Alumni Spotlight: Cornell Alumnus helps Finger Lakes winery win Governor's Cup award

STUDENT FOCUS

By Andrea Elmore and Tim Martinson

August Deimel
"The MPS program absolutely provided a solid background in the science of winemaking and grape growing. I use information from all the classes I took in my daily work as a professional winemaker."

August Deimel  MPS '11

Winemaker August Deimel, MPS '11, has a lot to be proud of since joining the team at Keuka Spring Vineyards.  The winery recently won their second Governor's Cup, the top award in the New York wine industry.  Winery owners Len and Judy Wiltberger took home the top prize for their 2012 Riesling—and won awards for several other wines as well— at the 28th annual New York Wine and Food Classic in Watkins Glen.  The 2012 Riesling was Deimel's first start-to-finish vintage since he joined Keuka Spring Vineyards in the spring of 2012.

"August has done a wonderful job for us at Keuka Spring," said Len Wiltberger, owner of Keuka Springs. "His experience at Cornell gave him a depth and breadth of wine knowledge that we believe has been critical to his success here at the winery."

Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Deimel got his start in wine working the harvest in 2005 at Goldeneye Winery in Philo, CA.  Knowing that he eventually wanted to be a part of the East Coast wine industry, Deimel decided to attend Cornell University to pursue a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences degree, with a focus on enology.

"Cornell was the enology program that seemed to offer the greatest opportunity for insight into this region's advantages and challenges," said Deimel.

While at Cornell, Deimel took advantage of the course offerings in enology, viticulture, and agricultural finance.  As part of his degree, Deimel also completed a research project on acid reduction with his advisor, assistant professor of enology Anna Katharine Mansfield. The focus was newly-released cold-hardy hybrid grapes developed at the University of Minnesota, which retain more acidity when ripe than European wine grape varieties.

"One of the things we were interested in was how to deal with the painfully high acidity common in these new wine grapes," said Deimel.  "Having looked at several biological approaches in previous studies (e.g., malolactic fermentation), we looked at a technique called double salt deacidification as a possible alternative." 

Deimel made wine from several Minnesota cultivars and tried different treatments on the various lots.  Results were analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to precisely measure the acids before and after winemaking.  Double salt was also performed on model solutions to better understand the chemical reactions involved. 

"The MPS program absolutely provided a solid background in the science of winemaking and grape growing," Deimel said.  "I use information from all the classes I took in my daily work as a professional winemaker."

He credits Cornell with providing him with a theoretical foundation of winemaking, and he continues to learn new practical applications of those principles.

 "I feel like I'm just beginning to learn the ins and outs of winemaking.  It would take several lifetimes to become truly expert," he said.

For more information on the MPS program, contact Andrea Elmore at ace23@cornell.edu or 607-255-2539.

Andrea Elmore is the undergraduate coordinator for the Viticulture and Enology Program and Tim Martinson is senior extension associate in the department of horticulture.