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Multi-million dollar Mondavi research winery near completion at Davis

The US$15m high-tech winery at the Robert Mondavi Institute at the University of California Davis is near completion.

The winery, part of a larger US$40m food science and brewing complex at UCDavis, will serve as an industry-leading research facility and a model for future wineries around the world, its designers say.

‘It’s been almost a decade in coming, certainly five years in planning and construction. More than that in terms of raising the funds to do it,’ said Dr. Roger Boulton, a Davis professor and engineer who helped to spearhead the project.

The new winery has 152 fermenters with 200-litre capacity which can be operated and monitored wirelessly, allowing researchers to ferment and compare lots of wine from various clones, sites or rootstocks.

‘The real value is the fact that we can understand viticulture far better than in the past,’ Boulton said.

The facility is the highest-scoring LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum-certified building at any university in the world.

Photovoltaic cells generate twice as much electricity as operations consume, captured rainwater will be used for all winery operations, with filtration and treatment allowing the water to be re-used up to 10 times.

An additional building to be completed next February will capture CO2 released during fermentation and convert it to calcium carbonate. ‘It’s grossly energy positive, it is water positive, and it is carbon zero by design. It’s not sustainable, it’s self-sustainable,’ Boulton said.

The new facility was funded entirely by private donations to the university beginning with US$5m of seed money from a larger gift from Robert Mondavi in 2000.

Other major donors included wine producers the late Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke, Jerry Lohr of J Lohr andRon and Diane Miller of Silverado. The fermenting equipment and technology to run it was donated by TJ Rogers, CEO of Cypress Semiconductor – one of the largest donations from someone outside the wine industry.

The Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science was established in 2001 with a personal gift of US$25m from Robert Mondavi.

Written by Tim Teichgraeber in Oakland, California

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