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Firefly

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This sparkling wine is made from 100% Brianna grape juice. It is dry and lively, grown in our home vineyard in Derry, New Hampshire without the use of pesticides. 

Vintage 2021:

This growing season could not be more different than the previous one. It rained extensively from July to the end of the year. July was an especially trying time as it rained nearly every day. Fruit was already set at that point, so the result was very large clusters and lots of green canopy. We had the remnants of several tropical storms - Elsa, Fred, Henri, and Ida bring plenty of rains in July and August. We thought the rain would result in disease pressure and burst berries, but these brianna grapes were very resilient. We still have not sprayed these grapes with any sort of chemicals. The vineyard workers had been actively removing leaves to allow the sun to hit the berries and dry them out. While this is a lot of manual work (and associated costs), the results speak for themselves.

 

We harvested 2 tons of grapes on a cool morning of September 4th, 2021.  We had a large harvest crew, large clusters, and got harvest done before lunch. I believe we timed this harvest perfectly. The berries were very full and about to burst from Ida's rains soaking us in the middle of the week. The harvesters went home and Michaela helped me haul the grapes out of the vineyard by driving the tractor on a very warm afternoon.

Due to supply chain issues, we did not get dry ice to cool the grapes. We found out only a few days before harvest. Mother nature cooperated after a very warm September afternoon with a cool night that let the grapes rest before crushing. And then the next night was cool as well - allowing the grapes to stay cool before pressing. My goal is always to crush and press the white grapes while cold to retain the flavors of the grapes. This year we separated the press juice from the free run juice - another increase in quality for the wine that I already love.

After fermentation was complete and Michaela opened the tank to filter the wine at the end of September, she sent me a text "Can you come here?" Thinking something was wrong, I ran into the winery and asked what was wrong. Her answer was "Nothing is wrong. Everything is right. This wine is wonderful!" The aromatics of this wine are over the top. When the wine arrived at Flag Hill, the staff there was equally impressed with the wonderful aromas in this wine, and then by the wine chemistry. This vintage has lower acidity than the previous vintage as well.

Vintage 2020 (First Release):

Silver Medal - Finger Lakes International Wine Competition 2021

We are starting a cellaring plan to set aside our sparkling wines to open in subsequent years. So, we set aside a few cases of the Firefly 2020 in the cellar as the first step in this process. We will open them in the future as part of our vertical tastings and make them available to our wine club members when the cellar door is open. 

This vintage was a long, hot growing season. We had a drought that lasted until after harvest. So, while there was little disease pressure, the lack of water caused slow ripening. Just under 2 tons of grapes were harvested on 27 and 28 August, 2020. We had a small crew harvesting grapes. - on what would have been school days, but due to the human virus, the teenagers were available to work those days.  We had to stop on the late morning of the 27th because of rain. Irony in full effect there due to the drought. 

I have has been saying for years that if we had enough Brianna grapes, we would produce a sparkling wine from it. This is that wine!

This wine is the first we will release from 2020. While 2020 was a challenging year, it wasn't in this NH vineyard. The extreme dry growing conditions made for no disease pressure on these grapes.

We have 23 rows of Brianna grapes that are now all productive. We harvested Brianna on August 27th and 28th; a total of 1.8 tons of Brianna. Firefly is the first sparkling wine produced from these grapes. Our Brianna is grown without the use of pesticides and only in our vineyards surrounding #thecrushpad in Derry.

We also produced a smaller batch of Brianna still wine (as we have since 2012).

A special thank you to my colleague and friend, Brian Ferguson @ Flag Hill winery. His talk during the New Hampshire Winery Association meeting about producing aromatic white wines shortly before these grapes were harvested gave me several ideas about how to improve the process and quality of this wine!

In an attempt to produce better wines, we kept the juice on the skins overnight. We added dry ice to the must to keep it cold and prevent it from either fermenting or oxidizing - both things that take away from the flavors of this wonderful grape. We pressed it the next morning and let the juice settle. We then racked the juice away from anything that was left in the tank - to allow only the cleanest juice to be fermented. For Firefly, we stopped the fermentation with a tiny amount of residual sugar and chilled the wine to stop fermentation. We then filtered the wine and took it to Flag Hill to be bottled as sparkling wine. The result is the best Brianna wine we have ever tasted to this point!

- Mike Appolo

2021 Photos:
Early August - A month before harvest. The berries and clusters were already very large.

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September 4-6:

Harvested 2 tons, crushed them and let them soak. Pressed the juice, fermented it to dryness. I made this vintage with approximately 95% free-run juice. The press juice went into a separate tank for the Brianna 2021.

November-December 2021:

The middle of November, I took it to Flag Hill where it was carbonated and bottled. The photo of the truck shows how I bring it back to the winery for labeling.

2020 Photos: