A gift of $25 million from vintner Robert Mondavi to the University of California, Davis, the largest private contribution in the history of the campus, establishes a new, world-class Institute for Wine and Food Science there.

Announcement of that gift accompanied word that Mondavi and his wife Margrit also donated another $10 million to UCD for the new, $70 million Center for the Performing Arts, which is a year from completion and will bear their names. The contributions are the latest in a series of philanthropies by the couple.

The institute, a 75,000-square-foot complex of state-of-the-art laboratories, classrooms, offices, and meeting rooms, also will feature a 10,000-case research winery and a 13,000-square-foot pilot plant for food processing and brewing. The Mondavi gift will be combined with campus funds and other private contributions for completion of the project.

Far beyond dreams

The institute comes at a time when UCD's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is placing new emphasis on research and teaching in food production, food and beverage processing, and human health.

The Department of Viticulture and Enology will benefit materially from the new institute, according to department chairman Jim Wolpert. “This is far beyond anything we had dreamed of,” he said in detailing the varied uses projected for the facility.

His department serves about 100 undergraduate students and another 70 in graduate programs, roughly about twice the levels of five years ago.

Wolpert said the new institute will attract more foreign viticulture and enology students, who customarily comprise 20 percent to 30 percent of the enrollment. Many, he said, complete studies abroad and then come to UCD for postgraduate courses. The exposure to wine industries of France, Germany, Spain, Italy and South American nations lends a unique cachet to the department.

Charles Shoemaker, chairman of the Food Science and Technology Department, said the proximity and consolidation of programs at the institute will accommodate valuable sharing of research and teaching labs for microbiology and chemistry. Such is inconvenient now because of the distance between departmental labs housed in Wickson and Cruess halls, cramped for space and occupied nearly 50 years ago.

The department serves about 100 undergraduate students in food science, biochemistry, and fermentation sciences and 65 students in master's and doctoral programs in food science.

Shoemaker said programs for brewing, cheese making, manufacturing of beverages made from almond, soy, and rice, and the new science of manufacturing nutriceutical products will be strengthened by the institute.

Faculty, student gains

He said he is elated that the partnership between the university and Robert Mondavi will help attract an even higher caliber of faculty and students.

Groundbreaking for the institute, to be built adjacent to the new Center for the Performing Arts on Old Davis Road near Interstate 80 at the southern boundary of the campus, is planned for 2004.

Departmental representatives, campus planning personnel, and outside consultants will be involved in planning of the institute, and industry representatives will have a role in selection of a director.

Robert Mondavi and his son Michael established the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa in 1966. The family enterprise has since grown to five wineries and extensive vineyards in California, plus winemaking partnerships in Europe, Chile, and Australia. Robert's wife Margrit, his son Timothy, and his daughter Marcia Mondavi Borger, are also principals in the company.

e-mail: dbryant@primediabusiness.com