February 17, 2017 – The University of California Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology is one of the most highly regarded institutions in its field in the world. As a part of the winemaking curriculum, the students make wine but until recently, the wine, some made from grapes grown in a prime vineyard location in the Napa Valley, was poured down the drain. Why? Well, we have laws and you just can’t monkey around with alcohol.
However, a bill has been passed allowing the University to set up a non-profit corporation to sell the wine in bulk to licensed wineries that will package and sell it under their own brands. The revenue will be used to defray expenses of the viticulture and enology programs. The bill allows for the sale of up to 20,000 gallons, which makes about 8,400 cases, but the Department usually produces around 5,000 to 7,000 gallons a year.
UC Davis has a 40-acre research vineyard known as the Oakville Station Vineyard in the Napa Valley. Oakville is one of the prime areas of the Valley and the quality of the wine produced there is comparable to wines that retail for $80 a bottle. Wines that don’t turn out so well are a teachable moment showing students what happens when mistakes are made. Such wine will be sold as wine vinegar.
Other universities with viticulture and enology departments have been selling the fruits of their labors for some time. Fresno State claims to be the first university in the country to hold a license to operate a winery and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo sells its wine with a label that says Cal Poly Wine.
Of course the scolds are whining that it is unseemly for UC Davis to be in the wine business. Alcohol Justice, an activist group formerly called Marin Institute, cited the terrible problems of underage and binge drinking. This group attacks alcohol consumption every which way and would be happy to see Prohibition reinstated. That worked out well the first time around, didn’t it?