Evening Land's very first sparkling wine has arrived! Today (1/29/19) we release our 2015 Seven Springs Blanc de Blancs to our mailing list. The wine will be poured in our tasting room beginning in March. Read on to learn the backstory behind the incredible process that goes into making classic, méthode champenois sparkling wine.
THE BASE WINE
All sparkling wine begins with a 'base wine' or a 'still wine', The 2015 Seven Springs Blanc de Blancs is composed of 100% Chardonnay from block 9 of our estate vineyard, Seven Springs.
We harvest fruit for sparkling wine much earlier than we would for still wines. We harvested this Chardonnay at 17 brix, which is about 2 weeks before we would have picked it for regular, still wine. As a point of reference, the brix level for grapes destined to be bottled as still Chardonnay are harvested in the range of 22-23 brix. Another way to consider the difference in the maturity of these grapes is to understand that we harvest the Chardonnay for sparkling wine 10-14 days before we harvest Chardonnay for still wine.
The grapes are gently pressed into neutral barrels where the Chardonnay juice undergoes a natural and spontaneous fermentation. The wine remained in barrel for 7 months before we sent it to our good friend Michael Cruse in Petaluma, California for the laborious process of TIRAGE and DISGORGEMENT.
Step 1: Bottle the base wine and seal with a crown cap (like the metal tops on soda bottles). This bottling is done immediately upon receipt of the base wine without any settling or clarifying. We want those lees (yeast cells) to live in each bottle, undergoing a slow, enzymatic self-destruction that builds long and luscious flavor protein chains...the building block of the wine's texture.
Step 2: Prepare the bottles for disgorgement and corking. Riddling is the time-intensive process here. It involves slowly twisting the and angling the bottles downwards towards the neck so the solids fall to opening of the bottle. Below, Michael is in the midst of riddling racks checking to see where the sediment sits in the bottle.
Step 3: Disgorgement and corking under the traditional mushroom cork and cage we're all familiar with. The necks of each bottle are frozen and the crown cap is popped off, jettisoning the tiny frozen bits of lees and solids that have been dutifully riddled to the top of the bottle. This would normally be the moment where dosage is added, but this wine is 'non-dosage' meaning totally dry.
Now the wine is ready to enjoyed or cellared. Sparkling wines crafted in this traditional method are at their most effervescent immediately after bottling. With time the bubbles slowly decrease in size and intensity. If you are a regular drinker of Grower Champagnes you know that through careful sleuthing you can glean the vintage or vintages of the base wine and subtract it from the disgorgement date to deduce the time the wine spent on the lees. You can also subtract the disgorgement date from the date you pop the cork to determine how fine or effusive the bubbles may be. If you're on the hunt for a rich, nutty, and biscuity bottle of bubbly, look for a late disgorgement date. If you're desperately in need of something bright, bracing, and zippy, seek out a bottle who's vintage and disgorgement are both very recent.
Our label is a microscopic photograph of silica tetrahedrons. This is the parent rock of our weathering, volcanic clay soils here in the Eola-Amity Hills. These volcanic soils imbue all our Chardonnay, both sparkling and still, with energy and an exciting thread of minerality that makes the wines come alive in your glass.