Category Archives: Wine Making

2020 Pinot Noir and the end of an Era!

We are delighted, and a little sad, to announce the release of our 2020 Pinot Noir. Delighted because it’s one of the loveliest wines we’ve ever made. Sad because it is our last harvest. With the attraction of five grandchildren and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest where I was born, we have moved to Vancouver, Washington and wake up every morning with a breathtaking view of the Columbia River.

As with all of our Pinots, it is light in color and full of flavors. It’s soft enough to pair well with seafood and poultry yet able to stand up to a nice steak off the grill. It can balance a rich pasta or be a decadent treat on pizza night.

Its beautiful light cherry color makes you ready to welcome spring. Its flavors boast of plum, rose petals and green strawberries.


In addition, 2020 was a wonderful growing season for us. I was characterized by a well balanced crop with even ripening.  Harvest was about 10 days earlier than normal, which was fortuitous, since temperatures able 100F followed the week after.

It is available for $33/bottle with free shipping for orders of 6 or more. Please contact me at for payment and shipping.

We also have a limited number of cases of 2019 Pinot available for purchase.


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.

This is why I hate GOPHERS!!!

Gophers in West Sonoma County are stuff of legends…in some places they have eaten 1/3 of new planted vines. They are a constant nuisance and something they don’t tell you about much when you start a vineyard. So…they get trapped and hopefully the population declines over time.

Well, this time of year I really hate them because they like tender new shoots from young vines that are producing grapes for the first year…after I have carefully tended them for almost 3 years. As you can see in the picture they killed this vine just yesterday with grapes still hanging.

Hate to say this out loud…but I hope to say RIP to this gopher later in the day.

Just FYI…
2012 – 18
2014 – 40
2015 – 55
2016 – 33
2017 – 25 as of 8/5/17

Turtle Vines Status – July 2, 2017

For those unfamiliar with the vineyard season…most of the daily work is performed from early March to the end of June.  So what is left for me to do?

As you can see the vines are in great shape this year.  We had record breaking rainfall this winter so the vines still have not been irrigated, and I’m hoping that continues for a few more weeks.  When I do need water, I have to “stress” the grapes with only 75% of their water needs to produce flavorful grapes.  Next…I have 2 or 3 more sprays with oil to prevent mildew and botrytis.  Then…we finish tucking the vines in the wires and hedge the top a second time.  Additionally…the nets go up the end of the month to prevent birds from eating our crop. Only then do I switch hats from vineyard manager to winemaker on a full time basis to monitor the crop and decide when to harvest!!!

From the picture below you can see the bunches are about ready to close and then veraison will occur when they go from green to red.  Approximately 60 days later we will harvest…and 2017 looks to be a pretty good year based on what I see so far.

I’m guessing we will be harvesting around September 16th…so if you are in the area contact me and be prepared to work!

2014 Turtle Vines Pinot Noir @ Gravenstein Grill !

Turtle Vines is excited to to be available by the glass and bottle at Gravenstein Grill in Sebastopol !!! We have been six times in the last 2 months…food is wonderful, people are amazing and the wine fabulous!…and it is only 1 mile from the house.

Pictured…Local wine celebs enjoying our 2014 Pinot Noir. Four time Sonoma County Sommelier of the Year Christopher Sawyer who approved the wine, Ziggy Eschliman (Ziggy the Wine Gal), Amy Lieberfarb (Sip on this Juice) and Michele Anna Jordan (Michele Anna Jordan Cooking Blog)


2017 Turtle Vines bud break and estimate contest

It is time for our second annual harvest date and amount prediction.  We winner of each category will receive a bottle of their choice from our current Pinot Noir releases at the time the contest closes.

A few hints…we have 3100 vines which produced between 2.1 and 3.8 tons the last 3 years.  Harvest has occured between August 23 and September 13 for those vintages.  BTW, bud break was 4 days later this year than last 2016.

Please email to enter!

Sediment in Wine?

What is unfined/unfiltered and why do I need to know this?

Back in 2014 I discussed how easy it is to make wine vegan and gluten free, but now I want to touch upon sediment in wine and why you should not fear sediment or crystals in your wine.

The process of fining wine adds components to remove defects and treats wine with the use of animal and plant proteins, clay, fish bladders, plastics, etc.  You make a wine more consistent wine year to year, but you are removing flavor.

Filtering the wine removes small to microscopic particles… again at the expense of flavor.

Our Pinot Noir does not get fined or filtered, we just “rack” off the wine from the sediment on the bottom of the barrel during the winemaking process. This may leave a small amount of sediment in the bottle/cork but we have not removed any of the unique flavor of the grapes!

