“That provides a wine research capacity that has no equal,” Boulton said. “With a 10- to 12-week experimental season each year, it’s essential that we be able to ferment grapes into wine without delay.”

Researchers can now undertake experiments involving many different vineyard sites to better understand how climate, soil, grape clone and viticultural practice interact to influence wine composition.

“The fermentors will play a central and vital role in helping us understand, in a way never before possible, how all viticulture research on grape cultivars, climate, and vineyard sites and practices is critically linked to research on wine flavor and chemistry,” Boulton said.

Thanks to this new technology, students are becoming familiar with real-time fermentation data in Web-based applications. Rodgers also funded positions for two graduate students, who are now developing new fermentation sensors that will estimate yeast populations and color chemistry in the wine. The students are working under the direction of Professor Andre Knoesen in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“We are incredibly grateful to T.J. Rodgers and the Cypress Semiconductor team,” Boulton said. “These fermentors that we now are using for teaching and research will one day become an essential component of every commercial winery.”

He noted that Rodgers’ extraordinary gift for the winery epitomizes the broad-based private support that made the campus’s new winery, brewery and food-processing facility a reality. The building was constructed entirely through private contributions from more than 150 individuals, alumni, corporations and foundations.

The fermentation system gift to the winery is part of The Campaign for UC Davis, the university’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign that seeks to raise $1 billion from 100,000 donors by 2014.

The UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, the largest and most comprehensive university wine program in the United States, has been at the forefront of international grape and wine innovation for 130 years. It continually partners with industry to develop practical solutions to problems that are of concern to winemakers and consumers. More information about the department, which includes 16 faculty members and enrolls 100 undergraduate students and 40 graduate students, is available online.