Part 2 of farming and wine life in the Sonoma Valley…
Honey Bees and a National Park Ranger Talk on the Light Spectrum
Honey bees being a constant topic here at the Hydeout, what a great surprise to find a recent national park ranger talk on the color perception of bees! Turns out, honey bees see further out than humans on the light spectrum – which is why they can more easily find nectar in flowers. And why they don’t really like the color black.
Honey bees (cont’d)
Here are some more images of our work last week in the honey bees hives:
American Graffiti in Petaluma
This year marked the 50th year since George Lucas’ coming-of-age movie American Graffiti was released on the silver screen. Cruisin’ the Boulevard showcased hundreds of American model cars 1972 or older who joined in the annual parade of classic American cars cruising through the streets of downtown Petaluma where most of the movie was filmed in the summer of 1972. The best place to watch was along Petaluma Boulevard, south of B Street to D Street.
Sad to say we’ve had two fires already in our lovely Hyde-Burndale neighborhood. The first was a grass fire from some untimely afternoon high grass mowing. Our local neighbors with a water truck beat the firefighters to the scene (due to a faulty address) and had the fire out quickly.
The second, was a structure fire right across the street from us. The awesome and very local Schell-Vista Fire Dept arrived, followed closely by Cal-Fire, and that fire was also put out quickly. Hopefully the last of this fire business for the year.
Meal Fit for a King
Hosted by noted Napa vintner John Boich of Boich Cellars, we enjoyed an incredible food and wine event at their Wall Road vineyard (where we are farming Cabernet and Syrah for Boich). Check out the menu below for each of these incredible dishes:
Yours truly, Ken Wornick, with chef extraordinaire Landon Schoenfeld of Oak and Acorn Luxury In-home Dining
The Boich Cellars menu from Oak and Acorn Luxury In-Home Dining. Find them at 612-618-5909, email@example.com
After a very wet winter, wildlife activity is booming around Sonoma and at the Hydeout. These images, shot by professional photographer Michael Hodgson, Sony Pro photographer & travel journalist, at www.michaelhodgsonphoto.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
This is first time ever finding a snake at the Hydeout. Snakes, especially rattle snakes are super common up in the hills around Sonoma. Down here in the almost-flats, we have very few to zero rattlers. This snake however is actually a common gopher snake that was leisurely crossing the driveway. I grabbed it, put it in a bucket, and took it straight out the vineyard where it very quickly disappeared down a gopher hole – to my very great delight!
Cork from Ganau, it’s Italian for cork
Our primary supplier of cork is Ganau, a local Sonoma company run by terrific people. In this video, you can see a natural product, cork, being naturally branded by fire. Click here to watch a 30-second video of cork being fire-branded at the Ganau plant
Fire branded and ink branded corks
Fun night at the Big Easy in Petaluma seeing Illegitimate AC/DC. Fronted by my buddies Bob Taylor (as Angus, center, guitar) and James Marshall Berry (right, on bass). They rocked hard all night long. Bob and James are also an integral part of KSVY Sonoma, our local radio station. I was a guest on Bob’s The Morning Show last week – check it out here: listen to Ken Wornick on the KSVY Morning Show
Next up – watch for a big announcement!
My trusty 2007 BMW R1200RT gets me around to all the vineyard sites we farm.
Blind tasting modern Spanish Priorat
Another fascinating tasting with preeminent host Don Sebastiani at the Swiss Hotel on Sonoma Plaza.
Priorat is in Catalona (Catalunya), a region immediately south west of Barcelona, and directly west of Tarragona. It is rough and rugged in the extreme. For most of its wine history, it was a scenic but otherwise nondescript place with dull brownish wines. Then, big Spanish wine money started pouring into Priorat in the 1990’s. And now the wines are uniformly modern and new world with swanky stylish labels. Most are made with blends of Garnacha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignane). This tasting was a real shocker to all of us as the wines were quite fresh and vibrant, with some evident terroir, and somewhat reasonably priced as well. And all available now at the Bottle Barn in Santa Rose.
We started the tasting blind; this is an image after the tasting of the 8-bottle lineup, as it turned out organized by age of vines and vintage.
