Tuesday, July 03, 2012


This is a multi-part series about wine professors at the various schools focusing on the east coast. I have not covered every state, i.e. Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, etc. I have only focused on those from the major programs and who are seemingly spending a lot of time interacting among industry professionals at conferences, etc. These are the most recognized profs on the east coast. Apologies to anyone who feels they were left out. Happy to take contributions for up-coming segments. The idea of this series is to shine a light on what it is that wine profs do and the services they provide to the industry.

Part 1: The Players
Oenology,[p] œnology (BrE), or enology (AmE) is the science and study of all aspects of wine and winemaking except vine-growing and grape-harvesting, which is a subfield called viticulture. “Viticulture & oenology” is a common designation for training programs and research centers that include both the “outdoors” and “indoors” aspects of wine production. An expert in the field of oenology is known as an oenologist. The word oenology is derived from the Greek οἶνος - oinos, “wine,” and the suffix -λογία, -logia, "study of."

An increasing number of universities now offer B.S. and M.S. degrees in Oenology. Most Oenologists who hold doctorates hold them in related fields, such as plant physiology or microbiology. Oenologists often work as winemakers or find employment with commercial laboratories or with groups such as the Australian Wine Research Institute. Oenologist is the British spelling, closer to the original Greek. Today, in the United States enology and enologist are the accepted spellings.

Traditionally, it’s been thought that the two best schools in the country are UC Davis and Fresno State…which boast a number of star winemakers throughout California. And now Washington state has the program at Wazoo. But what of the east? Lots of things abound. There’s more going on these days than you think.
For this article I have interviewed a number of Wine Profs, but not all of them. I have also spoken to industry professionals, winery owners, winemakers, and others.

But what is a wine prof?

While at the recent Eastern Wineries Exposition 2012, I was thinking to myself, that I’ve been going to winery conventions and growing schools for years, and I’ve seen them cycle through a massive cast of characters, wondering what the hell it is they do? That’s what this series of articles will discuss in depth, discussing who the personalities are on the east coast, what their specialties are, and how anyone can access them. What do they do, day-to-day? How do they help the industry? What are they trying to accomplish? What have they done?

The east coast has its own firmament of stars. For the purposes of this series, I think it best if we just meet the players and go from there. It’s a big cast with some very accomplished people in it, some of whom have been practicing for years, and have helped winery owners, winemakers, and vineyard specialists improve the quality of wine across the board.

First things first. If you go to any growing school, you’ll run across all kinds of profs, who can tell you about all kinds of things. At Cornell for example, they have an entire staff devoted to extension work, with specializations in insect pressure, disease pressure, spray applications, etc. But an enologist is where growing meets winemaking. Each program up and down the east coast usually has only one or two enologists on staff at best.

The first group of enologists that came up in some cases did not have a degree in enology, since many of these programs have only matured in the last twenty years, and in some cases are still developing. The men and women who helped put wine on the map on the east coast were in many cases extension experts who made their way in the grape world after receiving their degrees in agriculture.

For example two of the longest serving enologists today exemplify the different paths the “old timers” took on the way to enology.

Take Bruce Zoeckelin and Gary Pavalis. First off, they’re both PhD’s. Bruce is a food science and horticultural student, who studied microbiology in California, who ended up in Virginia. He’s one of the people responsible for helping bring west coast ideas and technologies from that region and translating them here for more than 30 years. He was very instrumental in helping establish the Virginia wine industry. Gary Pavlis has worked closely with almost every winery in New Jersey (a goodly sum these days), as has had a big hand in helping to establish that industry. But Gary is a County Agricultural Agent. Years ago, getting an enology degree was difficult to obtain. Only a very small number of schools offered such a degree. Today there are many, many more. This is just an example of how far and how fast this industry has matured in the last 40 years.

Both also wrestled with the dichotomy that has long been at issue with enology – researcher or extension agent? Zoecklein has distanced himself from extension agent responsibilities and concentrated on research, while Pavlis has continued down the traditional extension role.

