Category Archives: Sonoma Wine Country

A Beautiful Time of the Year in Sebastopol

Just thought I would share our little piece of heaven.  May in Wine Country is perhaps my favorite.  The vines are green, fruit is setting, the weather is perfect and by early June the 6 weeks of intense vineyard work comes to an end.  After two fires in the last three years and a flood in the Barlow a little over a year ago, sure hope we have a non eventful rest of the year…but still 1/2 the normal rainfall.  We are installing a generator for our home this year in case we get fires or PG&E blackouts like last year.

2020 International Women’s Wine Competition

We think so much of our 2018 Turtle Vines Pinot Noir that we have decided to enter it in the 2020 International Women’s Wine Competition! This is our first try in a wine event. The competition is June 9-10th.  Should be interesting to see how the judges rate out wine since it is light in color but has an intense flavor, much like French Burgundy’s i’ve had.  This is not your ordinary Russian River  Pinot Noir.  Check back late June to see how we did.

Harvest 2019

Another vineyard season comes to an end.  We harvested almost 5 tons of grapes on our 1.3 acres of vineyard, most of which went to Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma for their Sabella Pinot Noir that is sold to individuals and restaurants.

Just have to take off the nets, pre-prune and chip the canes and we can spend the next 4 months winemaking  and recharging for 2020.

2016 Pinot Harvest – Turtle Vines

It’s 3am and the call comes in…whom do you want to answer the phone?  Oh, this is harvest time and not the election!!!

I was up at 3am September 14th, and we started our pick at 4am with a 7 man crew.  We finished up a little after 10am.  Between what we sell to Hanzell and what we keep for ourselves we harvested 7,003 pounds!

And by the way, I lifted almost all of the grapes twice to get the trailer loaded….once to my truck and once from the truck to the trailer.  Didn’t have to work out for a week.


Joey and Bernadino loading the trailer!


Almost full trailer…


I’m finishing up the Pommard and then heading to Sonoma to deliver the grapes!


Joey and Bernadino loading the trailer!



2015 Recap

Winter 2015 Vineyard
2015 was a remarkable year at Turtle Vines!

– We started the year getting a wonderful review of our 2013 Pinot Noir from The Prince of Pinot.
– Our 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was a hit at Eight Restaurant and sold out!
– We are now selling grapes to Hanzell Vineyards, one of the oldest and most respected Pinot Noir wineries in the United States.
– Mother nature reduced our 2015 grape harvest by 60%, but should produce an amazing vintage!
– We finished the year by having 2 restaurants carry Turtle Vines Pinot Noir on their wine list. Muir’s Tea Room here in Sebastopol and Millennium Restaurant in Oakland (the #1 rated Vegetarian restaurant in the World)
– Lastly, we continue to get the love and support from our many friends, family, colleagues and supporters of our vineyard and winery!!!

We hope your 2015 was just as eventful and we wish you a wonderful 2016.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Turtle Vines

Version 2

Order today or Tuesday and enjoy our 2012 or 2013 Pinot Noir for Christmas with free shipping on orders of 6 or more bottles. We will be taking orders until 12/18 for your New Years celebration.

PS Turtle Vines dish towels make great stocking stuffers!!!


In addition, we are pleased to announce that our 2013 Turtle Vines Pinot Noir (89 Points from the Prince of Pinot) is now available at Millennium Restaurant in Oakland. Millennium was recently named the #1 Vegetarian Restaurant in the World by the Daily Meal! In addition you can purchase it locally at Muir’s Tea Room in Sebastopol and…we were also featured this summer at Eight Cuisine and Wine Restaurant.

Due to our restaurant commitments, only 3 cases of the 2012 and 8 cases of the 2013 Pinot Noir are available for sale, so order soon! Sorry but the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc is sold out 🙁

2013 Turtle Vines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is 80% Pommard and 20% 667, 13.9% alcohol, pH 3.79, TA 0.58, 5% whole cluster fermentation, 13% new French oak. Drinkable now through 2018. Retail price, $38 a bottle.

