Sky Acres Winery is owned by Meera and Vijay Singh. We started winemaking for ourselves in 2011 and found the existing technology too tedious and environmentally unsound. Traditional winemaking is more janitorial work than wine making! You have to wash all the tanks before you start, then you clean all the equipment, then you have to wash the whole mess again when you are done. With red wine, pushing the cap down every few hours is another nuisance. When you finally get the wine into the barrel, you have to keep it topped off every other day, otherwise the wine oxidizes and all your hard work is literally down the drain.
Dr. Singh is a world-recognized biotech scientist with hundreds of published papers. In the late 1990’s he developed the highly acclaimed Wave Bioreactor which revolutionized the production of biopharmaceuticals by using a disposable cultivation bag supported on a rocking platform. The low cost and spectacular performance of the Wave Bioreactor led to its acceptance worldwide in nearly every biotech/pharmaceutical manufacturing company.Vaccines, antibodies, cytokines, proteins, are all commercially manufactured in the Wave Bioreactor (now owned and marketed by GE).
He decided to apply his expertise in disposable processing to the key issues of winemaking. The GOfermentor was born out of this work. It requires no washing and can be set up in minutes. Cap management is completely automated. After, fermentation, an integral press can be used to press out the wine in minutes. Best of all, no cleaning once you are done ! Development of the GOfermentor led to the establishment of the winery in 2014 and to the commercialization of the equipment in 2015.
Meera Singh is a graphic designer and was a partner in a NYC design company for many years. She now devotes her time to art and wine. She is a WSET level 3 certified sommelier and is the blender and taster-in-chief for Sky Acres Winery.
We maintain and operate a small research vineyard. The plantings are Foch, Cabernet franc, and Chardonnay. The yields are not sufficient for our own wine production, so we purchase grapes from vineyards in NJ and from California. The vineyard is however very useful for developing and testing sustainable viticulture practices. From the beginning, we eschewed the use of herbicides and pesticides. All our drinking water comes from wells and we do not want to contaminate this vital resource in any way. Weed control is done by a unique machine that destroys weeds using superheated steam. Insects are controlled by manual inspection and removal. After many failed attempts using various techniques to control bird damage, we finally resorted to side-netting. This is applied in late summer, and provides excellent protection without harming the wonderful avian wildlife in our area.
NJ does not have the best climate for grape growing, and the short growing season sometimes makes it difficult to get mature grapes. However, we get plenty of regular rainfall so we have no irrigation needs. Like every other grape grower, we have to deal with fungus infections. For this we do minimal spraying, based on humidity and climatic conditions, of environmentally gentle fungicides, such as sulfur.
Another innovation being tested in our vineyard is VinoRobo. This is a tracked autonomous robot we are developing to perform various mundane tasks in the vineyard. It can bring grapes in at harvest, spray along the rows, and we are training it to inspect grape clusters, scare birds away, and even trim weeds and grass in the vineyard. It is becoming increasing difficult to find farm labor in our area and VinoRobo is going to be our future vineyard worker! VinoRobo is sometimes joined by DroneRobo which takes regular aerial surveys of foliage along the rows.