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Rain in Sonoma, finally…

Rain in Sonoma, finally…

Give thanks for the rain in your life which waters the flowers of your soul.

Join us as we tour our way around Sonoma County and celebrate the arrival, finally, of the long awaited rains.

And at the bottom of this post, tell us your stories of how you’ve enjoyed the rainy weather?…

When it comes to growing wine grapes, the 2021 vintage in Sonoma was stressful. It rained a mere 13 inches total, and most of that rain fell in three brief events separated widely with hot sunny days. Hardly any water percolated into the root zone of the grape vines. So in many cases, growers had to use a lot of water from deep wells to drip into the vineyard. Conditions are already way better in the 2022 vintage – thanks to all of this early rain. It has rained over 13 inches and it’s still just December 2021. And even better, we haven’t had any sunny days or warm temperatures in between rain events, so the ground has remained saturated and damp. Rain water is far superior to drip irrigation. But that’s a science story for another time. For now, let’s just celebrate getting wet…

The Arroyo Seco is a 6.9 mile tributary of Schell Creek that pours down from the Mayacamas, on to Arrowhead mountain, and then across the Hydeout Ranch and Dysfunctional Family Winery at the north west corner of the Carneros appellation

Video: the Arroyo Seco starts to flow

Jack London State Park was toasted to a crisp by the end of the summer. But when the rain finally came, the park cam alive.

Video: On a hike in Jack London State Park

By December 23rd, the water level of the Arroyo Seco was starting to rise

Video: After another night of heavy rain, the Arroyo Seco flow increased

Rain poured off the roof and down the rain chains and sang it’s happy song. This rain water is going directly into our DYS Sagrantino vineyard, our estate red wine, a rare central-Italian red found mostly in Umbria. It’s recently been noted to contain some of the highest polyphenol (antioxidants) levels of any red wine on earth. (vineyard visible in the background).

Video: At the Hydeout, the rain poured down heavy from the roof

Before the rains really got under way, contractors connected all of the Hydeout Ranch rain gutters to the hand-dug well capturing rain, stopping wasteful erosion,  and recycled back onto the land (white riser pipe)

And they built a Gabian wall to capture most of the runoff into the ag sump from this small ditch at the edge of the ranch

Video: the new Gabian wall, a beauty of natural construction materials, functions as a dam to hold back water in this minor ditch

Hydeout Ranch animal sanctuary – when we bought the ranch, a fence had been built long ago (as was the habit then) right up against the creek edge. That old fence prevented animals (and people) from safely visiting and moving along the riparian corridor. One of the first projects I undertook was to take down that old fence and built a new fence 150 feet west of the creek. In addition, I built just next to the new fence a long high pile of logs and green waste. Now, with several acres of land open adjacent to the creek, and lots of safe spaces to nest in the log piles, wild animals have returned to occupy this land, including hawks, owls, buzzards, skunks, rabbits, gophers, moles, voles, raccoons, and even a million worms in every puddle.

Video: the peaceful sanctuary providing animals with access to land and water

It rained so hard last night, even the fenced animal sanctuary started to flood. It was fun to wade through it in my knee-high rain boots.

Video: Wading through the large puddle in the animal sanctuary

On my walk this morning along the edge of the creek, I came across the horseshoe. At one time, the Hydeout Ranch housed over one hundred horses and perhaps this horseshoe was tossed or thrown into the creek long ago.

One of the prized smaller oaks at the ranch responds to the rain with almost overnight new growth. The red bench sits under the tree next to the doggy cemetery where our Oliver rests. A few years ago, all five of us gathered, dug the hole, wrapped Oliver in a blanket and buried him here.

A quick ride around the ranch to check on things between storms

In other news:

In the lab at the winery, checking pH, TA, and VA levels for wines of the still-fermenting vintage 2021

Video: Lab wine reagents bubbling away

A final flashback to the middle of the pandemic summer of 2021, one of the driest on record.

Happy holidays and happy new year to all of our blog post readers, now numbering over 1000 strong and growing.

Go here to visit: Hydeout Sonoma Ranch

Go here to order wine for pick or delivery: Dysfunctional Family Winery

Harvest in Sonoma Valley, from Vineyard to Winery, the 2021 season

Harvest in Sonoma Valley, from Vineyard to Winery, the 2021 season

For Hydeout Sonoma and Dysfunctional Family Winery, it’s another wine harvest in the books. Vintage number twenty-three for me.

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.

The mustard cover crop is mowed down, the soil warms, the vines wake up, and bud break is under way (but rainfall totals end up well below average in 2021, and the season ending with just 11 inches of rainfall versus a normal of 32 inches, severely taxing the water table as we watch our deep aquifer wells dry up)

But grapevines are hardy and soon the vine shoots are elongated, and deep inside the canopy the fruit begins to flower and set.

And our garden at the Hydeout responds to the summer heat with a bountiful harvest

And the next thing you know, like magic, tons of fruit is ripening quickly.

The first morning of harvest, and I am headed out at 4:00am, the car still a comfy 71F from being in the garage, but it’s a chilly 48F outside.

I arrive to find the crew well underway with harvest, as the first few vines get picked.

And after a long season of work, the half-ton bins begin to fill with ripe dark inky fruit

The sun rises and last few rows of this block get harvested.

And soon many tons of perfectly ripe fruit are ready for delivery to the winery

And eight long weeks later, the last bin of fruit is picked and is headed for the flatbed truck, and the team takes a big sigh of relief.

And now the work moves to the winery, here tank #20 is cleaned and prepped for some ripe Syrah from Kenwood

The yeast selection for this cuveé has been made, and this particular selection is a powerful one that will reliably finish fermentation in high-alcohol super-ripe red wines

Excited clients, family, and friends stop by the winery to celebrate a year’s worth of effort safely in tank

And once fermentation is complete a few weeks later, the wines are “barreled down” and the season is put to bed!

Click on these live-action videos to get the real feel of the moment:

Picking fruit by hand on a steep hillside

Filling a half-ton bin from the forty pound lug boxes

At the winery, raw fruit from the field is processed in the destemmer

After the harvest, some wine-loving friends gather to share ten special old bottles from our cellars:

  1. Botte Frères Vin D’Alsace Gerwertztraminer, 1990, Cuvee Exceptional
  2. Gundlach Bundshu, Sonoma Valley, 1990, Cabernet Sauvignon
  3. Clos Fourtet, 1st Grand Cru Classé, Saint Emilion, 2005
  4. Grand Vin De La Chateau Latour, Paula, 1990
  5. Haywood, Spaghetti Red, Sonoma Valley, 1983
  6. Silver Oak, Alexander Valley, 2003, Cabernet Sauvignon
  7. Hansen, Limited Release, Paso Robles, 2009, Cabernet Sauvignon
  8. Dalla Valle Vineyards, Napa Valley, 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon
  9. Dalla Valle Vineyards, Napa Valley, 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon
  10. Senots Yendick, Napa Valley, 1999, Cabernet Sauvignon

As the harvest winds down, look no further than just north across the street from the Hydeout Sonoma and Dysfunctional Family Winery to the Gundlach Bundschu Winery and the Huichica Music Festival. This is a photo from opening night on Friday, 10/15/21

And there’s just enough time before winter arrives for this winemaker to head off to Ennis, Montana for some fresh air