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UC Davis toasts new sustainable winery, brewery and foods complex

By Pat Bailey on January 28, 2011 in

Joined by hundreds of friends, supporters and alumni, the University of California, Davis, officially opened the doors today to the world’s most environmentally sophisticated facility for making wine, brewing beer and processing foods.

The new, 34,000-square-foot teaching and research complex, located within UC Davis’ Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, was financed entirely by private philanthropy — no state or federal funds were used. The campus received more than $20 million in private support to construct and equip the complex.

It is the first such building to receive LEED Platinum certification, the highest rating for environmental design and construction awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.)

Campus leaders also hailed the new complex for its advanced technology, including the world’s first wireless wine fermentation system.

“We are so very proud of this state-of-the-art teaching and research complex,” said UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. “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.

“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,” Katehi 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. This facility really does it all and will do it all for many years to come.”

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."

Van Alfen also announced that, among the commitments from private donors, $3 million was recently pledged to UC Davis by Jess Jackson and Barbara R. Banke of Jackson Family Wines to construct the Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building. That building, planned for completion in 2013, will house the technology needed to maximize the environmental capabilities of the adjacent new winery, brewery and food-processing complex.

For example, the sustainable winery building will enable the teaching and research winery to demonstrate how a winery can operate on rainwater when it captures, filters and reuses that water many times. 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.

Other speakers during the grand opening ceremony were U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa); Jerry Lohr of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines; Doug Muhleman, an alumnus and trustee of the UC Davis Foundation; James Seiber, chair of the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology; and Andrew Waterhouse, chair of the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology. Also present for the event were Margrit Mondavi, representatives from Anheuser-Busch InBev, and leaders from the California wine and processing-tomato industries.

About the new complex

The new one-story complex is constructed in two adjoining wings and is adjacent to a new 12-acre teaching and research vineyard.

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 complex’s north wing houses the new Department of Viticulture and Enology Teaching and Research Winery.

Construction was completed in July, and wine-grape crush and brewing began there in September. Equipment installation was recently completed in the food-processing pilot plant, and equipment is expected to be installed in the milk-processing laboratory in February.

In December, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded LEED Platinum certification to the complex, which is the second UC Davis building to complete the certification process. It joins the LEED Platinum UC Davis Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences, completed in 2006 in Incline Village, Nev.

UC Santa Barbara’s Bren Hall is the only other LEED Platinum-certified building on any of the 10 University of California campuses.

LEED Platinum environmental design

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, per LEED specifications.

The planned Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building will provide 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 UC Davis winery, brewery and food-processing facility to eventually operate independent of the main campus water supply.

The new winery also has been designed to capture carbon dioxide, a natural byproduct of 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. The new sustainable winery building will make it possible to sequester the captured carbon dioxide so that it will not contribute to global warming.

Other environmentally responsible features 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.

High-tech processing systems

The facility also includes what is believed to be the world’s first wireless wine-fermentation system, a multimillion dollar assembly of 152 wireless grape fermentors, designed, fabricated and donated by a team of research engineers led by T.J. Rodgers, the founder, president and chief executive officer of San Jose, Calif.-based Cypress Semiconductor.

Each of the 200-liter, electro-polished, stainless steel fermentors is individually equipped for automated control of temperature and the “pump-over” process, controlling two of the most important factors in determining final wine characteristics and quality.

The new fermentor sensors frequently and precisely extract and transmit sugar-concentration data from white and red fermentations across a wireless network. Data from the sensors can be generated every 15 minutes with a precision of 0.25 Brix, a measure of sugar content.

Just completed, it is one of the largest wireless networks in any fermentation facility in the world.

Additionally, the new brewery will provide a showcase for the latest in brewing technology, as well as a sophisticated laboratory for conducting research and training students in the science of brewing. It also is intended to provide commercial brewers and suppliers with a small-scale facility in which they can test new recipes or processes.

Good enough to eat

The California Processing Tomato Industry Pilot Plant and the Milk Processing Laboratory were designed and built to meet state and federal food- and dairy-grade standards. This important feature means that products processed there are fit for human consumption during sensory and nutritional evaluations.

The food-processing pilot plant will facilitate research on a variety of topics including alternative food-processing methods and their nutritional effects, nutritional quality and shelf life of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, nutritional enhancements from food-processing “waste” products and improved food formulations.

The milk-processing laboratory will support research in a variety of areas including separation of milk components into functional ingredients, processing of milk that has been modified by the type of feed provided to the cows, and processing of milk from cows that were bred for specific characteristics.

Individual donors make vision a reality

Dozens of private donors contributed funds to make the new complex a reality, beginning with a $5 million contribution in 2001 from the late winemaker Robert Mondavi, followed in 2002 by a $5 million pledge by the Anheuser-Busch Foundation.

Other major donations were made by Ronald and Diane Miller and by a group of winery partners led by Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke of Kendall-Jackson Wines, and Jerry Lohr of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. That group of winery partners secured the funds necessary to design and construct the facility to LEED Platinum standards.

California tomato processors and growers also came together to contribute more than $2.5 million to the food-processing pilot plant, recognizing the important role that the Department of Food Science and Technology has played in the industry and the future potential for training students and conducting research at the new complex. The Woodland, Calif.-based Morning Star Packing Company provided a lead gift of $1 million for the food-processing plant.

In all, more than 150 individuals, alumni, corporations and foundations contributed funds to make the new winery, brewery and food-processing complex a reality. These included major contributions from the Department of Viticulture and Enology’s Board of Visitors and Fellows.

About the design and construction

The new complex was designed by a team of architects, engineers and builders including BNB Norcal of San Mateo, Flad Architects of San Francisco, F.M. Booth Mechanical, Red Top Electric, KPW Structural Engineers, Creegan + D’Angelo Civil Engineers and HLA Landscape Architects.

(The Robert Mondavi Institute, which opened in 2008, comprises three academic buildings that house the Department of Food Science and Technology and the Department of Viticulture and Enology. Design and construction of those academic buildings, which total 129,600 square feet, cost $73 million, paid for by a combination of state and private funds. The campus did not apply for LEED certification on the three academic buildings.)

About the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology

Established at UC Berkeley in 1880 by California legislative mandate, what is now the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology has been at the forefront of international grape and wine innovation for 130 years. The department partners with the California grape and wine industry through research, public service and equipping students with both scientific knowledge and practical skills.

The department includes 14 faculty members and enrolls 100 undergraduate students and 40 graduate students.

More information about the department and the new winery is available online at

About the Department of Food Science and Technology

The Department of Food Science and Technology represents one of the oldest disciplines at UC Davis, evolving from studies in winemaking and dairy food production at UC Berkeley in the early 1900s. The current department is home to 200 undergraduate students and approximately 50 graduate students. The majority of the graduates from this program are now working in the food industry or related industries in California and elsewhere.

The department has 25 faculty members who are involved in international collaborations in 20 nations throughout the world. Its historical strengths are in engineering, chemistry and biochemistry, microbiology, food safety, and sensory and consumer sciences.

It is developing new areas of specialty focused on foods for health; food and culture; the relationship between foodborne diseases and the environment; and the processing of food products at the microscopic level, using techniques known as microencapsulation and nanoencapsulation.

Media contact(s)

Pat Bailey, Research news (emphasis: agricultural and nutritional sciences, and veterinary medicine), 530-219-9640,