Using a giant corkscrew, Robert Mondavi ceremoniously broke ground Thursday for the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science (RMI) at the University of California, Davis.
Davis staff, students and alumni from the Viticulture and Enology and Food Science and Technology departments (both in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), winery representatives and state and local politicians were on hand to recognize donors and talk about how the new facility will help California remain a global force in wine.
The Department of Viticulture and Enology has been the state's leading academic facility for wine research and education since 1880, when the legislature mandated that the University of California commit to improving the quality of the state's wine. (It moved from Berkeley to Davis in the 1930s). But the Davis staff acknowledges that the current enology facility, built in 1939, is woefully outdated.
The new institute was established in 2001 with a $25 million gift from Robert and Margrit Mondavi. Other donors include the Anheuser-Busch Foundation ($5 million) and Ronald and Diane Miller of Silverado Vineyards ($1 million). In 2004, California voters earmarked $33.6 million for the RMI as part of a statewide bond measure. Another $17 million is needed to complete the institute.
The new facility will include an academic building, a brewing and food science laboratory and a teaching and research winery. The 129,000-square-foot, $91.5 million facility is expected to be completed in 2008.
"Throughout Napa county, throughout Sonoma county, throughout Mendocino county, you can't turn around without bumping into a leader in the wine industry who got their education here at the University of California, Davis," said State Sen. Wesley Chesbro.
State Senator Mike Machado explained that wine has a $45 billion impact on California's economy, and the food industry contributes another $103 billion. "Keeping this state on a competitive edge is its innovative spirit, its faculty, its students and in particular, the University of California here at Davis."
The crowd greeted Robert and Margrit Mondavi warmly and gave the couple a standing ovation. "God bless all of you," said Robert Mondavi. "The future is going to be just as exciting--more so," he said, thrusting a thumbs-up sign in the air.
"It's just a dream come true," said Margrit. The 4-foot tall sculptures of a fork, corkscrew and beer-bottle opener used to ceremonially turn the earth were inspired by sketches she penned. "I get so excited when I see the instruments that are going to break ground," she said. "Or are they utensils?" she added with a laugh.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions