Summer Abroad France - Instructor

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Introduction to Winemaking

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Charles 'Chik' Brenneman

Department of Viticulture & Enology

Charles ‘Chik’ Brenneman is the winemaker and facilities manager for the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California at Davis. He is responsible for all winemaking and vineyard operations that support the department’s teaching and research mission. Prior to coming to UC Davis in 2006 he worked as the Production Lab Manager for Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Winery in Lodi. He has worked as cellar master for both Amador Foothill Winery and Domaine de la Terre Rouge in Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley. Chik holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree (1983) from California State University, Sacramento in Clinical Laboratory Science, a career in which he worked in until enrolling in the UCD Master’s program in 1995. He received his Master’s Degree in Enology from the Department of Viticulture and Enology in 1998. Chik came to the University in 2006 and helped design and oversee the building of the new Teaching and Research Winery at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. Outside of the university, Chik is the winemaker and managing partner for Baker Family Wines, a boutique winery brand that specializes in high quality, small lot production wines.

A Message to Students and Parents

I first taught VEN 3, Introduction to Winemaking in France in the summer of 2012. I returned again in 2014 and 2016. As a winemaker and educator, I can’t think of a better place to learn about winemaking than in a region that has a century’s-long history of growing grapes and producing wine. We travel to many regions in France experiencing the local culture, food, and wines that make that particular region renowned. We visit small family owned wineries. In these wineries we are treated to small hosted tastings, often given by the winemakers themselves. I love listening to their passionate stories of winemaking, and how their wineries have been handed down through the generations. Aside from the small wineries, we travel to larger, higher volume production facilities, where we see the scaled up version of winemaking. All the wineries we visit are quality producers, and there is not a bad wine to be found. By studying in France, combined with our site visits students from all majors get a sense of how grapes are grown and how wine is made. Given the laws and restrictions regarding teaching winemaking in the United States, this is a one of a kind course. We learn about the process, and then can taste the wines, and talk about the process that resulted in that particular flavor profile. The field trips are intended to reinforce the classroom studies. I have had many students comment at the end of the course that this course is going to be a course that they will remember for the rest of their lives. Wine has cultural, historical and health aspects associated with it in addition to the technology and geography of production. This means that students from all disciplines find a point of contact and identity in the class material.