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
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.
Hydeout Sonoma, a full-service wine country consulting firm offering vineyard farming, winemaking, and brand development services to a portfolio of private clients announces the appointment of its newest partner, Faith Armstrong. Faith will play an immediate full time role with the company in support of client farming and winemaking.
Faith received a full Regents Scholarship to the University of California at Davis, earning her B.S. degree in Viticulture and Enology with highest honors. She became the assistant winemaker at the renowned Frank Family Vineyards in Calistoga, Napa Valley. And while focussed on raising her children, Faith also established her own highly-acclaimed brand of modern wines, Onward.
Ken Wornick, company founder, works exclusively with the firm’s private clients, conceiving and executing vineyard, wine, and brand development projects, taking 100% ownership of all concepts and deliverables, leaving clients free to participate when/how interest and schedule allows. The firm manages sixteen boutique vineyards in Sonoma and Napa and produces the client’s branded wines. The firm also produces wine for its company-owned brand, Dysfunctional Family Winery.
Faith Armstrong and Ken Wornick – pictured at their winery in front of some client barrels of rosé.
Motorcycling through Mexico’s Guadalupe Wine Valley – the “Ruta Del Vino”
The sign welcoming us to the Ruta, you can spot a few vineyards in the mountains beyond.
Before the 2022 grape farming season got fully underway in late February, our middle son Dennis and I rode motorcycles from Cabo San Lucas, the southern tip of Baja Sur, Mexico north to Long Beach, USA. Below is a brief series of photos from the epic journey…
Dennis and Ken Wornick, riding in the gravel to reach the overlook of the Punta De Prieta, and the vast and empty Bahia De Los Angeles, in Baja Sur
A couple of days into the journey north, I remembered to shoot a photo of the Kilometers remaining until crossing the border back into the USA (something you can’t help bu have in the back of your mind when in the middle of nowhere in Mexico); in this case, 1161 Km.
Of particular interest to me was the somewhat new Mexican wine industry in the Guadalupe Valley (which is just south of the USA border, about 2 hours from San Diego). Initially founded in the 1820’s by Spanish missionaries intent on making their own wine, there was then a brief period when Russians fleeing the war with Japan ended up there and built most of the town. But in the 2000’s, industrious Mexican nationals have developed the valley in style and intent similar to Napa and Sonoma. Many of the wines were indeed delicious – fresh, fruity, exhibiting true terroir, and of high quality.
This map shows the location of the Guadalupe Valley relative to northern Baja, Tijuana, and San Diego. After visiting the Guadalupe Valley, we crossed into the USA in Tecate, which is a smallish border crossing with a significant new border wall.
Some of the newer wineries are ultra-modern and offer first class accommodations on site – like these at Encuentro Guadalupe.
Much of the food is sophisticated, and there is also plenty of really good and authentic outdoor food – like this at the well known Deckman’s.
An example of some of the more modern-style wines available from the Guadalupe Valley viticultural area.
Just one example of the truly endless Mexican roadside monuments to loved ones who died in car crashes along the highway.
Our group of riders traveling with Motoquest north through Baja on these rugged adventure bikes – BMW R1200GS’s and BMW F750GS’s. Why are we all bundled up in sub-tropical Mexico? On this particular day, we climbed multiple times up and over the Sierra Madre Occidental with elevations as high as 3500 feet. And on this day, a brutal weather system rolled in from the west. We rode through rain and sleet, precarious mountain passes, and even with heated handgrips found ourselves with chattering teeth and frozen toes.
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Here is a quick pictorial essay of the entire 2021 season.
On a bright blue day in February, pruning of the dormant vines is the first order of business (here we severely pruned an old vine Zinfandel block and piled up these cuttings for a local artist’s wood project)
The vines after pruning, a bit of rain falls, and the mustard cover crop starts to push
Soon the mustard is towering over the vines (here I am in a drone-shot in a newly planted Cabernet block)
It will be time soon to begin actively farming for the season, and so we start prepping the equipment for the next few months of heavy use.
