We had an hour before our second Thanksgiving dinner and decided to make country champagne. Country champagne is made by taking finished wine and adding sugar, yeast and acid and then filling up champagne bottles. Unlike commercial champagne, we do not disgorge the yeast…we simply leave it on the bottom of the bottle when we drink it. The champagne process takes approximately 6 months.
We had a little left over so Vaughn demonstrated the art of pouring wine from a 5 gallon bucket to a wine glass! Quite a good skill to have.
This is the initial racking of our 2018 Pinot Noir. As you can see we use gravity to transfer from one container to another. This initial racking removes the dead yeast that was not filtered out during the press process.
Since we don’t use oak barrels…we use Frend Oak Medium Plus Xoakers to add spice and flavor to our wine. We don’t use barrels since our process is much easier to replicate without the variable that barrels bring to the process.
Our 2018 Pinot Noir fermentation took almost twice as long due to the late pick which resulted in cold days and nights. Below we are pressing our Pinot Noir. The press process takes about 45 minutes and you have to be careful not to press to long as it will produce bitter flavors.
As with any other project, cleaning up takes more time than the actual work but is critical to the success of your project.
Once fermentation has begun you need to punchdown the grape skins from the top of the must into the liquid. This will allow the color and flavor of the skins to mix with the wine during fermentation. This is done 2-3 times per day. When fermentation starts there are few skins on the top and then as it is in full swing 4″ of skins float on the top. Finally, when fermentation is complete the skins barely float on the surface.
After we picked our wonderful Pinot Noir the fermentation process begins. First you place whole clusters to the bottom of your fermentation vessel. Next you dump the picking lugs full of grapes into a distemmer and sort out any leaves or stems. Fun but messy!
Since Pinot Noir has thin skin, you need to cold soak the grapes for 4-6 days and keep the must below 50F to prevent fermentation from starting. This will allow the colors to be released from the skin. With most other grapes this is not necessary.
2017 was a great growing and winemaking year for Turtle Vines!
– We harvested 5 tons of grapes on September 9th, or about 3 pounds per vine, our goal when we planted in 2010.
– We survived 2 heat waves, the last one a week before harvest with 108F temperatures
– We harvested/made wine prior to the fires…and Hanzell Vineyards, whom we sell most of our grapes, did not get any smoke damage to our 12 barrels in their cave.
– Mold and mildew were very low due to sprayer modifications
– Harvest and winemaking was a family affair this year!!!
– Make Champagne and 1/2 bottles of Pinot
– Get new painted bottles and glass corks
– Continue to sell to Pacific Market and private clients
– Make low histamine wine
– Work with new vineyard management company
By now, our friends and family should know that if they are going to visit in September, we are going to put them to work in the vineyard. This year, our daughter-in-law Karina Aldredge was here designing our Zen garden when suddenly our sugars spiked and the flavor were perfect, so we needed to harvest the grapes for our estate Pinot Noir. So me, Joanne, Karina and our friend Joel picked Wednesday September 5th.
We couldn’t get the crew to do the major harvest until Friday night. Only 8 guys showed up (instead of the 13 they promised us) from 7PM to midnight (wearing head lamps) and we were able to get a second small crew to show up at 5AM the next morning to finish. I was working the entire time – hard work. All told, we picked for Hanzell 4.43 tons! Then the following morning, Joanne and I went around and picked the grapes they missed or dropped. I guess it’s hard to see in the dark since we found over 100 more pounds. We added these little jewels to our estate Turtle Vines wine as “whole clusters” to get some tannic flavors from the stems.
Then, exhausted, after working almost non stop for more than 24 hours, I had to drive a trailer full of grapes to Sonoma for Hanzell Vineyards Sabella Pinot Noir.
This was the biggest and most beautiful harvest we have ever had – almost 5 tons!
I will announce the final numbers and the winners of our “guess the date and the number of pounds” contest in the next day. A big thanks to Karina and a warning to Vaughn Aldredge that we will coincidentally be pressing the grapes on the very day he is going to be here for his conference in Berkeley and visit to Sebastopol so bring something purple to wear
PS A special thanks to Joanne for taking the wonderful pictures and documenting this wonderful event!