Winemaking gets smart

Wineries in California are testing out how technology can help them make wine.

Erin Carson
1 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Turning to tech

People have been making wine for at least 9,000 years. In California's Napa Valley, a few winemakers are turning to tech to help improve the process. 

2 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Fermentation tanks

Palmaz Vineyards has its own supercomputer to help conditions inside its fermentation tanks. 

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Going underground

The Palmaz family bought the vineyard in 1997 and built an underground facility into Mount George in Napa.

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Tunnels and tanks

The complex facility of tunnels and tanks took seven years to excavate and build. 

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18 stories underground

Palmaz's facility is about 18 stories underground and comes in at about 100,000 square feet. 

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Palmaz Vineyards

The outside was built with rocks salvaged during excavation. 

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Rotating carousel

There's even a rotating carousel of fermentation tanks, topped by a 54-foot-high dome. 

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The winery supercomputer

Palmaz has its own supercomputer, called Fermentation Intelligent Logic Control System (FILCS, pronounced Felix). FILCS monitors everything that's happening inside the winery's fermentation tanks. 

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Data on the dome

Data from each of the 24 fermentation tanks is projected onto the dome for winemakers to see. Those tanks sit on a rotating carousel underneath the dome.

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Harvest time

Workers sort through the grapes during harvest time. 

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Barrels and barrels

Wine is kept in barrels and stored at around 63 degrees Fahrenheit until it's bottled.

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The walls of the tunnels are covered with gunite, the same material that's used to line swimming pools. 

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Palmaz Vineyards

Palmaz Vineyards covers 64 acres. 

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Crush season

The busiest time for all wineries in California's Napa and Sonoma counties is crush season, typically in September. 

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Vineyards with a view

Tourists come to the California's wine country for the scenery, too. 

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Maturing vines

Palmaz also uses a system called Vineyard Infrared Growth Optical Recognition, or VIGOR, that tells the winemakers how the different vines are maturing.  

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Eyes in the sky

Twice a week, a plane from a local flight school takes multispectral images of the vines. 

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Tracking grapes

Winemakers can track grapes growing in different parts of the property. 

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Mapping grapes

They know which grapes are where and VIGOR also helps them know how much water and sun the grapes are getting.

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Lessons in wine tasting

The author learns about the different variables that can affect a wine's taste and smell. 

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Testing tech

The Grace Benoist Ranch vineyard, which grows grapes for the different labels owned by Australia's Treasury Wine Estates, is also experimenting with technology. 

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A vineyard in Sonoma

This property covers about 200 planted acres in Sonoma, California.

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Grape harvester

Like many vineyards, Grace Benoist Ranch uses a tractor-like machine called a Pellenc Grape Harvester that can cultivate, harvest, destem, pull and mow — and can reach across three rows of vines when fully extended. 

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Sensors among the vines

The vineyard also has different kinds of sensors scattered among the blocks of vines. 

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Weather sensors

Grace Benoist Ranch is experimenting with solar-powered weather sensors that can take readings on things like ambient air temperature and the temperature of the vines.

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Counting raindrops

The top works like a drum skin and can count the number of raindrops that hit it.

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Flow meters

Grace Benoist is also testing flow meters to help them determine how much to water different vines. 

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