Emeritus Professor of Enology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
Kunkee is Professor Emeritus of Enology from the University of California at Davis, having retired some fifteen years ago. Ralph’s major research and teaching interests have to do with: wine yeast, the malolactic fermentation and the sources and controls of microbiological spoilages of wines. The wine yeast studies involved the characterizations, descriptions and utilities of various yeast strains, now standard winemaking tools—-but at that time, they were just beginning their establishments in the California (hence global) wine industry. The research on malolactic fermentation helped bring understanding to this bacterial activity, and how to control it. These research efforts resulted in the publication of nearly 150 scientific articles and co-author of two enological texts. Several of the research articles, and one of the texts, received prize-winning acclaim.
In addition, he played a helpful role several years ago in the transition of the American taste in wines–and the corresponding change in California wine production–from high alcohol dessert/appetizer wines of the time to the lower alcohol table wines of today, by indoctrinating and urging the use of sterile filtration and sterile bottling as the standard means for wine stabilization. He has visited essentially all of major wine growing regions of the world, and spent twelve-month sabbatic leaves in two of them (Germany and France).
Concerning his teaching, Ralph calculated that he taught over 1000 students in his specialty laboratory course: Microbiology of Winemaking—-and most of those students are now widely distributed throughout the wineries of California and of the rest of the world. Although Ralph has retired, he is still involved in lecture presentations, in consultations and in wine judgings. He is currently instructing in a Distance Learning class, “Introduction to Winemaking,” through UCD Extension, with about 100 students annually.