Winemaking gets smart
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.
Palmaz Vineyards has its own supercomputer to help conditions inside its fermentation tanks.
The Palmaz family bought the vineyard in 1997 and built an underground facility into Mount George in Napa.
Tunnels and tanks
The complex facility of tunnels and tanks took seven years to excavate and build.
18 stories underground
Palmaz's facility is about 18 stories underground and comes in at about 100,000 square feet.
The outside was built with rocks salvaged during excavation.
There's even a rotating carousel of fermentation tanks, topped by a 54-foot-high dome.
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.
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.
Workers sort through the grapes during harvest time.
Barrels and barrels
Wine is kept in barrels and stored at around 63 degrees Fahrenheit until it's bottled.
The walls of the tunnels are covered with gunite, the same material that's used to line swimming pools.
Palmaz Vineyards covers 64 acres.
The busiest time for all wineries in California's Napa and Sonoma counties is crush season, typically in September.
Vineyards with a view
Tourists come to the California's wine country for the scenery, too.
Palmaz also uses a system called Vineyard Infrared Growth Optical Recognition, or VIGOR, that tells the winemakers how the different vines are maturing.
Eyes in the sky
Twice a week, a plane from a local flight school takes multispectral images of the vines.
Winemakers can track grapes growing in different parts of the property.
They know which grapes are where and VIGOR also helps them know how much water and sun the grapes are getting.
Lessons in wine tasting
The author learns about the different variables that can affect a wine's taste and smell.
The Grace Benoist Ranch vineyard, which grows grapes for the different labels owned by Australia's Treasury Wine Estates, is also experimenting with technology.
A vineyard in Sonoma
This property covers about 200 planted acres in Sonoma, California.
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.
Sensors among the vines
The vineyard also has different kinds of sensors scattered among the blocks of vines.
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.
The top works like a drum skin and can count the number of raindrops that hit it.
Grace Benoist is also testing flow meters to help them determine how much to water different vines.