UC Davis has long been home to the premiere vinification programs in the United States but the lauded institute of higher education has been hiding a terrible secret.
The viticulture department at UC Davis runs a 40-acre research facility in Napa Valley called the Oakville Station Vineyard. Using grapes they plant, nurture, and harvest, students produce some 6,500 gallons of wine per year, and that’s just at Oakville. More wine is produced using grapes from other sources, resulting in a total annual production into the five figures. And all of it is dumped.
You read that right – dumped!
Thankfully, a recent piece in The Sacramento Bee highlighted new legislation that could turn waste into opportunity:
A new California law, Senate Bill 683 by former Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, authorizes the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to license a university-associated nonprofit mutual benefit corporation that can accept up to 20,000 gallons of wine.
Rather than marketing wine under the university’s name, UC Davis would sell the wine students make to other entities who would in turn repackage and market the juice under a new name. That approach avoids some of the concerns that come along with turning a university into a for-profit enterprise while still generating much-needed income to help support the UC Davis’ viticulture program. While not all the wine UC Davis produces would be suitable for sale, finer examples could fetch prices of $80 or more, and that’s not small potatoes (or grapes? Hmmm…).
Still, the bill has encountered some opposition. Michael Scippa, who is the director of public affairs for “industry watchdog” Alcohol Justice, says:
“We think it’s an aberration of ABC policies and a degradation of the rules that offer protection to public health and safety. Colleges and universities throughout the country have terrible problems with underage consumption (and) binge drinking. There needs to be a separation at some point.”
Do you agree with Scippa? Why or why not? And if you new a bottle originated at UC Davis, would you buy it?
Read more about the new bill and what it could mean for UC Davis and wine lovers here.