When I started Turtle Vines 4 years ago I invested in a good pair of Red Wing boots. I have used them in all seasons and they have been very good to me and my feet! But, all good things must come to an end, as they have outlived their usefulness. Truth be told I should have gotten a new pair last year as my feet got wet this last winter.
Interestingly, the soles (see picture below) look like they had some sort of chemical attack, which is very strange since I have been farming organically for 4 years. Maybe they just had to many miles on them from walking up and down the rows, which as they say, is the best fertilizer a vineyard can have!
This was a very big day for Turtle Vines…we were inspected for CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmer) this morning, May 28th, 2013. There were a few minor items I overlooked and he found, but I’m hoping in 4-6 weeks we will be an officially Certified Organic Vineyard. There are only 3% of the vineyards in Sonoma County that are organic, so this puts us in good company!
So what does it mean to be Organic?
– We are limited in the chemicals we can spray on the vines to safer, non-toxic liquids to combat mildew and insects. It also means we need to spray more often as the chemicals are not as effective. This means you have to be a better farmer in watching the health of the vines.
– It also means the fertilizers you use are less concentrated, so it you want to “juice” the vines to get them back to good health, you have to plan way in advance.
– You can’t spray Round-Up on weeds in the vineyard. In our case we put 2 miles of weed cloth with mulch on top to reduce weeding in the vine rows. Most vineyards use Round-up and a pre-emergent to control weeds. Just look under the vines and if you only see dirt and not weeds, in most cases it is not organic.
– For us organic is more expensive in the short term, but the soil is much healthier in the long run.
– The good news is I feel much better about the health of the vines, the health of the environment in the vineyard and my health spraying!!!
Just a quick note…we started bloom at the beginning of May and the vineyard is now almost fully complete. In the Pommard block we already have BB sized grapes and it looks to be a very good “set” (the conversion of flowers to grapes) which means a good harvest if all goes well.
It has been a very busy May so far and I just want to update you on what is happening in the vineyard.
First off, the weather has been warm/hot and dry, in fact our “Growing Degree Days” are running 20% higher than last year. This is a measure of the weather for us farmers. For the rest of you it means I’m 2-3 weeks ahead of last year, so it has been more stressful than last year at this time.
We started the month with bloom. They say that from bloom to harvest is around 120 days, so that will put harvest in early to mid September.
The rest of the month so far has been devoted to thinning shoots on the vines, positioning the shoots so they grow straight and leave room for the grapes, clipping the wires together and weeding. The result is the picture above…well manicured vines! Just have to finish weeding on 2/3 of the vineyard and we are good to go.
One downside of the nice weather is that the powdery mildew is a big concern, so I have started spraying with oil much earlier than last year.
What is next? I have to start leafing around the BB sized grapes so the spraying is more effective and the develop a sun tan so they are better able to stand the summer heat.
I’ve put some pictures below of the work so far this month.
Sunday we bottled our 2012 Sauvignon Blanc! It is DELICIOUS !!!
If you have been following along, Joey has her vines in the front of the house that were planted in 2011. She gives them much love and they responded by producing fruit the second year, which is quite unusual.
We harvested the crop last fall and made wine. As an experiment we took one gallon and put it through malolactic fermentation and the other we did not.(we ended up with 20 half bottles) The one without malolactic fermentation was a classic Sauvignon Blanc, crisp and full of grapefruit flavor. The second one was smoother and the one Joey prefers, so this is how we will produce her wine this year.
If you get a chance to sample this wine, consider yourself lucky. We are hoping to get enough fruit for 4-5 cases this year, so there will be more to go around.
Seeing that I’m a farmer now, I get to worry about all sorts of things that I can’t do anything about. A few months ago it was frost…but the spring here was amazing with warm weather, although a not enough rain.
Now is fruit set. As you can see in the picture the grapes flower (the white bursts around the berry) and then they self pollinate and become grapes. Something I didn’t know realize is how few of them become berries. In the case of Pinot noir, only between 30-50% become berries in normal years. So, for the next few weeks we hope the weather is nice and calm with no rain, little wind and nothing really hot or cold. Not much to ask for! As soon as “set” is complete, I can do a crop estimate for our 2013 vintage.
What is next? It is time for shoot positioning. The tedious task of lining up the shoots to give all the grape clusters room to grow but never touch. This is perhaps the most labor intensive job we have, and one of the most important.
The photo above is Turtle Vines on May 2, 2013. As you can see we have weeded, thinned the shoots, and moved the wires for the first time. Next up is to arrange the shoots so they all are growing up straight and tall with plenty of room between them. This takes a lot of time walking up and down each row and attaching c-clips to the wires. But when it is done, there is not a prettier site in the vine world, OK…maybe seeing flowering a few days ago. (oh, and on the bottom of the picture is our patch of raspberries. They grow like crazy as I think we have at least 5 times as many canes as last year.)
We had an amazing Wine Country day last Saturday, May 27th, 2013..
Our friends Bill and Lauren invited us to the annual Hafner Winery spring party for loyal Wine Club Members. We had never been there, but it was set on a hill in Alexander Valley surrounded by 150 acres. They started over 30 years ago and produce around 15,000 cases of estate grown wine. The most amazing thing is that the key jobs are all family members, three generations of them! Was a great time, good food and we came away with some great Chardonnay.
Next we stopped of at our favorite local winery, Graton Ridge. Art and Barbara are what Sonoma County is all about. They started this winery 5 years ago after having lived here their whole lives. They make award winning wines and make you feel special every time you walk in their door.
Lastly, we ended the evening at the Redwood Food Bank’s Opening of their new facility near the Sonoma County Airport. This facility was 6 years in the making and is a charity we support. They feed and educate folks here in Sonoma County who can’t afford to put food on their table every night. I was amazed that around 300 folks showed up to this charity event. They auctioned off bowls (we came home with two) and other larger items. The highlight was a fundraiser to finish their kitchen. It was so great to see that they raised $170,000 from most of the people in the room, including us.
If you ever come visit Russian River Valley from April to October, there is no shortage of events like this to occupy your weekends.