I, for One, Welcome our New Robot Overlords

Caitlin – November 2nd, 2012
Last week, I suspected (and told you) that this blog would be dark for a year. But we’re going to try to keep going. We may not have a house, but we do have computers and internet
connections. I don’t know what that says about us, or society, but this blog isn’t about big life questions. It’s about drinking. And believe me, we’re doing a lot more drinking now than we ever have before.

Dear Liver,
Only God can save you now. Sorry.

Speaking of technology, back in September, I got the following e-mail from Robert: “We’re totally getting this when we have a winery.  It’s the future!!!!” He actually used four exclamation marks. I know, right? I was skeptical too. What could possibly be so great?

A WINEMAKING ROBOT COULD BE SO GREAT!!!! The Wall-Ye V.I.N. robot is one of many winemaking robots currently being developed around the world, aimed at vineyards struggling to find the manual, seasonal labor they need. It prunes, it de-suckers, and it collects data!  This little robot also has street cred. Chateau Mouton-Rothschild has offered its vineyards for the robot’s sales demonstrations.

Concerned about security? Because everyone would totally try to steal your adorable and helpful robot? Don’t be. A built-in security mechanism karate-chops robot thieves right in the face. Ok, you caught me, it doesn’t do quite that. If your robot finds itself in an unfamiliar vineyard, it won’t start. It has a gyroscope so it knows if it’s been lifted off the ground. If that happens, the hard-drive self-destructs and the robot sends a message: “Help!”

If it’s wrong to want my robot to be stolen so that it messages me, I don’t want to be right.

Our robot will be named Johnny Wine, an ode to Johnny Five from the 1986 American masterpiece Short Circuit. I can’t wait. I hope he makes me breakfast.

Not everyone is as excited as us about robots in the vineyard: “Technically it’s interesting, but intellectually, it’s inconceivable. It doesn’t fit with my philosophy of making a Saint Emilion grand cru,” said Philippe Bardet, owner of Chateau du Val d’Or, as quoted in the article I’ve linked in this post for you.

Certainly, to me, robots fall into the category of inevitable wine technology advancement, just like screw tops. Back in 1997, PlumpJack Winery unveiled a Reserve Cabernet with a screw top and sold it for $135 a bottle, arguing that the screw top eliminates cork taint, which gives a musty taste to wine. PlumpJack did the entire wine industry a favor by going one step further: bottling half of its Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon under screw top and half under cork. They have produced two bottlings in this manner for every vintage, ever since. The University of California at Davis is currently conducting a study that could help end the now decades-long debate. The two-year initiative will analyze wines under screw caps, synthetic corks, and natural corks; ultimately providing direction for the industry. We hate to say it, but we think that the screw caps will outpace natural corks in every conceivable category.

The only issue now? Trying to find a romantic way to open a bottle of wine with a screw cap. You know, for breakfast with Johnny Wine. A friend of ours recently suggested that we invent some type of sparkler mechanism that twinkles when the screw cap is opened. I can see it now.  The patented Kearns screw top sparkler: because nothing says romance like drinking glitter.  Maybe we’ll work on it for this year’s vintage. Stay tuned.

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