Great news........the Department of Viticulture and Enology has officially moved to its new home in the academic buildings at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, on the southwest side of the UC Davis campus. The prominent burnt-sienna structures are visible from Interstate 80, on Old Davis Road. We are all very excited with the new offices and labs, yet a little nostalgic for Wickson Hall, which V&E called home for 50 years. This is certainly the beginning of a new era for the Department.
To put this momentous event into perspective:
The Department of Viticulture and Enology was created by the California Legislature in 1880 and opened its doors to students in Berkeley a few years later. Its first Chair was Frederic Bioletti, who remained in that position from 1912 to 1933, when National Prohibition was repealed. He did significant research in viticulture, winemaking, olive culture and processing, systematic botany and plant diseases.
In 1919, National Prohibition was enacted and the Department substituted fruit processing research for enology research, and became the Department of Viticulture and Fruit Products. Its faculty consisted of Leon Bonnet, Albert Winkler and Harry E Jacobs, with Frederic Bioletti commuting from Berkeley to teach Viticulture 116A and 116B. Albert Winkler's contributions are in the physiological basis for grapevine pruning and the impact of pruning on vine growth, crop yield and vine capacity. He would go on to chair the Department from 1933 to 1957.
National Prohibiton ended in 1933, the same year Dr Harold Olmo joined the faculty here. In 1935, the Department split, with the Department of Fruit Products moving to Berkeley and the Department of Viticulture remaining at Davis, with Dr Winkler as Chair. This is also the year that Maynard Amerine was appointed to the Department. His contributions included groundbreaking work in grape and wine quality, sensory analysis and wine bibliography. Dr Amerine and Dr Winkler began their work on the relationship between California climatological regions and wine quality, which was published in Hilgardia in 1944.
In 1939, the Department moved into the newly-constructed Enology Building, which included a pilot winery and wine cellars and is still actively utilized today. James Guymon received his Department appointment this year. His research focused on the distillation of wine to make brandy and high-proof alcohol. In 1947, Napa Valley Vintners gave 20 acres to UC Davis to form half the current Oakville Station, with the remaining 20 acres deeded to UCD in 1955 by the USDA. In 1948, A Dinsmore Webb joined the faculty. His research focused on wine chemistry and flavor constituents. He also would go on to chair the Department from 1974 to 1982. This is the same year that Harold Olmo introduced Perlette and Delight, two seedless table grape varieties, and Ruby Cabernet and Emerald Riesling, two winegrape varieties. In 1950, Harold (Hod) Berg was appointed to the Department. He would eventually serve as Chair from 1967 to 1974. Also appointed that year were Klayton Nelson and Robert Weaver. This was the year the Amerine and Joslyn published "Table Wines; The Technology of Their Production in California". In 1952, James A Cook, who eventually chaired the Department from 1966-67, was appointed.
In 1958, construction on Wickson Hall was completed and it was occupied for the first time. It would house the Department of Viticulture and Enology for 50 years. Another banner event occurred soon afterwards in 1959, when the Davis campus became a general campus in the UC system. This is the same year that Amerine, Roessler and Filipello published their Modern Methods of Evaluating Wine. The following year, 1960, Amerine and Roessler first published The Technology of Winemaking, which grew to 4 editions and was used as a standard textbook until 1998. This was an exceptional period for grape and wine research, as Amerine and Ough developed the submerged culture technique and they described new, controlled fermentation protocols.
The 60s and 70s were decades of rapid change in research and teaching in Wickson Hall. Winkler published General Viticulture in 1962. It was subsequently translated into many languages and a second edition was released in 1974. It is still considered a standard. Then in 1963, Vernon Singleton was appointed to the Department. He has become famous for his work with phenolics and the role of oxygen in aging and barreling. He also did a great deal of work with browning, which was a serious problem with white wines at the time. This same year, Ralph Kunkee also received his appointment. For anyone who doesn't recognize that name, his research in the microbiology of wine, especially the lactic acid bacteria, is the industry standard-bearer. In 1964, Mark Kliewer, whose ground-breaking research on canopy management techniques changed the way winegrapes are produced, was appointed.
In 1965, V&E graduated its first woman, MaryAnn Graf. That year, Amerine, Pangborn and Roessler published Principles of Sensory Evaluation of Food. Amerine and Singleton also published Wine, an Intorduction for Americans. A second edition was published in 1977. This was used for decades as the text for the introductory class to viticulture and enology. 1966-69 saw Dr Webb and his colleague from Chemistry, Dr RE Kepner, do much research into flavor components of wine. The Department produced a great deal of research into wine chemistry in these decades, from Ough, Webb, Amerine and Singleton.
