One Harker alumnus has leveraged his middle school science experiment to create a delicious wine. Will Jarvis MS’97, while boarding at Harker, received special dispensation to conduct a wine making experiment for his science class. This spring, Jarvis Winery (a family business), will release a wine based on the experiment. Jarvis, now attending Stanford business school, wasn’t able to sample the wine until he came of age nearly 10 years later.
After aging, the experimental wine was bottled and stored at the winery. When he and his family did open the bottles, they were excited enough about the flavor to call in their resident wine expert, who pronounced the wine exceptional. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” said Jarvis when he stopped by to help celebrate the opening of the Ringold Research Laboratory in Nichols Hall in February. “It was mostly conceived as a science experiment, so it wasn’t until later, when we actually tasted the wine, that we actually started to get excited about the quality.” That led to Jarvis’ second attempt to make wine. “Because it was inspired by the science project we decided to name it the Will Jarvis Science Project,” he said. Since college, Jarvis has been involved in wine making. “I have cycled through different positions at the winery,” he noted. “I did a summer working in the fields, a summer in shipping, I’ve done accounting and led tours for a summer; so I made my rounds through the winery, but this is my only personal attempt at wine making since Harker.”
Jarvis recalled the fuss around his original batch, which was in a seven- or eight-gallon cask, compared to the usual 60- gallon barrel. “There was a lot of excitement surrounding the experiment, given it was a fairly unusual project in that I was a 13- or 14-year-old middle school student making wine in my dorm room. Things were pretty compact so there wasn’t anywhere for me to put the barrel except the foot of my bed. That’s what I remember the most: having to live around the barrel, sort of negotiating my living space. Surprisingly enough, as far as I know, no one dipped into the keg – there weren’t any unauthorized wine tastings.”
Now, the new half-barrel (30- gallon) vintage, approved by the winery’s expert, is ready for sale. “We happened upon the quality of the smaller barrel serendipitously, through the science experiment,” said Jarvis, “but it makes a lot of sense because during wine making there is a well known trade-off during aging between absorbing a lot of the desirable oak-y flavors form the barrel, and losing some of the natural fruity flavor of the wine, which is also desirable. That (trade-off) just seems to be a function of time.
“The idea with the smaller-sized barrel, which has a higher surface to volume ratio, is that you absorb the oak at an accelerated rate so you don’t need to age the wine as long in order to absorb the same amount of oak flavor. The end result is that you are ageing the wine for a shorter amount of time in the barrel before you bottle it (and) when you bottle it you are essentially capturing (the flavor at that moment). People have used smaller barrels for experimental purposes before, but we are almost certainly the first winery to try that on a production scale.” Read more about Will Jarvis and his Science Experiment in the June Alumni News!