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Donation helps improve the winery

Mike Fair, of Clarification Technology watches as Cellarmaster, Chik Brenneman instructs students in wine filtration.

New Filter increases production quality and gives valuable experience to students.

Photo features Mike Fair, of Clarification Technology observing Cellarmaster Chik Brenneman instruct students in wine filtration.

A recent donation to the department will improve the already high standard of research projects and experiments, but also help students gain valuable field experience that will be applicable in the job market.

A new Filtrox plate and frame filter, valued at $9,000, was donated by Clarification Technology, a Washington state based company. Professor Roger Boulton and head winemaker Chik Brenneman worked with former student Brian Avila to have the Filtrox filter unit manufactured and shipped from Switzerland. The filter arrived last November.

“We had an old plate and frame filter with threaded fittings and no changeover plate that was used from time to time, but it was not large enough for our student wines, Boulton said. “The Filtrox unit has the potential for wireless sensor technology to be added, so that we could record and store filtration runs both for teaching or research applications.”

This information will then be directed through the winery and into the Hilgard Project, the web-based database of our most experiments and operations in the winery. The new system will allow for wines to be clarified after fermentation as part of regular classes and speed up the process of getting both the experimental and bulk wines into bottle, according to Boulton.

Mike Fair of Clarification Technology, who helped in the initial installation and application of the filter, said that the filter will help in both research and education.

“Clarification is a critical step and is fairly common. The Filtrox unit is a commonly used piece of machinery throughout the industry and students will probably be exposed to on a larger scale once they leave education,” he said. “This way they won’t have to go through a learning curve because of their level of familiarization.”

Fair said the chance to become familiar with the equipment gives students the principles for higher performance when they come out of the learning environment.

“The UC Davis program is so well known for having a high level of performance standards and this equipment will continue to improve this standard,” he said.

Brenneman agrees with him.

“Along with the learning experience, the donor’s name is on the equipment and when the students graduate and begin work in the industry, they’ll see the company and recognize the name as a piece of equipment they are familiar with,” Brenneman said.

Demonstrations on filtration are given in the fall during the VEN 123 class. Previous demonstrations used diatomaceous earth, which is somewhat difficult to explain in principle, according to Brenneman. The new process will be much simpler, more common, and have significantly less waste issues.

According to Boulton, the department is constantly looking for ways to improve and is currently seeking several items of equipment and process technologies to incorporate into the winery and teaching programs. Amongst them are a refitting and complete instrumentation of the distillery columns and pots and the connection of the vineyards into a coded database that can track grapes from each vine into the wines that are made from them.

“We are effectively an open industry test bed for instrumentation and new approaches and that is an important service that is essentially not existent at present. There are few people who see the potential for that so we are moving forward slowly, but surely,” He said.

The department’s systems for fermentation monitoring were adopted by Anheuser Busch and recently by Orlando-Wyndham in Australia after more than a decade of research into the area.

“The nature of scientific leadership is that few will understand why you are doing what you do. A look back at our role in the first testing of crossflow filters, of fermentation modeling, bacterial and yeast strain selection all preceded their adoption by industry by more than 25 years,” Boulton said.