Monthly Archives: September 2013

2013 Fermentation Log

For those interested in making wine…I’m documenting how long it takes to make Pinot Noir and the details of the fermentation. On the bottom, I’ll compare last year to this year…hoping that the changes we made will turn out as planned and increase the complexity of the 2013 wine.


9/10/13 – Harvest 837 pounds Pommard, 200 pounds 667, destem only, 30 ppm sulfur, 40 pounds of dry ice to begin cold soak. It is best to keep the must 9/12 40 pounds dry ice to continue cold soak
9/13 – 41 degrees in center, 60 degrees on the sides
9/14 30 pounds dry ice to continue cold soak
9/15 – Added 1.0 g/l tartaric acid, added 3 oz GoFerm in 1 quart of hot water. Cooled to 110 degrees F and added Assmanhausen yeast. Spread over the top of the bin and closed the cover
9/16 – 10am Yeast smell with small colonies forming
* 3pm 60 degrees, punched down
* 6:45pm 65 degrees, punched down, cap forming
9/17 – 8am 66 degrees, punched down, cap 3-4″
* 11am 66 degrees, punched down
* 3pm 67 degrees, punched down
* 7pm 72 degrees, punched down, 23.5 brix
9/18 – 7:30am 66 degrees, punched down, 21.5 brix
* 1pm 71 degrees, punched down, 20.5 brix
* 5pm 76 degrees, punched down, 21 brix
* 7:30pm 78 degrees, punched down
9/19 – 6:15am 67 degrees, punched down, 16 brix
* 1:45pm 78 degrees, punched down, 14 brix
* 6:45pm 80 degrees, punched down, 11 brix, added 0.33 g/l tartaric acid
9/20 – 7am 67 degrees, punched down, 9.5 brix
* 10:30am 74 degrees, punched down, 8 brix
* 1:30pm 76 degrees, punched down, 6 brix
* 8pm 78 degrees, punched down, 6 brix
9/21 – 10:30am 72 degrees, punched down, 5.2 brix
* 1:30pm 74 degrees, punched down, 4.7 brix

9/22 – Almost done
9/23 – I’m anticipating here is when we will press!
9/24 – Rack of gross lees

Last year(2012) from the time we introduced yeast until the wine was dry (0 brix) was 5 days. This year we used a new “Destemmer Only” machine that did not crush the grapes. In addition we put the 1/2 ton bin in a shaded location. This has significantly lengthened our fermentation to 8 days and reduced the maximum cap temperature from 90 degrees in 2012 to 80 degrees in 2013. We are hoping this longer/cooler fermentation will lead to a more complex wine.  Also, we did not use enzymes to enhance the break down of the skins as this is not needed for Pinot Noir.  Enzymes are great for color, pressing and settling of the lees but with Pinot Noir you may lose some of the elegant characteristics.  Our color this year was fantastic and the flavor of the juice outstanding.

This year we will introduce our Toasted French Oak (Medium Plus) adjuncts immediately after pressing the grapes. This again will make a more complex wine since during malolactic fermentation the yeast and oak will interact. We will leave them in for 2-3 months, or when the taste is where we like it to be.

2013 Vineyard status and Improvements for 2014




– For 2013 we harvested 5199 pounds of grapes this year vs an estimated 1190 pounds in 2012! We hope to eventually harvest around 11,000 pounds.
– By carefully restricting the water from set to veraison, we were able to reduce the pH at harvest from 3.9 to 3.76 even while harvesting at a higher brix! Still need a ways to get to optimal winemaking.
– With the help of Patrick Hamilton, a SRJC student, we staked up the irrigation hoses, eliminated twins and improved the cane pruning process.
– Our gopher population increased dramatically over recent years but so did our capture rate. Twenty three as of this date.


– Remove mystery vines and weak vines in the fall or spring
– Outsource to Wilkinson Vineyard Management some of the more labor intensive operations.
– Improve the process of harvest as we will have around 4+ tons of grapes.
– Decrease further the potassium uptake with prudent watering and magnesium supplementation of the soil.
– Implement a petiole analysis program.
– Add a second irrigation hose to around 20 rows in the vineyard for the weaker vines.
– Investigate biodynamic vineyard practices


2013 Winemaking Modifications



2013 was our second harvest and our second year of making Russian River Pinot.  What was really exciting is that we kept 1/2 ton to make our own wine and sold 2 tons to Horse and Plow.  We get to see in a year or so how our winemaking stacks up to a commercial winery.

So…even though we really liked our 2012 Pinot and got good reviews from our wine friends and an entire wedding party, we decided to make improvements for this year.  I hope this will be our close to our final process.