Sommelier Chris Sawyer reveals the names, vintages, and histories of each of the ten wines. Fascinating discussion followed. These old Zins mostly showed to be very long lived and is a testament to the skill of the winemakers back in the 1990’s. Most of the wines really held up despite their age, showing soft tannins, crisp acidity, and surprisingly fresh fruit; these traits are perhaps the hallmark of long-lived Zinfandel, California’s most “native” variety. Christopher will be collating the tasting notes and will be publishing the results soon.
The SummerFest mini-festival is not to be missed. The event features 40 narratives, documentaries and short films from 15 countries screening in person at Sebastiani Theatre and Andrews Hall (at the Sonoma Community Center) all weekend, two outdoor winery screenings with live music, and SIFF Screen & Cuisine, a dinner, live music and film special events.
Sonoma Int’l Film Festival Artistic Director Kevin McNeely serves a very bountiful breakfast at his hillside home above Sonoma town to his new SIFF board V.P. (that would be me). Kevin is the man behind the curtain at the festival and a wonderful leader who expertly guides the festival staff and cheerfully greets all festival guests.
Jack London State Park – a gala donation dinner event
Another Sonoma treasure, Jack London State Park is packed with history, hiking and biking and horse trails, and historic buildings. In early June, a small group of friends gathered for a private dinner hosted by park staff. In luxury SUV’s, our group of ten was ushered to near the top of the park, just short of the summit 4.5 miles from the parking lot at 2,464 feet. We hiked the hilariously easy last 100 yards (seen here) to the top and enjoyed bubbles, rosé, and views of the Sonoma Valley. Then we walked back down to the cars where we found tables set up for a very thoughtfully prepared meal. After a couple of hours of food and fun, we drove half way back down the hill to a clearing and watched a stunning moon rise. And all for a good cause. Next up – click here for tickets to the upcoming Jack London State Park gala.
A group of Jack London Sate Park supporters arrives at the top of Sonoma Mountain after an exhausting 100 yard walk to the top.
In the wee hours well after dinner, the group settles in to watch the full moon rise from a clearing in the park. This photo was taken in complete pitch-blackness with an old iPhone and the photographer disavows any responsibility for the appearance of the participants.
A local Sonoma men’s group affectionally known as the “Choir” enjoyed a night of ‘practice’ with a tequila tasting generously hosted by one of our winemaker members. 123 Spirits founder David Ravandi presented the tequila lineup. The tasting took place in an old “Turkey Barn” just across the street from the world-wide headquarters of Dysfunctional Family Winery.
More wine country news from Sonoma – barrel tasting, interviews, new oak barrels, etc…
In front of a stack of Hydeout Sonoma and Dysfunctional Family Winery barrels, we are barrel sampling the inaugural 2020 vintage of the Keating Family “Quail Run” Cabernet Sauvignon, scheduled for release in September 2022.
Jan Keating, artist and art educator, taking notes in discussion for the family’s “Quail Run” estate Cabernet
The entire Wornick family for my dad’s 89th birthday and mom’s 85th birthday – mom and dad front center, with brothers, wives and kids; celebrated on the Bay and at the Ballpark, this group represents the completely unsuspecting inaugural members of the original dysfunctional family.
Thank you for reading another installment of the Dysfunctional Family Winery blog, sincerely, Ken
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About: This rosé was made in the classic French ‘saigneé style’ – ‘bleeding off’ the raw pink grape juice from a gorgeous tank of just-harvested red fruit – then cold fermented in stainless steel, lees stirred for a creamier finish, and then racked back to neutral oak barrels for settling and aging; all resulting in a wine that is a dark cotton candy in color, bright and racy and fruit forward, with a soft finish; perfect for warm sunny afternoons and summer poolside dining.
