Take a walk through the new winery, brewery and food-processing complex at U.C. Davis, and you'll get a glimpse into how beer and wine will be made 20 years from now.
The $20 million teaching and research center at UC Davis' Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science is the nation's first winery, brewery or food-processing facility to receive the coveted LEED Platinum certification, the highest "green" rating awarded by the U.S. Building Council for commercial buildings.
But more than that, the complex is an engine for innovation and job growth, and could make a big difference in the way beer, wine and food are produced in this country for years to come.
"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," said UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi. "We want to be a driver of innovation -- and a partner in economic development -- to improve our economy and quality of life."
Late last week, campus officials held a grand opening for the public for the 34,000-square-foot research and teaching complex that included demonstrations of wine, beer and olive oil and an appearance by the Budweiser Clydesdales team.
Attendees were given a tour of the new state-of-the-art complex, which replaces the aging brewery and winery buildings that one UC Davis official charitably described as "a garage."
At first glance, the complex bears little resemblance to the stereotypical dimly lit winery or steamy industrial brewery. It looks more like a Silicon Valley manufacturing plant.
The winery relies on wireless technology donated by T.J. Rogers, founder and CEO of San Jose-based chip-maker Cypress Semiconductor Corp.
Rogers gave 152 200-liter stainless-steel grape fermenters and personally worked on the installation of the vat-like instruments.
Those fermenters are hooked up to wireless devices that allow students and researchers to control temperature and sugar content, which are displayed in real time on a massive flat-screen monitor in the winery's computer room. Students will eventually be able to access their experiment readings at any time by smart phone.
"Our old winery is at least 20 years behind," said Timothy Jones, a UC Davis graduate student studying viticulture and enology. "This winery is 20 years ahead, and . . . we have the option of improving it as major technology develops."
Andrew Waterhouse, a professor in UC Davis' Department of Viticulture and Enology, said the university's previous winery was built in 1938. Students made wine in plastic buckets and relied on a moody air-conditioning system for temperature control.
Seeping walls led to mold, he said, adding: "It was a microbial zoo. We had stuff growing all over the place."
Waterhouse said the new complex could help the food and beverage industries develop sustainable practices and cut energy usage.
On the research side, the improved facilities will provide better ways to study and advance beer- and wine-making and food-processing while offering students better training.
"We're doing experiments we could never do," he said.
(Contact Rick Daysog at rdaysog(at)sacbee.com.)