You can see these wine are all deeply colored, on the core and rim as well. No flaws, no VA, all clean and fresh.
Part of the team of winemakers and media chatting about how to approach this tasting.
Installing a wild swarm of bees into a new hive box at the Hydeout
Good friend and beekeeper Nic Freedman from Bees Rock Ranch in Petaluma passed this wild swarm on to us for one of our new hive boxes.
This swarm was caught in a swarm trap using lemon grass oil as bait. These bees may have been wild. Or, they could have been a hive splitting from one of Nic’s overwintering hives (which itself started as a swarm last year).
How do you transfer bees? Just carefully lift each “frame’ from the swarm box and place it in the new hive box. There are some rules about how fast to move, alignment of boxes, location of the hive, and so forth. Like most things, easy on the surface but complicated when confronting the number of decisions and various opinions on just about everything from various beekeepers.
About 15 minutes after transfer into the new hive box; the bees are flying out, around, and back into the new hive to figure out where they are, developing navigation cues, and so forth.
Myself, Nic, and friend and neighbor John Boich, all in our suits and observing the newly installed swarm at the Hydeout.
Motorcycling through Morocco
Just before bud break in our Sonocaia Sagrantino vineyard at the Hydeout, we had a chance to ride our BMW R1200RT through Morocco. We started in Malaga Spain, took the ferry south across the strait Gibralter, and then road through Chefchouan, Fez, the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara Desert, Dades, Marrakech, and Rabat. Lots to report about the geography, food, music, religion, politics, and so forth.
Older posts you shouldn’t miss:
Sagrantino tasting – our Sonocaia vs Italy
Italian Barolos blind tasting report
50-year old California Cabernet blind tasting
Back in the Sonocaia winery after a long journey home from Morocco.
What happens in Sonoma when the harvest is done?
The very last tank of grapes has finished fermenting. The tank is drained of wine and placed in barrels (that liquid is called the “free run”). Then the remaining fermented grapes in the tank are moved into the press and gently squeezed (and the result is called the “press fraction”). And what’s removed from the press after pressing (called the “pomace”) is either sold as animal feed or recycled into green waste or sent to our distiller and turned into Grappa, Brandy, and Cognac; and the seeds are further pressed into grapeseed oil. And that really marks the end of the harvest season.
This is what 2 tons of dense Syrah grape pomace looks like when it comes out of the press. It’s dark purple and bone dry. The very last cuveé of wine has been barreled.
There still remain some chores to manage over the winter: the newly filled wine barrels will be carefully monitored as the secondary Malo-Lactic fermentation is monitored and managed (and where the tart Malic acid, think green apple, is slowly fermented into Lactic acid, with potential health benefits including improved gut health, immune system support, and antioxidant effects). Barrels must be topped off due to evaporation. And as the wine settles we need to taste every wine to assure things are coming along to our liking. And, we start thinking about which of the older wines need to be prepared for bottling this spring. Last, now is the time for the winery to be thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom. And only then will it be time for everyone to have a much needed rest.
A brief note about the 2022 season: It started off with a really hard freeze right as many grape varieties were just budding out. There was some damage to some vineyards resulting in crop loss as much as 50%. Then after a normal but very dry summer, the record heat wave struck, 5 days over 100F and 5 nights in the 80F’s putting extreme stress on ripening fruit. And then adding insult to injury, 2 inches of rain. It was one of the most confounding and complicated growing seasons ever. More on that when the 2022’s are ready for release in 2024.
Halloween is usually the first sign that the wonderful long slog that is harvest and winemaking is about to wrap up. When bright orange pumpkins start appearing all over town, we know the harvest season is almost over.
As the cold weather settles in at the Hydeout, the chicken egg production starts to fall off as the chickens shift their energy from egg production to winter feather production. And in our case, they also start flying the coop and hiding their eggs in hilarious hard-to-find places.
Final garden harvest
As is the tradition in the Fall, it’s time to harvest the last of the garden produce, clean it up, and pickle it all in bell jars.
Wood slab table – restarting an old project
In 2020, St Helena in Napa Valley was surrounded by the Glass fire. Acres of gorgeous oak forest was lost. With help from friends, I located and set aside one of the fallen oaks and had one of the fire department crews mill it into oak slabs for me. The new table from this project will go into the new winery barn here at the Hydeout.
