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Sonoma Harvest 2018 – Part 2 “The Day”

Sonoma Harvest 2018 – Part 2 “The Day”

Sonoma Harvest, Part 1, “The Night” featured some harvests at night. As the sun rose and fruit was loaded onto the trucks, here are some daytime images of a few of our client’s harvests. And check out the winery videos and fermentation chemistry at the end. In all of the stories below, Hydeout Sonoma is responsible for all vineyard farming, winemaking, and the brand identities of these hand-made boutique wines…

Featuring an incredibly lovely and fun couple from New York, and their very authentic Italian patriarch, Pasquale, (bottom row, second from left), these clients celebrated their 3rd harvest of mountain-terraced “field blended” Cabernet, Sangiovese, and Zinfandel. This fruit was harvested in the early morning hours and rushed to the winery to be turned into a singular ‘estate’ wine. Available for sale in 2019!

client 1

Hailing from San Francisco, with children, aunts, and uncles all pitching in, this new client recently acquired their steep 100% hillside Sonoma Mountain Cabernet vineyard (which we have been farming for three years for the prior owner). As you can see from the white 1/2 ton bins, this vineyard yields spectacular dense fruit that delivers a classic Sonoma Cabernet. Inky, full of dark fruit, and soft silky tannins. Available for sale in 2020!

client 2\

This very creative son-and-matriarch team (middle of bottom row) from the island of Hawaii standing in front of their harvest of 12-year old Napa Cabernet from their ranch near Monticello Road This harvest produced a yield of almost 5 tons of deep dark inky opulence. The fruit will make a highly-customized Napa Cab. Available for sale in 2020.

client 4

And this rag-tag crew of wonderful family, friends, and the Hydeout Sonoma farming team (plus a special shout-out to the Kansas City-based picking crew!) helped harvest the very 1st vintage of Hydeout Sonoma’s “Sagrantino” (from our 11-acre Carneros ranch, a 100% Umbrian red varietal) and also the 2nd vintage of our Dysfunctional Family Winery “Red Blend.” Dysfunctional Family will be available for sale in 2019. And the “yet-to-be-named” Sagrantino will available in 2020.

client 3

These good fellows (client, father-in-law, and uncle) worked very hard to help us harvest their family’s Cabernet grapes starting at 6:30 in the morning, then followed us to the winery to observe the fruit being meticulously processed. And then they hustled back to cook a spectacular steak-and-potato harvest dinner. When I arrived, the sun had already set, but the corks of these four special wines were just being pulled and generously shared!

3 guys after harvest

My loyal and true partner through the entire farming season and harvest, Señor Tacho Enriquez, carefully looks after our people and farm equipment. Here he is being supervised by our “Buho Jefe”, Hydeout’s pet owl. This plastic owl is supposed to keep birds out of the vineyard. It doesn’t. But it’s fun to have around.

Tacho and owl

A brief visit to the winery…

Once the fruit is fermenting, it’s time for pump-overs and punch downs. After the fruit is destemmed, moved into the fermentation tanks, cold soaked, and finally inoculated with yeast, the grape skins start to rise to the top of the tank (see the organic chemistry note below for more info). Two to four times per day, every day, we pull the juice from the bottom of the tank and ‘pump it over’ the top – this pushes the grape skins back down into the liquid must (see the white hose coming from the lower part of the tank, into a pump, then up the stairs to the top). In smaller tanks, this is done from the top by manually pushing down on the skins, and is called a ‘punch down’. As the skins are forced down into the liquid, and as alcohol slowly accumulates, the alcohol acts a ‘solvent’ soaking the polyphenols (tannins, flavonoids, color, and body, etc) from the skins into the wine. Managing this process carefully is part of what makes a good wine great.

Start with great fruit…

raw fruit

Get it quickly to the winery crush pad…

crush floor

Ferment it to perfection…

wine tank pump over

Transfer the almost finished wine into barrels for aging, then wait a year…

barreling up

Brief videos of a few winery processes:

video: stems being removed from the grape bunches

video: small tank hand punch down

video: 1000 gallons of wine being pumped over

Note: Yeast will convert sugar into alcohol at a ratio of approx 62%, the remaining 38% of the equation becomes CO2 and heat. The heat and CO2, in gaseous form, rises in the tank taking the grape skins with it. Thus the need to ‘pump over’ or ‘punch down’ the skins back into the fermenting juice.

Glucose is first converted to pyruvate by glycolysis, and the pyruvate is converted to ethanol and CO2CO2 in a two step process:

enter image description here

For the second step function, start with pyruvate, for alcoholic fermentation the net reaction is:

And here is a general flow chart of the red wine making process:
Countdown begins for harvest 2017 in Sonoma

Countdown begins for harvest 2017 in Sonoma

In Sonoma, the harvest is already well underway for sparkling wines and some Pinots. But for the deeper darker reds, we are just starting to do field sampling of berries. And beginning to forecast the harvest schedule. This is vital because every winery has a different style of wine and elects to harvest using different benchmarks. In addition, there is necessarily a lot of planning to assure that manpower is ready to go, tractors and picking bins are in place, and the winery is ready with open tanks for fruit delivery. Thus we start forecasting way in advance…

Below is a quick review of some fruit conditions around Kenwood and Bennett Valley as of Saturday am, August 26th, 2017:

Above is some nicely ripening Syrah, this one is the Bien Nacido clone (historically emanating from the Santa Maria Valley, and notably used by Qupe’ and Au Bon Climat).


This is a typical hand held field refractometer. With a few drops of raw grape juice on the window (the blue glass), the light is ‘refracted’ through the viewfinder indicating the percent dissolved solids, which is essentially a proxy for total sugar, i.e. ‘brix.’

This is a view through a hand held field refractometer.

And you can see this Syrah sample shows brix at about 21 (the intersection of blue and white), resulting in about 10.5% alcohol (if harvested today). Naturally, we are monitoring ripeness looking for closer to 24.7 brix and closer to 13% alcohol (although ultimately in very fine wines, such as ours, seed ripeness, tannins, pH, TA, and many other inputs will be considered before the harvest)

Here is some slightly less ripe Syrah, with equally sized berries but smaller clusters, this being the Durell clone (from the famous Durell Vineyard of the 1970’s in Sonoma).

And the brix are lower, hovering closer to 19.

With the Syrahs above, we simultaneously pick and co-ferment about four percent Viognier, seen here. Both Syrah and Viognier originate from the Rhone Valley in France.

On average, and very roughly depending on variety, clone, rootstock, day and night temps, wind, etc, clusters will gain about 1.5 brix per week. Thus a sample at 19 today, with a goal of 25 at harvest is about 4 weeks away…