Science of Wine

Twenty Years of Harvest and Over Twenty Years of Technological Innovation

Written by Palmaz Vineyards | December 2021

To celebrate our 20th harvest this year, we’re exploring the last 20 years of farming innovation at Palmaz Vineyards with co-founder Christian Palmaz.

Since 1997, Palmaz Vineyards has pursued the marriage of innovation with the art of winemaking—starting with its eighteen-story subterranean winery carved into the side of Mount George. The engineering of “The Cave” was a feat unto itself, resulting in a structure unique even among gravity flow wineries. While The Cave is a technological marvel hidden in plain sight; it’s still just the tip of the iceberg, especially when it comes to farming.

Palmaz Roses



by Florencia Palmaz | May 3rd, 2021 

Roses growing in our vineyards look gorgeous, sure, but we plant them for a variety of reasons—not just because they add a pop of color.

Historically, the practice of planting roses in vineyards originated in Europe, like many winemaking traditions. Winemakers in Italy and France placed them at the end of rows for mold control and to help guide plow animals. During times when oxen and horses were commonly used to plow vineyards, rose thorns would keep them from cutting corners and damaging the vines.

Protecting our Most Precious Resource

Protecting our most Precious Resource | April 22, 2020 (Earth Day) | By Christian Palmaz

Driving into Palmaz Vineyards takes our visitors roughly a mile through the puzzle like lower vineyard parcels until they reach the winery carved into Mt. George.  Along the way, guests sometimes notice the small purple signs in the vineyards, “This area is irrigated with recycled water.”  Although during our tours, we normally make only mention of the winery’s net-zero water consumptive design, it often takes a backseat to the more wine facing innovations seen throughout the winery.  However on Earth Day, we’d like to take a moment and highlight how Palmaz Vineyards has gained this prestigious status of net-zero water consumption.  

The Palmaz Winery is situated inside the delicate and important MST (Milliken-Sarco-Tulucay) groundwater subarea.  Many years ago the MST was identified to be potentially in danger of overuse.  Increasing demand from homes, golf courses, and vineyard irrigation tap directly into this water source while drought weather patterns didn’t help with replenishment.  The Hagen Creek, which runs down from Mt. George through the Palmaz Estate, was identified as an important contributor to the MST during the development of the property.  

State of the Art Vision Sorting System

State of the Art Vision Sorting System | by Christian Palmaz

The 2018 Vintage marks a breakthrough for Palmaz Vineyard’s grape sorting capability.  In 2003 we developed a unique 3-axis vibratory conveyor that aided our team of sorters to visually identify and remove any deficient berries.  Quite the tedious task, at the time this was the penultimate method for ensuring only the best fruit made it to the fermenter.  However after several hours, even the most fastidious succumb to quality affecting fatigue.  Finally technology has caught up with the capabilities of human dexterity and visual comprehension.

Wondering Between the Vines

Wondering Between the Vines

An Update on VIGOR By Christian Palmaz

One of the first memories I have in the Napa Valley was as a child, sitting in the backseat of my parents car as they drove up and down the Valley visiting wineries.  As my parents likely quibbled about some historical detail regarding the next winery we were visiting, I remember staring out the window mesmerized by the rows of vines zipping by.  Almost like a farmers kaleidoscope, the perfect rhythm of alternating row colors drew my attention not to the vines themselves but to the spaces in-between.  I wondered, what was so special about those “weeds” growing in-between the vines and why does every vineyard seem to be different.

Thoughts on Sediment in Wine

Thoughts on Sediment in Wine | Nov 26, 2017 | By Christian Palmaz

Have you ever wondered why there is what looks like sediment or crystals on the bottom of your cork or on the inside of the bottle?  Or why some wines seem to have more than others?  You certainly aren’t alone.  We receive a handful of emails every year asking these exact questions.  Let’s deep dive into the interesting world of why wines form crystals.

First of all, the crystals, or precipitated tartrates (KHT Potassium Bitartrates) as they’re formally called, are completely normal.  In fact they are considered by many a sign of balanced winemaking.  Even though most high-end wines are filtered to less than a micron just prior to bottling, solids form when potassium and tartaric acid, both naturally occurring components in grapes, bind together to form a crystal.  The crystal tends to prefer growth on rough vs smooth surfaces hence it’s deposition on the cork’s bottom.  This sea-salt like substance is completely harmless and natural.  They do tend to form somewhat faster in wines cellared at colder temperatures (below 40F).

Farm Press: Digital data management drives grower’s efforts to produce world-class quality fruit

Digital data management drives grower’s efforts to produce world-class quality fruit

Western Farm Press | By Greg Northcutt | May 10, 2017 | Original ARTICLE

“Our approach is to farm the individual vines so that the fruit they produce all ripens together as a group. We’re trying to do that by employing technology that allows us to analyze macro-level data to help us understand the vineyard at the micro-level. ”

Geographic information systems, which are used to store, analyze and manage such geographic data as soil types, cropping patterns and rainfall, are the future of farming, says Christian Palmaz, president of Palmaz Vineyards, in the Coombsville AVA, near Napa, Calif.

A World Underground – Visualized


A world Underground – Visualized

The Palmaz Winery is a flawlessly engineered labyrinth of cave tunnels burrowed deep inside Mt George created for the single purpose of making a great wine.  It’s complex structure spans over 100,000 square feet, 18 stories underground and nearly 3 city blocks deep.  Understanding it’s overall architecture is quite challenging even for those who visit in person much less those who visit the website.  The solution was to take the CAD drawings from the engineering team and recreate the facility and mountain in 3D.  Over the years, with the help of brilliant 3D render artist Lance Hitchings, the models have become more and more life-like.

A Year with VIGOR



It has been an honor to receive such recognition by press and industry colleagues for our various innovations.  Salon Magazine recently called us “the most technologically advanced winery on the planet and Life Refined said we “flawlessly meld futuristic innovation with ancient winemaking techniques.”  Additionally it has been a pleasure to share our experience and technology with visitors from all over the world.

Science of Wine: Cover Crops Part II


CERTAIN PLANTS HAVE PARTICULAR TALENTS THAT ADDRESS A VINEYARD’S NEEDS. Generally speaking, a single vineyard can support anywhere from three to six different seeds mixed between the rows, depending on that location’s needs. Here are a few of the more interesting characters we sow, and the talents they possess: