Student spotlight: Erica Rokke

Uploaded by umncbs on 31.07.2009

I lived with a host family for five months
right outside of Montpellier and they just
really knew how - you know they worked hard -
but they just know how to enjoy the time
they had off. Every single night my host mom,
who worked all day, would come home and cook
a five-course meal. She would cook stuff from
different regions of France and Spain and
would teach me about the styles of food
along with, you know, the wine we were drinking
so that's kind of where my passion comes from.
I work at a wine store right now and I was
looking for some more experience in wine
just to get it on my resume.
My professor that does the wine class at the U,
Jim Luby, I assumed that he had all kinds of contacts
so I sent him an email. He sent me Tim's name and
said that he needed help starting a vineyard
and I pretty much would be farming,
but it's a good way to start.
What we want to do is train the vines
up the bamboo shoot. Keep them as straight
as possible, especially the first year
because the bottom will keep thickening up
and so if you don't pay attention to it,
it will start growing on the ground and then
you can't do anything about that.
At the wine store I'm getting sales experience
as well as tasting experience. I get to taste
all kinds of wine, which is a big part of it,
learning the vocabulary for that.
And then here I get to learn the agriculture
side of it which will help me understand
the different styles of wine because the earth,
the terroir is what it's called,
is where it's grown, the climate, everything surrounded
with the weather goes into the grapes and
a lot of the wines you can taste where they come from.
So understanding how they're grown and the
differences in soil and such things like that
will help me understand the wine itself.
I found through my professor, Jim Luby,
he hooked me up with Adrian Hegeman who
had the possibility of doing some research
on grapes and we're actually collaborating right now
to try to figure something out to do some
directed research on resveratrol which is
a component in the skins of red grapes.
So there's been lots of research with
cab, pinot noir, syrah, all those grapes,
but we don't really know anything about
the hybrids at all and what's in there,
what's left in there.
When they bred them, they did breed for cold hardiness
and flavor compounds, but they're finding that
certain things have been changed in enzymatic pathways
and so figuring out what actually is in there
and the reactions that are going on while they're growing
is something that could actually help maybe
engineer grapes differently in order to
get the flavor compounds that we want.