Monthly Archives: March 2014

Bud Break – Sauvignon Blanc…and plan for 2014

bud break sb

Bud break for our Sauvignon Blanc happened , March 25, 2014.  It is a week ahead of last year.  If you remember, due to the location of the very small Sauvignon Blanc vineyard, it does not get as much sun as the Pinot Noir.  Consequently we harvested these grapes 6 weeks after the Pinot Noir, at the end of October.  This year I will try and alter the vines so that we will pick in mid-September.  How you ask?  Normally each shoot will produce 2 grape bunches.  For the 29 vines near the house I will take off one of the bunches so the shoot will put all its energy into one bunch.  By the way, some vineyards in Napa do this to their Cabnernet to enhance flavor.  For the 5 new vines at the entrance of the Pinot vineyard, those get plenty of sun and I’ll leave 2 bunches.  I’m hoping this will both hasten ripening and also produce better wine.  I’m guessing we will get about 7 cases for 2014.  Follow along…and check back in September to see if this experiment works!

Front sb side sb

Racking the 2013 Turtle Vines Pinot Noir



Just a quick update on the 2013 Pinot Noir.  Yesterday I spent the morning racking off the lees (dead yeast).  Started with 73.5 gallons and after racking ended up with 71.5 gallons, enough for 30 cases.  The only thing left to do before bottling in 6-9 months is sulfur to prevent spoilage, taste and make any small adjustments for acidity.  How does it taste?  Wonderful for its age!  It has transitioned from fermented grape juice to young wine.

For those unfamiliar with the term, racking  is the process of separating the liquid on the top from the solids on the bottom.  You do this for several reasons; you want to end up with clear wine so you rack to get rid of the sediment, you need to get rid of the dead yeast because if you leave it to long it might give you a funky smell/taste.  However, for Pinot Noir, you don’t want to rack it to much as this variety does not liked to be handled.  Last year I racked the wine 3 times before bottling and this year I’m hoping that the day after pressing and this racking will be sufficient.


Winemaking Classes at Vinquiry !

Vinquiry Logo


Vinquiry, a wine analysis lab, is holding a 5 part class, Craft Winemaking , over the next 5 months.  I have signed up to add to my practical experience with technical, scientific supported data.  It is designed for those in the industry who would like to know more about the entire process and winemakers to go from making good wine to great wine.  I’m hoping to continue to add to my knowledge so each vintage my wine is better!  At the end of the classes I’ll summarize the actions and implement them with my 2014 vintage.

Introduction to Winemaking – Overview of the process, concept of style, sanitation, equipment and winery choices, overview of analysis, SO2 management, sensory evaluation.

Maturation and ageing – Goals of aging, how to work with small lots, container choices, racking, protection wine during aging and movements, fining and treatments, potential problems and their prevention and treatment.

Finishing and Bottling – Stabilization, additions, clarification, filtration, blending, quality control, bottling and bottling equipment, packaging.

Grapes and Grape Processing – Sourcing grapes, vineyard sampling, picking decision, crushing (or not), crushing and pressing equipment, fermenters, temperature control, must and juice treatments/additions.

Fermentation – Yeast (or not), nutrition, fermentation management and monitoring, cap management, malolactic fermentation, problem fermentations, problem recognition and treatment.



Bottling the 2012 Pinot Noir

us cropped tent

What a day…March 11, 2014…we just bottled our 2012 Pinot Noir!  We started with 96 gallons and filled 39 1/2 cases.

If you want to start from scratch and “Live the Dream”, plan on at least 5 years to grow the grapes, ferment them, let the red wine age until it is ready for a bottle…and another 3 months until bottle shock has worn off for you to drink it.

It was a great time with our 6 of our friends to bottle the wine.  John (EMTU Vineyards) and I set everything up in 3 hours the day before…and then it took us another 3 hours to bottle and clean-up.  The really great part is over 1/2 the crew was there when the grapes were harvested in 2012.

bottles in truck

Here are the empty bottles.

liz bottle

Liz handled the bottling.

joey cork

Joey and Enrique handle the corking.



John label

John did the labeling.

lauren chris


Chris and Lauren put on the capsules, did a quality check and packaged them up.

Bill and I unloaded the bottles from the cases, moved the filled cases to the truck and of course sampled the product during the day to make sure it was OK to drink!

What you get from small wineries is a hand crafted product that is  painstakingly farmed, carefully fermented and aged , and lovingly bottled. I hope those qualities come through when you taste the wine.

Bud Break – March 11, 2014

budbreak 2014

Another growing season has begun, our 5th leaf at Turtle Vines!  We had bud break March 11, 2014.  This is 11 days later than 2013.  Why?  Our vines are older and we received a lot of rain 2 weeks ago, both contribute to a later start time.  So…if the weather is the same as 2013, we will harvest the Pommard clone on September 22 and the 667 clone on September 31.

Australia and New Zealand Winery Tours

Late December and early January we took a trip to Australia and New Zealand that was 25 years in the making.  We flew from our home in Sebastopol to Sydney, Australia, picked up a cruise boat and headed down the coast of Australia to Tasmania, over to New Zealand and up to Auckland.  Being from Wine Country…we had to take in the flavor of other areas of the wine making world.

Sydney opera house

One of our best stops was Hobart, in Tasmania. We happened to be there on the most exciting day of the year when these three things occurred:
The Taste of Tasmania – Tasmania’s largest food and wine festival.
A massive street fair.
The end of the Sidney Hobart yacht race.

