New extension enologist to help boost quality of Pennsylvania wines

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- To support the state's growing winemaking industry, Penn State Extension has hired Denise Gardner, a sensory scientist for Vinquiry Enartis in Windsor, Calif., to become the new extension enologist for Pennsylvania, effective May 2.

With guidance from a wine industry advisory committee, Gardner will develop applied enology research and educational programs aimed at commercial winemakers and their employees. She will conduct on-site evaluations of winemaking operations, recommend improvements and keep winemakers apprised of the latest science regarding wine production methods, winery economics and business practices.

Support for the position, which will be based in the Department of Food Science at Penn State's University Park campus, is provided by the Pennsylvania Winery Association, the state Wine Marketing Research Board and Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

"Pennsylvania's wine industry has come a long way in the last 30 years, from many hobbyists to an increasing number of commercial winemakers," said Don Chapman of Black Dog Winery in Belleville, Pa., chair of the Wine Marketing Research Board.

"This position is vital to the industry because a lot of new and prospective vintners don't have the science background to analyze faults and improve their products," Chapman said. "Working closely with Penn State food scientists, horticulturists and extension educators, the state enologist will play an important role in ensuring the quality and consistency of Pennsylvania wines."

Dennis Calvin, director of Penn State Extension, said Gardner's hiring demonstrates Extension's commitment to support a growing, dynamic industry. "The number of licensed wineries in Pennsylvania has risen from fewer than 30 to nearly 170 in the last three decades," he said. "As a result, the wine and wine grape industries are increasingly important segments of the state's agricultural economy.

"The experience that Denise Gardner brings to the position will be combined with the knowledge of our state wine grape extension educator, Mark Chien, and other research and extension expertise in the College of Agricultural Sciences to provide science-based information critical for success," Calvin added. "We're pleased to partner with the industry to help provide the programs that grape growers and winemakers need to remain profitable."

Pennsylvania ranks seventh among states in wine production, bottling more than 1.2 million gallons annually. The state also ranks as the nation's fifth largest producer of wine grapes, with about 2,000 acres yielding as much as 16,000 tons of grapes. According to a recent study, the wine industry has an annual economic impact of $870 million on the state's economy, including $180 million in tourism-related activity.

As sensory scientist for Vinquiry Inc., Gardner studied the sensory effects of wine products and ingredients such as yeasts and enzymes on red and white wines. She also consulted with winemakers on enological problems and winemaking techniques, prepared and taught sensory-related seminars, and conducted laboratory analysis of juice and wine. Her previous experience included work in retail wine-tasting rooms and vineyard maintenance.

Gardner earned her bachelor's degree from Penn State in food science with a minor in horticulture (small fruits emphasis) and her master's degree from Virginia Tech in food science and technology with an emphasis in enology and flavor chemistry. She is a member of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture and the American Wine Society.

Last Updated April 14, 2011