AMHERST — LaBelle Winery, which is starting to compete with the big dogs in the wine industry, recently installed a filtration system typically used by larger wineries.
The local business invested $72,000 in a new system for its vintning process, a change that owner Amy LaBelle says is already improving the quality of her handcrafted wines.
“Wine doesn't like to be moved — it doesn't like to touch oxygen,” said LaBelle. Under the previous filtration process, the wine went through multiple filters of different sizes, which wasn't ideal for the wine since it was exposed to air four or five times.
The new free-standing KMS WineFilter allows the wine to be filtered just once, meaning there is less movement and less air, according to LaBelle.
“It's gentler on the wine,” she said. “I've noticed a quality uptick, and the process has added an interesting note to the mouth feel of our wines. The filtration takes out what it should, and leaves what it should.”
LaBelle, along with her husband, Cesar, had attended several trade shows and seminars on wine filtration, and top equipment representatives all praised the single filtration process.
After completing an extreme financial analysis, LaBelle said they decided to purchase the KMS WineFilter because it will not only improve the quality of the product but also save the company time during the filtration process.
The new system at LaBelle has three membrane chambers that clean the wine. According to LaBelle, the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley uses this same filter, however it has about 18 chambers because of the volume of wine being produced.
Koch Membrane Systems Inc., created WineFilter cartridges and systems in an effort to produce clear, stable and flavorful wines. The crossflow microfiltration is geared to reduce losses from conventional wine filtration processes by as much as 70 percent and improve overall wine yield by up to 5 percent, according to a release.
“KMS has helped hundreds of wine producers around the world create premium wines with this customized filtration approach,” says the release from KMS.
LaBelle said the filtration technology, which has been used in top wineries along the West Coast for many years, is relatively new to the East Coast, adding it is virtually unheard of for small wineries such as LaBelle.
“The California wine industry grew because viticulturists learned and helped each other. They brought the market together with a strong network of support,” she said. “This will enhance everyone's ability to produce quality wine.”
And LaBelle is eager to share her new filtration system with other businesses that would like to take advantage of the process.
“We will be opening up our doors to allow other wineries to filter their wines at LaBelle. This is something we are toying around with because we feel it could be incredibly beneficial to the industry,” LaBelle said.
The local winery produces 30 different wines and is currently in the process of acquiring a 48-acre parcel across the street from its existing facility on Route 101 to eventually construct an artisan village complete with a possible inn, restaurant, distillery, brewery and small homes.
Enterprise Bank of Lowell, Mass., assisted LaBelle with financing for the filtration system.