I used this “Homemade” ATV sprayers for my vineyard the last 3 years, and last month the fan axel broke. What did this mean? For 3 weeks I had to back-pack spray to prevent powdery mildew. For those of you not familiar with this…You fill a spray pack with 4 gallons of water with organic spray material, like Stylet Oil, and then pump it to pressurize it continually and walk with 40 pounds on your back for about 5 miles. Not a lot of fun…but it should prevent disease later in the year. The good news for me is it has not been to warm, so the disease pressure is low!
Finally after waiting for 2 weeks for the replacement fan, I got it up and running last week and it seems as good as new.
A few weeks ago we drove 2 hours north to Mendocino, along the California coast. Occasionally you have to get away to allow you to think what is good and what needs to be improved in your life and in this case Turtle Vines vineyard and winery.
Hard to believe, but we started on this adventure when we purchased our house in 2008. In that time we prepared the land, planted 3130 pinot noir vines (enough for 5-6 tons of fruit), made 3 vintages of wine, acquired organic certification, found a buyer for grapes and were permitted to sell wine! Wow…what a ride so far. But every year you have to see what works and what doesn’t and make improvements…so here goes.
– Let Pinot Noir ferment with wild yeast, if needed, then introduce assmenhausen yeast.
– Find a distributor/restaurant for wine and develop a bigger following. This could include wine-on-tap.
– Acquire the .organic name when it is available.
– Keep Merlot separate and pick later than Pinot.
– Obtain a professional review for marketing…perhaps Prince of Pinot.
– Determine optimal amount of wine to make
– Blend 2014 Pinot for optimal taste of 3 possible wines
– Become profitable.
– Add another 1/2 pound epson salt per vine to decrease potassium. It has come down from 2100ppm to 1200ppm but needs to be around 500ppm.
– Add Boron to spray prior to bloom. Only spray seaweed once at bloom otherwise it will increase pH of grapes later in the season. Add sulfur to spray rotation for cost and spider mites.
* Stylet oil/Boron prior to bloom
* Serenade/seaweed at bloom
* Alternate serenate/stylet oil/bicarbonate/sulfur the rest of the season
* Boron in the fall
– Dry farm as much as possible, especially the Pommard
– Hire out bigger jobs, especially shoot straightening/thinning in May to create airflow and prevent mildew. In addition…pruning and harvest.
– Fill out paperwork to become “Sustainable” in addition to being certified Organic.
– Drop more fruit for short canes
– Become profitable.
This was a very big day for Turtle Vines…we were inspected for CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmer) this morning, May 28th, 2013. There were a few minor items I overlooked and he found, but I’m hoping in 4-6 weeks we will be an officially Certified Organic Vineyard. There are only 3% of the vineyards in Sonoma County that are organic, so this puts us in good company!
So what does it mean to be Organic?
– We are limited in the chemicals we can spray on the vines to safer, non-toxic liquids to combat mildew and insects. It also means we need to spray more often as the chemicals are not as effective. This means you have to be a better farmer in watching the health of the vines.
– It also means the fertilizers you use are less concentrated, so it you want to “juice” the vines to get them back to good health, you have to plan way in advance.
– You can’t spray Round-Up on weeds in the vineyard. In our case we put 2 miles of weed cloth with mulch on top to reduce weeding in the vine rows. Most vineyards use Round-up and a pre-emergent to control weeds. Just look under the vines and if you only see dirt and not weeds, in most cases it is not organic.
– For us organic is more expensive in the short term, but the soil is much healthier in the long run.
– The good news is I feel much better about the health of the vines, the health of the environment in the vineyard and my health spraying!!!