Two oak slabs, about 10 feet long and 18 inches wide, will be joined along the inside edges to form a new table. The outer live-edges still show the burn scars from the fire. It is a stark reminder of how the fires damaged lives and property.
By the time of the Thanksgiving holiday in late November, winemaking has truly concluded, and our Prickly Pear Cactus flowers are ripe. And that means it’s time for the whole family to get involved in producing our Prickly Pear Agave Nectar. And our tart, sweet, smoky, mezcal Margaritas!
Recipe: Click here!
Living art at the Hydeout
Dear friend, character, bon vivant, and Sonoma artist Jock McDonald, with assistance from his wife Sherry McDowell, set up a photo shoot for a new project Jock is developing called “TRASH.” I can’t say any more at this time as the final form of this new work is on its way to Art Basel in Miami, Florida right now! These are preliminary images only and in no way depict the final art form that Jock has developed. To learn more, click here.
This is the time of year we all gather as family and enjoy another wonderful year of life, trials, tribulations, health and happiness. Here is the entire Hydeout team:
Happy holidays from the entire Wornick family – Ken, Dennis, Sophia, Cynthia, Harry, with Elyse, Jessica, and Tony the dog
Passing the 1,000 blog readers mark, and with my thanks to you all, here are 50+ images from this, my 23rd vintage. – Ken Wornick
Blending trials for bottling aged reds prior to harvest
Faith and I needed to plan the bottling of the remaining 2020 client red wines that were still aging in barrels. To get ready, we conducted blending trials for some of our client wines here at the Hydeout Sonoma kitchen table.
Note the grouped samples as source wines, the pipettes and beakers, and so on. We start with the base wines, tasting notes, and lab chemistry in hand. Then we try to imagine what actions will give lift, depth, and longevity to each wine. Blending is a fun process because after spending a year growing the fruit and another year producing and yet another year aging the wines, it is really nice to sit in a warm quiet well-lit place and taste each wine one last time with focus and concentration. And then somehow with a bit of alchemy, create delicious artistry from all of the components.
While the 2021 vintage continues to age in barrels, and the 2022 harvest approaches, emptying barrels of perfectly-aged and blended 2020 red wine for bottling also creates needed space in the winery for the incoming 2022 vintage.
One of the best days for what we do is delivering a completed bottled vintage to our clients, sometimes 26 months of waiting! Here are 3 recent examples:
4:00am start on an early morning in August, 2022
Harvest 2022 started for us in mid-August with some client hillside fruit on Arrowhead Mountain in southern Sonoma. What a moment it is every year when we shift from farming, which started way back in January, and finally seven to nine months later the fruit is ripe and we’re ready to harvest.
A cool dense layer of fog sits on the valley floor below this vineyard block, as the slowly approaching tractor lights glow in the background
A slight breeze and the fog suddenly shifts as the sun almost rises (note the 3 house lights down below no longer in fog)
But it’s still dark inside this vine canopy as fruit fills the 1/2 ton bins of Zin
A bobcat grabs more empty bins and rushes them into the field
And minutes later returns with full bins of fruit. These bins are then rushed to the winery; we want that fruit to be ice-cold when it arrives.
Click here to watch a video of a night harvest
My next stop is to check out a client’s Eastside Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir vineyard scheduled to pick in the following few days. Note the dark tight-fisted bunches as is the nature of Pinot Noir.
I can never resist picking up oak acorns. Every year, I start another crop of oak seedlings from acorns, for planting around the Hydeout ranch. Some of the most impressive oak trees and their falling acorns surround vineyards in Sonoma. And those majestic beauties produce some amazing acorns that one day will themselves be majestic oak trees.
Another harvest a few days later. Ready to drive a load of Sonoma Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon to the winery.
We start in the early morning hours and we look up and suddenly we realize the sun is out and it’s warm outside. Here, a moment of pause to celebrate the process of harvested grapes with Hydeout Sonoma partner and winemaker Faith Armstrong.
