Now that we have a completed wine, it is destined for a bottle. The bottling process at DDW features a monoblock system. This means that the entire bottling process occurs with one machine, rather than separate stations. The wine is pumped from the holding tank into the bottling line. Once the machine is ready, the operation is a mix of manual and mechanical labor. Bottles are loaded onto the line and fed through an enclosure where the mechanical steps take place.
Sparging is the first step. An inert gas (non-reactive) is inserted into the bottle to push out the oxygen. A carousel carries the bottles through the line to be filled, leveled, and corked. We use a natural composite cork at DDW. The bottles get their foil cap, which is heated to seal around the neck of the bottle. Labels are applied and the bottles leave the machine to be packaged by our production team. The packaged bottles are stored in our temperature-controlled warehouse.
We give our wines appropriate time to recover after going through a stage typically called “bottle shock”. Wine does not like to be agitated, and the process of bottling can disturb the flavor and mouthfeel. The recovery time allows the wine to return to its ideal state for consumption.
The wine is now ready for our tasting room and to be shipped to our many retail locations.
What better way to ring in the new year than by popping open a bottle of bubbly! At Dancing Dragonfly we like to celebrate with our sparkling wine, Christine’s Twist. This sparkling wine is made using Méthode Champenoise - the traditional method of producing champagne. What sets this apart from other processes of making sparkling wine, is that the wine goes through a secondary fermentation in the bottle.
When using the Méthode Champenoise process, we start by making a still wine (similar to a typical table wine) and add a carefully calculated amount of additional sugar and yeast to the bottle of wine. This step is called ‘tirage’ and initiates the second fermentation.
Tirage will add the effervescence to the wine. This step is often compared to bread baking. When making the bread dough, yeast is added to help it rise. The expansion of dough is due to the release of carbon dioxide when the yeast consumes the sugars in the mixture. A similar reaction happens during tirage with Christine’s Twist. The sugar is consumed by the yeast releasing carbon dioxide which gives the wine its bubbles.
The bottles are then stored on their sides for 18 months, or longer, to allow aging on the dead yeast cells, known as ‘lees’. Letting the wine age on the lees imparts the nutty, caramel and toast notes that are prominent in our sparkling wine. After the wine has had time to age, we need to remove the lees from the bottle.
The bottles are placed in a special rack that allows them to slowly shake and rotate from their side, to an upside-down position. This process, called ‘riddling’, allows the lees to settle in the neck of the bottle. The necks of the bottles are then frozen. The ice in the neck now contains the lees and is removed by a process called ‘disgorgement’. Due to the nature of disgorgement, a small amount of wine is lost and needs to be replaced before the bottle is corked. This is also the time when the sweetness level is adjusted. This allows the winemaker to make multiple styles of sparkling wine from the same tirage. These additions are called the ‘dosage’ and the volume of dosage is what dictates the style of the finished sparkling wine. The most common is Brut, but other common styles include Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Dry, Extra Dry, and Demi-Sec. Each of the style names equates to a level of sweetness in the wine. Think of it as you would dry, off-dry, and semi-sweet in table wines.
Once the wine is finally complete it is ready for its cork and cage. Keeping in tradition, the wine bottle is corked using a mushroom style cork, and the cage is added with six half-turns to secure the cork in place. The final pressure inside a bottle of Christine’s Twist is over 80 psi. This is the same pressure as a double decker bus tire! To put in perspective, a traditional bottle of beer is 20-35 psi.
This year, we have Christine’s Twist available in Brut Nature, Brut, and Demi-Sec.
The label design for Christine’s Twist uses a piece of work by artist Anne Labovits based in St. Paul, MN. To learn more about Anne Labovits, visit her website at http://labovitz.com/.
Even though traditional harvest is over, our vineyard crew still has work to do. Harvest for our ice wine can only begin when winter weather sets in. In order to produce a true ice wine, temperature must reach 17.6˚f (8˚c) or lower before the grapes can be harvested. Even with lower temperatures early this year, we must wait to harvest until after November 15, according to the Vintner Quality Alliance (VQA) of Canada.
The grapes must freeze on the vine in their natural state. To ensure only the best quality grape is harvested, our crew will hand pick all the fruit to produce ice wine.
