Monthly Archives: February 2014

2014 Vineyard Plan – Turtle vines



Our Hawk is back!  What does this have to do with our 2014 Vineyard Plan you ask…well, we want to be good stewards of the land by being organic yet grow the best tasting Pinot Noir possible.

2014 Improvement Activities:
1. Install a second irrigation line to 500 weak vines
2. Prune aggressively for 2014 to push root growth and conserve water intake due to the drought.
3. Water vines until “set”, or until the renewal spurs have grown appropriately.
4. Test petiole’s at bloom and make adjustments
5. Incorporate seaweed concentrate into foliar spraying plan to decrease shatter, increase berry size and grow healthier vines.
6. Vary powdery mildew/botrytis spray plan with Botector and Sulfur, in addition to Serenade, Stylet Oil and Soda.
7. Experiment with removing the basal leaves early in the season to avoid powdery mildew/botrytis.
8. Monitor TA and pH along with brix as harvest parameters.
9. Subcontract out bigger jobs if possible.

Tying Vines with a New Pellanc Tying Tool

Pellenc close

Last year I used a Tapener to tie the canes to the wires.  Imagine doing this 10,000 times and using brown tape.  This year my friend, John Mason at EMTU Estates, and I decided to purchase a Pellanc Tie tool and share the expense.  Why share?  You only have to tie once per year and the tool is expensive.  The advantages of this tool are that it is at least 3x faster than by hand and you can use biodegradable twist ties.  In addition you save yourself the exposure to carpal tunnel syndrome, which is prevalent due to performing the same task over and over in the  vineyard.  Just for me…I have 3130 vines…so you do the same thing many times.

As you can see the tool’s energy is supplied by a battery pack that you belt on…and all you do is load a very long tie that is cut when you pull the trigger.  The battery is supposed to last 10,000 pulls…or almost enough to do my entire vineyard.  However, given the monotonous nature of tying, I will probably only do a few hours at a time until I finish in about 10 hours.


First Bottling – Choosing a Bottle/Capsule

2 bottles


We are about to bottle our 2012 Pinot Noir, if all goes well before the end of February.  It will have aged 17 months and is ready to go into bottles, where it will sit for 2-3 months to prevent “bottle shock” and then ready to drink.

The first task in designing your bottle is picking a bottle shape.  The picture below are the bottles I considered.  In the old days you could tell the wine by the bottle shape without looking at the label…but not anymore.  It really does not matter what shape you put it in as it will age the same.

So…bottles come in different heights, bottom diameters, weights, neck sizes, label areas, punts sizes and country of origin just to name a few.  I wanted a US made bottle that had a fatter bottom with a standard size top for the tin capsule but a thick top line, but not to heavy and was available locally for me to pick up.  Just a side note…they have asked people to taste the same wine in different bottles and the one with the more expensive looking bottle always tastes better.

I narrowed the list to the two bottles above and the one of the right won and it will be paired with a standard matte black tin capsule!

all bottles

bottle necks

First Bottling – Choosing a Cork

Close corks


OK…if you have been following along we have a bottle, capsule and a label.  How about the cork? Below you will find 4 grades of cork with the best on the left.  Amazingly the price goes up about 25% as you increase the grade of the cork.

As Joanne has famously said…why stop now.  We picked the top grade of natural cork from ACI Cork USA, Inc.  Why…it looks better and should provide a better seal with less air pockets.  I’m hoping that it will also have less potential for “cork taint”.

Lastly, why even use cork.  In New Zealand and Australia, where we recently spent 4 weeks, all the Pinot is bottled with screw caps.  I had originally wanted glass corks.  Well, it all came down to simplicity and cost.  With the volumes we had I could afford the tools to do screw caps and they don’t have the tradition of real cork.  We had access to a small corking tool. Glass corks were more expensive and we found them difficult to remove. Lastly, with cork we got to put our logo on each and everyone of them so after you enjoy our wine you will have a moment!

4 corks

box corks

First Bottling – Designing a Label

TV_PinotNoir_2012_FB jpg

After you have picked your wine bottle, you need to brand the wine and design a label.

Our son, Vaughn Aldredge, designed the front label and logo you see above.  Isn’t it beautiful?  Just in case you didn’t know, the Turtle is our spirit animal.  Next, Mary Mitchell incorporated the  logo into a wine label.  Lastly I found a printer at the Wine Show in Sacrament two weeks ago who showed me the label below from Silvertip Vineyards.  The label is wonderful and printed on thick felt paper.  We liked it so much we are going to use the size and paper for our label.  Lastly, I registered a QR code for and put it on the back label.  I hope you enjoy it what you see it!

copy label

When to water for Renewal Spurs



In the last post I gave you an update about the drought here in California.  The net is we still need a lot of rain in the next 2 months.

2013 our vines were in their 4th leaf (still young and the roots not fully developed) so I was trying to wean them from water to develop the roots better and help the pH of the grapes.  Unfortunately, I went a little to far and the renewal spurs for cane pruning did not fully develop. So, this years crop will be a little smaller than expected…which is OK since we are short of water again and I don’t want to stress the vines so early in their life.  What does that mean for those who don’t know the lingo…in the picture above, the “arms” for his year did not grow enough on some of the vines.  What will I do in 2014?  I’m going to make sure we get enough water until the fruit is “set” which should be enough for 2015.  So much to learn…and I guess you don’t learn unless something happens to you.

Drought Update and our Well Status

drought update


If you have been watching the news you should have heard that California is in a severe drought.  We had about 20% of our normal rainfall last year and the previous years were OK, but not to normal.

Last week (2/6/14-2/9/14) we had our first real winter rain storm of the season and we got 10.7″ of rain.  Unlike where I grew up in Olympia, WA where it rains 1/4″ a day all winter, we get our rain in downpours and then it clears up.  So this was bigger than a normal storm but not unwelcome.  Since we normally get 40″ a year, and this storm put us to 15″, we still have a ways to go to refill our aquifers and get the ground fully saturated.

The other thing you may have heard is that some towns in California will run out of water.  True…depending on where they get their water.  Here in Sebastopol we have a good aquifer that so far has not been affected by the drought.  We use this aquifer for Turtle Vines.  Even though we are a new vineyard we are striving to use as little water as possible.  I probably went to far last year as we did not get enough renewal spurs, but that is for the next post.

We tested our well last week.  It is drilled to 170′ and right now we are at 61′ to the water table.  Later in the year when we begin watering, we will test it again and also find out how fast it recharges after use.  Just FYI…When we purchased our home 6 years ago they said the well was good for 20 gallons/min.  We set up 4 sections in the vineyard and they only draw around 7 gal/min.




This is the map of the recent storm.  We are near the Graton station.


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