Winery Crafts High-Quality Sparkling Wine with InnoVint
Carboy Winery, one of the fastest-growing producers in Colorado, is breaking down barriers by working with Colorado fruit to produce beautiful, terroir-driven wines.
Carboy's Sparkling Program
Watch the Conversation
Listen in as Ashley DuBois Leonard, CEO and Founder of InnoVint sits down with Jason Snopkoski, Director of Wine Operations, and Tyzok Wharton, Head winemaker as they share about their history sparkling journey.
The transcript has also been provided below.
Q: Tell us about the history of Carboy Winery
Jason: The opening mission was to be negociants dealing with bulk wines from the west coast, and you know some European wines, and you know when your winemaker it’s great to blend wines and make that kind of piece of art, but you want to make wine from grapes.
So another person on the team Kevin who was kind of my counterpart in running the operation side of things; you know he knew that something was going on here in Colorado in terms of the grapes, and there’s a long history here as well. So that’s kind of when I got to meet the team back in 2017. We decided to play around with a little bit of fruit from here in Colorado and did about 10 tons that year…..
Tyzok: 14 tons, haha.
Jason: 14 tons, which the following year we did in one day.
Long story short, one of the big turning points of our founders realizing there was something great going on in Colorado and giving us the bandwidth to move in that direction was Aspen Food & Wine back in 2017. They were jazzed about the Russian River Pinot that we had purchased and did a little additional aging and blending on. That’s all they could talk about, but we also brought the precursor our very first Rosé of tempranillo, and that went to Aspen Food & Wine, and nobody cared about the Russian River Pinot, our owners thought that was going to be the cat’s meow. Everybody was going to dig it, and all anybody cared about was the Colorado Wine.
That let them realize that there was something happening and potential. That grew from 14 tons that first year to 58 the next and then last year 130 tons and then this year took a little bit of a step back due to frost, covid and grapes had a tough year this year, so we got only got about 70% of what we’ve contracted for.
Four locations in 4 years, it’s overwhelming, and InnoVint helped us keep it all together on the production side, thankfully, and sparkling is becoming a big part of that.
Q: What’s been fun about Colorado winemaking? What grows in Colorado?
Jason: Finding the Vitis vinifera that worked, but we also have a fan base here, probably a little bit more open to trying new wines, and we didn’t expect in the beginning. Teroldego is if the first vintage we did was last year, and it was met with huge success. You would think that you would have to try to educate to really sell that grape, but some buzz jumped up about it, and people are coming to us for it, which is kind of cool.
Stylistically though the wines are all where Colorado is concerned, we’re trying to go for more terroir-driven wines, less barrel influence, a lot of neutral oak, and just trying to let the fruit speak for itself. We don’t make many sweet wines, a little bit of RS on some of the whites, but for the most part, we are a medium-bodied terroir-driven house across the board.
Q: Tell us about your sparkling program and the varietals you are working with.
Tyzok: From the standpoint of streamlining ease of use, we will likely be more Charmat-heavy than Méthode champenoise in the coming years.
The grapes that will be a large part of that bubbly program, whether it be Méthode champenoise or Charmat, will be cold-hardy varieties because they typically have a higher TA, to begin with. Some are more congruent to the Vitis vinifera but typically higher TA, and they survive more so than the Malbecs and Cab Francs.
Q: How did you get started with the sparkling program?
Jason: We did a Méthode Traditionnelle (Méthode champenoise if you will) that we just released, not Pét-nat per se since we didn’t have the equipment. We wanted to get some sparkling product to market, and we were doing different experiments with encapsulated yeast which allows you to have a lower or shorter secondary fermentation time. Then our Charmat tanks, this is our first set of Charmat tanks in the back (shows tanks in the background). They came online, we finally got everything installed, and our first batch is up and running.
The new Palisade property, that’s going to be very heavy into the Charmat. We’re going to have additional tanks; you know we have a little bit more space out there, and the grapes that we’re planting are geared toward putting into that Charmat program out there. We have two tanks here and will probably have 4-5 out there.
Q: What investments did you make upfront to take on the Charmat and Méthode champenoise?
Tyzok: One of the prohibitive factors was that there was a different tax bracket, so that was a deterrent of previous bosses, they didn’t want to pay extra, and it’s labor-intensive.
Jason: Space, labor, and then getting into the Charmat; that’s a whole different ball game in terms of costs. Cost and knowledge, in addition to paying for that equipment.
We were going to go for 6 bar in terms of pressure and then find out that it’s really hard to find equipment rated for 6 bar out there. So then having to change our original intent a little bit and dialing that back and just finding out which equipment that we have in-house is going to work, which is almost none of it—then heading to go out and purchase filters that will handle 5+ bar and being cautious because working with pressure is very dangerous, so that’s a big aspect of it.
Ashley: The reason why you’re involved in Charmat is it because it’s just a faster time to get product to market?
Tyzok: Turnaround, yes, and just in terms of space. Tirage cages, you get 500 bottles per cage, which takes up some space.
Jason: With Méthode champenoise, the minimum you probably want to be in tirage s probably a year so imagine having cages full of bottles. Every vintage on top of that and having to keep up with the demand, so we love both formats for different reasons. It’s like your kids; they both have unique qualities.
Tyzok: Some are costlier and more accident-prone!
Q: What’s the future look like for your sparkling program?
Jason: We foresee doing three different tiers of our sparkling program, one being the base sparkling with it primarily coming out of the high-volume program in Palisade. If we play it right, we might be able to turn it into a national brand.
Then we have our mid-tier, which is unique and Colorado-focused; that’s also Charmat. Then we have our higher tier being a Méthode champenoise product that maybe doesn’t even come out every year depends on whether or not we get a great set of fruit to fulfill that program for that particular year.
Ashley: For other winemakers and clients who are watching this thinking about getting involved in sparkling, do you have any words of advice?
Tyzok: Plan accordingly!
Jason: Doing your due diligence and working with your equipment manufacturer and asking the questions trying to foresight what you’re going to need. What you’re going to need before you delve into it.
I think sparkling is one of those things that continues to be a category that grows by leaps and bounds day, and you see the trends in the market. Rosé back in the day was sweet and was white zin. It used to be just something for celebration for so many years, and it was only for special occasions, but it’s starting to become an everyday thing. When that hits, you know it’s not going to go away ever.
Time and due diligence, and financial investment will, at the expense of creating more competition by saying it, be worth it. Ensure you dot all your I’s and cross all your t’s before you dip your toes in the water.
Q: How has InnoVint supported you?
Tyzok: The team at InnoVint is very receptive to recommendations and any commentary to improve the product. It’s always a joy to work with folks that understand and have a more in-depth understanding.
When we first launched, we utilized a different vehicle (to be unnamed) to track all that data, and it’s been very rewarding to work with InnoVint; from a production standpoint, the ease of use is so much more efficient and streamlined, it’s a world of difference so hats off to the InnoVInt team.
Q: How can those outside Colorado get access to your wines?
Jason: We currently ship to 38 different states. While still being grassroots, our marketing endeavors have been geared toward getting outside of just our own restaurants. Along with other producers here in Colorado, trying to say that hey, there is something great going on here; there always has been a history in winemaking, and it’s in a resurgence.
So yes, to answer your question, we can ship to about 38 different states, and it took off with quite a bit of fanfare, and it’s been great. Our wine club is now starting to be nationwide, where previously it was pick up only. After only being able to ship for a couple of months now, we already have several dozen wine club members out of state, which is awesome for us. So just expanding that reach and trying to capitalize on all of the work that went into making that happen.
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