From Foot-Stomping Grapes To Robots, Clos De La Tech Vineyard Embraces New And Historical Know-how

Within the 1990’s, TJ Rodgers visited the tiny village of Vosne-Romanée in France and fell in love with the Pinot Noir grape used to make crimson Burgundy wine. Impressed by the style of those wines, he determined to plant one acre of Pinot Noir grapes within the Santa Cruz Mountain AVA (appellation) close to his residence in Woodside, California. Nevertheless, because the CEO of Silicon Valley primarily based Cypress Semiconductor, he made the novel choice of mixing historical winemaking practices, similar to foot-stomping of grapes, with leading edge applied sciences like drones and robots within the vineyards. Thus Clos de La Tech Vineyard was born.

“I’m a fan of the information of the ancients,” explains TJ Rodgers, now retired from Cypress, however serving as a enterprise capitalist for a number of photo voltaic firms. “My winemaking course of consists of one of the best of the traditional practices, however is enhanced by know-how – in any case I’m a scientist,” states Rodgers.

Certainly Rodgers has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford College, and has studied winemaking methods at UC-Davis, however he believes in combining one of the best of historical and new applied sciences. This additionally accounts for the title of the vineyard: “Clos” is a French time period to explain a small walled winery, however “La Tech” celebrates Rodgers’s Silicon Valley heritage. Till two years in the past, every bottle of Clos de La Tech pinot noir (starting from $65 to $125 per bottle) was adorned with a semiconductor chip, however because of the world scarcity of chips, this apply has been discontinued.

Slicing Edge Know-how at Clos de La Tech Vineyards

Over time Clos de La Tech has expanded to incorporate 40 acres of prime pinot noir vineyards, unfold throughout three websites. The standard French tight spacing of 1 meter by one meter is used between the vines (round 4150 vines per acre), and the very best winery sits on high of the mountains at 1800 ft with a 180 diploma view of the Pacific Ocean. The vineyards are organically farmed, however not licensed natural.

If you’re lucky sufficient to safe an appointment to go to the non-public mountain high winery with three caves dug deep into the hillside, make sure that to make use of a four-wheel drive car. The twisting grime highway to the highest of the mountain may be very steep with hair-pin turns, and may deliver on a case of automotive illness.

“We now have 22 full-time workers right here to have a tendency the vineyards and work within the cellars,” declares David Goldfarb, Winegrower for Clos de La Tech, a job that includes each winery and cellar operations. He gestures to the very steep winery hillside the place workers steadiness themselves on the slope as they rigorously sucker (pull additional leaves) off the vines. “We do a whole lot of hand-work right here, however we additionally use drones to map the winery,” he states.

“The drones,” Rodgers explains, “will map the winery and use synthetic intelligence to retailer the reminiscence of the winery.” This enables Clos de La Tech to create a really dependable laptop database of winery situations by season and classic. Mixed with floor probe know-how that screens floor water standing, Rodgers is shifting in direction of a purpose of precision viticulture, the place every vine can ultimately be monitored. Rodgers’ group at FarmX has additionally discovered a approach to equip the drones to spray the vines by attaching a second tanker drone to a pilot drone.

“We’re very environment friendly with water,” states Rodgers. “We use lower than one-fourth of an equal winery.”

Along with floor probes and drones, Rodgers has designed an over the row tractor that may transverse the extremely steep hillsides and have a tendency the vines by using in between them. It’s pulled up the hill by cables and due to this fact doesn’t want a motor. Manufactured by German agriculture agency, Clemens GmbH, it’s the solely tractor on this planet that may deal with vertical and steep aspect slopes in such a intently spaced winery. “This tractor,” states Rodgers, “is a pre-curser to what the winery robotic of the long run would possibly seem like.”

With investments in a number of photo voltaic firms, it’s not stunning to seek out that Rodgers has put in photo voltaic panels within the winery. “We now have designed them to be all black,” studies Rodgers, “so this fashion neighbors don’t complain about photo voltaic panel reflection.”

Foot-Stomping Grapes Deep within the Caves of Clos de La Tech

If know-how and the human hand work aspect by aspect within the winery, as soon as the grapes arrive within the deep caves of Clos de La Tech, the human foot takes over. “There’s an aesthetic magnificence about foot-crushing,” says Rodgers, “however it’s additionally helpful to the wine as a result of it is a extra light course of than utilizing a destemmer/crusher. We use 100% complete grape clusters, and since the seeds don’t get crushed and stems don’t get scarred, we will management the tannin construction higher, leading to a greater wine.”

The winemaker at Clos de La Tech is Valeta Massey – additionally TJ Rodgers’ spouse and co-owner. She participates in food-treading the grapes together with the cellar group. First the grape clusters are sorted by hand, after which gently positioned in a small open-topped chrome steel tank that holds round 800 kilos of grapes—sufficient to make one 60 gallon barrel of wine, or 300 bottles. Then one individual stands within the quick tank and begins stomping, their ft lined by food-grade plastic booties.

“It takes six employees roughly one hour to carry out the sorting and foot-stomping to replenish one tank,” studies Goldfarb, who additionally assists throughout crush. “The great thing about the design of those small tanks, developed by TJ, is that we foot stomp, ferment, and press off the skins all in the identical tank.”

The wine is fermented utilizing pure yeast, and as soon as completed, it’s gently transported in a gravity move system to the subsequent cave, which serves because the barrel growing old room. Right here is the wine is aged 16 to 18 months in French oak, earlier than being gently moved by gravity to the third cave, reserved for bottling and storage. Right here it rests for 3 to 4 extra years in bottle, earlier than being launched 5 to six years after harvest.

Pinot Noirs That Exhibit Complicated Fruit and Santa Cruz Soil

So what do the Pinot Noir wines of Clos de La Tech style like? Rodgers’ dream of bringing a small portion of Burgundy to the Santa Cruz Mountains appears to have paid off within the complicated fruit and earthiness that may be present in many of the vintages of Clos de La Tech.

The wines, coming from 5 separate winery blocks, similar to Domaine Lois Louise Twisty Ridge (produced from the oldest vines on high of the mountain) to the Domaine du Physician Rodgers (produced from the unique one acre plot close to Woodside), all appear to have a style of the Santa Cruz Mountain AVA soil, together with complicated fruit. Some are extra full-bodied with notes of black cherry, spice, potting soil and truffle, whereas others are extra elegant with plum, rose petal, raspberry, granite and slate.

Producing lower than 5000 instances per yr, vintages are incessantly bought out. Clients often have to hitch the wine membership, or journey to the Half Moon Bay Wine & Cheese Store to buy Clos de La Tech wines. The journey to the highest of the mountain to the precise winemaking facility is just by uncommon appointment, or to attend occasional wine membership occasions.

Ultimately, Rodgers’ imaginative and prescient of mixing one of the best of historical know-how with the leading edge science of the fashionable period appears to have created a wine that straddles each worlds. However it’s also a wine that takes a lot labor, time, and cash to provide. Many fingers, minds, hearts, and ft go into its creation, together with technological know-how.

“So many winery and vineyard operations don’t need to put within the time it takes to create nice wine,” states Goldfarb. “Thankfully Clos de La Tech has the monetary endurance to make wine that takes time to be nice.”


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