Dr. Dick Jones has a nose for fine wine and he’s hoping to share that gift with others through his latest invention.
From his home-based lab and tiny basement winemaking operation in Naramata the retired professor of medicine, has developed a process to help vino retain more of its fruity flavour, something normally lost in the fermentation process.
His carbon dioxide-scrubbing process has the proven capability of keeping more of the essence in the final product, thus making it highly palatable for the consuming connoisseur.
Through the use of a pump and specialized membrane, Jones has developed a method which allows the CO2 produced by the yeast to escape while keeping the flavour (aroma compound) inside the fermenting container.
The ease of incorporating the process into commercial wine production has the very real potential to revolutionize the industry worldwide.
“I first noticed in 2012 when I was fermenting some pinot gris from the tiny little vineyard at my house, ‘does this ever smell good,’ and then I realized is what I’m smelling I’d like to keep in the wine,” said Jones, who worked as a professor of pulmonary medicine for 35 years at the University of Alberta, specializing in cardiovascular, lung and exercise physiology. “If you’ve been in a winery during fermentation it smells pretty good. The reason it smells good is because all those aroma compounds have been blown out of the wine.
“It’s simply like a leaf floating down the river, it (CO2) carries the aroma compound out of the tank.”
To make sure he wasn’t imagining things, Jones arranged some blind taste tests, the latest one last Valentine’s Day involving 16 experts and utilizing Paul Gardner’s Pentâge Winery in Penticton, already reputed for its pinot gris.
They put 700 litres of grape juice in one 1,000-litre tank which was the control product and the same amount in another utilizing his process.
And the winner was?
“The judges were just blown away by the difference of our wine,” said Jones. “For the first time we had professionals making the wine, not just me, I was worried about that because here I’m putting this technique up against some pretty tough customers.”
At that point he, Gardner and good friend Walter Meyer formed a company.
Jones admitted his limited business skills were the reason he hooked up with the pair.
“I simply knew what I would do,” he said. “I would feel just really proud that I came up with this idea and the thing would sit here. Spend a bunch of money just to feel good and I wouldn’t do anything with it.”
Case in point was a time when he sketched a cab add-on he thought might help the aerodynamics of semi trailer trucks and reducing fuel consumption.
“Yeah I sketched it and never did anything about it, you know too busy and all that,” he recalled sadly. “Ten years later every truck you see has one.”
However, one brainchild Jones didn’t let slip through his fingers, he now describes as one of the best inventions to come out of the University of Alberta.
It is a since-patented, nicotine nasal spray to help people quit smoking.
However, how he came up with the concept didn’t involve being locked in a laboratory for days.
Jones still chuckles when he thinks about it.
He was on a leave from the university to pursue his other passion — flying float planes — and was in Yellowknife working as chief pilot of a small airline he and friend had started.
A month earlier he had dropped a couple of trappers off at their cabin on a remote lake and had just returned to pick them up.
“They helped me dock the airplane and the first thing one of them said was: ‘do you have a cigarette,’” said Jones. “I said: ‘yeah’ I still smoked then, and asked if they had run out. What had happened is they forgot the cartons of cigarettes on the front seat of the truck when they left.”
As a smoker Jones realized the torment they must have gone through and asked how they survived.
The men told him they had scoured the inside and outside of the cabin, collecting a bucket of cigarette butts to which they added lake water and let the concoction steep for a day or so.
One of them had a nasal spray bottle which they put some of the liquid inside and inhaled it.
“At the time I thought: ‘ah that’s baloney’ but the first thing I did when I got back to Yellowknife was put a cigarette in a glass of water and swished it around and tried it and oh, you do get a hit of nicotine,” said Jones.
When he got back to the university he continued working on the idea, doing a few experiments before coming up with the final product.
“I tried various things, spraying it in my mouth, inhaling a vapour and then I decided why not just spray it in my nose and I did, and bang, what a tremendous hit and I gave up smoking right way,” he said.
After sharing his discovery with medical colleagues it was eventually patented and was the beginning of the Nicotrol prescription brand products.
Jones will be one of eight guest speakers at the Nov. 25 TEDx Penticton at the Cleland Theatre sharing his wine taste-enhancing process and its potential.
This year, the format is shifting from a day-long event for 100 people, to a three-hour evening for 400. The theme this year is The Young. The Wise. The Transitional. Matching that up with speakers from diverse backgrounds including students, B.C. wine pioneer Harry McWatters; Bob MacDonald the host of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks; indigenous artist Lee Claremont; former NASA director of education Patricia Tribe and more.
For more information on how to purchase tickets or to read more on the speakers visit www.tedxpenticton.ca.