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Wine Country in the Fall: Grape Harvest & Olive Oil

Wine Country in the Fall: Grape Harvest & Olive Oil

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. 

Start of harvest

Quick flashback to July 2019 – the start of the harvest and the celebratory Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers dinner at Donum Winery in Carneros.


Grape harvest – cover crop seed

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% Nemagon mustard, 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!

Cynthia and Martin

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.

Ken in olive tree

Here I am up in the olive tree getting the last fruit from the top of the tree.

Ken and Martin

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.

Olives raw in bin on trailer

All done, about 500 pounds, equals about 7 gallons of extra virgin oil.

Cyn and Zan

Delivered to Figone’s Olive Oil Company where the Hydeout Sonoma olives will be milled. Here, Cynthia and Zan.

Olive hopper and Frank Figone

Olives loaded into the hopper, then cleaned and ready for the mill. Proprietor Frank Figone met us at the loading dock and supervised the press.

Click here for a brief olive oil processing video

Olive oil flowing

The big payoff – the start of a small stream of extra virgin oil exits the press.

Olive Oil 2019

The finished product – 4.3 gallons of extra virgin olive oil…

For more information – Click here to visit the Figone Olive Oil website

Figone’s is a great place to shop, in person or online, for delicious authentic olive oil products!

And in other Hydeout Sonoma Farms and Dysfunctional Family Winery news…


Our final harvest from the Hydeout Sonoma gardens – the last of the tomatoes and peppers, these are mainly Early Girl, Better Boy, and Roma tomatoes along with Shishito and Padron peppers.


Ripening Persimmon – 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 game Jenga ends 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.

Death Valley

And 5 days later we turned north and pointed the bike towards Death 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

Sonoma Harvest 2018 – Part 1 “The Night”

Sonoma Harvest 2018 – Part 1 “The Night”

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…

video: foggy harvest

Now it’s pitch-black outside, and picking continues using headlamps…

video: closeup of señora Marta picking

Heavy lugs filled with 40 pounds of hand-picked fruit are laboriously carried to the half-ton bins which are being towed behind the tractor lights…

video: two lugs delivered

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…

video: Señor Claudio and his am radio

The tractor pulling the half-ton bins provides bright light in the work area. But it’s an odd sight when you step just a few away…

video: the weird world under the lights


As the night fades away and the sun begins to rise, it’s time to count up the 1/2-ton bins and get staged to load onto the flatbed truck and get the fruit to the winery…

video: counting the bins at the end

And that’s how a night harvest goes!

Coming in the next blog post: Sonoma Harvest 2018 Part 2 “The Day”


Sonoma grape harvest 2017, a brief video and pictorial essay…

Sonoma grape harvest 2017, a brief video and pictorial essay…

The Sonoma grape harvest of 2017 is almost over.

Here is video and imagery from the field and at the winery…

First, the videos:

Video: Fruit being loaded into half ton bin

Video: Time lapse of removing stems on the sorting table

And the still images:

Syrah ready to be picked…

Harvest crew (yellow) works a line of Merlot while foreman (orange supervises) and the bobcat with a half ton bin follows:

Closeup view of a hillside block of Cabernet…

The last of the rows of this block almost picked…

The crew departs this hillside block with 3/4 ton picked…

The 40 pound picking lugs get cleaned…

The Mustang loads bins onto the pickup truck, bins go on the trailer next…

Closeup view of Hydeout fruit…

An example of a Cal State ‘Weighmaster Certificate’ issued to me when this small lot of Cabernet arrived at it’s destination, the custom crush winery, Deerfield Ranch…