A smoky harvest like no other…
Pandemic, wildfires, smoke, and riots. And who can forget the electromagnetic solar pulse that destroyed the electrical grid! While all this mayhem has been going on, the Sonoma wine industry has been grappling with a grape harvest like no other.
While firefighters fought blazes across the west, growers attempted to protect their employees from the virus with masks, thermometers, and testing while also protecting the valuable grape crop from endless exposure to smoke. The compounds from smoke can settle on the grapes and be metabolized into the fruit through the grape skins. In some wines, the effect will be little to none and the smoke is no cause for worry. In other cases, experts and trained consumers will detect the smoke taint in the wine after 6 months or so. Behind the scenes, most winemakers are saying that the frequency of smoke taint is overblown. We’re just not seeing detectable levels as wines complete fermentation. But no one wants to be caught pressing a narrative that could appear to be self-serving. Click here to read a detailed story on smoke taint from noted SF Chronicle wine writer Esther Mobley and this article by noted chemist Clark Smith.
Here are some photos of Hydeout Sonoma’s first few days of the smoky harvest:
Bringing in the fruit:
We managed to bring in great fruit despite the many challenges, and thankfully most of it looks to be free of smoke taint. But we won’t really know for sure until a few months from now when a) the lab test results are back and b) the wine is safely in barrels.
Processing the fruit:
This time-lapse video link below says it all: Click here for the time lapse video of the winery crush pad. Note that each white bin that arrives and departs represents a half-ton of fruit, equal to about 80 gallons or 35 cases of finished wine. I am standing atop the catwalk at the top of the frame ruling over my loyal subjects.
Surprising news about what wine drinkers care about:
Grape growers and winemakers live and breathe farming and fermentation all year long, and many wine marketers wrongly assume that is what consumers want to hear about. But no, it appears that they are not very interested in how the wine is made or for that matter even how it’s grown. The top three important pieces of information consumers are after are 1) wine type, 2) flavor and taste, and 3) where the wine was produced. I suppose then a word to the wise – no more putting people to sleep droning on and on about farming methods, special blocks, blending trials, oak barrels, and so on.
Dysfunctional Family Winery construction news:
After 3 1/2 years of Sonoma County-required studies for a micro-winery Use Permit, we finally ‘turned some dirt’ and started digging test pits to reconfirm the building foundation requirements.
Nice post, Ken.
Liked seeing your smiling face.
Many thanks to your son for that fire fighting.
Great newsletter Ken, informative and interesting. I must admit that I am one of THOSE who is really not into the nuts and bolts of wine. I am more interested in wine being in my glass. Funny, when I saw the firefighter photo. I laughed, “how did Ken-a-hora find a Wornick looking guy?” Totally forgot about Jr. Thank him for his bravery and endless hard work on behalf of us and all of California. Now to look for that missing wine glass not in my hand.
So much love and joy, despite it all. Love that you are still shouting out your local gym, despite not “seeing the place since March” You are fabulous. Happy to see there’s been some more digging, and this time Jimmy is off the hook 😉 We miss you and the farm life. Nothing quite like it!
Keep living the dream, an inspiration to us all ✨
Nice newsletter – and wow, amazing to see those photos and remember
Those eerie days just a week ago – feels already like a strange dream!
Love your photo, smiling in exhaustion:)
As always, good information. I found the graph of what consumers are most interested in enlightening.
Wonderful narratives. Keep safe and Sonoma Strong. Dysfunctional Family remains my favorite name of all time.
Interesting update on the harvest. Keeping you all in my thoughts, with special prayers for Dennis!
We miss you at the Cycle classes!!
Great to hear from you.
Your friend, Peggy Economos
Hey Ken, Hope Dennis is ok. Your posts are very good. Happy New Year.
Happy to hear all that’s happening with you and yours. Great post!! Miss you both. My heart goes out to Dennis. We are rooting for him and his companions. Hugs K
Thanks for a great post Ken, and for the update on the Sonoma fires. I also appreciate the study you shared about consumers. Thanks to your son for his hard work and dedication to combating the fires. Sending you my thoughts and prayers for a successful harvest! Hope to see you soon when I’m back in Napa!
I love reading your newsletter. Thank you
Dude – keep droning on and on love it. Need the farming perspective. Dennis – what a badass, always praying for him. N
Hey Ken – Thanks for your write up. It tells a part of the 2020 story that is very important to me. Keep up the great work!