There is a Federally registered first-nations “Miwok” artifact site on the ranch. So, a new project – a totem pole.
Totem poles were monuments created by First Nations of the Pacific Northwest to represent and commemorate ancestry, histories, people, or events. We thought it would be fun to create a modern Sonoma version of a totem pole to commemorate the local ancestors who once occupied this land. Being careful not to appropriate and warp the native culture, we’re steering clear of traditional motifs and looking at alternate totem design ideas.
Another couple of hours and it’s starting to look like something that can be carved. Into what is the question? If anyone has ideas, please offer them up!
In and around the gardens – potatoes, lettuce, wild birds, and awards
The ranch veggie garden is in Spring mode and the first crop of ‘new’ potatoes are in…
…in just two small raised beds, over 250 heads of lettuce harvested and shared with friends and family. Seen here, the third and final heads of lettuce from the rather tired original roots.
Spring is definitely here when the trees, roof eves, and gutters are stuffed with tiny wild bird eggs…
SONOMA May 8, 2021 — Hydeout Sonoma has been selected for the 2021 Best of Sonoma Award in the Agriculture Cooperative category. Award winners include local Sonoma companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community.
Flashback – the terrible Sonoma and Napa fires of 2017 and 2020
Let’s hope we do not have to re-visit this ugly scene from 2017. But it is so darn dry out there already! Our weather station says we received only 11 inches of rain this season out of an expected 35 inches normally. Here at the ranch, we’ve cut way back on irrigation, let the lawn go brown, and doing everything possible to reduce aquifer usage.
Hoping for more of this…
…and less of this from the summer 2020!
Thanks to each of you, our 900+ member readers of this blog post!
Memories of a motorcycle adventure to Patagonia, Argentina
Tasting panel at the winery
Reader’s ask:“What part of the wine business is actually fun?” The wine business can be a complicated industry to navigate. Many wineries employ a team of professionals to help plan their way through branding, pricing, packaging, target demographics, the logistics of inventory planning and distribution, etc. Building distribution channels and tracking sales metrics requires expertise and data. And the wine industry, like many, is now an environment where “big data” rules the day. Careful dissection of customer acquisition costs, customer purchasing habits, and distribution channel metrics now takes place in dark rooms pouring over carefully accumulated data. And frequently the wines need to be similar from one vintage to the next – in order to meet and keep meeting a customer’s expectations.
I am not fascinated with that part of the business. For me as a smaller operator, I much prefer focussing all of my attention on growing grapes and making wines. And rely somewhat on creativity and luck to obtain customers. We produce wines which are rarely similar from one vintage to the next, as the quirky labels testify, often reflecting the individual vineyard sites as they change from one season to the next, experimenting with various techniques and blends and barrels in the winery, and offering wines to our customers who enjoy getting away somewhat from the ‘expert scores’ and ‘safe’ cookie-cutter profiles. It takes a certain degree of confidence to sell wines like this. And it definitely takes a certain degree of risk for customers to try our wines. For those who have tried us out, we sure appreciate your courage!
There’s still time to order wine with a “blog subscriber discount” using the code word “Hydeout” – just enter the word “Hydeout” when you check out from the on-line shopping portal found here: https://www.dysfunctionalfamilywinery.com/shop/
Pruning our ‘Estate Reserve’ Sagrantino vineyard in the winter of 2021.
View of one of Hydeout Sonoma’s client vineyards, this spectacular property is just above the small town of Sonoma. Looking north, old head-pruned zin in the foreground, on the above-left is a lavender field and above that is a new Petite Sirah vineyard on a very steep side-slope, and in the background-right is a new Cabernet block planted just last year. These were already open fields, the drainage corridor has been carefully preserved (see center of image), and no trees were taken down.
L-R, Cynthia, daughter Sophia, and me – on a chilly morning out in the vineyards on the reliable Polaris UTV reviewing recent pruning. We thank you all for the continued support of our new Dysfunctional brand launch.