Riddle me this…

What would be a terrific improvement to our Winemaker team in terms of precision, space savings and efficiency?

This was the question our winemakers, Andrew Meggitt and Aaron Spohr, asked when discussing how the St. James Winery Cellar Crew could become more proficient in producing champagne. With the fermentation process taking a minimum of 12 months inside each bottle of champagne, it is necessary to remove all sediment, also known as lees. This is accomplished by gathering the lees in the neck of each bottle during a process commonly referred to as riddling.

Since the start of champagne production at the St. James Winery, the Cellar Crew has used the handmade riddling racks built by founder, James Hofherr. With the riddling racks, the bottles are placed with their necks upside down at an angle, and are individually hand turned once or twice a day, depending on if the lees have all gathered together. With the racks, riddling takes several weeks to gather the sediment, and is rather labor intensive.

After doing some research, Aaron Spohr composed a rough sketch of a hand operated gyropalette, a device where bottles are placed in a cage and all the bottles can be rotated at the same time. Our farm managers, Scott Veatch and Sam Cobb, volunteered to head this project and constructed our very own in only four days. With our newest St. James Winery team member, The Riddler, riddling 282 bottles of champagne only takes us about one week worth of effort and saves nearly six times the space!

If you are interested in seeing the Riddler in person, visit the St. James Winery for a tour today! Check out the video to see the creation process and to witness the ease of the Riddler in action.

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