Select Page
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

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