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Faculty Focus

Five Questions for Dwayne Bershaw

by Chris Gerling

Dwayne Bershaw joined the Department of Food Science and Technology in January 2015. An enology lecturer, his main responsibility is teaching the advanced winemaking courses in the Cornell teaching winery, including Winemaking Theory and Practice as well as Science and Technology of Beer. Bershaw left a career in manufacturing engineering to pursue an advanced degree in viticulture and enology from UC Davis, graduating with an M.S. degree in 2010. Prior to Cornell Bershaw was the associate director of the Southern Oregon Wine Institute at Umpqua Community College, where he was responsible for all enology instruction and managed a licensed winery and winery incubator program. Bershaw also holds an advanced certificate in wine and spirits from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and is currently working toward the WSET diploma certificate. 

1. What inspired you to work with wine?
With my chemical engineering background I’ve always had an interest in the processes involved in beer and wine production. My engineering career also seemed to take me to regions where winegrowing was an important part of the economy. My first engineering job was in the Columbia Valley AVA of Washington state, and I also worked as an engineer near the Finger Lakes in New York and in northern California near the Santa Cruz mountains. After over a decade of engineering work I was feeling indifferent about my career, and was much more passionate about the wine I was making in my garage, so I decided to make a change, and make winemaking my career.

2. What is your vision for your position within the E & V program?
My vision for working in the E&V program is to give students the most in-depth, up to date, and relevant instruction regarding current production of wine, beer, and spirits. One of the great benefits of having a teaching winery laboratory is that students can participate in the practical application of the theory they are learning in class. By keeping the teaching winery up-to-date with industry practices and equipment we will provide students a wonderful opportunity for relevant applied learning.

3. What courses do you teach and what is the one thing you hope students take away from your class?
I currently teach Winemaking Theory and Practice, as well as the Science and Technology of Beer. In future I’ll be teaching wine chemical analysis and may also teach courses on beer brewing, wine sensory analysis, and distillation, depending on need. For me, one of the most important things students should take away from my class is that there is no one formula for quality production of any particular beverage. There are a million different ways to make wine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean every way will make quality wine. The importance of understanding the fundamental science behind wine production is so that students can make informed decisions about what processes, ingredients, or steps are most critical for the style and quality of the product they are producing.

4. Has anything about the grape and wine industry in New York surprised you?
I’m not an expert on the business side of the wine industry, but one thing that has surprised about coming to the Finger Lakes is the relatively low cost of many wines compared to the prices I was used to in Oregon. This gives local consumers great value but makes me wonder if Finger Lakes producers are finding it difficult to compete in such a competitively priced market.

5. What is your favorite wine and food pairing?
One of my favorite wine and food pairings is drinking dry rosé with holiday meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love the way rosés look and, if dry, I think they pair really well with turkey, ham, and the myriad side dishes which accompany a holiday feast. Do the Finger Lakes produce much rosé? I’ll have to go exploring!

Chris Gerling is enology extension associate with the department of food science, based at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY.