U.C. Davis

The California premium wine industry has gone from a tiny industry 60-70 years ago to world pre-eminence because we ignored European reliance on tradition and embraced science.  U.C. Davis, staffed with scientists such as professors Winkler, Amerine, Singleton, Lider, Cook, Olmo, Kleaver et al, did the basic scientific research to find the truths of Enology and Viticulture. They used science and the scientific method to test old assumptions and new theories and then offered up their results for peer review. They taught their students what they had learned in their research and as importantly they taught their students how to think critically.  California wine quality soared, and progressive, enlightened and open-minded European winemakers were soon coming to California and Davis to learn that which they could not learn in Europe. I am grateful and proud that I am a product of that educational system.   

I admit to being biased and U.C.-centric.  Go Bears!

Stuart Smith

13 Responses to U.C. Davis

  1. JohnLopresti says:

    Thnx, Stu. I will see how much of the language of Portugal I recall from the time I studied alongside an archeology prof from A Coruña. Here is a laudatory article

    Click to access Jerry%20Luper.pdf

    The winemaker I mentioned, it turns out, was a 70s UCD grad who employed a FSU cellaring executive; though the UCD gent later interned for a while with BTimothy, evidently.

  2. biodynamicshoax says:


    Winkler did a lot of very important basic work for viticulture. As an example, he developed the idea of degree days and that there were differing climate zones – that Canerous was cool and thus a region I and that Fresno is hot and thus a region V. Before that folks really didn’t understand the importance of weather. He also did some great research about the depth of red color from grapes grown in the various regions. This was basic research that allowed the industry to understand why certain grapes did well in one zone and not so well in another.

    Also, Winkler et al did a lot work on Thompson seedless because the grape was so important to California. It could be used for fresh fruit, raisens or wine.

    The other Enology & Viticulture program in CA is at Fresno state which has produced a whole slug of great winemakers. While there is a friendly competition between the two schools, there is also great respect for each. I’d heard that at one time Richard Smart was considering going to teach, head up the department or something at Fresno State, but I don’t think it happened. I think he would have been great.

    • JohnLopresti says:

      Hi, My followup, like your last information, was that the Cal Poly stint did not occur; at least, I had not seen evidence of that during the year after the Wine Institute official spoke with me.

      I agree, the region degree-day heat summation stratifications of Winkler were a significant turning point for vineyard establishment pre-planting varietal selection. Unfortunately (for me, though I read some), it seems much of Galet’s work in the era when clone selections available in the US were only beginning to offer alternatives to the basic few rootstocks, were evidently written solely in French.

      I believe one renowned Napa cabernet sauvignon enologist I have known was a product of the Fresno program, surprisingly.

    • biodynamicshoax says:


      There are many great winemakers from Fresno State, including an old and dear friend, Jerry Luper. Jerry was the winemaker at Montelena, Freemark Abbey and has been making wine in Portugal for many years.

  3. JohnLopresti says:

    I have found it difficult accessing much of UCD’s modern research work, both at the site of the enology and viticulture school, and at professional organizations, most all requiring some sort of membership.

    Two of the threads of UCD and other recent enology and viticulture which have interested me in this regard are the work of Cornelius Ough in wine chemistry, and the canopy revolution of RSmart. It would be nice to know where to begin relearning some of the rudiments, especially online free access papers by those two individuals.

    • biodynamicshoax says:


      I would start with the American Journal of Enology and Viticulure which has many/most of their papers on line – for a fee.

      Richard Smart is not UC Davis, he is from downunder and while I don’t know him, I have a great deal of admiration for him. I think his book “Sunlight into wine” is terrific and I especially like the way he is always challenging conventional wisdom.


    • JohnLopresti says:

      Thnx, agreed. AJEV also has a new policy of granting a visitor pass to a few free downloads, which I do occasionally, though to be realistic a lot of reading regularly is required, way beyond sampling an aliquot of the latest research articles.

      I know the other gentleman I mentioned was apart from UCD; an official at the WineInstitute communicated to me some information about the process of how Dr.Smart accepted a teaching assignment on a CA central coast campus which is outside of the UC system. A lot of the material Winkler cited was research from Australia. I wonder how RSmart developed leaf surface area math. It seemed to me even based on Thompson Seedless as much of Winkler’s data was, that Winkler would have been surprised by Smart’s results.

      I have appreciated the excellence of the graduates UCD infused into the early expansion period of CA viticulture and enology.

  4. Morton Leslie says:

    My two bits.

    Anti-Davis people almost always are just parroting an opinion of someone else who too has no idea of what an education in the Dept. of Vit and E. consists. They cannot see how an understanding of grape and vine physiology or wine chemistry or wine bacteriology has driven winemaking to an its advanced state. They have no idea the state of winemaking in the 50’s or 60’s until UCD started spitting out graduates to the industry.

    These same critics can be found sucking up to Heidi Peterson, Nils Venge, Tim Mondavi, Merry Edwards, Bill and Dawnine Dyer, and dozens other of their “star” winemakers who had their winemaking foundation provided by UCD. Similarly these anti-Davis folks are ignorant of the contributions to winemaking and their own favorite “cult wines” from individuals like Dick Graff, Ric Forman, Zelma Long, Stu Smith, David Lake and many many others.

    I wouldn’t worry about such folks. They obviously little about wine.

  5. Morton Leslie says:

    Go Bears!

  6. St Vini says:

    UCD has provided much…and I agree with Stu.
    Prof. Boulton (last time I attended a lecture by him) had the temerity to suggest that most blending of wines being done was not for wine quality improvement, but for hiding faults!

    NOT what I would expect to hear from a tenured Prof @ the “Bastion of all that is Evil”, if you get my drift King Krak ( I mean Jack…).

    BTW, Jack, I wondered a few years ago: have you ever been involved in the production side of winemaking?
    It wouldn’t deprive you of an opinion in my eyes, but many times I hear that viewpoint being put forth by those who haven’t had the chance to work their butts off for many years trying to put quality tasty wines on the table of the public.

    Cheers, Vini

  7. biodynamicshoax says:

    King Krak,

    Sorry you feel that way about Davis. Interesting, I’m a product of that school that you scorn, yet I also don’t like wines that taste the same. In fact, I think the high alcohol fad that’s going on is terrible because all these high alcohol wine flavor profiles merge into one – which is boring. However, I blame Parker for this mess, not U.C. Davis

  8. And I’m anti-UC Davis. Do they not primarily teach how to manipulate wine product? You know, make it as unnatural as possible? Use Round-Up every year, etc.

    I guess they are to be congratulated for succeeding at making a lot of California wines taste the same, year in, year out. Like McDonalds.

  9. […] winemaker at Smith-Madrone winery (I have never tried the wines so I won’t comment). As his bio clearly states he is the product of UC Davis and believes quite firmly in the primacy of science in […]

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