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Dragonfly Farm & Winery

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A fruity business with sweet profits 

STETSON - Growing grapes in Maine is something many people thought was impossible, but a couple from Stetson is proving that it can be done - and that producing the fruit can create some sweet profits.

"Everything we've made so far has gone over really well," said Treena Nadeau, co-owner of Dragonfly Farm & Winery.

Several years ago, Treena and Todd Nadeau purchased land in Stetson, where they were bound and determined to grow a vineyard and create their own winery.

"We were big risk takers because we just knew it was going to happen," explained Treena.

"Being in the military, we know how to plan and execute," added Todd.

But the couple admit they did hit a snag or two in the very beginning.

"The first batch of wine we made was raspberry. It was awful. We could clean tools with it, I like to say, because it was that bad. We were very discouraged and our confidence waned a bit," said Todd. "Then we got blueberries from my parents and we watched them closely, and as it got close to being done it was tasting pretty good."

GrapesThey decided to test out their blueberry concoction at an Oktoberfest gathering at Todd's brother's home where, to their delight, it received rave reviews.

"We put it on the counter with no label, just a cork in it and people go, 'Oh what's this? It's good,'" said Todd. "So Blueberry Bliss is what really launched us."The Nadeaus also attempted a maple syrup wine that they say was so bad it never left the premises. Instead, the duo, along with the help of Todd's parents, focused their efforts on creating other fruit wines as well as red and Riesling-style white wines.

"Our wines are sweeter. People who come here like sweet wine; they're not looking for dry," said Todd.

"But we do have two dry reds and one dry white," added Treena. "Everything else is sweet."

Dragonfly Farm & Winery produces a total of 21 different wines.

"Our fruit wine normally takes about 90 days to make before it gets into a bottle. Red wines take 11 months and the white wines five to six months," said Todd.

All the Nadeau's reds and white wines are made from the grapes that sprout on their 885 homegrown grapevines while their fruit wines are made from strawberries, blueberries, plums, cranberries and other fruits that they purchase from other growers.

"A lot of our wines are seasonal and when we run out, we run out. But we try to time it so that the strawberry wine is ready in the summer and the white wines are ready on Maple Sunday which is the last Sunday in March," said Todd.

"That [timeline] kind of matches how they bottle in Germany," said Treena.

Dragonfly-GoldLabelAnd the whole process from harvest to bottling is done right there on the farm.

"When we come to harvest it's usually the third weekend in September when the grapes are ready. This year it took us five days to harvest. That's when we're crazy, when we have multiple wines going on at once. We'll start the cranberry on its own and the blueberry on its own and that's relaxing, but when it's time to harvest in the vineyard, that's when you have to be on your "A" game because everything is coming in at the same time and you want to make sure the varieties of grapes aren't getting mixed," said Treena.

"Normally the process for us with fruit wines is we come in here [to the wine barn], we put boots on and stomp [the fruit]. Then the primary fermentation begins," said Todd.

The Nadeaus had to use extra leg strength this year when making their plum wine. The duo stomped, crushed, and trudge heavily on the fruit in order to get it ready for the fermentation.

"The plums, which come from upstate New York, are difficult because they come to us frozen in 55 gallon barrels and we had stomp those and really stomp them, cut them and squish them because they're very pulpy. The most sediment we'll have in any wine is the plum wine, second is cranberry, third is strawberry," said Todd.

Although they've been making wines for years, the couple is still fascinated by the process.

winery"If you bring people down during the primary fermentation and take the lid off, it's literally like a rolling boil that you'd see while cooking something in the kitchen," said Treena. "The fermentation is so active and it's just moving and turning over. It's pretty amazing to see."

That liquefied fruit then gets moved from one large container where it's fermenting to another large container inside the wine barn.

"When you rack it or move it, it allows it to clarify on its own because the more you filter it, it takes out color and flavor. So the more you can do naturally while moving the wine and not exposing it to too much air, you're going to end up with a truer flavor to either the grape or the fruit," said Treena.

The Nadeaus have traveled to Germany numerous times to learn more about wine making. They say the Wagner family in particular has helped them tremendously with their business.

"They are a fourth generation family of vendors and we learned a lot of what we're doing from them," said Treena. "Three years ago, we brought them a bottle of our blueberry wine and "By the Numbers" grape wine and we had Ursula Wagner try it. She was swishing and swishing and making these frowning faces and finally we're like, 'Do you like it or not?' And she said, 'Oh, oh the wine is good but I can't figure out the grape.' "

That dilemma was due in part to the fact that the Nadeaus are using grapevine hybrids on their farm.

"We could grow Riesling vines but we didn't have any luck with them being a great grape producer so everything we have is a hybrid, it's a Riesling style but not a Riesling grape," explained Treena.

But that obstacle hasn't prevented the Nadeaus from being successful.

"We are in Cervesas Southwest Grill in Newport and the Hilton Garden Inn in Bangor, but other than that people come here to the winery and pick up [what they like]," said Treena. "We don't want to advertise or be in stores, we want to do our own thing."

For the past seven years, the Nadeaus have spent their days serving their country and their nights and weekends investing into their future.

"This is our first year in our seven year history that our business has been self sustaining," said Todd.

And it's a business this couple knows will keep them busy and financially stable long into their retirement.

"There are a lot of people who want our wine because they like to support local people," said Todd. "And when people come into the winery, they're all in a good mood. You feed off of that and it's always fun."

Last modified on Thursday, 01 November 2012 09:19

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