We would have taken this entire trip just to be at the Taste of Tasmania. For $7 you get a little glass and can go around and taste all the wines at the fair. By the way, the crowd you see in the picture below is some of the 40,000 visitor that day to Hobart for the Yacht Race and Taste of Tasmania.

Our favorite wines were from Moorilla winery. We bought a bottle of their 2011 Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. We also liked the Kelvedon 2011 Pinot Noir. At this point we were trying to figure out how we were going to get all of these home since our suitcases were already stuffed to the gills.

indoors at the taste of tasmania taste of tasmania

The street fair, right outside the Taste of Tasmania, was just as busy. Booths lined the streets with food, clothes, pottery, and more. The best thing I had there were the fresh Tasmanian cherries – yummmm!

Tasmanian cherries

Because of bad weather, the start of the Sydney Hobart yacht race was delayed. Our cruise ship had to leave the port before the race ended and we thought we would miss this great event. But on our way out we passed the winning yacht! Our ship’s passengers waived wildly and our captain gave out a bit TOOT as we passed the winner, Wild Oats XI. 
After having had one of the most fun days ever, we headed to New Zealand.

winner of yacht race-1

New Zealand Wine Country
As wine growers and wine makers, we were really looking forward to our trip to Picton where we took a tour of seven wineries in the famous region of Marlborough. We were surprised to find that most of their growing and wine making techniques were pretty much the same as what we do here in Sonoma county as we were hoping to pick up a few new tricks. But their wines were lovely and their vineyards were beautiful. I could have definitely spent more time in this amazing region.

marlborough1 bubbly grape tour greeted at Dry Lands
We visited:
Lawson’s Dry Hills,
Wither Hill (loved their Pinot noir)
Hunter’s (run by Jane Hunter, a famous female wine maker)
Giesen Wines (had a lovely Riesling and a restaurant where we ate lunch)
Seresin Estate (a biodynamic vineyard that also sells the health promoting Manuka honey)
Spy Valley (had amazing views)
Drylands (who also sells Kim Crawford brand)

While in Auckland we jumped on a ferry to Waiheke Island. Unfortunately, all the tours were filled and, for the first time in almost a month, we had to rent a car and take our chances of driving on the other side of the road – yikes!
Waiheke island
Waiheke Island is famous for its wineries but since we had to drive, we only stopped in a few places. Our first was a beautiful winery/restaurant called Casita Miro where I had the loveliest meal on the trip.

casita miro

We drove to the other side of the island and visited Man O’ War, a vineyard on the water. It was the only tasting room where I’ve seen people pull up in their boats! It was laid back and people with their children came there to picnic, hang out and even teach their children how to play cricket.
m o w Man o' war
Man O’ War got its name because it is on the part of the island where Captain Cook and his men came to get supplies and wood for the mast of war ships.

Amazing Experience
We were so lucky to be able to take a trip like this and meet the wonderful and friendly people in Australia and New Zealand. To experience the untouched and breathtaking coastal towns and see rare animals in their natural habitats was an indescribable experience. We loved the big cities like Sydney and Auckland and the tiny towns like Oban. One thing is for sure – we would LOVE to go back some day.

PS While not wine related, we got to experience the rarest of Penguins, the Yellow-Eyed, coming out of the ocean and feeding its chicks.  Perhaps the best part of the entire trip!

y-e penquin leaves ocean

feeds chicks

Adding extra water for weak vines

second line 3


I have 3130 vines of very tightly space Pinot noir surrounded by houses and trees on a very slight grade.  About 550 vines of the  667 clone were weaker than the other vines.  They are near trees and on the top of the small grade.  So last week I installed an extra drip line.  I will water these vines earlier than the rest of the vineyard to allow them to grow better and catch up to the rest of the vines.  It will also let me fertilize them through the irrigation system separately.    You can do this type of customization with small vineyard and it will pay big dividends to ensure your vines are healthy producing high quality grapes!

seconds line 2

Chipping last years Canes



Every year the vineyard has to be pruned.  Old canes are removed, new ones are picked to allow for this years growth and then you have to chip the canes and spread them back into the vineyard.  Why not just leave them in the vineyard?  Well, even if they get mowed, the little pieces would get caught in the nets in the fall and cause a mess.

So, I removed the canes from the rows and made piles outside the rows.  Then the canes are chipped and the mulch is put back on the rows to prevent weeds from growing.  This year with about 1/2 the wires filled with canes it will take me 6 hours of chipping…a lot of hard work!

chips chipper

TRTLVNS license Plate Transferred


For those that don’t know it, we got in an accident 15 months ago…were T-Boned and my 15 year old C230 was totaled! We went back and forth whether to replace it with a Tesla/Audi/Mercedes/etc. or my favorite…a 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid which averages 50mpg both city and highway.

Eventually I decided I was a vineyard/winery person and now my regular car is my F250 XL (long bed with lift gate) I picked up used 3 years ago.  So naturally I moved my license plate over…just took a while.  So if you see a Big Red Truck in Wine Country with TRTLVNS for a license plate…honk.

Merc accident

2014 Work Log

flower row


The above picture was taken late February.  It shows the status of the vineyard…the vines are pruned and tied, vines marked for removal or grafting with either green tape or a grow tube, extra water line installed (not pictured), clover is finally growing after a very dry winter but no wildflowers (rows marked with a flag had expensive wildflowers sewn in last fall).  Still have work to do but this post will show the work in our 5th leaf for Turtle Vines and I will update it throughout the year.

Jan 28              Pruning                              45 hrs (all hired)
Feb 17-21       Tie Canes                             9
Feb 25            Cane chipping/2nd drip   14 (8 hired)

Total to date                                               68