Winemakers Turn to Apps to Save Water, Perfect Wine

NAPA – Wednesday was the last day of bottling at Shafer Vineyards. As the bottles were loaded onto the bottling machine, winemaker Elias Fernandez checked his cell phone.

“We’re bottling the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon,” he said.

Fernandez wasn’t just checking his phone; he was checking the app that shows him data from the bottling machine. He says Shafer Vineyards is the first in California to use this Italian bottling machine, that’s accessible by smart phone.

“The machine helps keep the quality of the bottles all the same,” Fernandez said.

He says Shafer and many other wineries in Napa are using more technology than ever before.

Fernandez uses two other apps to make wine. The TankNet app allows him to monitor fermenting tanks. If one starts to overheat in the middle of the night, he’ll receive a text alert. Fernandez can then make adjustments on the spot.

"It can save me anywhere from an hour to 6-7 hours a week,” Fernandez said.

The third app connects to a sap flow sensor from Oakland-based Fruition Sciences. Data from the sensor is sent from the vine to his smartphone. He says it’s helped Shafer Vineyards save hundreds of thousands of gallons of water.

"There are some [visible] symptoms that will show when the vine is in need of water, but it may be too late,” Fernandez said. “With this technology we're seeing real time, we can catch the time when the vines really need water.”

Fernandez says it's new technology in a traditional industry, and it’s helping them create a better product while saving more water than ever before.

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