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.
New arrivals – over 30 new chicks who will grow up to be egg producers of the team of Dysfunctional Family Chickens
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.
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.
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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Hydeout Sonoma was selected by one of the arms of the historic Sebastiani wine family to return two iconic vineyards to their former glory. But it almost takes a secret Sonoma decoder ring to explain the vaunted family history, players, vineyards, and wines. More on that later. Let’s start with the work in process…
“Los Liones” vineyard block: Hydeout Sonoma was tasked with the complete renovation of this famous vineyard. Here is an abbreviated one-year pictorial essay following the reborn “Los Liones” vineyard, from raw land to completed vineyard:
“Stone Fruit Square” block: We then cast our eyes on the equally iconic “Stone Fruit Square” vineyard just east of downtown Sonoma at the intersection of Lovall Valley Road and Gehricke Road. This 25-year old quadrilateral-trained Cabernet vineyard was once a part of the renowned ‘Cherryblock’ vineyard. Now, a piece of the famed ‘block’ has been segregated away and re-named “Stone Fruit Square” (this is August’s terrific play on words!). This fruit is also destined for the “Gehricke” ‘Upper Eastside’ label.
Now, the rest of the story…
Don and Nancy Sebastiani are the 3rd generation owners of the “Los Liones” vineyard. Their children,Donny, August, and Mia all have their hands in interesting wine country ventures. Fruit from the “Los Liones” vineyard once went into a small production red wine called Subterra. Mia’s husband, Kendrick Coakley, along with his local friends, made a beautiful red wine from the “Los Liones” block. When 3Badge CFO Keith Casale handed me a bottle of Subterra, I opened it with some noteworthy Silicon Valley execs who have impeccable wine cred. They joined me in becoming immediate customers of Subterra.
But old age took down the original 1960’s era “Los Liones” vineyard and a replanting plan was set in motion last year (as you read about above). In parallel, we shifted the farming of the “Stone Fruit Square” vineyard from commercial mechanized farming to hand-cultivated farming. We intend to deliver deeper darker fruit as a result. August is the founder of 3Badge Beverage Corp. which is located in the former ‘firehouse’at the corner of Broadway and Patten and the company “3Badge” is named in honor of family members who once held positions in the police and fire departments. Fruit from the “Los Liones” and “Stone Fruit Square” vineyard blocks will be combined under the Gehricke label as a ‘vineyard designate’ called “Upper East Side” (as both vineyards are located in the swanky upper eastside neighborhood of Sonoma town).
Hydeout Sonoma will continue to develop and farm these iconic vineyard blocks. And we’ll do our best to bring forth fruit that will assure that the “Gehricke” ‘Upper East Side’ vineyard designates continue their iconic reputation.
Additional vineyard notes (for those who just can’t get enough technical info):
“Los Liones” vineyard:
Plant type – Ubervine from Novavine
Variety – Cabernet Sauvignon
Clone: VCR 198.1 (proprietary selection from Vivai Cooperativo Raucedo via Foundation Plant Material Services at UC Davis)
Rootstock: 110R (berlandieri x rupestris, medium vigor, loves hillside gravelly soils)
Vine architecture: bi-lateral cordon (moving toward cane-and-spur in year +/- 5)
Farming: 100% organic, irrigated during youth, moving toward deficit irrigation
“Stone Fruit Square” vineyard:
Planting – old school 1960’s plant canopy and spacing
Variety – Cabernet Sauvignon
Rootstock: St George (‘terra rosa’ volcanic soil)
Vine architecture: quadrilateral cordon
Farming: 100% organic, deficit irrigated and/or dry farmed depending on the year
A final thought: We are in a time of terrible upset in our great country. It seems as if everything is politicized and polarized. We at Hydeout Sonoma takes very seriously the issues we are all confronting. But our blog post is not the forum for otherwise welcome debate. Still, we hope for health, peace, and liberty for all.
Here at the Hydeout, we have many projects going on around the property.The latest addition being a chicken coop! Many friends in Sonoma have backyard chicken coops and we thought it would be great to join in on the fun. Raising chickens on property is part of a growing movement to reconnect to nature and grow your own food. Everyone willingly shares knowledge and experience, and eggs. Our growing brand of Dysfunctional Family products will soon include free-range eggs, a project we’re calling Dysfunctional Family Chickens.
Enjoy this pictorial essay on everything (almost) you need to know about raising backyard chickens:
To start, you need a coop. It can be very modest. Or you can start with a roomier model like we built here. Cynthia is checking in on things. To the left are the ‘nesting boxes’ where the chickens lay their eggs, to the right are the ‘roosts’ where the chickens sleep well above the ground at night (as is their preferred habit), and in the background is the ‘run’ where the chickens hang out in the morning until we open the door to free range around the ranch all day until sunset.
We started with 5 small very shy birds. They grew very quickly, from this…
Hilariously, 3 of the 5 chickens turned out to be roosters. Note red ‘combs and wattles’ and perky tail feathers. Even the professional hatcheries have some difficulty determining the sex when they are young chicks. More hens will be added when the weather warms up a bit.
Most backyard coop experts recommend one rooster for every 8-10 laying hens. This general rule keeps the flock in calm order, and the rooster keeps an eye out for predators too. More than one rooster and those boys will constantly fight for dominance and argue over control of every hen, wearing themselves and the hens out.