Processing fruit in the winery
Growing and harvesting great fruit is only half the battle. Next up is the winemaking. Every load of fruit is very carefully weighed, by law, so that each client’s property can be carefully tracked all the way into bottle; every single drop.
The first few bins of Pinot Noir from another early morning harvest go onto the scale
Moving into September, the long slow harvest continues to roll along as tank after tank fills with fermenting fruit. Here, happy winemakers about to get started on some pristine Zinfandel
In early October, processing some Syrah from Kenwood into a 7-ton tank. The fruit from this vineyard is just across the street from Landmark Winery in Kenwood.
Muscat Canelli is not a very well known wine, but we love it. There are so many beautiful and under-appreciated grape varieties across the globe. This Muscat, from the Carneros Appellation in the Hyde-Burndale neighborhood, is packed full of tropical fruit and incredible peach aromatics.
Irrigating a tank a of Grenache, a process where the fermenting juice is pumped from the bottom of the tank and “irrigated” (and oxygenated) over the top of the “cap” (the fruit floating to the top and pushed there by the expanding CO2 gas), thus encouraging the yeast to thrive and to keep the cap wet (because if it dries out, bad things can happen like the formation of vinegar).
Click here to watch a quick video of “irrigating” the cap
Now mid-October, and we’re still at it. Here, clean de-stemmed fruit accumulating in a bin, headed to a fermentation tank in a moment
The stems accumulate after the fruit has been removed for winemaking
After the fruit is moved to a fermentation tank, and lab reports have been studied, we re-confirm our goals for the wine. Carefully selected yeast is added to get the fermentation rolling. In this case, a yeast from the Rhone region is specially selected for Syrah and Grenache which are Rhone varieties.
The yeast is very carefully rehydrated, and then slowly small amounts of cool raw grape juice is added and the yeast cells adjust to the temperature and awaken.
Lots of oak barrels must be prepped because soon enough, all these tanks of wine will complete fermentation and, one by one, those wines must be quickly moved into barrels where the long aging cycle begins. (footnote: T-shirt was a gift from Chewy, my Desert Caballero ace cowboy buddy)
Pizza party at the Winery, at about the halfway point, 6 weeks in and about 6 weeks to go…
Exhausted but happy, a moment of pause for some local Mary’s Pizza with the awesome winery team. Pacifico (yellow cans) was the beer of choice for all on this day – except of course for one of the guys who always wisely choses a Coors Light…see the empty seat…yup…I made the right choice!
The team at Arcana Custom Crush Winery on 8th street east in Sonoma, the management and cellar crew, from left to right: Sebastian, Kate, Mat, Bill, Landon (Maverick), Miguel, Jose, Jesus
Our winery mascot, Kate’s son Landon, welcomes another load of fruit by crushing it with his own feet. I like to call him “Maverick” because he looks like Tom Cruise from Top Gun, and moves around the winery at the same speed. If you’re a mom and it’s harvest time, the kids go to the “office” too and become part of the action.
Mid-October, yet another harvest, and this time breakfast is included!
Starting in on a some short rows as the sun rises
The tractor leads the way pulling bins quickly filling with fruit
This is what really pristine Sonoma Valley cabernet sauvignon looks like
After this harvest, our wonderful client offers everyone a delicious meal. Last year was tacos and tostadas, this year was an amazing Pozole soup made of pork and hominy (the word “pozole” is thought to come from Nahuatl, the Uto-Aztecan language spoken in various forms during pre-Hispanic times).
Vibrant “thin-leafed sunflower”, always blooming around Sonoma at harvest time
Jack London State Historic Park – and the Park Partners – there is always time in Sonoma for another gala non-profit fundraiser!
Jack London Park Partners emerged during a budgetary crisis in 2012 which shuttered many state parks. It was the first non-profit organization to take up management of a state park on behalf of the people of California and it has been successfully running Jack London State Historic Park ever since. If you haven’t been, please do schedule a visit. It’s very scenic and historic too.
Park Partners hosted a sold-out entertaining outdoor gala event on Sept 24th.
The staged event theme, as seen here, was “Once upon a time in a not so distant forest lived an ancient redwood tree who silently presided over her forested sanctuary.” Adults and kids, dressed up as tree and forest creatures, was totally entertaining. A real hoot!
