Category Archives: Wine Making

2017 Goals


Some of you may look at the picture above and say “Yuk”, what are those odd looking grapes.  Well, in fact, these are wonderful wine grapes but not so good vineyard grapes.  Why?  What you want is a combination of large, small and shriveled berries to maximize skin flavor yet provide enough juice for wine. I think 2016 will go down as a challenging growing year but a wonderful wine year…and our number one goal is to produce great wine and wine grapes!!! Here is what I hope to see a year from now.

– Obtain my first 90 point wine from the Prince of Pinot! (2015 Vintage)
– 5 tons of Pinot Noir, or about 3.25 pounds per vine.
– Continue our relationship with Hanzell Vineyards
– Control powdery mildew with spray/sprayer improvements
– Water the vineyard as little as possible for flavor and to decrease powdery mildew
– Control pH in grape juice to acceptable levels
– 500 pounds of Sauvignon Blanc with the use of cane pruning
– Simplify my personal vineyard workload

Don’t ship wine in the Winter!


Don’t know why, but it never occurred to me to worry about shipping wine in the winter.  I realize you can’t ship in the summer unless you pay extra to ship in refrigerated trucks.

I shipped 6 bottles to Chicago mid-December to a customer.  The shipping company even delayed it a few days due to weather.  When it arrived, you can see in the picture that the corks on two of the bottles had popped up indicating that the WINE FROZE! (colder than 20F for quite a few hours) For you wine lovers, it is OK to drink, but most likely the wine will have lost its wonderful flavors, especially the ones with popped corks.  Another thing I found out…the shippers and freight companies don’t cover this loss…an expensive lesson learned.

By the way, Turtles can survive freezing but Turtle Vines wine can not!!!



2015 Grape Harvest Sales Plunge

2 dollar bill

Why the $2 bill?

Well, not often do you see the North Coast grape harvest drop like it did in 2015 (sort of like a $2 bill)…unless it was from the recent Great Recession.

Due to the 23% drop in tonnage harvested (we were off by 60%!)…the amount of money to the vineyard’s in the North Bay reduced to $1.12B from $1.46B.  However, due to the shortage of grapes the price went up 5% in Sonoma County…and the Pinot Noir average price was $3,500/ton.  For those not in the business, this translates to just about $5/bottle (~55-60 cases/ton) just for average grapes before any processing starts which is more expensive!  Grapes that make excellent wines are much more expensive and could be twice as much!  Now you know why Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley is expensive.

Solar Sebastopol and Our Panels…Good and Bad News!

Roof leak 2-1-16

Sebastopol, our agri-artsy Sonoma County outpost, (Jerry Garcia went to High School at Analy 1/2 mile from our house) was the first city in the US in 2013 to implement a building ordinance that required all new homes/buildings to include solar systems that provide 2 watts of photovoltaic-derived power per square foot of insulated building area. The system must offset at least 75 percent of the home/building’s total annual electric load.

We are in the county but on the Sebastopol border, so it is not applicable to us…but being good neighbors, stewards of the environment and cost efficient people…and we were about to rent on VRBO, we decided to add to our solar in 2012.

When we purchased our home there was already 7 kW of solar.  We added 2 kW February 2012 that would take advantage of the morning/mid-afternoon sun.  In addition we have converted most of our lights from incandescent/CFL to LED and upgraded our pool pump to variable speed…but I had to add a wine room for the Turtle Vines Inventory!

How are we doing?
– Our average electric bill 2009-2011 was $1,085
– Our average electric bill 2012-2015 was $ 638
– The last 4 years have also included 125 couple who stayed at our Vacation Rental, which is all electric.
– Our solar generation accounted for 70% of our energy usage!  In addition, we purchase the remainder of our electricity from Sonoma Clean Power that is 100% renewable.
– We use half of the electricity of the average American family.
– Our goal is to be near $0 for 2016.

So…why the picture above?  Installing solar panels after the roof is installed has risks…namely leaks.  We are now figuring out the best way to fix the roof, but we are committed to solar!

Invisible Tannins


What are “invisible Tannins”?

I recently received a review for our 2014 Turtle Vines Pinot Noir …yes, we are announcing the release of that wine in the next few days!!!  In the review was the term “Invisible Tannins”.  A few years ago I taught my nephew “Young but Approachable”.  This one is not as funny, but I think is a great term, and in my mind another way to say “balanced with great structure”.  Below is the explanation I got below from the Prince of Pinot.

First…a quick explanation of a wine tannin.  Tannin is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves and fruit skins. (see above picture)   As a characteristic of wine, tannin adds both bitterness and astringency as well as complexity. Wine tannins are most commonly found in red wine, although white wines have tannin from being aged in wooden barrels or with oak adjuncts.

Prince of Pinot – “You want some tannic backbone in wine not only for balance but for age ability. That said, you want to sense that a wine has structure, but you don’t want the structure (tannins) to stand out. Tannins should blend harmoniously with the fruit extraction, alcohol, acidity and oak – essentially invisible in the context of the wine as a whole or better said, balanced. Tannins will change over time in the bottle, so they may stand out a bit in a young wine and that is ok if they are not big tannins. I am sure you have experienced opening a wine and finding it a bit tannic, but when re-tasted 2-3 days later from the same bottle, the tannins have softened and seemingly integrated. That is a sign that the tannins will meld over time in the bottle in the cellar.”

