Tag Archives: brix

Results from Lab on MLF Status and other Tests



I wanted to test if our 2013 Turtle Vines Pinot Noir had finished malolactic fermentation, so I sent a sample to the lab on Dec 9th..  You can also just look/listen to the wine.  If the wine is warm and you no longer have small bubbles coming to the surface or when you open the top and you don’t hear the fermentation…it is complete.  However, I have the wine in the garage where it is cold, so instead of warming it up, I took a sample to the lab.  In addition, I had them perform other needed tests so it seemed like a good time to get those done.

Alcohol                      13.94    %                Perfect for a pick at 24 brix
Glucose + Fructose   0.175  %                 Very dry, you can taste sugar at 0.2%
Malic Acid                   5         mg/100ml   <30 is considered complete
Volatile Acidity          0.071  g/100ml      <0.075 is considered good for red wine
TA                                0.465  g/100ml     A little low, will see how it tastes later


Everything looks great!  It is now time to sulfur.



2013 Sauvignon Blanc – Pick/Destem/Press/Rack/Ferment

jeanette and Joey


We waited for Joey’s friend Jeanette to arrive from Texas and then picked, destemmed and pressed our Sauvignon Blanc.

We ended up with 200 pounds (enough for 4 1/2 cases).  Brix 21.5, pH 3.6 and TA 3.9.  Just about perfect…with very nice flavor and brown seeds.  Last year we picked at the same time as the Pinot, but this year I put a little to much fruit on the vines so it had to ripen for an extra 6 weeks.


Joey Grapes


Joey with her harvest


grapes and press


We pulled out all the same equipment as with the Pinot.  The real exception with white vs red is you ferment the red on its skins and with the white you press it right away.  The press held the 200 pounds easily, in fact I think we could have had 600 pounds in the 170L press.


sb 2013


Here is the wine after we racked the gross lees.  You can see that the fermentation has started after we added yeast on 10/21.  It should take around 8 days and then we will rack off the lees and add malolactic bacteria and let it ferment again for a few months.

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 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.




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.


2013 Pinot Noir

Wine stuff


I have not posted in a while, so I’ll give you a little update on how our 2013 Pinot Noir crop is shaping up.

Three weeks ago we finished veraison so the nets went up to prevent the birds from getting our crop.  Only took 5.5 hours this year top put them up…better than 9 hours last year.

Sunday Joey and I took brix (sugar) readings throughout the vineyard.  As expected the vines closest to the house averaged 20.4 and the ones furthest away were at 19.3.  We expect to pick when the brix reach 23…so around September 16th!

Now the fun part…as you can see from the picture, we bought a small bladder press.  The capacity is 42 gallons, or enough for 1/2 ton of fermented Pinot Noir, or around 400 pounds of Sauvignon Blanc.  In addition, we bought 2 thirty gallon breathable tanks for aging, and some 5, 3 and 1 gallon glass containers.  Next up is to get a destemmer and a few smaller items and we will be set to make wine this year!