Final Harvest of 2022 – the last fruit to ripen and the final harvest of the year – our very own Sonocaia estate Sagrantino from here at the Hydeout Ranch
These Hydeout half-ton bins are cleaned, loaded on the skid trailer, and waiting to be filled.
It was a very cool damp night so we waited until the sun was up and dew was off the fruit before picking, but still it was just 40F outside.
The first of several bins begins to fill, and the fruit will be on its way to the winery in moments.
Vintage 2022, you started off so perfectly, with a terrific mid-winter atmospheric river and a lovely mild spring and summer, but then you turned on us and cooked us to a crisp for five days at +110F, and then you rained more than inch on us, and then it turned cold. Just another hah hah season in wine country.
The final lug of 2022 grapes, our inky tight-bunch Sagrantino…ahhh! We’ll start pruning all the vines in February and the process repeats yet again.
If you are still reading?…
Late into October 2022, and the first of our client’s harvested grapes (from late August harvests) have completed fermentation. We’ve pressed the wines off, settled in tank, and now it’s time to barrel them down and put these wines to bed for the winter:
A final acknowledgement – Nunez Vineyard Management:
I first met Mike Nunez and his family, of Nunez Vineyard Management, going all the way back to when we opened La Honda Winery in Redwood City more than 20 years ago. A client of Mike’s who owned a vineyard in Sonoma sent his fruit down to us to process. That year, the fruit was harvested late and we ended up making a beautiful port wine. Mike drove the fruit down himself. I met him at our loading dock. We’ve been friends and colleagues ever since.
The Nunez family has deep roots in both Sonoma and Napa. We partner with them on many client projects, and our combined knowledge and experience creates a great outcome for everyone.
And, everyone involved in the growing of grapes and making of wine is publicly acknowledged at this Nunez Vineyard Management harvest party. A class act!
Next year, I think it will be fun to post a blog looking back over my 23 vintages. For now, here is a sneak peek looking back to the year 2000, and the founding of La Honda Winery, in Redwood City:
This is where I try to convince you to be entertained for a few minutes with little bits of fun from Sonoma –
Blind Tasting: 2013 Napa Valley Cabernets and 2020 Sauvignon Blancs from 5 Countries
Many thanks to friend and colleague, Keith Casale, who helped launch this inaugural tasting event at the Hydeout Sonoma. Also, thanks to Lisa Lavagetto for the delicious catering effort.
Sonoma Int’l Film Festival – 25th Anniversary
Opening night of the 25th anniversary of the Sonoma International Film Festival. Here, in Sonoma’s art deco Sebastiani theatre, artistic director Kevin McNeely interviews the “Lost City” film’s directors, brothers Adam and Aaron Nee. This was the film’s premiere, featuring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum (with a hilarious cameo by Brad Pitt) and the audience were roaring in their seats. One of the very best events in wine country, the festival runs over 5 days, 7 venues, dozens of fantastic films, and endless food and wine.
The new leadership of the Sonoma Int’l Film Festival for the 26th year: L to R, Kevin McNeely (Artistic Director), Bob Berg (Chair of the Board) Jon Curry (Immediately. Past Chair of the Board), Ken Wornick (Vice-Chair of the Board)
Sonoma grapevine bud break – 2022
What a cliché – bud break in wine country. And yet it is truly the annual renewal of life after a welcome and much needed cold rainy winter.
New arrivals – over 30 new chicks who will grow up to be egg producers of the team of Dysfunctional Family Chickens
Video – Hydeout Sonoma welcomes a new batch of very cute Dysfunctional Family Chickens
Five of us from Sonoma rode in the 75th anniversary of the Desert Caballeros horseback ride in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. 100 miles in 5 days, sleeping under the stars at night.
Video: check out this video of 160 horses riding into the Sonoran Desert
Rain! After two atmospheric rivers in late Fall, it seemed the rain would never return. But in early April, a series of storms rolled through Sonoma. Here, the Hydeout weather station was so shocked by it all, it displayed 10.24 inches rain in an hour. Repairs are in order. But still, rain in any amount is welcome.
Learn about and order our wines here: Dysfunctional Family Winery – rosé and red blends