In 1974, Ann Noble became the first woman appointed to the Department. As a sensory scientist, she is perhaps best known for the Aroma Wheel, which uses common, well-understood descriptors to evaluate the aromas and flavors in wine. But she also conducted a great deal of research into the sensations of astringency and bitterness in wine. This same year, Harold Olmo introduced another of the products of his breeding program, Carnelian, bred for hot inland climates. He was traveling the world to study grapevines in their natural habitat, and bringing specimens home, where he developed a huge library of ampelography. His breeding program was the most extensive and comprehensive in the world. The following year, he introduced Centaurian, Carmine and Symphony cultivars, also for hot regions. In 1976, Roger Boulton was appointed. As a Chemical Engineer, his contributions have changed the way wines are handled. He has done extensive research into filtration technology, state-of-the art, in-tank monitoring devices, maximizing color extraction (his work with copigmentation changed the way winemakers deal with issues of color) and energy and effort-saving devices for the winery laboratories. This same year, Amerine and Roessler (a UCD statistics professor who also loved wine) published Wines, Their Sensory Evaluation. It was an OIV award winner and had its second edition published in 1983.
In 1978, the Ernest Gallo Educational Trust established the University's first Endowed Chair for the Department of Viticulture and Enology in honor of Dr Maynard Amerine. The following year, Lynn Williams was appointed as a distillation specialist.
The 80s also brought lots of changes and new faces to the Department. In 1980, Carole Meredith was appointed. Her ground-breaking research into grapevine genetics would eventually lead her around the world, in a search that saw the discovery of the true heritage of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and other less-well-known varieties. Also this year, Amerine published Methods for Analysis of Musts and Wines. In 1983, Mark Matthews was appointed to the Department. His research into grapevine physiology and the physiology of water stress has yielded numerous articles and accolades. Also in 1983, Larry Williams was appointed. His practical research into canopy management and the effects of water deficit on vineyard production, most of which was conducted at the Kearney Agricultural Station in Parlier, California, have changed the way growers manage this precious natural resource. It will most certainly have far-reaching, longtime effects as we all struggle into sustainable agricultural practices.
In 1984, Dr Ann Noble created The Wine Aroma Wheel. And that same year, the new pilot winery was built in the Enology Building, offering students a commercial-scale venue for class and research purposes. In 1985, James Wolpert was appointed. His research at the Oakville Experimental and elsewhere has focused on the effects of viticultural practices on resultant wine quality. He served as Chair of the Department from 1995 until 2006, and is credited with the communication with Robert Mondavi that eventually led to Mondavi's gift of 25 million dollars to establish the Robert Mondavi Instuitute for wine and Food Science. This was the largest single gift in the University's history!
In 1986 Linda Bisson was appointed. She became Chair of the Department from 1990 to 1995. Her research into yeast microbiology and functional genetics has had numerous very practical implications for the wine industry. She became the go-to person for stuck fermentations at a time when wineries were picking later and fermentations became very problematic, as a result. She also did research into the production of hydrogen sulfide, and other taints attributed to yeast metabolism, and was able to offer winemakers practical procedures to avoid these problems. In 1987, Doug Adams was appointed. He and one of his graduate students, Jim Harbertson, developed the now-widely-adopted Harbertson/Adams tannin assay. The 1990s were a time when phenolics were beginning to be recognized as key components in grape and wine quality. Yet very little practical information was available to winemakers. With this new assay, Dr Adams was able to offer them a practical, relatively inexpensive assay for color and tannin monitoring in grapes and wine. This gave the wine industry a tool that they could afford and could rely on to give them the data they needed to make critical harvesting and winemaking decisions. It was, and is, a giant contribution to small and large wineries everywhere.
In 1989, Andrew Walker was appointed, after doing his undergrad and graduate work at UCD in the Department, mostly with Carole Meredith and Harold Olmo. He has taken the science of grapevine genetics to all new heights with his breeding programs. He has most recently developed a nematode-resistant rootstock, capitalizing on original Olmo breeding information. Then he used PCR assays to clarify and correct Olmo's parentage information, which resulted in the new source of nematode-resistance. He has also done extensive work on fanleaf resistance. His lab is also working on leafroll, which has become a serious threat to California vineyards of late. In 1991, Andrew Waterhouse was appointed as a chemist. His research led to the discovery that one of the phenolics in grapes and wine, resveratrol, has important health benefits. He has also done extensive research on the phenolics in grapes and wine and how to maximize their expression to increase wine quality. He is the current Chair of the Department, having taken over after Dr Wolpert's term expired in 2006.
