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Robert Mondavi Institute Opens at University of California at Davis

New complex offers cutting-edge facilities to California's top viticulture and enology program

Lynn Alley
Posted: October 13, 2008

The University of California at Davis celebrated the grand opening of the long-awaited $73 million Robert Mondavi Institute (RMI) for Wine and Food Sciences on Friday, welcoming nearly a thousand guests, including academics, students, politicians, vintners and a herd of Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale horses.

The late Robert Mondavi's widow, Margrit Biever Mondavi, and his son Tim Mondavi and daughter Marcia Mondavi Borger joined with university officials to cut the ribbon and open the first part of the center. The day's activities also included a ceremonial groundbreaking for the next stage of the Institute, a 32,000-foot teaching-and-research winery. Congressman Mike Thompson (D), whose district includes both Davis and the Napa Valley, presented a congressional resolution honoring Mondavi.

The RMI complex will give a permanent home to Davis' internationally renowned Department of Viticulture and Enology and its equally regarded Department of Food Science and Technology. It will also offer a new "logo" for the UC Davis campus—the bright terracotta complex can be seen from nearby Interstate 80.

The RMI will "present an exciting new face to the UC Davis campus, reflecting the university's agricultural roots," said Biever Mondavi.

The Viticulture and Enology department welcomed the move to new quarters this summer, leaving nearby Wickson Hall, which the department had occupied since 1959. Quarters at Wickson had long been outgrown, lab and winery facilities had become sadly outdated and the department was badly in need of a new home.

Enter Robert Mondavi, who, though a Stanford alum, had long relied upon the services, research and students coming out of Davis to fill the needs of his growing winery, as did many of his industry colleagues. In 2001, Mondavi donated $25 million earmarked for a new facility for the department, saying, "I had always hoped I would one day be able to give something back to the department for all they've done for California viticulture."

The complex includes three buildings. The Sensory Building, shared by both departments, includes a 75-seat theater, classrooms, research labs and administrative offices. The North Lab building houses Viticulture and Enology while the South Lab building houses Food Science and Technology. The buildings are grouped around a central courtyard, designed for public functions, containing an herb and vegetable garden, a small citrus grove and 10 olive trees, two of each of the classic varieties upon which the California olive industry was built. The sensory building is also home to the new offices of the UC Davis Olive Center.

A 12-acre teaching and demonstration vineyard, located just to the west of the building complex, is slated for planting this winter. Construction on the $16.5 million second phase of the complex is slated to begin in June of 2009. The proposed Teaching and Research Winery and the Anheuser-Busch Brewing and Food Science Laboratory will include a brewery and pilot food processing facility.

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