Vintner Donates $500,000 To Help Ensure Clean Grapevines

Williams Selyem Winery Proprietor John Dyson has increased his commitment to agricultural stewardship, especially clean grapevine materials, with the gift of a half a million dollars towards the funding of a $1.5 million endowed chair position in the Department of Plant Pathology at University of California (UC), Davis.

Ultimately, the holder of this Chair will serve as the Director of Foundation Plant Services (FPS) in addition to his or her faculty appointment in the college. FPS was established in 1958 to distribute virus-tested, professionally identified grape, fruit and nut tree propagation stock. The department has been headed by Director Deborah Golino for the past 22 years.

“Our motto at Williams Selyem has always been to make the best wines, from the best grapes, from the best growers. The best growers require the best virus free grape vines to produce the best grapes from healthy vines,” said Dyson, who with his wife, Kathe, owns the California winery and wineries in New York and Tuscany. “I am giving this gift to honor the Deanship of my friend Helene Dillard and to recognize Deborah Golino, who has taken on a challenging position and has instituted rigorous science to give wineries clean vines. I have a great deal of respect for her work.”

A New York native, Dyson worked closely with Dean Dillard while she was Director of Cooperative Extension and on the faculty at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. His relationship with Foundation Plant Services dates back to 1982 when he purchased cuttings for “a nickel a piece” to plant his first vineyards. Since then, Dyson has relied on scientists like Golino to provide healthy virus free grape propagating material and tackle challenges that face all growers, like plant and soil disease.

“This is an incredible investment in our program,” said Golino. “An endowed chair will ensure UC-Davis will always be able to recruit a top scientist to lead FPS and continue to provide exceptional plant materials to the grape, rose, strawberry and other industries who rely on us.”

Golino’s most recent Protocol 2010 research is setting the future national standard for grapevine foundation material in the U.S. at a rigorous new level to ensure the freedom of grapevine foundation material from exotic and harmful viruses.

Williams Selyem is working with FPS and the Department of Plant Pathology by planting its own nursery increase block in the Vista Verde Vineyard on the Central Coast next spring.  Eventually the plantings will fill almost six acres at the estate and will include up to 32 clones of ‘Pinot Noir,’ ‘Chardonnay,’ and ‘Merlot’ from Davis’ Protocol 10 project.

As a result, Williams Selyem will have its own source of clean, virus-free rootstocks and clones should it needs or wants to do replanting in its own vineyards. Surplus clean material from this project will be made available to other wineries so that they can enjoy the same healthy plants for their own vineyards.

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