Wine making is indeed an art form, but it is increasingly becoming more scientific. I knew growing wine grapes requires a lot of attention to detail -- there is the terroir, pests and diseases and all those microclimates. But who would have known, driving down Hwy 29, the main thoroughfare through the Napa Valley, that many of those vineyards are totally wired.
In our radio story, we feature the stylishly high tech Vineyard 29 and the Robert Mondavi Winery, but scores of other wineries are using a similar toolbox of technology to help them monitor the soil's water content to grow better grapes. The technology ends up conserving water, too. Remote sensing, ground penetrating radar and satellite technology have helped Mondavi cut back on water use by 30% in recent years.
Winemakers are using some of the same technology that NASA uses to study Mars and engineers use to build hi-rises and freeways. A typical toolbox includes multi-spectral imaging, weather stations, neutron moisture probes, and pressure bombs and there is a plethora of newer technologies in the pipeline. But enough with all the high tech gizmos. How does wine from high tech vines taste? The answer might be found in the success of the winery. Mondavi has won numerous awards over the years and there is a two-year waiting list just to purchase Vineyard 29 wines.