Tag Archives: shoot thinning

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.



Vineyard and Winemaking Improvements for 2015


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.

Wires, twins, shoot thinning, oh boy!

wine rows


As vintner Merry Edwards puts it: “There is no other place in the world where all the right conditions converge to create the kaleidoscopic aroma profile and the rich, full texture so recognizable in pinots produced in our appellation.”

The vineyard, as always, has been a lot of work in May.  On the 27th we got all the vines in the wires,  a second pass of shoot thinning, twins removal and sucker removal.  This year it was only myself and Bernadino, so a lot of work.

If you notice in the picture above, the Pommard Pinot clone has gone crazy this year!  Some of the shoots are 2′ above the top wire already and I’ll have to hedge very soon before they get out of control.  I talked to a few other growers and they all say the same thing…lots of growth.  Hopefully it will translate to fantastic fruit later in the year.


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

Same work, different year…doubles, shoot thinning, suckers

2013 doubles


This year we have “real” cane pruned arms so the act of suckering, shoot thinning and removing doubles is a little more straight forward.  In the picture above I hope you can see that one of the positions has 2 shoots, a large one and a small one.  Since you want the shoots to be strong you only want one at each location.  So, you pinch it off.  In addition, you have to sucker buds on the trunk and make sure you leave shoots that will grow into next years canes.  It takes practice and a few years of watching what you did and the result at harvest and the following year to get really good at it…

Below is a picture of the good vine along.  The last picture is our front vineyard.  As you can see it is cordon pruned, so we don’t have to pick shoots to keep for next years canes.  I know this might be to much for most of you, but needless to say, each vine you have to make numerous decisions in order to ensure good fruit this year and a healthy, productive vine next year.

After thinning

2013 front before


Vit 131 – Working with your Winemaker

winemakerPictured is John Mason of EMTU Vineyards with his Pinot noir on the right and Turtle Vines Pinot noir on the left this last fall.

I just finished a 4 day course at Santa Rosa Junior College entitled “Working with your Winemaker”.  In essence, the class is designed to teach the vineyard owner/manager the important parameters in the vineyard that effect wine, and how to make it better.  Winemakers can only make good with with good grapes, they need great grapes to make great wine!  That is our goal, great grapes…and then great wine.

Here are the key items I took from the class

* Great vineyards only have 3-4 shoots/foot.  This should balance the growth between grapes and shoots/leaves.  If you try for to much fruit it won’t ripen and you will probably get mold/mildew.

* Red wine needs to be water stressed between set and version (small berries to when they turn red).  This sounds odd, but the vine needs to look a little weak before you add water…and then after that only water to 40% of what a normal plant would need for a month or so.  This is good for color and flavor.

* Leaves around the grapes have to allow dappled light to the clusters, and in some cases you strip all the leaves.  This will give you more intense flavors.

* In the vineyard many times less is better.  So you have to thin leaves,  remove shoots and clusters, prune to only allow the correct amount of fruit.  It seems like the vines want to grow, and you want to only allow it to grow how you want it to grow.  If you do it correctly, this will produce a “balanced” vine and “balanced” wine.  Use this term next time you are at a winery and see what they say.

* Rule of thumb – if the shoot is shorter than the first wire…no clusters, up to the second wire…1 cluster, above that 2 clusters.

* It is best to have a cover crop to help stress the vines as it gives them competition for water and nutrients.

* Lastly, the Winemaker is always right


Doug Williams – Turtle Vines grower/vintner

Disbudding and removing twins

P1090830I know….a few weeks ago I was all excited about new buds on the grapevines…..and now I’m going to debud a lot of them….what is going on?

Well, grapevines are like unruly people in the spring and summer….they try and do anything they want. They put out buds on the trunks and in many cases put out double buds. As I have talked many times, you need balance in your vines. So, you have to remove all the buds from the trunks and also remove the secondary bud (the small twin bud).

Removing buds from the trunks is easy. Just get a thick glove and rub your hand down the trunk. It only took me about 5 hours to do the entire vineyard. The twins are a much more difficult as you have to make a judgement on each one. I just started this, but I’m guessing it will take me 15-20 hours. It is crucial to do all of these early since the vine is putting a lot of effort in growing these unwanted shoots.

Below I have some before and after pictures.

P1090831 P1090826 P1090827
Joey’s doing her vines


Removing twins – before Removing twins – after

Shoot thinning to determine a trunk !!!

trunk devI’m not sure many of you knew this, but this is a very important time for Turtle Vines!!! Last year the vines just grew and developed roots. This year we get to develop the trunk of the vine. So, it is now about 3 weeks after bud break. Most of the vines have 3 or 4 shoots coming from the plants. The first thing we do is thin this to 2 and let them grow. For the next 6 weeks, I’ll tie them up and let them grow. Around June 1, I pick the best and then take the weak sister out. Hopefully the one left will grow to the width of a pencil as this will be the trunk for next year.

Just some work so far this month.

4/15 Mowing 1 hour, shoot thinning 1 hour
4/19 Mowing and repairing mower 5 hours
4/20 3 guys/2 hours each shoot thinning – hired
4/21 3 guys/4 hours each shoot thinning – hired
4/21 2 hours weed whacking/mowing
4/22 2 1/2 hours weed whacking/mowing
4/23 3 hours weed whacking/mowing
4/25 3 hours weed whacking/mowing
4/27 2.5 hours spraying
4/28 6 hours fertilizing and marking plants to replace next week