The Second Glass

Turtle Creek Winery: Making Vino in Metro Boston
By Michael Corbett • Jul 15th, 2008 • Category: Main Feature

This past week I took a break from the day job to do one of my favorite things – tour a winery. Picture the scene; you slowly roll up an extended driveway to the winery estate passing vineyards on your left with the barking of the requisite winery dog and the picturesque scenery of Lincoln, MA. Nope, that wasn’t a typo, I went to a winery mere steps outside of the Metro-Boston area.
Turtle Creek Winery was founded in 1998, and winemaker Kip Kumler gave me a dime tour of his winery that on the exterior looks like simple basement setup, but upon closer look shows his background as an electrical engineer. Kumler spared no expense in his winery construction, putting well spent dollars towards arguably the most critical winemaking parameters, temperature, sulfur levels, and equipment design. In fact, the lab he has set up for a modest 1,000 case production of high quality wine is more sophisticated than many I have seen in both Napa and Australia. Add in the temperature control barrel room that could double as a miniaturized version of an estate wine cave, and you have one high class setup! But I’m sure as a reader you are still begging the question…how do you make wine in MA?!

Those of you familiar with wine grapes may know that the European vine species responsible for most wines, Vitis vinifera, gets along with cold weather about as well as a native Floridian. In the Finger Lakes region of New York, many wineries have to bury their vines to protect them from winter time freezes, and then un-hilled them in the spring. At Turtle Creek Winery they have avoided this laborious process by insulating the vines for wintertime. Although Turtle Creek has 4,000 vines planted, Kumler admits that the viticulture portion of the company is still in the experiment stages. In addition to producing limited quantities of estate wines, a large portion of the fruit for his wines is selectively picked from vineyards in California and New York, and shipped to The Bay State for fermentation.
Grapes are de-stemmed after being picked in the vineyards, and are sent to a facility to be flash frozen for shipping. From here the frozen grapes start the 3,000 mile journey to becoming wine. Kumler cleverly refers to a current industry buzz phrase, calling this process “extended cold maceration” — cold maceration being the process of keeping skins in contact with the refrigerated juice for color and flavor extraction. After shipping, grapes are thawed, inoculated with yeast(s), and fermented in small batch open top fermentors.

From here the wines are barreled anywhere from 12 to 18 months, and monitored with the attention and care that only a 1,000 case producer can provide. Despite such a small production, Kumler refuses to bottle an inferior product, and admits that from time to time failed batches have been sent down the drain. On the flip side, some problem batches have been salvaged to produce unique bottlings such as the 2006 “Bastard Child”, a high alcohol Sauvignon Blanc whose fermentation stuck at 2% residual sugar. Turtle Creek produces a variety of wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, to Syrah, to Zinfandel with grapes selected from regions specializing in growing each particular grape. With a price range of $15-$20 these wines are a steal, so long as you can get them before they sell out!

So the next time you head towards the liquor store for a bottle of wine, shy away from Spain, amble past Australia, forget the French, and buy a wicked local bottle of wine from Lincoln!


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