UC Davis Opens Uber Eco Teaching Winery

After a damp, chilly spring and below-normal summer, warm October weather kicked California’s winegrape harvest into high gear. At UC Davis, that means grapes are being crushed, pressed and fermented at what the university is calling “the most technologically advanced and environmentally sophisticated winery in the world.”

Davis is renowned as the nation’s leading center for wine-related study, but the teaching winery that kicked into gear this fall is actually just one part of a new food science complex that is expected to gain Platinum LEED certification. There’s also a brewery, general food-processing plant and milk-processing laboratory.

image via UC Davis

Green features of the complex include maximum natural light and rooftop photovoltaic cells to provide all power at peak load. Recycled glass was used in the flooring, interior paneling came from a 1928 wooden aqueduct and lumber was harvested from certified-sustainable forests.

Given the water-intensive nature of beverage and food-processing — and California’s long-term water challenges — the design put a particular focus on minimizing water use. “We want to demonstrate a self-sufficiency model that is applicable to any business with limited water,” enology professor Roger Boulton said. Eventually, the complex will capture, store and recycle enough rainwater to remove itself from the main campus water line, while an automated system cleans barrels, tanks and fermentors.

The winery — aiming to become the first in the world to go LEED platinum — features a wireless fermentation system, said to be a first, which can control the temperature and mixing of the fermentation while providing, constant sugar-concentration levels. That system was designed, built  and dontated by a team of research engineers led by Cypress Semiconductor founder and head man T.J. Rodgers, a vintner himself.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.