Monthly Archives: April 2014

Frozen Pipes – Update

cracked valve

If you remember, right before we went on vacation in December, we had a very cold week (by Sebastopol standards) and our pvc pipes to the vineyard froze and broke.  I repaired the broken pipe yesterday and turned on the water to the system to test it.  Low and behold, the pressure gauge broke and a 1″ brass valve cracked and was leaking.  I can almost understand the pressure gauge, but a solid brass valve, wow!  And it was only in the mid-20’s.

I learned my lesson…I have to winterize the pipes this fall.

Replacement Vines – Gophers are only funny in Caddy Shack!

top benchgraft


OK, so if you have watched Caddy Shack you probably think gophers are cute and harmless.  Well, here in West Sonoma County we would do anything to get rid of the little guys!  They eat the roots of the grapevines.  Let’s do a little math….it takes around 4 years until the vine is in full production.  Eat vine I have makes about 1 bottle of wine…so if a gopher eats a full grown vine I lose about $100 of gross wine sales.  Now they are not so cute.  Last week I had to replace 93 vines….some from gophers and some that never grew well.

side benchgraft


I have to hand water the vines until we start irrigating the entire vineyard in 2 months, a lot of work.

nursery row


I had 7 vines left over that I planted in a nursery row.

Trading a Mercedes for a John Deere

JD x304


As some of you know, November 2012 we were in an car accident.  It was not our fault, but my faithful 1997 C230 was totaled.  I went back and forth on what to get…but eventually decided that the F250 was my vehicle.

Well, I just got a new vehicle with that insurance money.  A John Deere x304 Lawn Tractor!

If you read any of the posts back in 2010/2011 you will see that we planted the vineyard with very tight spacing…5′ x 40″ with only 12′ from the rows to the fence line.  I didn’t test it well enough, so it has been very tight to drive around and also to use the current riding tractor.

So, why did I upgrade?  Well, the current model was over 20 years old and I purchased it used from my neighbor at a garage sale when we moved to Sebastopol.  Over the last 6 years I had to put in a lot of money to keep it going, so it was time.  Why did I pick the John Deere?  The biggest selling point is that is has 4 wheel steering!  I hope you can tell in the picture that the back wheels turn also, so I can literally turn around a 20″ circle.  On top of that is has a somewhat quieter engine, cruise control, hose clean out for the mulching bed, 4 year warranty, just to name a few of the options.  Oh…and it is made in Wisconsin!!!

I’m hoping it will give me 20 years of good service at Turtle Vines.

Grape Buyers – Horse and Plow Winery


Why do I have a picture of another winery in my blog post?  Well, we sold 75% of our grapes to Horse and Plow Winery in 2013 and the rest went into our Turtle Vines Pinot Noir.

As a grape grower, I want them to be successful so the love and labor we put into the grapes show in their winemaking.  I also want a great relationship with them as I hope it can turn into a long term partnership.  They live 1 mile from our house here in Sebastopol.  As a wine maker, this is the first year I can compare our winemaking style to an experienced and acclaimed winemaker.  I can tell you from tasting a bottle of Gardener 2011 Pinot Noir Carneros that it was was wonderful.    I hope the wine they made from our 2013 grapes is just as good.  FYI…Gardener is a sister brand of Horse and Plow.

Here are their bio’s…

Chris is a California native, but only 3 generations from Greece. His Grandfathers made wine, his Dad sold wine, and Chris does both! Chris studied Plant Ecology at SF State and Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, before beginning his career at Pine Ridge Winery. He started Vinum Cellars in Oakville in 1997, which currently produces 30,000 cases of wine. He has also been the consulting winemaker for Kathryn Kennedy Winery since 1998. Chris’s past experiences, hard work and talent as a winemaker are evident in every bottle of Horse & Plow.

Suzanne was born in Savannah, Georgia. Her interest in wine developed while working in fine restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina. The mystery and romance of food and wine led her to France, and her first harvest at Comte Armand in Pommard. She moved to California in 2000, working at DeLoach, David Bruce and Goldeneye wineries. Suzanne had a small, pinot noir brand called Lutea for seven years, before starting the Gardener with Horse & Plow. Suzanne takes a sensory approach to winemaking, and strives to capture the more esoteric aspects of time and place in each vintage.