Bruce W. Zoecklein, Emeritus Professor, at Virginia Tech, at the Food Science and Technology Building, in Blacksburg. He is among the longest serving and most accomplished of the Wine Profs. He got his Ph.D. in Food Science and Technology (Virginia Tech, 1995), his M.S., Horticulture (Virginia Tech, 1993) and his B.S., Microbiology (California State University, 1972). He’s written dozens of books, articles, papers, etc., and has received funding from national and regional sources, including both Virginia and California. Bruce has straddled as best he can the viticulture side with the winemaking side. His background in food science has led him to have one of the largest wine testing facilities on the east coast. Also interesting to note, is that Bruce is one of the people who have ushered in a new wave of enology students and wine profs, which makes him the biggest branch in the enology family tree. Bruce is a buttoned down kind of guy, affable and candid. Many of his former students, like Katherine Anne Mansfield, still look to him for advice and answers, and think highly of him.

Gary C. Pavlis is currently County Agricultural Agent. Cooperative Extension of Atlantic County Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Mays Landing, New Jersey. Gary is a small fruits expert. Grapes. Berries. Etc. He’s also done tree fruit work. He’s also an associate professor at Cook College, Rutgers. He’s written numerous papers and magazine articles in his lifetime. Pavlis is also chairman of the annual New Jersey Wine Competition (which banned all wines from competition, in 2011, of wines not using NJ grown fruit) and who directed the judging of Pennsylvania vinifera wines for the Pennsylvania Wine Society for a decade. He has lectured in many places. Gary is the classic Wine Prof, straddling vineyard management with winemaking, though planting and growing are his strongest suit, he knows a lot about winemaking, winery management, etc. Gary is among the wine profs who is most out there. There are dozens of articles wherein Gary has been pumping up the local wine industry over the years. He is gregarious and affable.

Dr. Joseph A. Fiola runs the Statewide Extension and research programs in viticulture (grape growing), enology (winemaking), and tree and small fruits are being created and implemented at the Western Maryland Research & Education Center (WMREC). He is a Viticulture and Small Fruit Specialist. Dr. Fiola holds a B.S. in Horticulture from Cook College, an M.S. in Horticulture from Rutgers University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. He has been with the University of Maryland Extension since 2001. Dr. Fiola has over 20 years of academic and industry experience in research and extension in viticulture and enology. He hosts several annual events, including: Regional Beginners' Grape Growing Workshop; Regional Winter Fruit Meeting; Summer Orchard Tour; Field Days; and Twilight Meetings and Tours. Without question Joe is the winemaking-est of all the Wine Profs. Bruce too makes wines, but not in the same way Joe does. Joe has for years been making wines form anything from apples and honey to grape wines. He’s very friendly about sharing his wines, and has spent years experimenting with wines, flavors, and winemaking effects. At any wine conference, Joe speaks on winemaking usually, and has brought samples and examples of what he’s trying to tell winemakers about, giving them samples to understand those differences, and the results. He speaks everywhere, and his wines are available to anyone to taste. Joe’s results are always very practical in application, and fairly easy to execute. Jovial and friendly, Joe has worked with everyone from Fiore Vineyards to Black Ankle, and is one of the people who have helped establish wine in Maryland.


The late Dr. Bob Pool, a world-renowned viticultural researcher at Geneva , and in 2000 he helped establish a winery which is now the site of Billsboro Winery. Robert M. Pool earned his Ph.D. in 1974 Ph.D. from Cornell University, after receiving his M.S. and B.S. at the University of California at Davis studying food service and enology. Bob was a student of Nelson Shaulis at Cornell, who single-handedly changed viticulture forever by inventing the divided canopy trellis named after the research station (Geneva Double Curtain) and the mechanical grape harvester (he died in 2000) which was a huge contribution for Cornell. Pool was instrumental in grapevine research including: Vinifera variety and clone evaluation, mechanization of vineyard operations, crop level related to grape and wine quality, sustainable viticulture, vineyard floor management, cultural practices and rootstock effects on cold hardiness, and interaction of disease (fungal, bacterial and viral) and vine productivity. All of east coast wine owes a huge debt of gratitude to Bob Pool.