To start, chickens of course need water and food. This device is a simple automatic water device – connected to a garden hose. It hangs slightly off the ground and auto-releases water into the channel as needed.
And this is a very simple multi-day automatic feeder – the feed is fed into the top manually, and is slowly is fed out at the lower rim as chickens consume the feed.
What do chickens eat? Generally, chickens will happily live on the grass and weeds and bugs around your house. But for high quality eggs and good chicken health, there are some helpful supplemental options too:
This standard Hunt and Behrens “laying mixture” is a blend of 16% crude protein, 2% fat, and 20% fiber and ash. This is their primary daily feed in the first 5 months. This feed costs roughly $17 for 50 pounds and will last roughly a month to 6 weeks for 5 growing chickens.
Our Dysfunctional Family Chickens, just like us, love a yummy treat. This is a corn-and-seed based “scratch.” It is lower in protein than feed, but the chickens go crazy for it, and once a week or so it is good entertainment for you and a party for them.
An ever bigger treat is mealworms, rather expensive and more of a luxury supplement than a necessity.
This is what the worms look like. The chickens simply freak out of them, and they are gone in an instant.
Chickens have a ‘gizzard’ which is a strong muscle that helps grind up hard seeds and so forth (such as corn scratch). This insoluble granite-based gravel is added to their snacks to keep their gizzards full of small stone.
Closeup of granite-based grit.
Chicken feed and supplements can attract rodents very quickly. That’s why it’s important to keep these products in closed metal cans and well secured. I label the tops so that if others are helping out around the ranch, they know were to find the various feeds.
Last, here are a few short fun videos to click on, showing the daily chicken activity:
Before I share news around town, a special chicken related call out to our friendly neighbors at theBoxcar Chicken and Biscuits on Fremont Drive in Sonoma (formerly the Fremont Diner, and recently renamed yet again as Lou’s Luncheonette). It’s still delicious food, and a fun place to hang out!
Winter day hike atop Turtle Rock in Marin County – one of the best close-in bouldering areas in the Bay Area.
Sonoma DYL workshop #1: After just completing the 2 1/2 day “Designing Your Life” program – a book, workshop, and course from Prof’s. Burnett and Evans at Stanford Univ. The Stanford “Life Design Lab” applies design thinking to tackling the “wicked” problems of life and especially vocational wayfinding. It was a great productive workshop. Many of us who already have well-developed careers found new energy and expansive ideas arise from the program. And those searching for a transition to a new career also worked towards exciting new personal roadmaps. Front row: Peter Ferris (co-coach), John Hornbaker, Jay Rooke Back row: Ford Goodman, Holly Bennett, Kurtis Rissmiller, Sharon Knight, Beth Stelluto, Thomas Ward (co-coach), Ken Wornick, Bob Berg
My neighbor Steve Bush, a chicken expert in his own right, is over for a visit; here examining our hand-dug 16′ deep alternate agricultural water well – this well atomically turns on and sends water to our 5000 gallon irrigation tanks – until it dries out around June, then the deep water well takes over.
In my previous blog, you saw images of the terrible firestorm and resulting destruction in Sonoma.
In “Sonoma Firestorm – Part 2” we visit a fire-damaged vineyard near Kenwood springing back to life just one month later. And meet in the Sonoma town square to thank first responders.
But first, a reminder of where we came from just one month ago…
The continuing personal impact on some is hard to measure. These photos are from the Warm Springs Road area, close to many of my client vineyards…
Many vineyards were either spared from from the fire, or actually blocked the fires from advancing – by cutting off the fuel supply. However, some vineyards did burn, and here we see a vineyard a few days after being burned during the firestorm. Note that all of the ground cover and much of the leaf canopy is either burned or charred.
And the first few feet of vine trunk is quite scorched…
This fire also destroyed all of the drip irrigation system, including riser pipes, hoses, and drip emitters, leaving dripping plastic residue on the ground in its wake…
And destroyed every drip emitter…
And some very large trees burned and fell into the vineyard, including this epic California Bay Laurel…
We enlisted the help of the several agencies to help us assess the damage. The Sonoma Resource Conservation District helped us develop an erosion control recovery plan. Below, Project Manager Justin Bidell and Resource Planner Anya Starovoytov walk the damaged site collecting data, taking pictures, and advising on recovery plans and funding sources…
Justin and Anya point out that the fire even chased into plastic drainage culverts, burning underneath several access roads…
And looking at this close-up image of a charred grapevine trunk, you might think that this vineyard would be lost and need to be replanted…
But dig down to check the condition of the vine roots and we find in most cases no damage at all…
Amazingly, just one month later, we find everything is roaring back to life!…
And rain brings welcome moisture and renewed growth…
And the cover crop in between the vine rows explodes back to life, and the grapevines respond accordingly, soaking up moisture, swelling buds, and going into dormancy…
And the return of power at the winery allows us to get back to work. In this photo, wine that had been resting in stainless tanks has been moved into oak barrels where it will rest in the caves for the winter…
And one month later, although many friends are homeless, or know someone who lost a home, the vineyards and wineries and the town of Sonoma are bouncing back to life. And we can still find small things for which we can all be grateful…
The town of Sonoma celebrated on Saturday night, November 19th, with a Sonoma Town Hall holiday lighting ceremony, awards and standing ovations to the first responders, great music, and this wonderful tribute from Amy Miller, Artistic Director of Transcendence Theatre Company: