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Sonoma – wine tasting, film, food, horses, chickens, and fun

Sonoma – wine tasting, film, food, horses, chickens, and fun

This is where I try to convince you to be entertained for a few minutes with little bits of fun from Sonoma –

 

Blind Tasting: 2013 Napa Valley Cabernets and 2020 Sauvignon Blancs from 5 Countries

Many thanks to friend and colleague, Keith Casale, who helped launch this inaugural tasting event at the Hydeout Sonoma. Also, thanks to Lisa Lavagetto for the delicious catering effort.

Sonoma Int’l Film Festival – 25th Anniversary

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.

Chickens

New arrivals – over 30 new chicks who will grow up to be egg producers of the team of Dysfunctional Family Chickens

Video – Hydeout Sonoma welcomes a new batch of very cute Dysfunctional Family Chickens

Horses

Five of us from Sonoma rode in the 75th anniversary of the Desert Caballeros horseback ride in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. 100 miles in 5 days, sleeping under the stars at night.

Video: check out this video of 160 horses riding into the Sonoran Desert

Weather

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.

Learn about and order our wines here: Dysfunctional Family Winery – rosé and red blends

1) Hydeout Sonoma announces new partner, 2) motorcycling through Baja Mexico’s wine country

1) Hydeout Sonoma announces new partner, 2) motorcycling through Baja Mexico’s wine country

Hydeout Sonoma announces new partner

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.

Link to the full story in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat

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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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

Legacy of Zinfandel – a wine tasting at Don Sebastiani’s home cellar, and other Sonoma Valley events

Legacy of Zinfandel – a wine tasting at Don Sebastiani’s home cellar, and other Sonoma Valley events

Legacy of Zinfandel in California – the Sawyer/Casale tasting panel

Generously hosted by Don Sebastiani in his home cellar, and curated by 3Badge/Gehricke CFO Keith Casale and well known Sonoma Sommelier Christopher Sawyer, we tasted our way through ten carefully aged 20-30 year-old California Zinfandels. The panel participants spanned across Sonoma grape growers, winemakers, and wine industry and media experts. The entire tasting was blind which inevitably lead to informed and wild guesses about appellation, vintage, producer, style, and so on. Click HERE to see the list of wines and vintages in the lineup. 

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.

Click HERE to see the list of wines and vintages in the lineup. 

After the tasting, Chef Keith Filipello of Wild Thyme Catering served lunch to the tasting panel, on the patio of Don’s home just above of the wine cellar.

SummerFest at Sonoma International Film Festival Aug 5th – 8th, 2021

A not-to-be-missed event in Sonoma, the SummerFest film festival is loaded with great films, wine, food, music, and fun. Tickets to this party are going fast. Click here to buy tickets and join the party

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.

Left to right, Blanco (1), Reposado (2) , Añejo (3) – part of the 123 Spirits tequila lineup. Behind the bottles, yours truly Ken Wornick on the left (with maybe a bit too much sun), and David with the hat.

123 Spirits founder David Ravandi explaining how he manages his farming and agave fermentations.

As is standard protocol, the faces of “Choir Practice” members have been blurred to maintain an air of confidentially. The group placed a lot of orders and nearly drained his current inventory.

These delicious homemade tacos were supplied by Dani Luzzati from Bella Lu Catering.

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

Preparing for the 2021 harvest, in front of +/- a hundred Hydeout Sonoma and Dysfunctional Family Winery barrels full of client wines sits a dozen new French oak barrels from Tonnellerie Bel Air.

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