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FALL 2010
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Short Reports

Big Red—and White—Being Bottled at Teaching Winery

By Molly Cronin ’11

Teaching Winery

Students compare wines they have produced.

Breeding and research in wine grapes has taken place at Cornell for over 100 years, but there’s now a new batch of vintners in town: Students are producing the premier big reds—and whites—at the Viticulture and Enology program’s new state-of-the-art, million-dollar teaching winery

“The beauty of the teaching winery is that we get more hands-on experience,” says Mari Rossi ’11, one of the students in the program. “It’s almost like our labs that we do in the teaching winery are mini internships, because everything that we learn helps us realize which parts of the industry we are most passionate about.”

Students carry out all activities related to grape handling and winemaking in Professor Ramón Mira de Orduña’s Winemaking Theory and Practice courses I and II. In the fall, students taste and analyze grapes and monitor their maturation. After harvesting, they move on to crushing, pressing, and fermenting through October and November. In the spring, students resume work on the wines, fining, blending, balancing, stabilizing, and eventually bottling their vintages.

“This year’s varietals are Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay for the whites; and Pinot Noir, Lemberger, and Cabernet Franc for the reds. Students are split into winemaking teams that treat their varietals of choice according to various methods to achieve different wine styles and compare them,” explains Mira de Orduña.

The student winemaking is the yield of a 30-year effort by CALS to expand the viticulture and enology program in keeping with the pace of growth in the industry itself. From the early 1990s, when just two courses were offered in viticulture and enology studies, the program has become a stand-alone undergraduate major, complete with its own teaching facilities. In April 2009, the new teaching winery, located in the Cornell Orchards, officially opened, and students began making wine in the only university facility of its kind in the eastern U.S.

“The New York wine industry has been growing rapidly since the late 1970s,” says Professor Ian Merwin, MS ’88, PhD ’90, referring to the establishment of more than 250 wineries in the state in the last 35 years. “The need for well-trained and creative leaders to support and guide that industry was a key factor in the formation of Cornell’s grape and wines program.”

And are students able to taste the final product after a year of work?

“For an experiment, we did a blind taste test” says Victoria Mariani ’10. “Because we were so familiar with the wines, I was able to identify them. I felt really proud to see the wine finally make it into the bottle.”