Thomas Henick-Kling no longer works in this region, but I would be remiss not to mention him. His shadow casts far and wide across New York state. Before moving to Australia in 2007, Henick-Kling worked at Cornell University for 20 years. He was instrumental in the establishment of Cornell’s undergraduate program in enology and viticulture. His research has focused on the development of bacteria starter cultures for malolactic fermentation of wine. Based on his initial research and extension efforts, winemakers now recognize that the yeast strain they use has a major impact on the final wine flavor profile. He also headed the U.S. education and research effort about stuck fermentations due to a lack of glucose. As a result of that work, most wine laboratories now measure glucose and fructose separately. Henick-Kling has been honored nationally and internationally for his work. The New York Wine & Grape Foundation awarded Henick-Kling its Wine Industry Research Award in 1994. The International Association of Enology, Winery Management and Wine Marketing made him an honorary life member in 2002. Henick-Kling has won three “best paper in enology” awards from the American Society for Enology & Viticulture, which also selected him as director of its Technical Projects Committee from 1999 to 2006. He also has served as a member of the ASEV board and as a member of the Advisory Committee for the National Viticulture Consortium East. Henick-Kling was the first graduate student at the Australian Wine Research Institute at the University of Adelaide where he earned his Ph.D. degree. He earned his master degree in microbiology and food science at Oregon State University. He was instrumental in helping develop processing methods for the vinifcation of red wines, and in the pioneering of Riesling in the Finger Lakes region.

The new wave of Wine Profs is more trained in the arts of viticulture and winemaking. After a body of work had been formed by people like Zoecklein, Pavlis, and Fiola, among many, there were a whole new generation of young enology profs who are making an impact on the industry. They bring the newest techniques and ideas to the table, but have a solid foundation of learning behind them.

Christopher Gerling, Enology extension associate, of the Cornell University Viticulture and Enology Program. He is an Extension Associate, at the Food Science Lab. Like Zoecklein his concentration is in Food Science. He got his Master's Degree at Cornell University in 2008. Chris seems the epitome of the new Wine Prof. He shows up at conferences downloading massive amounts of information, and liases with numerous state and industry associations, trying to find out what the industry needs, and downloading any current results he has to those bodies in order to help make things happen. He conducts studies, and publishes papers. He’s a very nice guy, always engaging and approachable, Chris is a winemaker, more in the mold say of Zoecklein and Fiola in some ways. He’s interested in process, and discussing process. He likes talking about wine. And that’s a good thing in a Wine Prof.

Anna Katharine Mansfield, assistant professor of Enology, of the Cornell University Viticulture and Enology Program and Assistant Professor, Food Science & Technology at Geneva. Like her mentor Zoecklein, Anna specialized in Food Science and Technology, receiving her doctorate from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in 2008; she got her MS at Virginia Tech (2001); and he BA from Salem College (1996). “I was hired by the U of M in 2001 as their first Enology Project Leader, which is a MS level job. While there, I built there enology extension program, worked with the breeding program to evaluate the enological viability of the new cultivars (and potential cultivars), and co-taught an entry-level class on viticulture and enology. I worked on my PhD part-time as an employee, and finished that in 2008. I left in Dec. 2008 to come to Cornell.” Of all the Wine Profs, Anna is a chemist. She can explain wine like a mathematical equation. Why does your wine smell like bandaids? Here’s how it works, says Anna. She can tell you about phenolics, or clarifying agents, etc. She’s incredible. A whiz. And as enthusiastic as she is dedicated.

Denise Gardner is the newest Wine Prof on the scene. She is a Penn State University Extension Enologist & Wine Blogger. She is another Zoecklein prodigy. She works at State College, Pennsylvania Area Food & Beverages. She was schooled at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Penn State University. In the past she was a Sensory Scientist at Vinquiry Wine Analytical Lab. She did her graduate work at Virginia Tech. As an undergraduate she was a researcher at PSU Food Microbiology Lab. And she had practical experience working as an employee at Manatawny Creek Winery and at Mt. Nittany Winery. Why we like her? She has practical winemaking experience, especially focused on Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot varieties. She’s conducted independent research properly using the scientific method. And she’s managed a series of groups/teams from running high school Teaching Lab Assistant (TLA) program to being group leader in a number of student projects. Denise is an experienced public speaker and presenter. She’s trained to grow wine grapes in northeastern U.S. climate and can conduct sensory evaluations for wine and food products. Denise is the newest “New Kid on the Block.” She has great energy, and she’s never shy about contributing her knowledge to a conversation – which is great. Her enthusiasm is infectious. She’s the first to talk about new approaches and techniques, and often asks “Why?” or “Why not?” in a conversation. Her focus seems to be so far a solid combination of vineyard techniques and practical winemaking suggestions and solutions.

This series is still evolving, and may end up three to four pieces long. In it we will discover what they do, who they work with, and how they influence winemaking.

Postscript: Special note of thanks to Richard Leahy, who has worked with all these people over the years! However, any mistakes, incorrect attributions, or misunderstandings in this column are mine, and mine alone. Thank you to all who participated.