Tag Archives: Powdery mildew

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

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″



Sprayer Troubles!

Sprayer Fan

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.


What’s going on the last Month at Turtle Vines?

May 2015 row

Well…we have been busy here here at Turtle Vines the last few month.  I will just catch you up on the highlights!

For my Birthday this last January Joanne gave me a Vinmetrics 300 so I can now do pH/TA and Sulfur tests on our wine and grapes during harvest season.  We tried them out and compared them to our local lab and found it to be quite accurate and pretty easy to use, although I had to channel my high school chemistry lab (thanks Mr Fletcher).

We bottled and labelled our 2014 Merlot…sorry not for sale as we only had 4 cases, but if you are lucky enough to be in town, I’ll open up a bottle.  It is the perfect pizza wine.  Last week I labelled our 2013 Pinot and spun capsules on the tops.  I REALLY like this wine, as does the “Prince of Pinot”, so if you want some order it fast when I release it in the next few weeks.  We also bottled, labelled and capsuled our 2014 Sauvignon Blanc (8 cases).  This year it is much more like a traditional Sauvignon Blanc since we had more Clone 1 than last year.  And I researching an easy way to make Champagne on a small scale!

Lastly, as you can see from the picture above, the vines have grown like crazy this year.  Not only did Bud Break and Bloom happen 2 weeks ahead of last year, but the last 6 weeks were perfect for plant growth…warm with a few instances of rain.  We have finished shoot thinning and moving wires…but we now have to shoot straighten to prevent powdery mildew, hedge the top at 6.5′ for the perfect amount of foliage, leaf and weed whack around the base.  Hoping to finish these by the first week of June, and then the vineyard will be in great shape for the rest of the year.



2014 Vineyard Plan – Turtle vines



Our Hawk is back!  What does this have to do with our 2014 Vineyard Plan you ask…well, we want to be good stewards of the land by being organic yet grow the best tasting Pinot Noir possible.

2014 Improvement Activities:
1. Install a second irrigation line to 500 weak vines
2. Prune aggressively for 2014 to push root growth and conserve water intake due to the drought.
3. Water vines until “set”, or until the renewal spurs have grown appropriately.
4. Test petiole’s at bloom and make adjustments
5. Incorporate seaweed concentrate into foliar spraying plan to decrease shatter, increase berry size and grow healthier vines.
6. Vary powdery mildew/botrytis spray plan with Botector and Sulfur, in addition to Serenade, Stylet Oil and Soda.
7. Experiment with removing the basal leaves early in the season to avoid powdery mildew/botrytis.
8. Monitor TA and pH along with brix as harvest parameters.
9. Subcontract out bigger jobs if possible.

Veraison 2013!

veraison 2013


Just walked outside and noticed we have started veraison, where the pinot grapes turn from green to a very dark purple.  This means the countdown to put up the nets and harvest has started!!!

Everything this year is ahead of last year and veraison is no different. Last year it was July 21st and this year it is July 8th, so I’m expecting harvest somewhere between the 10th and 15th of September.

What do I have to do between now and harvest?
– Continue to spray for botrytis and powdery mildew until the nets go up
– Final pass on shoot positioning, leafing and drop fruit
– Design net tool and test
– Put up the nets around Aug 1st
– FIND Winery to buy grapes!!!
– Harvest


May Vineyard Milestones

Vine 5-22

It has been a very busy May so far and I just want to update you on what is happening in the vineyard.

First off, the weather has been warm/hot and dry, in fact our “Growing Degree Days” are running 20% higher than last year. This is a measure of the weather for us farmers. For the rest of you it means I’m 2-3 weeks ahead of last year, so it has been more stressful than last year at this time.

We started the month with bloom. They say that from bloom to harvest is around 120 days, so that will put harvest in early to mid September.

The rest of the month so far has been devoted to thinning shoots on the vines, positioning the shoots so they grow straight and leave room for the grapes, clipping the wires together and weeding. The result is the picture above…well manicured vines! Just have to finish weeding on 2/3 of the vineyard and we are good to go.

One downside of the nice weather is that the powdery mildew is a big concern, so I have started spraying with oil much earlier than last year.

What is next? I have to start leafing around the BB sized grapes so the spraying is more effective and the develop a sun tan so they are better able to stand the summer heat.

I’ve put some pictures below of the work so far this month.


Row 5-22

2013 Spray Log

sprayer 1


The spray season for Turtle Vines officially started today.  In the Russian River Valley for Pinot noir the main worry is powdery mildew.  In addition I will spray for mites, fertilize with a foliar spray and add copper and boron for bloom.  It takes me about 2-3 hours to perform this either with a backpack spray or the 25 gallon to behind you see in the picture.  With the backpack sprayer it is about 5 miles of walking with 5 to 30 pounds on your back.  A good workout for this 54 year old!

This will be a running log of my activities and monthly I have to input to a California database even though all I spray are organic materials.

March 21 – 23 gal  Man, 30oz Serenade
April 1/2 – 27 gal  Man, 36oz Ser, 13.5 Spread, 36 multi min
April 9 – 27 gal Man, 36oz Ser, 13.5 spread, 36 MM, 36 copper
April 16 – 21 gal, 28oz Ser, 10.5 spread, 28 MM, 28 copper
April 23 – 30 gal, 40oz Ser, 20 spread, 40 MM, 40 copper
May 1 – 50 gal, 80oz Ser, 4 spread, 80 MM, 22 copper
May 8 – 50 gal, 96 stylet, 2 spread, 64 MM
May 15 – 50 gal, 96 Stylet, 3 spread, 64 MM
May 23 – 50 gal, 96 Stylet, 4 spread, 64 MM
May 28 – 50 gal, 96 Stylet, 4 spread
June 5 – 50 gal, 96 Stylet, 4 spread


mildewIn Russian River Valley, the weather is perfect for growing Pinot noir, Chardonnay and in some areas Sauvignon blanc. Cool evenings, fog and then warm days. This is also ideal for mildew. Being an organic farmer, you are limited to what you can spray. Suffice it to say, but being organic means I have to spray twice as frequent with material that is more expensive. The key is to spray every week and put on the right chemical at the right time. Last year I didn’t spray enough and had mildew in the middle of the year. This year was much better and I only had about 8 vines with bad mildew. What did I do and learn?

At bud break I sprayed with Serenade and copper 4 times for 4 weeks – I’ll keep this for next year.

Next I sprayed with serenade only until the end of June – Serenade will contol midew but won’t kill it. Next year I’m going to spray with Stylet Oil until veraison.

From veraison until netting, I’m spraying with Serenade and will keep this next year. Near the end of the year I’ll spray with Kaligreen for mildew control in Aug/September.

In addition, throughout the vine/leaf growing season I’m going to spray with Metalosate Multimineral Foliar Spray to help with mineral uptake to the vines.

Why is it so important? First, if the grapes get mildew they will die and infect other grapes. If the vines get midew, it will affect next years clusters and ultimately the harvest. So….a never ending fight but one that has to be won every year.


mildew 8 3 11Well, I wasn’t watching close enough and I got mildew on the vines. Not a disaster but preventable as I should have been spraying on a more regular basis.

I had been looking at the vines and thought they were turning into trunks….but they were doing that and getting mildew. So……what I should have been doing more often, is spraying them with 1% oil. This will kill the mildew by smothering it. Don’t want to have this over the winter as it will harm next years crop.

Later this year or early next year I will buy a little tow behind sprayer for the lawn tractor and spray every week. It took me 16 trips of 4 gallons with a back pack sprayer…..4 hours total. A lot of work.