Fittingly surrounded by olive trees and an edible garden, hundreds of dignitaries, visitors and members of the university community gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at the University of California, Davis.

The new 129,600-square-foot complex of three academic buildings, visible from Interstate 80, houses UC Davis' departments of Viticulture and Enology, and Food Science and Technology, as well as the administrative offices for the Institute.

"How truly great it is that we are able to celebrate the Robert Mondavi Institute's grand opening as part of UC Davis' centennial celebration," said UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. "It is especially fitting because, with the grand opening of this institute, we are also celebrating two of UC Davis' historical strengths."

Vanderhoef noted that the University of California played an important role in founding and fueling California's $45 billion a year wine industry and has made significant contributions to the production and processing of California's foods.

The grand opening ceremony was held in the Institute's expansive courtyard, landscaped as a demonstration garden that includes olive and citrus trees, vegetables, and herbs. The courtyard faces west toward a 12-acre teaching vineyard, which will be planted with grapevines this winter.

Special guest for the grand opening was Margrit Biever Mondavi, wife of the late Robert Mondavi. In 2001, Mondavi, a legendary California winemaker, gave $25 million to establish the Wine and Food Science Institute within UC Davis' College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The Mondavis also gave an additional $10 million to help launch the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2002 and is now a regional performing arts landmark.

Robert Mondavi died May 16 at his Napa Valley home at the age of 94.

"It was really Margrit and Bob who, going back 20 years, first talked about the continuum of wine, food and the arts and the importance of understanding the connections in that continuum," Vanderhoef said.

"We're sad that Bob Mondavi isn't here with us today to share in this moment, but honored by the presence of Margrit and other members of the Mondavi family whose longstanding friendship is treasured by UC Davis."

One of the buildings will house the small-scale Teaching and Research Winery, and the other will be home to the Anheuser-Busch Brewing and Food Science Laboratory, which will include a brewery and pilot food-processing plant. Construction of the buildings, estimated to cost $16.5 million, is slated to begin in June 2009 with completion anticipated in July 2010.

Design and construction of the two phases of the Robert Mondavi Institute complex are estimated to cost a total of $93.5 million.

This includes $73 million for the first phase, $16.5 million for design and construction of the second phase, and $4 million for utilities for the second phase.

Funding for both phases includes $36.2 million from the state of California; $20.8 million from UC Davis; and $36.5 million in philanthropic support from private companies, foundations and individuals. Among the top private donors were Robert Mondavi and the Anheuser-Busch Foundation.