting time in the history of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. For more than 135 years, our department has driven innovation in grape growing and winemaking for California, as well as the rest of the world. For anyone who has traveled the wine regions of the world, it is obvious that the department’s influence has been global. Now, thanks to generous supporters, we have world-class facilities to match this influence, allowing us to increase our contribution to the science of grapes and wine and to train the industry leaders of the future.

In 2008, we opened the buildings of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science that house our state-of-the-art research and teaching labs. These facilities, initiated by a gift from Robert Mondavi, have enabled us to define the cutting edge of research in microbiology, plant biology, analytical chemistry, sensory science, and engineering as applied to grapes and wine. In 2010, we opened the LEED Platinum Teaching and Research Winery—the most advanced and most sustainable winery in the world. In May 2013, we opened the Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building. It has already begun to house experiments that will allow us to pioneer sustainable wine processing ideas like water capture and reuse, carbon dioxide capture, and alternative energy sources. This facility, when fully equipped, will make the most sustainable winery in the world self-sufficient in both water and energy—the first winery in the world to achieve this accomplishment.

We have also transitioned to using our now established 12-acre vineyard adjacent to the RMI complex. This new resource facilitates teaching in our program, in addition to creating a beautiful entry point for the campus. We have also begun to revitalize the role that our Oakville Station and its vineyards play, a critical departmental resource that we hope will become a magnet for teaching, research, and extension, much as our new winery has. Our students, always a creative and dynamic group, are now learning in the most advanced setting for grape and wine research and teaching in the world.

With these new facilities, the faculty are preparing students for practical operation of vineyards and wineries, as well as teaching these students key problem-solving skills that will enable them to succeed. In addition to creating world-class facilities, the department is also in the process of strengthening its human resources. In October 2012, Dr. Dario Cantu joined the department and has made an incredibly strong start—already being recognized as an international expert in understanding grapevine diseases and flavor development in grape. In April 2015, the department was extremely lucky to hire Prof. Ron Runnebaum, a faculty member with a background in Chemical Engineering and in Viticulture and Enology, who is working on wine processing methods that create less waste or take the waste and turn it into valuable by-products.  Finally, in November 2015, the department hired Dr. Kaan Kurtural as our CE Specialist focused on wine grape production and based at our Oakville Station. We hope that you will get to know all of these new people, as they will be key to the continued success of our department and our industry.

As we move forward, my goal for the department is to maintain our mission to supply knowledge and trained professionals to the grape and wine industries. At the same time, I look forward to working with our faculty and industry to further strengthen our research efforts, creating a portfolio of research projects, from basic to applied, in which the industry can invest. Investment in this type of diversified research portfolio will best allow the industry to manage the challenges of the future and thrive in the worldwide grape and wine markets.

You can find more information on all of these stories and a lot more on this website. For all of our alumni and friends, check out our Facebook page for the latest news from the department. And if you are going to be in Davis, please stop by, see the new facilities, and let us know your latest news!

Dr. David Block

Chair, Department of Viticulture and Enology