Monthly Archives: March 2013

2013 Spray Log

sprayer 1


The spray season for Turtle Vines officially started today.  In the Russian River Valley for Pinot noir the main worry is powdery mildew.  In addition I will spray for mites, fertilize with a foliar spray and add copper and boron for bloom.  It takes me about 2-3 hours to perform this either with a backpack spray or the 25 gallon to behind you see in the picture.  With the backpack sprayer it is about 5 miles of walking with 5 to 30 pounds on your back.  A good workout for this 54 year old!

This will be a running log of my activities and monthly I have to input to a California database even though all I spray are organic materials.

March 21 – 23 gal  Man, 30oz Serenade
April 1/2 – 27 gal  Man, 36oz Ser, 13.5 Spread, 36 multi min
April 9 – 27 gal Man, 36oz Ser, 13.5 spread, 36 MM, 36 copper
April 16 – 21 gal, 28oz Ser, 10.5 spread, 28 MM, 28 copper
April 23 – 30 gal, 40oz Ser, 20 spread, 40 MM, 40 copper
May 1 – 50 gal, 80oz Ser, 4 spread, 80 MM, 22 copper
May 8 – 50 gal, 96 stylet, 2 spread, 64 MM
May 15 – 50 gal, 96 Stylet, 3 spread, 64 MM
May 23 – 50 gal, 96 Stylet, 4 spread, 64 MM
May 28 – 50 gal, 96 Stylet, 4 spread
June 5 – 50 gal, 96 Stylet, 4 spread

Old Math – How to calculate Harvest 2013


Last February I estimated that the 2012 harvest would be 1300 pounds…and we had 1190 pounds with the raccoons getting the other 100 pounds.  So…pretty close.  How did I get so lucky?  Originally I had planned for 3 pounds/vine in my farming plan and I had 2900 vines that were OK and in the first harvest you get 10-20% of the final number (I used 15%) so I got 1305…rounded down to 1300 pounds.

What about this year?  Using the same formula I have 3100 vines (of 3130 total) and in the second year you get 50-60% so I should get 5115 pounds.

Now, it you really want to get precise, you would actually measure the number of buds per vine (looks like 7 right now), multiply by 1.5 grape clusters/shoot (typical for Pinot noir), multiply by 80 grams/grape cluster with 3100 vines…and you get 5736 pounds.

Finally, and most importantly, how many bottles with that produce?  Well…there are 2.378 gal/case and we started last year with 1190 pounds and got 102 gallons…then you average the top crop estimates and we might get 5425 pounds which will give us 195 cases (minus what the raccoons will get).

For all those math inclined…try the calculation at home to double check me. Sort of reminds me of an algebra question in the 8th grade with Mrs Nancy Wheeler.

One last thing on the subject.  2012 was a great growing year without any heat spikes, fantastic fruit set, no frost events and a great harvest season.  I’m guessing we won’t be as lucky this year, so perhaps 150-175 cases.  If it really is that big (and I’ll know in July), I’ll have to sell some fruit this year as that is to much for me to make given my current equipment.

Later in the year I will have a “Harvest Total Estimate” contest, and the winner will win a bottle of wine.


Freez’in Season in Russian River Valley

TV freezin season

From bud break until April 15th we all hold our collective breath here in Russian River Valley hoping that we won’t have a hard freeze that will damage our small shoots.  That would be very sad.  With not much rain since December 2012, the warm 2013 spring like weather and my decision to prune early, our first bud break was 3 weeks earlier than last year.  This time next week most of my vines will have small shoots that hold our crop for the fall. If I get a hard freeze, it will be a very small crop…hope for warm nights!

Pictured above was this mornings fog covering Turtle Vines.  So romantic and a welcome sight.  If you don’t know, if the sky is clear then it will be cold…but if we have fog it does not normally drop below 40 degrees.

Last night we went to San Francisco to see our Nephew’s showing of portraits at the Lexington Bar.  He had a great turn-out and we were very happy to see Cody and Andrea.  In addition, Joey took the picture below of the Golden Gate Bridge as the fog was rolling in the bay.  If you have never been there to see it, quite amazing!

golden gate fog



Vit 131 – Working with your Winemaker

winemakerPictured is John Mason of EMTU Vineyards with his Pinot noir on the right and Turtle Vines Pinot noir on the left this last fall.

I just finished a 4 day course at Santa Rosa Junior College entitled “Working with your Winemaker”.  In essence, the class is designed to teach the vineyard owner/manager the important parameters in the vineyard that effect wine, and how to make it better.  Winemakers can only make good with with good grapes, they need great grapes to make great wine!  That is our goal, great grapes…and then great wine.

Here are the key items I took from the class

* Great vineyards only have 3-4 shoots/foot.  This should balance the growth between grapes and shoots/leaves.  If you try for to much fruit it won’t ripen and you will probably get mold/mildew.

* Red wine needs to be water stressed between set and version (small berries to when they turn red).  This sounds odd, but the vine needs to look a little weak before you add water…and then after that only water to 40% of what a normal plant would need for a month or so.  This is good for color and flavor.

* Leaves around the grapes have to allow dappled light to the clusters, and in some cases you strip all the leaves.  This will give you more intense flavors.

* In the vineyard many times less is better.  So you have to thin leaves,  remove shoots and clusters, prune to only allow the correct amount of fruit.  It seems like the vines want to grow, and you want to only allow it to grow how you want it to grow.  If you do it correctly, this will produce a “balanced” vine and “balanced” wine.  Use this term next time you are at a winery and see what they say.

* Rule of thumb – if the shoot is shorter than the first wire…no clusters, up to the second wire…1 cluster, above that 2 clusters.

* It is best to have a cover crop to help stress the vines as it gives them competition for water and nutrients.

* Lastly, the Winemaker is always right


Doug Williams – Turtle Vines grower/vintner

Joey’s Sauvignon blanc – Official with Sonoma County

SB Pest ControlThe past few years Sonoma County has put a pest control “bug catcher” in the Pinot noir vineyard…and thankfully we have been vine pest free.  This year the county came out and put the “bug catcher” in Joey’s Sauvignon blanc vineyard…so she is now official in the eyes of the county!!!

In case you are wondering, we got 10 bottles of wine from her vines last year that will be bottled in a few weeks.  This year I’m expecting around 3 cases.  Anyone who wants a taste better be nice to her as these will be in high demand with limited availability.

Bud Break – March 5, 2013

Bud BreakGood News…Bad News.  The good news is that all of the vines here at Turtle Vines are pruned, tied to the fruiting wires and looking very good.  The bad news is that I have bud break already.  Why is this bad?  Well, normally bud break is not until later in the month when the chance of a hard frost is gone.  If most of the vineyard starts to bud, it will be a very stressful month of March as I don’t have frost protection.  The good news is that my growing season will be longer and it will help me later in the year for an early fruit set and then harvest.

Why did this happen?  It is a combination of two things.  First, I elected to prune early this year.  When you prune early then the canes left get all the plants energy and will bud early.  Also, we have had very little rain in 2013 and the sun has been out so the vines think it is spring.