Viticulture and Enology Instructor Spotlights | UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education

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Viticulture and Enology Instructor Spotlights

Meet Melissa Pellini


Melissa Pellini has been working in the wine industry since 2007. She studied viticulture and winemaking in northern Italy, where she became interested in the differences between conventional, organic and biodynamic viticulture. Pellini teaches Successful Home Winemaking.

Why are you passionate about winemaking?
I decided to go into winemaking because of the beautiful connection that a bottle of wine has with place, time and the people involved with its production and consumption. There are many variables that can completely change a bottle of wine along its path from grapes to wine, yet there are some characteristics that are everlasting.

Why do you teach?
Helping people achieve their goals and gain autonomy is extremely rewarding. I love listening to students describe their hopes and dreams and then giving them the skills they need to make their plans a reality, whether it’s to become a better wine consumer or to produce barrels of quality wine from homegrown grapes.

How would you describe your teaching style? My classes always start with an introduction to allow me to better understand the goals of the individuals in the class. I incorporate technology to explain complex systems, such as the wine production process, and small hands-on demonstrations to clarify the details of the process. Expect to get your hands dirty pressing a handful of grapes, even in the class sessions! And because there are many ways to make wine, I encourage questions and promote an interactive exchange of ideas.

What do you want students to take away from your course?
I want them to gain the confidence and know-how to produce handmade wine independently. My students also benefit from connecting with other wine and grape-growing enthusiasts.




Meet Chik Brenneman


Chik Brenneman is the winemaker for the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology and manager of the teaching winery and department wine cellar, where he procures wines and oversees the collections. With more than 25 years in the industry, Brenneman has been teaching Wine Filtration and Step-by-Step Winemaking for UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education for 10 years.

Why do you teach?
Because I love it. Winemaking is both an art and a science. If there was a best way to do things, we’d all do it the same way. I like showing people how to make wine, while allowing them to insert their own creativity into it.


How would you describe your teaching style?
I like to think of my teaching as preparing students for life outside the university. Life is not perfect, therefore there needs to be some controlled chaos inserted into any teaching curriculum so the students know how to react when they encounter problems once they are in the industry.


Why is wine filtration important?
It is the best way to ensure long-term product stability. That’s the take away message for students.




Meet Kaan Kurtural



As an associate Cooperative Extension specialist in viticulture with the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, Kaan Kurtural is well versed in helping grape growers solve real-world production issues. “It is very satisfying to see the results of hard work,” said Kurtural, who grew up on a raisin ranch and whose research focuses on understanding whole grapevine physiology in order to improve agricultural practices and adapt to ecological stresses. Kurtural is the instructor of Establishing and Managing a Small Vineyard.

Kurtural describes his teaching style as participatory, where there is an expectation that students will actively engage in class discussions. He also wants students to come away from the class with the ability to manage their small vineyard without outside consultation. “This class is important because there are so many myths surrounding wine grape production,” Kurtural said. “I hope the class will lift the doubts and provide a good skill set for students to manage their small vineyards.”




Meet Lucy Joseph


Lucy Joseph, M.S., is curator of the UC Davis Wine Microbe Collection and co-instructor of Wine Microbiology Workshop. With more than 35 years of experience as a professional microbiologist, she is an expert in spoilage issues, especially Brettanomyces.

Why do you teach?
I enjoy the interaction with people in the industry. They are much more eager to learn and they spend their time wisely when compared to your average undergraduate.


How would a student describe your teaching style?
I never try to tell industry professionals how to make their product but am eager to help them solve their problems and understand the organisms that they use in production.


What do you want students to take away from your course?
I want them to understand that they are working with a living system and the hardest workers in their winery are the microbes that make the product. These microbes deserve their attention and understanding.

Why is wine microbiology important?
It all starts with the microbes that make the alcohol and can impart flavors, good and bad, to wine. The microbes’ health is imperative to production of the final product. You wouldn’t run a dairy without attending to the health of your herd and you can’t make wine without attending to the health of the microbes.