Because Canada is recognized as the world’s largest and highest quality producer of ice wine , the DDW vineyard and winemaking team base our standards from our neighbors to the north. The Canadian criteria require production to occur in the same geographical location as the grapes are harvested. These grapes are immediately processed in their natural state. The berries are still frozen when pressed, so the process takes three to four times as long as a standard press cycle. The volume of juice captured is about one half the normal amount because much of the water is frozen and stays in the press.
At this time, our winemaking team monitors sweetness levels, measured in brix (grams per liter). Our finished juice will have a much higher degree of brix, or % of natural grape sugar than a traditional table wine. Delicate handling of the juice during fermentation is necessary, and fermentation will take up to a month to complete. This is three to four times longer than fermentation of a table wine.
When DDW ice wine is ready to bottle, the resulting residual sugar and alcohol levels are exclusively derived from the natural sugars from the grapes.
The 2017 vintage of our ice wine Hula is currently available for purchase in our tasting room. More information will come as we prepare the new vintage of ice wine at Dancing Dragonfly Winery.
At the end of each annual harvest season, the production of wine quickly starts to take place. Crush and fermentation are just the beginning to creating a new vintage of wine. Here at Dancing Dragonfly Winery, we start the race to produce our Dragonfly Nouveau – a wine released in the same year its grapes are harvested. To learn more about the process of Nouveau wine, check out our blog post from last year. Our release of 2019 Dragonfly Nouveau will continue the tradition and will be available for purchase on the third Thursday (the 21st) of November.
Once the base wine is created, it is time for our wine makers to create the perfect blend that we will release. Starting with the taste profile of the base wine, they begin taste testing, which is referred to as bench trials. Due to the nature of the Nouveau process, the wine is naturally low in tannins, and has a taste of tart red and blue fruits, which will be balanced with a small amount of residual sugar.
Other wines are meticulously blended with the base wine, recorded, and tasted until several blends have been created. These wines are tasted by several other members of our team, until the best blend and balance has been found. Once the blend has been decided, our wine makers develop the formula and calculate the ratios that are needed to produce a full batch of this year’s Nouveau wine.
This year, the fruity and bright Nouveau wine was thoughtfully blended with predominantly Sabrevois and other cold climate estate grown grapes from the 2019 harvest.
This limited release wine sold out quickly after our premier release in 2018. Nouveau’s bright fruit forward expression will fade, so be sure to enjoy your bottle before the end of the winter.
The results of the San Francisco International Wine Competition are in and we are thrilled to report that our popular dessert wine Lindy has performed even better than last year! At last year's competition Lindy received a Double Gold and 95 points. This year our 2017 vintage received a Double Gold and a score of 98 points. Overall, this is Lindy's fourth Double Gold medal since being introduced two years ago.
This is Lindy's second consecutive year of being awarded a Double Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. This is impressive because in this competition, the Double Gold designation is awarded to the very few entries that receive unanimous Gold medal ratings from their judges. They feel this wine is "among the finest in the world," out of the 4,000 wines entered!
Also among San Francisco medal winners are Hula (Silver), and Bill's Waltz (Bronze).
Quite simply, a nouveau is a wine released the same year its grapes are harvested. The tradition began in the Beaujolais region of France as an early release wine to celebrate the end of harvest but eventually spread to the general public for consumption. The popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau sky-rocketed in the 1960’s with a race to see who could get the first bottle to Paris. Since then nouveau style wines have been celebrated around the world and now we’re excited to announce we’re bringing this wine tradition to Dancing Dragonfly Winery.
Our newest wine, Dragonfly Nouveau is slated for release this November and is being made using carbonic maceration, the traditional fermentation method used in Beaujolais. When using standard fermentation the grapes are crushed then yeast is pitched to begin fermentation. In carbonic maceration, whole berries are fermented in an anaerobic environment (an environment without oxygen) rich with carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide initiates fermentation in each grape. This means most of the juice is fermented while still inside the berry. The grapes at the bottom of the tank are an exception. These grapes will experience traditional fermentation as they are crushed by the weight of the clusters on top of them. A low tannin, fruity wine is the result.
Our premier vintage of Dragonfly Nouveau will be made using this traditional method on Marquette, a cold climate grape variety featured in many of our red wines. Following with the Beaujolais Nouveau standard, this wine will be available on the third Thursday of November. It makes the perfect addition to harvest festivities, including your Thanksgiving table. This special, limited release wine will not last long, be sure to enjoy your bottle before the end of the year.