Sonoma grape supply, smoke impact, fall pruning, and winter mustard

Written by Ken Wornick

Backed by 20+ vintages and many dozens of wines produced, Ken is a Sonoma-based wine consultant and founder of Hydeout Sonoma and Dysfunctional Family Winery.

February 27, 2021


Go back to the blog

Are you running out of Chardonnay? Here’s why…

The long years of wildfires in Sonoma has taken its toll in the vineyards and on the grape supply. Combine that with high e-commerce demand from Covid. And you get this:

Is that smoke I smell in my Merlot? Maybe, or maybe not…

The presence of smoke taint appears to be overblown in the wine press. In a totally anonymous Feb. 20221 blind-poll of over 200 winemakers, about half the winemakers have found less than 25% of the wine shows any signs at all of smoke in the wine. A majority of winemakers from Sonoma have found some evidence of smoke impact and less evidence of damaging smoke taint in their 2020 vintage wines. Most are now choosing to refer to the issue as ‘smoke impacted’ and not ‘smoke taint’ because while ‘taint’ refers to serious flaws, and smoke-derived molecules may be present, smoke is likely a minor impact and probably taking a back seat to the other more elevated attributes of the wines. These slides from Laffort and UC Davis allow you to dig deep into the chemistry:


That’s a lot of grapevines to prune by hand!

Even in smaller ranches of a few acres, it still adds up to many thousands of vines. And vines must be pruned by hand, one by one, it’s the only way. And when you take the time to carefully choose how many fruiting buds to leave on each vine in the winter, the result will be fruit that will ripen to perfection at the end of summer.

Our Sagrantino vines below are where the Dysfunctional Family ‘Estate Reserve’ is grown at the Hydeout Ranch. Click on this link to learn more about Sagrantino, a “thick skinned, dark, tannic monster.” The whole family gets involved in pruning and tieing…

If it’s February in Sonoma, it must be time for mustard…

What a spectacular panoramic of Hydeout Sonoma’s client vineyard, Frog Creek, a steeply-sloped vineyard at 800 feet elevation. Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah grows here. Over the back fence next door is Peter Haywood’s famed Chamizal Zinfandel.

That’s me, Ken Wornick, waving to the drone flying overhead. Piloting the drone is filmmaker Joseph Daniel, producer of the 2018 film, Tiny Vineyards.


Dysfunctional Family Winery – You still haven’t tried our wines? Boldly defying wine branding convention and in a humorous contrarian twist – ours is a simple premise – we take our wine seriously, but not ourselves. For decades we have farmed the vineyards and produced the wines for over fifty noteworthy private clients from Silicon Valley to Sonoma. Now we invite you to taste our own family’s wines, visit our ranch, and feel at home, relaxed, and ready for fun. That’s why we named our winery after all of our wonderful families – happily, humorously, proudly Dysfunctional

We deliver, or you can pick up at the ranch in Sonoma

Try out this delicious Red Blend tonight…


And a farming post-script from the Hydeout Ranch

Thanks for reading these blog posts, for your great questions, and for being loyal customers of our Dysfunctional Family wines.

Ken and Cynthia


You May Also Like…


  1. Avatar

    Loved the pearl about how the mustard keeps the vines from waking during the early heat. So lucky to know you all.

  2. Avatar

    Difficult relatives are the best. 😄

  3. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing your 20+ vintage experience on wines, the chemistry of smoke, mustard, the world’s best mother-in-law, difficult relatives, fresh produce, and the likes.

  4. Avatar

    My in laws hired Ken to manage their modest vineyard years ago, and today, we’re drinking the most glorious wine, thanks to all of your dedicated work and knowledge you bring to the field, to the press and to the winery. Readig your blog we know why you created such an amazing bounty.

    • Ken Wornick

      Chelsea –
      What a generous and absolutely lovely note! Thank you so much.
      I have a funny story to tell you, please share with your family…I met your dad one summer day and we went over the vineyard site and discussed all the possible ways to tackle the project. I went off to do my thing and came back with proposals for building the vineyard and making the family’s wine. Your dad pretty much dismissed me away seemingly finding the whole enterprise too expensive and not worth the hassle. The house was right in the middle of construction, your mom was busy with crown moulding or furniture, the house was a major project and so killing the vineyard was understandable. I was fine with it, but disappointed just because it was going to be a great professional challenge.
      I actually went home and told my wife (and probably the kids at the dinner table) “sadly, I’ll never hear from them again.” She suggested otherwise, “you never know, your client’s seem to come back when you least expect.”
      Not sure exactly how long it was, but your dad did have me back, reversed course, and away we went. There were two great things about re-starting the project: I got to go out and find this very rare local Cabernet clone and do all the things required to bring it back from extinction. And I got to spend time with your dad, a guy who I totally enjoyed being with, always with penetrating questions, fun conversation, and fully plugged in.
      I didn’t get to hang around long – I sold my Redwood City vineyard and winery business – in order to live in wine country, grow grapes, and make wine for clients here in Sonoma.
      But I always believed that the Avery Family Cabernet would have world-class potential. I’m so glad to know it does!
      So that’s the story. Please send regards to all. My fondest regards…


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *