January 28, 2016

Director of Cornell Wine Lab Remembered for Research

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Ben Gavitt ’79, director of Cornell’s New York State Wine Analytical Lab in Geneva, NY, died Dec. 25 of cancer at age 59.

Gavitt was born in Ithaca and graduated from Cornell in 1979 with a degree in microbiology, according to the University. He then joined the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, an integral part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which focuses on producing high quality food products.

Gavitt returned to Cornell as a research and extension support specialist for the Wine Analytical lab in 1989 where he dedicated his career to analyzing the chemical and microbiological composition of juice, wine and distillates. Through his research, he helped to improve the taste and quality of wines produced worldwide.

Through research, he helped ensure the quality of wines across the Finger Lakes region, according to Chris Gerling, enology extension associate at the Experiment Station, according to the University.

“Ben spent his career improving wine in New York, and was a great friend to winemakers across the state,” Gerling said.

Gavitt’s research helped winemakers identify flaws at different stages of wine production, as the Finger Lakes Region became internationally distinguished in wine production, according to the University.

The lab where Gavitt spent his career provided 25 different chemical, microbiological and sensory analyses of wine. The research the lab conducted allowed wineries to detect trace elements including iron and copper which can influence wine stability and resolve issues that result from contamination and fermentation.

As a father and lifelong resident of Union Springs, Gavitt served on the Union Springs School Board for the past 16 years as an advocate for the district’s children, according to the Syracuse Post Standard.

Gavitt and his wife also created and operated the Noblessa Cattery, from which they bred and showed many Persian cats, according to their website.

Gavitt is survived by his wife and son.