Grapes in a vineyard (Jael Mackendorf/UC Davis)
Grapes in a vineyard (Jael Mackendorf/UC Davis)

Seed Gift Funds Research on How Location, Soil Influence Wine

Silver Oak Cellars Pledges $100,000, Hopes Others Donate

Silver Oak Cellars, a family-run business known for its cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir wines, donated $100,000 to the University of California, Davis, to support research on how characteristics like soil chemistry and location affect wines that we enjoy and attribute to specific places, including but not limited to Napa Valley. 

The money will help fund Department of Viticulture and Enology research to better understand how the same grapes planted in different locations can result in wines that have distinctive flavor, texture and other sensory attributes. 

“We’re always trying to find a way to understand more about what all the different inputs are for making fine wine,” said David Duncan, proprietor, chairman and CEO of Silver Oak Cellars. “I think the research will be valuable for the industry.”

Spread over three years, the gift intends to support students in their research, travel expenses, supplies and faculty time for site-specific winemaking. 

“This gift is an investment that will enable us to research the role of minerals in the formation of distinctive flavor and texture compounds that emerge repeatedly from grapes grown on specific sites, as well as the role of minerals, such as iron, in fermentation and aging outcomes,” said Ron Runnebaum, an assistant professor of viticulture and enology.

Duncan, whose company was founded in 1972 and includes the brands Twomey, Ovid Napa Valley and Timeless Napa Valley, said he hopes this gift will prompt others to donate and invest in research. 

“Our gift is meant to be a leadership gift, and not fully funding this research,” he said. “We want others to join us in helping fund the research.”


Make a gift to the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology at, or contact Jennifer Martinez at or 530-902-5985 for more information.

Media Resources

Primary Category

Secondary Categories

University News