“When he invited us to his office in 2009 to discuss the possibilities, we thought T.J. might have in mind a financial contribution or perhaps an in-kind equipment donation,” said professor and department chair David Block, the Ernest Gallo Endowed Chair in Viticulture and Enology.

“We were astounded when he laid out hand-drawn sketches of the fermentation system he had envisioned, Block said.

But Rodgers didn’t stop there. As soon as the first generation of fermentors was ready, he and his staff accompanied them to UC Davis, where the Silicon Valley CEO could be found atop a ladder, connecting the fermentors into the winery system and advising winery staff and faculty on their proper use.

A team of Cypress Semiconductor engineers, including Mark Holst, Neel Karkhanis, Tom Bentson and Archana Yarlagadda, has continued to visit the UC Davis winery to assist with installation and fine-tuning of the fermentors as the system has evolved during the past two years.

Rodgers, an electrical engineer with a doctorate from Stanford, fell in love with Burgundy wine when he was a graduate student. He and his wife, Valeta Massey, operate the Clos de la Tech winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, specializing in pinot noir. Wines made from grapes grown in the winery’s own vineyards carry a silicon chip embedded in wax on the neck of each bottle, representing the most successful chip that Cypress Semiconductor manufactured during that harvest year.

Rodgers’ donation to the UC Davis winery has equipped the teaching and research facility to process 50 separate grape lots, each fermenting in triplicate.