In 1994, ground was broken for the Harry E Jacob Research Facility at the Oakville Experimental Vineyards in the Napa Valley. Also this year, the Department of Viticulture and Enology was honored by an Assembly Resolution of the California Legislature for its world-wide leadership and innovation. That same year, Susan Ebeler, a chemist and sensory scientist, was appointed to the faculty. She has been a leader in the area of wine flavor chemistry. Two years later, in 1996, Carole Meredith and her lab discovered the parentage of Cabernet Sauvignon through DNA typing. She subsequently discovered the parentage of Chardonnay and Zinfandel, and other varieties as well. Also in 1996, David Block was granted a joint appointment in Viticulture and Enology and in Chemical Engineering and Materials Sciences. His research in V&E focuses on process optimization, devising new methods to improve grapegrowing and winemaking practices based on historical data. He is also utilizing historical data to understand the basis of stuck fermentations. In 1997, David Smart was appointed. His research focuses on root physiology and nutrient cycling.
In 1998, Boulton et al. produced Principles and Practices of Winemaking. This became an OIV award winner and was translated into several foreign languages. This was the same year that David Mills was appointed to V&E. His research has employed a variety of molecular tools to characterize the microbial ecology of wine fermentations in order to reveal patterns of microbial successions that take place in both favorable and unfavorable production outcomes. Dr. Mills co-founded the Lactic Acid Bacteria Genomic Consortium, a national group of researchers which seeks to forward genomic studies on LAB. In 1999, Robert Scott, founder of Scott Laboratories, created the V&E Department's second Endowed Chair in Enology in honor of his late son, Stephen Sinclair Scott. It was awarded to Dr Roger Boulton. The same year, Carolyn Martini-Cox and Michael Martini created the Department's third Endowed Chair in honor of their father, an alumnus of the Department, Louis P Martini. It was awarded to Dr Walker for his genetics research. The fourth Endowed Chair was established as the Marvin Sands Endowed Chair, to be held by the active Chairman of the Department.
In 2001, a $25 million gift was awarded to UC Davis by Robert and Margrit Mondavi to establish the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. This very generous gift was the largest ever awarded the University. June 23rd, 2003, marked the official groundbreaking for the Robert Mondavi Institute. Dignitaries from all over California gathered to watch Robert and Margrit Mondavi turn the giant corkscrew to signal the beginning of the construction. In 2004, Clare Hasler was appointed to RMI as the founding Director.
In 2002 Matthew Fidelibus was appointed Associate Extension Specialist at the Kearney Agricultural Center in Parlier, California. Dr. Fidelibus conducts applied and basic research seeking to improve the yield and quality of raisin, table, and wine grapes. Thus, his research program is broad-based and multi-disciplinary. The following year, 2003, Hildegarde Heymann joined the faculty as a specialist in sensory science. Her contributions are many, including co-authoring with Harry Lawless, the definitive text on sensory analysis of food products, Sensory Evaluation of Food: Principles and Practices. She continues her extensive research here in descriptive analysis methodology. Also in 2003, the Department appointed Jim Lapsley as Adjunct Associate Professor. He teaches VEN 3, the introductory wine class. In February 2004, Jean-Jacques Lambert, a French soils specialist, was appointed as an Assistant Research Soil Scientist. He has done much research in Precision Viticulture and the impact of “terroir” on wine quality.
In 2005, the Department celebrated its 125th Anniversary with a series of events and lectures throughout the day, ending the day with a gala dinner and wine tasting in Freeborn Hall on the UCD campus
In the last several years, the Department has welcomed two USDA scientists who were awarded appointments here. The first, Kerri Steenwerth, was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor in 2006. Her research is in soils and weed management. Andrew McElrone received his appointment in 2007. He is applying his training in plant ecophysiology and ecohydrology to study grapevine water-use in California vineyards. The ultimate goal of his research program is to improve water-use efficiency of vineyard ecosystems, where water demands for irrigation continue to increase while water supply quality decreases in many growing regions.