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A Silicon Valley Pioneer Molds the Next Wave of Innovators at Rice

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$10 billion; it’s a very resourceful group. We support entrepreneurship in lots of ways in lots of universities. You can’t spend glory at the Mercedes dealer. We’ve had our fair share so we come together because we all love entrepreneurship. That’s what made it for us.

X: Tell me about the wine courses. How did that begin?

G: As a young scientist, I knew nothing about wines, but then I moved to San Francisco. You can’t live in San Francisco and not learn something about wine. And anything I decide to be serious about, I’m going to go the distance. I’m going to read all the papers, all the books, until I’m an expert.

So fairly quickly, I started reading fundamental science papers about the science of wine-making and grape-growing and so I got to know all the great pioneers in the field, who were mostly at [the University of California,] Davis. As you get to know wine-makers and grape growers, you start to enjoy wine. So if I have San Francisco/Napa at my back door and I spend a lot of time in France and Italy, I get to know a lot of winemakers. I’d always kept lecture topics current. For European winemakers, I’d give a lecture on the wine industry in California, and for California, I’d give one on practices of winemaking in Bordeaux.

All of this leads to having a wine cellar. You get a little carried away when you’re a guy like me … I was shocked to find out I had about 2,000, 3,000 bottles. This is a lot of wine. I said, Hey, I need to manage the inventory but there’s nothing that you can buy to do that. But then, one day, I had a lesson in just-in-time manufacturing. A wine cellar’s the same thing—you want to buy wines such as the time they spend in your cellar is optimum, with the least cash flow. I wrote some sophisticated software on how you might do that. “Buy smart, drink well” means buy only the best vintages when you need them at the best price and hold them no longer than necessary. Entertain lavishly, be nice and generous to your friends, and drink like a king, all for the least cost.

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