Lastly, in order to make a balanced wine you need to take into account the acidity and alcohol content to determine how much tannin is needed.  In general, the higher the alcohol and lower the acid the more tannins you will need.  That is why Cabernet and Merlot will have more tannins than Pinot Noir.


Big Red needs a little help !

IMG_0423 (1)

After returning from Minneapolis for Christmas 2 weeks ago, I was going to get some work done around the vineyard between rain storms.  However, my 2000 F250 decided it wanted a little pampering and maintenance.  After several ideas on what was wrong on my part, I had AAA tow it to a local service center.  Ends up the fuel pump failed.  I have read that they should last at least 10 years or 100,000 miles.  Since Big Red is 16 years old but only has a little over 80K miles, seems about right.  Just the $750 bill was not the way I wanted to start out the new year.

Now…you have to ask, when is it time for a replacement truck.  Given the truck is for the vineyard/winery only, has 4WD, running boards, a $3K lift gate on the back, tows 5 tons and is only driven 2,000 miles/yr…and a new one just like it is $36K without the lift…we should have it a long time (at least we hope)!

2016 Goals

turtle vines in snow blog small

Happy New Year…And a special shout out to Anna and Brian for this wonderful picture of our 2014 Turtle Vines Pinot Noir at Lake Tahoe!!!

Wow, if you read my “2015 Recap” you realize 2015 was a fantastic year.  How to improve upon that?  Here are my goals for 2016

Grow great grapes that turn into great wine!!!


  • Keep Hanzell Vineyards as a grape purchaser
  • Drip Epson Salt through the irrigation system between set and harvest to lower the potassium level in the grapes that will lower the pH of the wine
  • Institue an improved spray program for powdery mildew
  • Replant 85 weak or missing vines
  • Graft over 80 Merlot/Chardonnay/Original no-clone vines
  • Prune trees that shade the vineyard
  • Outsource more of the vineyard work


  • Add another restaurant that sells Turtle Vines to go with Millennium and Muir’s Tea Room
  • Reviews for the 2013 (Pinot Report), 2014 (Prince of Pinot)
  • Make a small batch of Pinot that can age based on 2015 information

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.

2015 Fall Wine Announcement

2013 PN

Turtle Vines – Fall 2015

Greetings from Sebastopol!

California in the News
With much of California suffering from drought and fires, we feel quite fortunate to be in Sebastopol. Although the “Valley Fire” just north of Calistoga is a little over an hour away, we were never in danger. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the many fire victims that have lost their homes and belongings.

Although California has been in a drought for four years, the aquifer that supplies our home and vineyard is pretty full. Of course we are doing everything to conserve, like letting our beautiful lawn die, so that we can save what we need for our crops. The way we farm, our grapes use very little water.

2015 was our 4th harvest and vintage. Where does the time go? Unusually high temperatures in the spring produced a very early “bud break”. This was followed by a month of cool and damp weather. All this resulted in very small berries. The good news is that small berries make great Pinot because of the increased skin to juice ratio. The bad news is that it reduced our anticipated tonnage by 55%.

Grape Sales
Besides making and selling Turtle Vines wine, we also sell some of our grapes. This year we are happy to announce our relationship with Hanzell Vineyard, one of the pioneer wineries in Sonoma County. In fact, they have the oldest continually producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards in North America! Our grapes will go into their non-estate Pinot Noir that will be available nationwide at select high-end restaurants in a few years.

2013 Turtle Vines Pinot Noir
We are very pleased to announce the release and immediate shipment of our 2013 Russian River Pinot Noir. 2013 was a wonderful growing season with a warm but not hot summer, followed by a cool and dry fall that was perfect for Pinot Noir fermentation. We could tell this was a special vintage at harvest and it continues to get better with age. The wine is smooth and fruity and finishes with a hint of acidity, typical of Russian River Valley Pinots.

Here’s how the Prince of Pinot describes our 2013 Pinot:
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.”

How to Buy
We are offering the 2013 Turtle Vines Pinot for $38 per bottle. Shipping is free with an order of 6 bottles or more. Buy a case and, in addition to free shipping, you will receive a Turtle Vines Collectors edition dish towel.


We still have 4 cases left of our 2012 Pinot offered at $34 per bottle with the same shipping and towel offer.

Other News
Our Turtle Vines 2012 and 2013 Pinot Noir, as well as our 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was selected by Eight Restaurant of Sebastopol for their “Wine Down Wednesday” this summer. It was a fun event and gave us a chance to showcase our wines. (See picture below)

Due to limited availability, our Sauvignon Blanc is no longer available for direct sales but can be enjoyed at Muir’s Tea Room in Sebastopol, while supplies last, along with the 2013 Pinot Noir.

Doug and Joanne Williams

Eight wines on table