Napa Valley Vintner Brings Robotics To Winemaking Process

NAPA COUNTY (KPIX 5) – Winemaking is a centuries-old process. But at Hall Wines in Napa Valley, it’s getting a high-tech upgrade.

A robotic sorter is doing the work of at least 70 people, and five times faster. Winemaker Steve Leveque says he can craft the perfect grape by punching in specifications.

The machine then separates the rejects from the ones that will make your pinot noir. The $250,000 machine takes 10,000 frames per second, analyzes the fruit instantly, detects imperfections and spits them out.

“Bad berries, pieces of leaves that aren’t the right shape or color,” Leveque said.

This process replaces what 15 workers used to do by hand off a conveyor belt for hours.

“It used to be much more simple. And now we’ve moved to, because of the competition, to more precision wine making,” Leveque told KPIX 5.

Hall Wines believes this results in better, more high-quality wines. The family run mega-winery prides itself on being the most high-tech in the country.

Leveque knows exactly where he’s going and what to look for in the vineyards. He’s in charge of some 500 acres of it across five estate properties, all thanks to an app that uses GPS and mapping.

“During harvest time, it lets me know where the vigor patterns are, which really correlates with ripening patterns, so it really helps me to determine how to pick a vineyard so it’s just perfectly ripe,” Leveque said.

And even when he goes home for the day, Leveque can monitor the temperature of every fermentation tank in the cellar.

“If it hits a certain temperature, it’ll start cooling. If it drops too low, it’ll start warming,” Leveque explained.

The system also sends alerts and sets alarms if there are any mechanical failures.

“With all these different available technologies that we’re using and adopting in the wine making process it really does allow you to do things without excuses,” Leveque said.

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