Tag Archives: Pinot noir

Winemaking Equipment -Enolmatic Filler

wine filler


I just finished a wine class from Vinquiry that focused on bottling and the keys to good wine preservation.  It was stressed over and over that oxygen is great for humans to breath,  but for wine after fermentation is complete, you have to limit the oxygen.

What does that me to a small winery.  After primary and malolactic fermentation is complete and you have racked your wine, give it a good dose of sulfur to stop any further fermentation, say 75-100ppm, depending on the pH of the wine.  Then resist the temptation to taste every week.  If you are using a flex tank, you can let it sit for several months since you won’t have any evaporation.  Sulfur as necessary and when you deem the wine is ready, rack one last time.  If you process >50 cases I would recommend a small vacuum filler like the Enolmatic.  It pulls a vacuum in the bottle and fills wine from your tank to the bottle.  Again…very little oxygen.  Then cork right away with a good quality cork.

They claim that the Enolmatic will fill a bottle every 10 seconds.  When we did the Sauvignon Blanc we added a 1u filter.  This slowed the process down but resulted in a very clean/clear wine.  When we do the Pinot in the fall, we will not use a filter to preserve the flavors in the wine.  The one draw back we have seen so far is that the level in the bottle was a little hard to control.  I’m guessing it was due to our inexperience and the filter…hopefully we will improve when we bottle in September.

Oh…it runs about $400, so with the corker, labeler and renting or borrowing a spinner you will spend about $1000 getting you wine from a tank to a bottle.

Replacement Vines – Gophers are only funny in Caddy Shack!

top benchgraft


OK, so if you have watched Caddy Shack you probably think gophers are cute and harmless.  Well, here in West Sonoma County we would do anything to get rid of the little guys!  They eat the roots of the grapevines.  Let’s do a little math….it takes around 4 years until the vine is in full production.  Eat vine I have makes about 1 bottle of wine…so if a gopher eats a full grown vine I lose about $100 of gross wine sales.  Now they are not so cute.  Last week I had to replace 93 vines….some from gophers and some that never grew well.

side benchgraft


I have to hand water the vines until we start irrigating the entire vineyard in 2 months, a lot of work.

nursery row


I had 7 vines left over that I planted in a nursery row.

2013 Wine Update


2013 wine update

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!

Sauvignon Blanc
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
Malolactic Complete

Pinot Noir
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
Malolactic Complete


2013 wine samples

No Rain for 2013 !



As farmers we live and die by the weather, in fact I get a wine industry weather report sent to me every day via email so I can plan my week.  Grapevines need moisture in the winter and fall to replenish the soil.  They need to be warm in the spring and hot, but not to hot, in the summer and fall.  Pinot Noir likes the range of temperatures in the days and nights to be large to develop wonderful flavors.

This brings me to this post on rainfall.  Sebastopol (in Sonoma County) for 2013 has had only 8.1 inches of rain as of mid-December (I hope it rains during the holidays).  Normally we get 36.3 inches of rain, with most of it coming in the winter and spring to recharge the soil and fill the aquifers. .  If we don’t get much rain this winter I think the vines will suffer and we will get a smaller crop for 2014.  Global climate change, El Nino, who knows…I know I may regret saying this as I need time to get ready for the growing season and prune in the spring…but I sure wish it would rain a lot this winter.   Sure we can irrigate, but it is not the same.

When and How Much to Sulfur?

Cold oaks

When is it time to sulfur your wine and how much?

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

It has Oaked Enough!

Oak out of barrel


Has it oaken enough?  Always a difficult question but much more controllable since we use Flextanks and Oak Balls.  If you were reading any of the September posts, we pressed on 9/23/13 and racked and oaked on 9/24/13.  The vendor recommended that the oak go in during malolactic fermentation to smooth integration of oak to the wine.  They said it should remain for approximately 8 weeks for maximum extraction.  We took them out 12/3/13 so it was 10 weeks…I tasted the wine and it was very nice.  It has not fully finished malolactic fermentation, but I think it will be a great vintage!

Is Winemaking like making Chocolate?

We had the good fortune to be in Kona, HI last week with family.  It was a great trip!

When Joanne and I vacation we love to visit small farms to learn from them and hopefully bottle some of their enthusiasm to bring home.  We ended up at Original Hawaiin Chocolate Factory (OHCF) .  What a great story and a wonderful tour of how a family moved from North Carolina 15 years ago, bought a 5 acre farm and started making chocolate.  They are the only bean to bar maker of chocolate in the industrialized world!

So, what did I learn and is it like making hand-crafted Pinot Noir in Russian River Valley?  Let’s see.

Cacao is grown 15-20 degrees from the equator in 3 major varieties…Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario.  Cacao trees  are pruned to 10-15 feet and blossom 5 months of the year.  The fruit takes about 6-7 months to ripen.  You can tell they are ripe when they brighten in color.  They say when they look like Easter Eggs, they are ready to pick!  Since the blossoms take 5 months and they fruit take 6-8 months to ripen, you can’t harvest cacao all at once.  They do it every 2 weeks to ensure optimal flavor.  Wow, a labor of love.

Cacao tree

Next they cut open the pods (top picture) and take out the white seed/beans.  These are then fermented to remove the white outer material for 6-8 days.

ferment choc

Then they are dried in the sun for 22-28 days to lower the moisture content to <7%.  At this point they can be stored almost indefinitely.

Drying Choc

Then the fun part begins.   The beans are now roasted.  It took them a lot of experimentation to find the right time and temperature to give the correct flavor profile.  The bean are now winnowed to remove the outer shell and crushed into nibs.  Next the nibs are ground down into a thick liquid mass and vanilla and lecithin are added to make dark chocolate.  This process takes up to 18 hours to get a velvety texture.  The liquid is then cooled from 120 F to 86 F and then poured into molds.

temp choco

And then you have chocolate!

We loved the Criollo Dark Chocolate…tastes very smooth but has 70% cacao without any milk.

What did I learn…Just like growing and making wine, a tremendous amount of effort and passion is needed to make a good final product.  For chocolate I think the skill is in the correct harvest time and in processing.  For wine, I think more time is spent in growing the produce.  In both cases…grow a wonderful grape/bean and then don’t mess it up in how you process it!

choc sign

Organic Epson Salts

Epson Salts


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.

Epson 1

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!

Epson 2

Pinot Noir Jelly – or What to do with Seconds!

jars of jelly


What do you when you have picked all your grapes for wine and are left with seconds?  (What are seconds?  They are the very small cluster of grapes above the fruit zone and are about 4 weeks behind in ripeness)  Well…first you pick them.  In our case we got around 55 pounds.  And then you make jelly, lots of jelly!!!  This is how we spent our Saturday.  If you want a great recipe to make Pinot Noir, or other grape Jelly, that doesn’t mask the taste of your grapes with too much sugar, download the eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen .  We ended up with 55 1-cup Jelly Jars and an extra 8 cups of grape juice.

Bucket of grapes