1. Less watering from set to veraison  to reduce pH of grapes – This was a success so far.  Our grapes came in at 3.76 ph vs 3.9 last year even though brix went up from 23 to 24.
2. We will “oak” our wine during secondary fermentation instead of waiting until it is finished
3. We purchased a bladder press and a destemmer only. The destemmer did not crush the grapes so we hope to have some whole berries and I think we will get a better juice from this small press.
4. We did not add enzymes this year. From what I read and discussed with other winemakers this is not needed from Pinot Noir due to the thin skin.
5. We will press the grapes before they have gone dry to reduce the amount of harsh tannins you get from the seeds. Seed tannins are alcohol soluble.
6. We picked at a higher brix for a riper berry. We hope this will add more complex flavors, but not to high to be overpowering with alcohol.
7. When we sulfur after malolactic fermentation, we will add a larger dose of sulfur upfront instead of trying to keep it at the correct range every month. The intent is to stop any harmful bacteria from growing initially by binding them with sulfur and make adjustments a few months later.


1. The cold soak is still 5 days with dry ice.
2. We will continue to use oak adjuncts with our Flex Tanks. We think the Flex Tanks give us a better aromatic profile than oak barrels. In addition, with a small winemaking operation oak barrels are difficult to manage. We have had 2 friends whose wine went bad due to bad barrels this last year.
3. We used Assmanhausen yeast again this year. Many people ferment with wild yeast but with our higher pH that would be a big risk.




2013 Harvest – Turtle Vines Pinot Noir

Harvest 2013!

2012 was our first harvest, and we made wine with the 1190 pounds, which turned out great!

This year we picked 1037 pounds on Tuesday Sept. 10th just for us and our wine and sold the rest of the grapes.  The rest we picked on Wednesday Sept 11th.  Wilkinson Vineyard Management showed up at 10:15am with 13 pickers.  In 1 hour 45 minutes they finished the entire vineyard.  They ended up with a little over 2 tons, split 0.8 tons 667 Clone and 1.3 tons Pommard Clone that was delivered to Horse and Plow Winery. So…with both picks we harvested 2.6 tons!

Here is a picture of our truck and borrowed trailer delivering the grapes.


Awaiting the final weigh tag.


Joey harvesting for our wine.



Setting up the destemmer.



First punch down of grapes with 30 ppm sulfur before they get 5 days of cold soak.


2013 Growing Season

9-6-2013 pinot clusters

2012 was the perfect growing season…a lot of rain in the winter, a warm spring and not to warm during the summer and fall.

2013 was a little more challenging but I think our fruit is actually better this year than last year.  We had almost no rain from the beginning of the year.  This caused bud break to be 3 weeks early.  Then in June we had 2″ of rain and a very hot 5 days following.  Mildew pressure was high.  And then…was very cool in July and early August returning to normal temperatures the end of August and early September.  This allowed the flavor to catch up to the early ripening.  An then…a heat wave just before harvest on September 7-9.  Havrest was still early on Sept 11th, but the fruit was very flavorful and retained a good amount of acid.  Unlike 2012 where everything went smooth, this year you had to fight but ended up with great fruit.




Destemmer Only?



Last year we were lucky enough to make our wine at EMTU Vineyards with our friends Chris and John Mason.  They are about 7 miles away so it was difficult to punch down 3 times per day for 10 days and do all the work necessary to make wine.  So this year we decided to invest in some equipment and make the wine at our house.

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of the 160 L bladder press that will handle about 1/2 ton of fermented grapes.  Our latest investment is a destemmer, it separates the berries from the stem by use of an auger and paddles.  We went the Beverage People in Santa Rosa.  They brought these in special just for Pinot Noir home winemakers.  They only had three in stock as they didn’t know who would buy these…they said only winemakers who had French friends that had tasted Burgundy would do it.  But wouldn’t you know, the three all were sold in one week, and one was to us!

Normally for whites and many reds you crush and destem at the same time.  However for Pinot Noir the idea is to destem only and ferment with whole berries.  This is gentler on the berry and will prolong the fermentation since the grape is whole and it will take longer for the yeast to penetrate the berry.  The goal is a more complex flavor profile by retaining the aromatics in the grape longer, or so I have read.  Actually, most of the commercial wineries only destem and then do an inspection on a sorter table to take out any bad berries.

Will have to see how it turns out!


Is it ready to Pick? Brix, TA and Seeds



The first question I normally get this time of year is…how do you know if the grapes are ready to pick?  The most important thing is taste.  If it does not taste good as a grape it won’t taste good in your glass 2 years later.  Next is sugar and acid content.  To measure sugar we use a refractometer (the silver/black tool in the middle of the picture).  At Turtle Vines, we don’t like high alcohol wines, so when the sugar is near 24 brix (%) it will make 13.5% alcohol wine.  In addition, you want your acids to remain fairly high. I use test strips (above right) to give me an indication.  Even if it goes low you can add some to the wine later.  Lastly you look at the seeds.  These will add tannins to the wine.  You want the seeds to be brown.  This will give a nice flavor.  If they are green it will add a vegetative flavor you don’t want in red wine.  See the picture below.  Brown seeds with green tips.  I hope they are all brown by the time we pick next week.  As an aside, last year in our first harvest they were mostly green, but the wine still tasted nice.