Tag Archives: Bud break

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 dww@sonic.net to enter!

Rain in the Vineyard!!!


I believe in Global Warming, but I sure don’t believe in the the rainfall predictions from forecasters early in the season.  Last year was supposed to be a HUGE rainfall season with El Nino…but it ended up about normal.  This year is La Nina and they have predicted average rainfall…yet it looks to be very wet in Sonoma County. If you watch the national news we will have are having an “Atmospheric River” of rain…and we are having severe flooding in the area. We at Turtle Vines are not in a flood area but this was the worst winter storm since 2005 in Sonoma County. That one caused ~$100M of damage, hopefully this one is not as bad…let’s hope.

PS  From a vineyard standpoint, a cold winter is nice to delay bud break and a good soaking late March, early April is fantastic so we avoid watering until July or August for flavor development.  Just no rain May/June as that would be bad for powdery mildew and botrytis.

Average Rainfall        2016/2017 Season
October                      2.0″                              5.7″
November                  5.9″                             3.4″
December                  6.3″                             6.0″
January                       8.7″                             8.5″ as of 1/9/17
February                    7.6″
March                         6.2″
April                            2.3″



Bud Break and Grape Harvest Prediction

Budbreak 2016

Bud break this year was 3/14, almost 3 weeks later than last year which is a very good thing!  Based on my predictions the last 4 years we have averaged 183 days from bud break to harvest.   This year we will delay a week for riper fruit…so my prediction is 9/20/16.

How much you ask?  Well, this last year we had a disastrous fruit set which resulted in a 60+% loss in fruit.  After all is said and done with new bench graft plantings and grafting over the Merlot we will have 3000 vines.  I’m estimating a 90% efficiency at 3.5 pounds/vine. I’m hoping for a better fruit set than that, but still being cautious I’m guessing 4.7 tons of Pinot Noir and 350 pounds of Sauvignon Blanc.

I’ll offer a free bottle of wine to the person who comes closest to the pounds of Pinot grapes we harvest this year. Post here on my Turtle Vines Facebook page in the next week or email me and I’ll publish the names and guesses…and we will see who wins 5 1/2 months from now.

Stay tuned for the results!


Dry Periods During a Strong El Nino?


For those of you in other parts of the country having an arctic blast caused by El Nino this year and you wondered…must be a lot of rain in Wine Country.  Well…not so much.  We are a little under our normal rainfall total so far in 2016 and it has now been dry for 12 days (and counting) and it doesn’t look much rain until the 23rd of February.  Good news is they are predicting a wetter than normal March.  Hopefully we get a lot of rain to fill the reservoirs and end the drought, but doesn’t look like it.  At least for us in wine country, rain in March is great as it fills the soil with moisture that will last until July for the grapevines.

Good news – mid 70’s here in February!

Bad news – soil will warm up and cause an early bud break!

Pruning – Part 1…Pre-pruning

which one?

Wow, don’t know about you but the time between fall and spring seems to be getting shorter every year.  Seems like just yesterday we were harvesting our grapes and making wine!

Every year the vines have to be pruned back to provide room for new growth, and if done correctly, provide balance between the amount of fruit and the vegetative growth.  Pruning is done early spring.  If it is done to early then your trunks can become infected with fungi, or Eutypa Dieback.  Basically…your vines get infected and dieback over a number of years.  Given all the time and money you have invested in them, you want to prevent this from happening so that your vines will last a few lifetimes.  There are a few easy things to try and prevent this.

– Delay your pruning as long as possible in the spring. If the phloem and xylem (blood of the vines) are flowing when you prune the vines, the diseases will not adhere to the wood.
– Double prune – prune the vines in the winter to an intermediate length and then prune late when the phloem and xylem is active. You can see from the picture above that we have done this. Basically we cut the vines to about 6″ close to where they will eventually be pruned.  One of the more difficult items in pruning is removing the old wood that is tied to the wires. If you do this first it makes the final pruning much easier to do and easier to see where the final pruning cuts should be located.
– Protectants can be used after you prune to inhibit the growth of fungi. In the case of an organic vineyard the only item I have found is Serenade at 3% which will out compete the bad fungi.  We have used this in previous years.
– Lastly, make sure as you prune you sanitize your pruning shear initially and during your pruning session so as not to spread any diseases.

So, for Turtle Vines…pre-pruning is complete and now we are waiting for the correct time to prune! Can’t be to late as we had bud break the last week of February last year.

