Aperture Cellars Winemaker Jesse Katz sitting in barrel room.

Aperture Cellars’ State-Of-The-Art Technology

By Published On: November 19th, 2022

Creating State-of-the-Art Wines.

Nestled in the heart of Sonoma County, Aperture Estate’s location was strategically chosen for the premier, cool-climate vineyard sites that I believe are at the core of world-class, Bordeaux-style wines in California. We recently opened the Aperture Estate, previously owned by the Ponzo family, which is home to some of the oldest vines in the world, planted in 1912. The property, which includes both a stunning hospitality center and a high-tech, state-of-the-art winemaking facility, is the home base for Aperture Cellars and a massive step toward my goal of continuously crafting the perfect wine from world-class sites.

Aperture Cellars Main Lounge.
Aperture Cellars Main Lounge

Having spent my childhood traveling with my dad, photographer Andy Katz, and visiting many of the most sought-after winegrowing regions in the world, I became interested in the art of winemaking early on in my life. Since then, I have been driven by my vision of crafting and producing wines here in Northern California that match, or even exceed some vintages of the stand-out Bordeauxs that inspired me all those years ago.  

My career in winemaking has spanned 22 harvests to date, including my time at iconic wineries like Pétrus in Bordeaux, Screaming Eagle Winery in Napa Valley, Viña Cobos and Bodega Noemia in Argentina, and as Head Winemaker for Lancaster Estate in Sonoma. By the time I founded Aperture in 2009, my extensive experience in the industry had taught me that in addition to sourcing grapes from the best vineyard sites and implementing the winemaking techniques I’ve spent years mastering, having access to the best technology would be essential for Aperture’s evolution. 

Aperture Cellars Wine bottles.
Aperture Cellars Wine

Aperture’s Technology: In the Production Facility

When I first began drawing up plans for the 24,000-square-foot winemaking facility at the Aperture Estate, I dedicated myself to ensuring that we secured the very best winemaking technology that the world has to offer. Seeing as we make a variety of different projects at the Aperture Estate, which in addition to the Aperture portfolio of wine, includes the Devil Proof label, various celebrity wine labels and my other collaborative and consulting projects, it was imperative that we look to utilizing the best possible tools from a technology standpoint to elevate our process on-site.

From the five perfectly calibrated temperature-controlled rooms to our optical sorting capabilities and everything in between, our production facility’s quality management tools elevate this already impressive portfolio of wines to an even higher degree. 

One proof point of this is our 2020 Aperture Cellars wines. A year after we completed construction, Sonoma County experienced a brutal 2020 wildfire season. This environmental tragedy even further reinforced our decision to invest in high-tech winemaking tools, as these continue to play such an integral role in mitigating the impacts that climate change has on our winemaking process. 

Thanks to our state-of-the-art production facility, we clocked in countless hours running hundreds of micro-fermentations in our lab. Each lot of the 2020 yield was tested for any detectable smoke influence multiple times, and any batches that returned more than 1 part per billion were completely removed from the winery. At the end of the harvest, 38% of Aperture’s entire 2020 red vintage was declassified to achieve 100% certainty that the quality of our wines was flawless.

In concept and in practice, these automated technologies help perfect our wines from the very first day the grapes enter our production facility. For example, we utilize an optical sorter, which uses high-speed cameras that capture images of every single berry harvested to assess which grapes are good enough to use and which don’t meet our standards. We also operate a gentle de-stemmer called the Oscillys 200which separates the berries from the stem through inertia without tearing the skin or the stems (this is especially important for our red wines during the fermentation process). 

Aperture Founder & Winemaker Jesse Katz examining the grapes as they get sorted alongside Associate Winemaker Hillary Sjolund.
Aperture Founder & Winemaker Jesse Katz examining the grapes as they get sorted alongside Associate Winemaker Hillary Sjolund.

We operate custom-made tanks equipped with computers that control an automated pump for each custom tank, enabling us to do multiple pump-overs at any time of the day for any length of time, from anywhere. This is another technological element that is important during wildfire season, because it allows me to control the winemaking process safely from a distance during times when evacuation might be necessary, which happened at the end of harvest in 2019. These tanks are also blanketed with three different glycol jackets for heating or cooling during fermentation to perfectly control the extraction and temperature of the fermentation within 2 degrees F. 

A few other standout pieces in our production facility include the peristaltic must pump, which allows us to avoid over-extracting bitter or harsh tannins that might come from crushing up grape seeds, as well as an injection system that delivers air as a food source to the yeast during fermentation, which helps us soften tannins early on while still maintaining complexity and aromatics in the young wine. Finally, we equip our temperature-controlled rooms for barrels with humidifiers so that we can minimize wine loss to evaporation while it’s in the barrel as well as minimize the increase of alcohol percentage during aging. 

Aperture Cellars production facility.
Aperture Cellars production facility.

Aperture’s Technology: In the Vineyards

Our use of high-end technology doesn’t just live within the walls of the Aperture Estate, it also extends into our vineyards.

Created by Aperture’s viticulturist, Phil Freese, in partnership with NASSA, we use NDVI technology to measure vigor variation vine by vine, enabling us to balance our vineyard out and make more uniform fruit within each harvest section.

We also use pressure bombs and sap flow in order to monitor a vine’s water stress. These real-time measurements enable us to execute precise irrigation programs, minimizing our use of water significantly and also supporting our larger sustainability efforts. 

We also reclaim approximately 98% of the water used in the winery, which can be later used for vineyard and landscape irrigation as needed. 

The Final Product at Aperture Cellars

If you’ve ever tried an Aperture Cellars or Devil Proof wine, I hope you will agree with me when I say that these wines are truly something special and reflect a sense of place and time. This is in part due to the technological advances that have enabled us to continue on the quest to perfect the quality of our wines, giving us the ability to work with the most precise fruit to allow our artistic winemaking style to show through.

Our 2019 vintage was the first that was made berry to bottle at Aperture Estate, and I am excited to say that at the new home for Aperture we have been able to create some of the best wines of my career. I’m not someone who is ever going to stop striving for perfection, and tasting the finished wines from our new facility is an exciting sign for the future.

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