Wine Buzz: Solar juice for UCD's winery

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3D

The winery of the future might not need to be hooked up to a power grid, and no worries if the water table isn't sufficient. With the right technology, the building could be self-sustaining and produce a zero-carbon footprint.

So, a ceremonial corkscrew was placed in the ground last week at the University of California, Davis, to mark the site where the Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building is being constructed.

The 8,000-square-foot building isn't a place for fermenting and studying the winemaking process. That's been going down for the past year at an adjacent teaching and research winery at UC Davis' Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.

This new building is more like a cutting-edge power plant that will keep UC Davis' winery running without traditional energy.

The $4 million building will be independent of the university's power and water supply systems. Among the features: Energy will be supplied by solar power systems and fuel cells. All water – for use in cleaning tanks, landscaping and other applications – comes from captured rainwater stored in tanks and recycled.

Think of it as the difference between the prototype of Hyundai's hydrogen fuel cell car and a gas-guzzling SUV.

"It's a test site of technology, yet at the same time allows (UC Davis' research winery) to operate completely off its own power," said Roger Boulton, a winery engineering expert and the Stephen Sinclair Scott Endowed Chair in Enology at UC Davis. "We're trying to show what's possible."

These technologies mean that wineries could exist in places never before possible. As cities grow into rural areas, such self-sufficient wineries won't have to compete as much with energy needs from wider populations.

"This has ramifications in other industries, such as dairies and agricultural processing systems," said Boulton. "It's cutting-edge for anyone who uses water in the food industry in stainless steel tanks, and for anyone who uses hot and cold water, which is everyone. It has many things tied together."

Before winemaker Jess Jackson (as in Kendall-Jackson) died earlier this year, he and his wife, Barbara Banke, of Jackson Family Wines pledged $3 million toward the project. Construction is expected to be completed in late 2012.

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