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Winemaking gets smart

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

erin-carson
Erin Carson
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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. 

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2 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Fermentation tanks

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

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3 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Going underground

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

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4 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Tunnels and tanks

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

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5 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

18 stories underground

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

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6 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Palmaz Vineyards

The outside was built with rocks salvaged during excavation. 

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7 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Rotating carousel

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

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8 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

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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9 of 27 Erin Carson/CNET

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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10 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Harvest time

Workers sort through the grapes during harvest time. 

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11 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Barrels and barrels

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

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12 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Tunnels

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

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13 of 27 Erin Carson/CNET

Palmaz Vineyards

Palmaz Vineyards covers 64 acres. 

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14 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

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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15 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Vineyards with a view

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

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16 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

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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17 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Eyes in the sky

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

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18 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

Tracking grapes

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

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19 of 27 Palmaz Vineyards

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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20 of 27 Celso Bulgatti/CNET

Lessons in wine tasting

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

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21 of 27 Treasury Wine Estates

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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22 of 27 Treasury Wine Estates

A vineyard in Sonoma

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

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23 of 27 Treasury Wine Estates

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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24 of 27 Treasury Wine Estates

Sensors among the vines

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

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25 of 27 Arable

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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26 of 27 Erin Carson/CNET

Counting raindrops

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

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27 of 27 Erin Carson/CNET

Flow meters

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

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