The last ton of grapes is safely in the winery, and in celebration of the end of the 2019 harvest Hydeout Sonoma hosted a BBQ lunch for the whole hard-working winery team. The joke is that ‘it takes a lot of beer to make good wine’, and in this case, yes, guilty as charged. That, and many many hamburgers. In the featured cover photo, from left to right – Señors Altuve, Edgardo, Ricardo, Jose, Rex, Miguel, Ken, and Sebastian.
Once the harvests are completed, and winemaking chores are put to bed, it’s time to spread cover crop seed in the vineyard. We do this to secure the precious soil from runoff and add nutrition, break down clay, provide nematode suppression, and add beauty. Here in the back of our Polaris Ranger are a couple of 50 pound bags of “Brassica mix” – 40%Nemagonmustard, 30% common mustard, 15%Canola, and 15% daikon radish. This fast growing cover crop has the ability to produce up to 4 tons of bio-matter per acre!
Then just like clockwork, it’s time to start harvesting the ripe olives for oil. Cynthia and Martin start the long hard process of hand-harvesting.
Here I am up in the olive tree getting the last fruit from the top of the tree.
Fog over head, still early in the morning and just getting started, we examine the fruit for quality and celebrate being underway. Farming, growing things organically, trying to live somewhat off the land, all a real pleasure.
All done, about 500 pounds, equals about 7 gallons of extra virgin oil.
RipeningPersimmon– colorful, and famously packed with lots of vitamin C. Just in time to prevent winter colds.
After the grape and olives and garden harvests, it’s time for a little fun – a gameJengaends in a pile of blocks – with Paige Locke, Gail Diserens, Cynthia Wornick, and Elaine Smith looking on.
Finally, some time off – heading down the coast on Highway One from Sonoma on our way to Los Angeles.
And 5 days later we turned north and pointed the bike towardsDeath Valley(see the sign).
As the weather cools, our estate Sagrantino vineyard shows off its fall colors…two chemicals are responsible for the fall coloration of leaves, carotenoids create orange and yellow pigments, and anthocyanins create shades of red and purple. The carotenoids are present in the leaf all summer long, but they’re masked by the green of chlorophyll.
…the harvest moon rises over Sonoma Valley.
Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Despite what seems like turmoil everywhere, the great majority of us are blessed with ample food, clothing, shelter, and love. And for those that are not, we are all doing our best to help. Thank goodness we are not living in a time of widespread famine and disease. Let’s celebrate all that is good. Warmly. Ken
Here is your Sunday Morning just before brunch wine podcast. While you were sleeping, Sonoma Valley was hard at work harvesting wine grapes at night.
You might ask, “hey Ken, what’s it like to prepare for a night harvest?” I’ll tell you…Are the grapes ready?, where is that lab report?, where are the lugs and bins?, get the tractor over here asap, tell Don Tacho to grab more diesel fuel, make sure we have the crew ready to go…oh no, the bin trailer broke down!, get the welder on the phone, and how late is Sonoma Market open for burritos? These are some of the features of getting ready for the nighttime harvest…
Do you love that cool-climate Pinot? Maybe that spicy Syrah or that dark inky GSM blend? To make these wines, the grapes must arrive at the winery very chilled. Warm grapes will begin to ferment almost immediately. Start picking at 7:00am, and the grapes will be 85 degrees by mid-afternoon. And that’s how bad flavors can arise – like vinegar (acetobacter) and nail polish (acetone). So picking at night assures the grapes will arrive at the winery in mint condition.
Many vineyards are too large to be picked in a few hours. So we must start a few hours after dusk in order to get all the grapes picked, loaded, and delivered by the early morning. Whether the vineyard is large or small, wineries (and winemakers, like me) prefer that fruit arrives at daybreak – so that we have the early morning to calmly process the fruit and move it into fermentation tanks. And then run the labs: brix (sugar), pH (logarithmic scale used to specify the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution), TA (total acidity), etc.
If you have not fallen back asleep yet, terrific. Here are a series of short (and hopefully dramatic) videos documenting one of our recent September 2018 night harvests:
Its a few hours after sunset, the cool fog has rolled in, and we are underway…
Highly experienced grape picker Señor Claudio keeps his AM radio going to Oaxacan La Banda music all night long. Claudio has many loving nicknames, my favorite is “El Maquina” (the machine) mostly because rain or shine, hot or cold, he never ever wears a hat or jacket. Believe me, we have offered, begged, cajoled, but he insists…