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.
If you have been reading the blog, you will know that the Pinot Noir harvest has been a little high in pH. This was due to 3 reasons: young vineyards normally have high pH’s; watering between set and veraison will cause the vines to pull up potassium from the soil; if the soil does not have the correct ratio of Calcium/potassium/magnesium of around 6/1/1 with more potassium than magnesium, the potassium will be pulled into the berries and raise the pH.
Our 2012 Pinot Noir harvest resulted in a pH of 3.9 and potassium level of 2100 ppm.
Our 2013 harvest resulted in a pH of 3.76 and potassium level of 1700 ppm with 1 year of growing and limiting the water from set to veraison.
For 2014 we are adding 1/2 pound of Organic Epson Salt per vine. The Epson Salt will add magnesium level close to the potassium level. Hopefully this should reduce the uptake of potassium. In addition, we are installing an extra drip hose for those vines that need water. This will alleviate the need to water an entire row until it needs it. This should help the potassium level as well as enhance the flavor of the grapes.
So…how is this done. We purchased 1600 pounds of Epson Salt and will sprinkle this along the vine row. When it rains this will quickly dissolve into the soil.
Let’s hope it works well! Only have to wait a year to find out…I’m hoping to get a pH of 3.55 for 2014, which would be perfect for my style of Pinot!
– For 2013 we harvested 5199 pounds of grapes this year vs an estimated 1190 pounds in 2012! We hope to eventually harvest around 11,000 pounds.
– By carefully restricting the water from set to veraison, we were able to reduce the pH at harvest from 3.9 to 3.76 even while harvesting at a higher brix! Still need a ways to get to optimal winemaking.
– With the help of Patrick Hamilton, a SRJC student, we staked up the irrigation hoses, eliminated twins and improved the cane pruning process.
– Our gopher population increased dramatically over recent years but so did our capture rate. Twenty three as of this date.
IMPROVEMENTS FOR 2014
– Remove mystery vines and weak vines in the fall or spring
– Outsource to Wilkinson Vineyard Management some of the more labor intensive operations.
– Improve the process of harvest as we will have around 4+ tons of grapes.
– Decrease further the potassium uptake with prudent watering and magnesium supplementation of the soil.
– Implement a petiole analysis program.
– Add a second irrigation hose to around 20 rows in the vineyard for the weaker vines.
– Investigate biodynamic vineyard practices
Why is this important? Most vineyards show potassium deficiency, however young vines in many cases produce berries high in potassium like our did, >2,000 ppm. An easy explanation….watering techniques. Early in the season, wen the growth rate is high, much of the potassium accumulates in the leaves. Then the potassium ions are moved from the leaves into the berries later in the season when the fruit starts to ripen. How is this controlled? Try not to water from the time the berries “set” on the vines to verasion (when they turn purple). This will limit the amount of potassium into the leaves that will be transferred to the berries. Due to the smallness of our vines and the shallow roots, I had to water them so they would be healthy. This, I think, shot up the potassium which in turn increased our pH of the berries later in the season. So, next year I will try and not water until verasion.