This past fall, the leaders of Manitou Springs' D'Vine Wine (934 Manitou Ave., 685-1030) pulled off what they considered a successful experiment in creating a raspberry pinot noir using Ute Indian spring water. To their knowledge, they were the first outfit to use local mineral water in wine fermentation.
We recently called Springs-raised, 29-year-old D'Vine wine crafter Ken Walker to check in on his second and third spring water batches, a sauvignon blanc and a malbec, tentatively set for release around May. (Though several of the first 28 test bottles of each have already been opened, with early samples earning praise.) Walker says after filling up mason jars at each Manitou spring, he sampled and eventually settled on Twin Springs water (from the 100 block of Ruxton Avenue) for the sauvignon blanc and Stratton Spring (in front of the Loop) water for the malbec.
Walker says he originally got the idea when pondering wine's health aspects and the spring water's beneficial aspects. Having worked on making matches for months now, he says the water "doesn't make it magically better, but you do get more body and complexity in the wine because of the water's minerals."
Those same minerals present an increase in "wine diamonds," or tartaric crystals, which are little specks that can be seen floating in the wine. That's nothing bad, according to Walker, and in most wines it actually signals that the grapes have had a longer time on the vine and a careful, slow fermentation.
D'Vine's concept is actually built on a rapid fermentation model, employing post-mash juice that's de-gassed in a centrifuge-like machine. It takes about 20 minutes, instead of months or years. The wine sits in five-gallon Italian glass carboys for up to 18 weeks, but sometimes only 10 or so, allowing customers to create their own wines in relatively short order.
"It's a big misconception that older wine is better," says Walker. "Ninety percent of wine made in the world is meant to be drank within the first year. We don't overly oak ours, and they don't have a huge tannin content, which helps ours be more drinkable young."
Walker is currently gearing up to produce enough bottles of the malbec and sauvignon blanc to go around come its spring release. If you're planning to make your own wine for a gift or special occasion, Walker recommends thinking at least three months ahead, though some "now-batch" wines are available in limited quantities at the store. He's available to help customers strategize the use of Manitou water if they desire, though he says he's not sure what wine he'll attempt himself with it next.