Our 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are enjoying the cold temperatures here at Turtle Vines. Not like the rest of the country, but cold enough for wine!
A lot of people ask…”What do you do in the winter?” Well, you need to rack off the dead yeast (lees), check pH and acidity, determine if secondary fermentation is complete, sulfur the wine so it does not go bad…and of course taste the wine and make sure something “funky” is not going on while you weren’t watching. Right now we don’t have all the equipment for testing, so we are sending it to a lab…here are the results and the actions we took.
By the way, did a blind tasting of our 2013 Sauvignon Blanc vs 2011 Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc and even as ours is only 3 months old 3 of 4 people preferred it!
Alcohol – 12.7%
TA – .375 … sulfured to 0.6 g/100ml
pH – 4.1 … will come down to around 3.9 after acid addition
Sulfured to 60ppm
Alcohol – 13.9%
TA – 0.465 … adjusted to 0.55 g/100ml
pH – 3.95 … will come down to around 3.85 after acid addition
Sulfured to 75ppm
First, sulfur has been used since the days of the Roman Empire to purify wine containers to control microorganisms. I know there is a push for Natural Wines without sulfur, but I’m not convinced you can reliably make sulfur-less wine. There are things you can do to reduce the need for sulfur, such as: adjust the pH of the wine must lower, making sure the vineyard does not have mold when you pick, being very clean as you make the wine, minimizing the oxygen during winemaking and using a screw top at bottling.
I normally sulfur as soon as I pick the grapes to control any mold in the vineyard to around 30ppm. This will get bound during fermentation and most will fall out at the press. For red wine you sulfur at the end of malolactic fermentation to preserve the wine for aging and then sulfur until bottling to keep the sulfur level high enough to control antibacterial growth. Some people claim it is much better to add a larger amount of sulfur at the end of malolactic fermentation to stop any growth immediately and then only sulfur at bottling. This is what I will do this year.
The table below shows the amount of molecular sulfur needed to protect the wine. Red Wine needs less molecular sulfur since it has tannins. These levels in the table will result in about 0.5 ppm free sulfur, which is what protects the wine. For White Wine you need about 0.8 ppm free sulfur since it does not have tannins. One big item you should notice in the table is that as the pH of the wine increases, the sulfur needed goes up dramatically. Most Pinot’s are around 3.5 to 3.6 pH, but ours is 3.8 due to the age of the vineyard.
Molecular SO2 needed for Stability in ppm
pH White Wine Red Wine
3.0 13 8
3.1 16 10
3.2 21 13
3.3 26 16
3.4 32 20
3.5 40 25
3.6 50 31
3.7 63 39
3.8 79 49
If you have been reading the blog, you will know that the Pinot Noir harvest has been a little high in pH. This was due to 3 reasons: young vineyards normally have high pH’s; watering between set and veraison will cause the vines to pull up potassium from the soil; if the soil does not have the correct ratio of Calcium/potassium/magnesium of around 6/1/1 with more potassium than magnesium, the potassium will be pulled into the berries and raise the pH.
Our 2012 Pinot Noir harvest resulted in a pH of 3.9 and potassium level of 2100 ppm.
Our 2013 harvest resulted in a pH of 3.76 and potassium level of 1700 ppm with 1 year of growing and limiting the water from set to veraison.
For 2014 we are adding 1/2 pound of Organic Epson Salt per vine. The Epson Salt will add magnesium level close to the potassium level. Hopefully this should reduce the uptake of potassium. In addition, we are installing an extra drip hose for those vines that need water. This will alleviate the need to water an entire row until it needs it. This should help the potassium level as well as enhance the flavor of the grapes.
So…how is this done. We purchased 1600 pounds of Epson Salt and will sprinkle this along the vine row. When it rains this will quickly dissolve into the soil.
Let’s hope it works well! Only have to wait a year to find out…I’m hoping to get a pH of 3.55 for 2014, which would be perfect for my style of Pinot!
– 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.
IMPROVEMENTS FOR 2014
– 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 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.
IMPROVEMENTS FROM 2012
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.
WHAT STAYED THE SAME
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.
Why is this important? Most vineyards show potassium deficiency, however young vines in many cases produce berries high in potassium like our did, >2,000 ppm. An easy explanation….watering techniques. Early in the season, wen the growth rate is high, much of the potassium accumulates in the leaves. Then the potassium ions are moved from the leaves into the berries later in the season when the fruit starts to ripen. How is this controlled? Try not to water from the time the berries “set” on the vines to verasion (when they turn purple). This will limit the amount of potassium into the leaves that will be transferred to the berries. Due to the smallness of our vines and the shallow roots, I had to water them so they would be healthy. This, I think, shot up the potassium which in turn increased our pH of the berries later in the season. So, next year I will try and not water until verasion.