Below is a picture of a row that has been pre-pruned and the old canes removed.  Notice that all of the vine ties are gone from last year. (the ones connecting the vines to the wires)


We now have 5 big piles of canes from 2015 around the vineyard.  Soon they will be chipped and used around the property.

cane pile

2015 Harvest Predictions based on Bud Break

May 2015 grapes

Last year my harvest prediction was only off by 3%, so it is time to go out on a limb and see what we will get this year.

First…when will we harvest?  This year our Bud Break was 2/25/15 and Bloom was 4/21/15, both of those were 2 weeks ahead of last year…and the vines are growing like crazy.  However, it has been much cooler than the last 2 years for much of the last 6 weeks which should have slowed growth down…but it doesn’t look like it.  The real prediction will come at veraison, but that is not for a months…so as of now I’m predicting Sep 2nd, 2015 for the Pinot at 24 brix.

Now…how much.  Last year was 3.8 tons and this year the clusters look healthy and large.  The Pommard clone at 100% and the 667 clone is around 80%.  So…3000 vines at 3.5 pounds/vine at 90% = 4.73 tons.

In addition we should have 240 pounds of Merlot and 300 pounds of Sauvignon Blanc which we will harvest the end of September.

Stay tuned to see how my predictions work out!


Flowering 2015 – So early!!!



We are almost 2 weeks ahead of last year for Bud Break and now Flowering…looks like an early harvest unless we have a cool summer.  This is the first one I have seen this year and as you can see from the picture below, it is on one of the healthiest canes…already to the third wire.

My guess right now is we will harvest around the 23rd of August this year…normally time for Champagne Pinot.



Bud Break 2015 – Pray for Rain and a Cool Summer

Bud Break 2015


As everyone knows farmers worry a lot about the weather…so here goes mine.  California is in its 4th year of drought.  Last year we finished with a little over half the normal rainfall and this rainy season is almost over and we are in the same shape as last year…unless we get a lot of rain in March and April.

What does that mean for us here in Russian River Valley?  Well, last year bud break was March 11th with an early harvest of September 2nd.  We had bud break February 25th this year, 2 weeks ahead of last year!

Why this is bad:
– The sooner bud break, the more chance of a heavy frost damages the shoots and ruins the crop. Normally we worry until 4/15.
– If all the other milestones are early, we will harvest mid-August. With an early harvest the grapes will not mature correctly leading to poorer phenolics.
– The chance of rain ruining fruit set is greater.

But what can you do but enjoy the nice weather and hope for a cool summer.

Bud Break for Joey’s Sauvignon blanc !



March 31st our Sauvignon blanc had bud break!

Last year these vines had tremendous growth with only 6-8 buds per vine.  This year we are leaving around 30 buds to try and control the growth and balance the vines.  Our hope is that the shoots will grow to around 4 feet…then stop and ripen the grape clusters, at least that is the goal.

We are on our way to 4 cases of 2013 Turtle Vines Sauvignon Blanc!!!

Old Math – How to calculate Harvest 2013


Last February I estimated that the 2012 harvest would be 1300 pounds…and we had 1190 pounds with the raccoons getting the other 100 pounds.  So…pretty close.  How did I get so lucky?  Originally I had planned for 3 pounds/vine in my farming plan and I had 2900 vines that were OK and in the first harvest you get 10-20% of the final number (I used 15%) so I got 1305…rounded down to 1300 pounds.

What about this year?  Using the same formula I have 3100 vines (of 3130 total) and in the second year you get 50-60% so I should get 5115 pounds.

Now, it you really want to get precise, you would actually measure the number of buds per vine (looks like 7 right now), multiply by 1.5 grape clusters/shoot (typical for Pinot noir), multiply by 80 grams/grape cluster with 3100 vines…and you get 5736 pounds.

Finally, and most importantly, how many bottles with that produce?  Well…there are 2.378 gal/case and we started last year with 1190 pounds and got 102 gallons…then you average the top crop estimates and we might get 5425 pounds which will give us 195 cases (minus what the raccoons will get).

For all those math inclined…try the calculation at home to double check me. Sort of reminds me of an algebra question in the 8th grade with Mrs Nancy Wheeler.

One last thing on the subject.  2012 was a great growing year without any heat spikes, fantastic fruit set, no frost events and a great harvest season.  I’m guessing we won’t be as lucky this year, so perhaps 150-175 cases.  If it really is that big (and I’ll know in July), I’ll have to sell some fruit this year as that is to much for me to make given my current equipment.

Later in the year I will have a “Harvest Total Estimate” contest, and the winner will win a bottle of wine.