As far as the glass like crystals…these are tartrate crystals.  Most large wineries either fine these out or cold stabilize the wine below 32F to allow the crystals to adhere to the side/bottom of the tank.  Small high end wineries are concerned that losing these crystals will remove flavor, so they limit the cold stabilization to around 38-40F.  Since Pinot Noir is served at room temperature, you should not see these crystals, but you might in your glass of Chardonnay.  The only cold stabilization we do is naturally from the chill of winter in our barn!

When is sediment and crystals bad?  When the wine has gone bad and you can taste it in your glass…otherwise, don’t worry about it.  In fact many boutique wineries feature unfined/unfiltered wine to preserve the flavors, just like we do at Turtle Vines.



Cork Dork

I just finished reading Bianca Bosker’s “Cork Dork”. A very interesting read how a technology writer for the Huffington Post decided in 1 year to go from enjoying wine to becoming a Sommelier! For those into wine, it is a very interesting read and I recommend it on your next vacation. Sort of like Joanne and I leaving technology and in a few short years… planting a vineyard, making wine and now having our 2014 Turtle Vines Pinot Noir becoming the featured Pinot Noir by the glass in a new high end restaurant in Sebastopol!

Two sentences resonated with me from the book that I want to share.

One sip leads to a second sip…One glass leads to a second glass…one bottle leads to a second bottle.

The people who do Cabernet are businessmen, the people who do Pinot are passionate!

Does Color Matter in Pinot Noir

I came across this wonderful article on making Pinot Noir vs Merlot by Greg La Follette on Twitter from Palatexposure.  This article is right on target as I normally order Merlot in restaurants, as I have been disappointed many time with Pinot Noir.

I have made Merlot twice and Pinot five times…Merlot is a lot easier but Pinot is worth the effort when done well!


I’ve read some of the wine chat board postings which, you can guess, is a dangerous thing for a winemaker to do (read, that is), but there you have it. At any rate, it seems that one of the biggest controversies out there over the years and now in the virtual wine e-world revolves around what the intensity of color in a Pinot Noir means to the average Pinot consumer. Does color count? Does the size (of your Pinot, that is) matter?

But first, let’s dispel one myth right now before tackling another: there is no such thing as an “average” Pinot consumer, unless the term “congressional ethics” or “giant shrimp” has any meaning to you. Pinot consumers are as whacky as Pinot winemakers. Who else would spend large amounts of disposable (or otherwise) income and time chasing for that perfect bottle when there is so much nice, pleasant Merlot out there which is almost always user-friendly at purchase?

Merlot is easy to drink, and easy to make. It is, for the production cellar jock, the veritable blanc canvas on which to paint pretty pictures. Paint by numbers? Just follow the dots and fill ‘em in. A little oak here, a little cuvaison skin contact there, maybe some air with your racking. Add acid and hey, presto, you’ve got Merlot. You wanna change winemaking styles with Merlot? Need a cash cow to milk? Got Milk? Add it to your Merlot (this is called fining, folks—ain’t no joke!) and you soften the baby up for an early release. A pleasant drink, for pleasant people, without the insanity in the winery, of the hoops Pinot Noir will have us hose-hounds jumping through. Oh, sure, there is the big, grunty Merlot for those big, grunty high-end tastings. But with Merlot, the winemaker doesn’t have to go there with her/his grapes. Merlot does not challenge the cellar stamina. It almost says, “don’t worry, be happy.” A winemaker can challenge one’s self with some exceptional grapes, but again, no Merlot grape inherently calls its maker to masochism.

Pinot Noir is another story. As a crass, general rule of thumb, there is usually no such thing as a good, cheap Pinot. It’s either good, or it is not. “Nothing worse than a run-of-the-mill Pinot” is a phrase often echoing in wine bars across the country. Mark Twain once wrote about coffee in the same vein, but Pinot Noir even more so invites comment on quality. No other grape requires one to pay such attention to it. Good winemakers (another oxymoron) always ask Pinot what IT wants, and always get its consent, written or otherwise, before actually doing anything with that darned grape. Not so with obliging Merlot. Facile compared to Pinot.

So, color turns out to actually not be the question on Pinot. Each winemaker needs to make each wine what it wants to be—dark or light, big or svelte, it all depends on the area in which the grape was grown and what tools the winemaker has to address the grape. That P-noir likes to be consulted first makes Merlot no less of a grape, only a little less demanding than its Burgundy Brethren.

And with that explanation, folks, open up your hearts and your wallets and buy Merlot. Good, bad or indifferent, you will be making some poor winemaker’s life easier by increasing the demand for her/his beau Bordeaux. Which means more Merlot grapes planted and made into the liquid stuff, which means less job stress for your local oenologist. Save those big bucks for she-who-must-be-obeyed, the one they call “the heartbreak grape”, which is the passion and the true cross of most wine buffs, be they makers or consumers. Big or finessed, there is someone’s dedicated love and heart in every really good bottle of Pinot noir. And that is no oxymoron—only a bit harder to find.