Walla Walla is Home to First Optical Grape Sorter - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Walla Walla is Home to First Optical Grape Sorter

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WALLA WALLA, Wash. - Each fall, hundreds of hours are spent sorting the bad grapes from the good ones as well as the stems and the bugs during crush. That's the grape harvesting season. But a new machine in Walla Walla is changing how the Pepper Bridge Winery handles their harvest.


For the past five years it's been more than just wine makers working the grape harvest at Pepper Bridge Winery. They have also had engineers on hand who are perfecting a state of the art machine that is now considered a prototype. Their optical grape sorter is the first of its kind in the wine making world.


"we show it a grape and we say, ok this is a perfect color, perfect size. You can be 110% more or less of this color, 120% more or less, twice. Whatever we tell it, it's going to do," said Norm McKibben, a partner at the winery.

But it wasn't always so easy. For the past five years, the machine has been tinkered with and tweaked. 

"The first two harvests, 2010 and 2011, we had about five engineers constantly here and here's the fruit of their work. I mean, the machine's pretty amazing," said Jean-Francois Pellet, another partner.

"A lot of very small but high quality cameras across there and they're reading in a space this much as the grapes freefall by them. They're reading everything and in a space this much blows that, the jets of air are taking it out so it's a nanosecond technology," said McKibben.

Technology that is now a prototype. This machine is patented and will soon be marketed worldwide.

"We're not going to make the wine ten times better, but I really think this is going to help us make a rounder wine and maybe a more precise wine," said Pellet.