The Prince of Pinot: 88-89 Points “Moderate light cherry color in the glass. Aromas of red cherry, spice, and Herbs de Provence. Light in weight, but flavorful, with a good mid palate attack of cherry and raspberry fruits complimented by a hint of oak. Light on its feet and easy to cozy up to, with a refreshing cut of acidity on the finish.”

2012 Turtle Vines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is 80% Pommard and 20% 667, 13% alcohol, pH 3.9, TA 0.58, 5% whole cluster fermentation, 13% new French oak. This feminine-style wine has the taste of ripened strawberry, currant, and cassis and is drinkable now through 2017. Retail price, $34 a bottle.

Pinot Noir Jelly – or What to do with Seconds!

jars of jelly


What do you when you have picked all your grapes for wine and are left with seconds?  (What are seconds?  They are the very small cluster of grapes above the fruit zone and are about 4 weeks behind in ripeness)  Well…first you pick them.  In our case we got around 55 pounds.  And then you make jelly, lots of jelly!!!  This is how we spent our Saturday.  If you want a great recipe to make Pinot Noir, or other grape Jelly, that doesn’t mask the taste of your grapes with too much sugar, download the eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen .  We ended up with 55 1-cup Jelly Jars and an extra 8 cups of grape juice.

Bucket of grapes


What are Growing Degree Days and why do I care?

top view 6-14-13
Above is a picture of the closest part of the vineyard to the house. This year the vine canopy is at least 80% filled in this area…next year it will be completely full. The 667 which is away from the house is about 40% full. It is amazing to me when I look back at pictures from 2010 to now and see the difference.

What are Growing Degree Days (GDD)?

It is a measure of the amount of warmth needed to grow plants and if you know what your area is rated for you can determine what to plant and specifically what kind of grapes are suitable for your area.

Easy math…GDD = (high temperature plus low temperature)/2 minus 50. An example…here in Sebastopol the normal for this time of year is 80 for a high, 45 for a low. So…((80+45)/2) – 50 = 12.5 You then add those up for each day during the growing season and you get a calculation for your area.  So for our area when you add the days between April 1 and November 1 you get 2350.  Here is how we compare to other areas.

Williamette Valley = 2150 (Pinot contender)
Burgundy France = 2400 (home of great Pinot)
Sonoma = 2350 (we think the best Pinot in the United States)
Napa = 3280 (good for Cabernet)
St. Helena = 2900 (good for Cabernet)
Olympia, WA = 1595 (good for Geoduck clams but on the borderline low for Pinot, perhaps a colder varietal)
Phoenix, AZ – >7500 (good for cactus)
So if you want to grow grapes, find out your average GDD and then see which grape will grow in that climate.

Lastly…how are we doing this year on GDD’s vs the last few years from April 1 to June 15th…or year to date?
2010 564 (very late harvest)
2011 505 (very late harvest)
2012 713 (normal harvest, great grapes)
2013 787 (looks to be an early harvest)



Finding A Winery Partner Since the County won’t let us be One!

JC Winery


This was taken last fall as we were helping our dear friends Bill and Lauren make their Chardonnay at Santa Rosa Junior College.

What does it take to become a winery?  In Sonoma County you have to be zoned correctly and then for a small winery comply with regulations and pay around $6,000, mostly to the county.  Last month we started paperwork to be a winery but found out we are in the wrong zone.  Back to square one.

In order to sell the wine you do make, it has to be made at a bonded and permitted winery.  (Of course, anyone can make 100 gallons per person of wine a year, a law leftover from prohibition, and drink it or give it away to friends.)  So, we are in search of a good match for our organic grapes that can be hand crafted to make the best Pinot Noir possible.

We would like to find a winery that has the following traits:
– is close by
– we like the wine they make
– will give us a good price for our grapes
– will help us make wine  to sell, either as “Custom Crush” or “Alternating Proprietorship”
– values organic grapes
– is fun to work with

Yes, this is a lot to ask, and it is only 3 months until harvest…but once they taste the wine we made last year, all will be good.

And if this does not work…will sell some of these high quality grapes to some nice folks and make more wine on the side for us to enjoy!  Either way is OK…

Stay tuned to see where we end up this year.

Hafner Winery, Graton Ridge and Redwood Food Bank !!!

May 2 2013 vineyard

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.