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.
Organic grape and wine farming:Thanks to the support from all of our Hydeout Sonoma vineyard clients, we are a 100% organic farming operation. As the debate continued, I invite you to take an in-depth look at the differences between a conventional vs. organic growing process. Let’s start with some revealing imagery:
This is what a vineyard floor looks like when it’s been sprayed with Roundup. Note the complete absence of problematic weeds, nothing to compete with the vine’s roots, squeaky clean, nothing will grow on this bare dirt except the grapevines. This is a good thing if you want to assure that your grapevines aren’t competing for nutrients and water.
Take a look at the organic farming approach – in this case using the Weed Slayer. Note the absence of most problematic weeds growing under the vine rows. You will also notice the soil under the vine rows roughly almost the same result as Roundup.
Next, let’s debate the topic: with Roundup, one spray pass in the vineyard and every weed is gone for the season. In terms of cost effectiveness and the near-absolute eradication of weeds competing with the vines for water and nutrients, Roundup is the clear winner. However, Roundup seemingly kills most soil born microbes and beneficial insects. With an organic approach like Weed Slayer, the material for each application is about 2X-3X more expensive, and multiple passes are often needed, because the product doesn’t ‘knock down’ the weeds quite as well, and so in total it costs a little to a lot more for the same level of effectiveness as Roundup. But, it is organic.
If you were the farmer, what option would you choose? With Roundup, there is an alleged risk to health. The health risk is presumably much lower using the organic product. But, the organic option will add substantially to the labor and spray costs of your crop. How do you choose to compete?
Roundup is a Glyphosate and comes with a standard “Caution” warning. It is thought to be particularly dangerous to honey bees.
Weed Slayer consists of two separate products (Parts A & B) that you mix together to make one exceedingly effective weed killer. Part A is the Weed Slayer, a broad spectrum herbicide crafted from Eugenol (an essential oil from cloves) and molasses. Part B is Agro Gold, a biological adjuvant containing Streptomyces and Bacillus microbes. The Eugenol and molasses in Part A will make its way down to and kill the roots and/or root ball of the undesired plant. The soil enhancing bacteria in Part B clears the way for and drives the Eugenol down into the roots. This action allows Weed Slayer to kill the whole plant quickly, including the root system, making it more effective than “burndown herbicides” for ongoing weed control.
Winter soup, chickens, eggs, and raised beds:
One of our favorite weekend stops for supplies to make a delicious pot of soup on cold winter nights; nothing beats Napa’s “Ranch Gordo” beans, a super high quality company with typical and unusual bean varieties. And lots of other products and great recipes. Really lovely people too! See this link:Rancho Gordo specialty foods and heirloom beans
A happy Valentine…sun-glassed Cynthia Wornick displays eggs from our expert chicken neighbors next door, Lori and Steve Bush of Gremlin Farms. And just this week our own Dysfunctional Family chickens began laying too.
Hydeout Sonoma’s winter garden is pushing onions, kale, potatoes, carrots, and beans; all will be ready to harvest in early spring. The Dysfunctional Family chickens pretty much mowed down the broccoli (4th raised bed from the left), so their ‘free range’ was slightly curtailed while the garden is in action! We’ll plant the summer crops soon – tomatoes, basil, lettuce, and so on. (I started the willow trees in the background from cuttings and they’ve grown to 20 feet in 4 short years).
Violins of Hope
The Nazis used music and especially violins to humiliate and degrade Jews in ghettos and in concentration camps. They confiscated many thousands of instruments from Jews all over Europe. Camp victims were forced to ‘play for their supper’ as the Nazi’s gorged on their meals while camp victims were forced to play music while slowly starving.
After the liberation many of these violins, some recovered with human ashes inside, were sent to Israel where they were lovingly re-built. And now they are on a new life-affirming journey where these instruments are once again being heard by audiences. The Violins of Hope concerts are the ultimate survivor’s reply to the Nazi’s plan to annihilate a people and their culture, and to destroy human lives and freedom.
My parents, Anita and Ronald C Wornick, underwrote a Violins of Hope event in San Francisco last week. I am of course very proud of my parent’s continued resilience on this topic as they lost many family members during the war, in camps, in the Ponar forest (near Vilna, home to many of my ancestors), and they continue to this day to raise awareness and celebrate our family heritage…
This is my adorable mom Anita who at 83 years old is as vibrant and fun as ever. My dad, Ron, at 87, was sitting in the audience with our children and brothers, leaving it to our Mom to make the introductions.
Stine Poole, is a close family friend who operates a noted wood and furniture studio in San Diego. Stine sources wood from all over the world including from his noteworthy High Valley Ranch in MontanaStine’s studio can be found here: Stine Poole – Furniture by Design. If you have reason to commission a special piece of furniture to fit an exact need, please contact Stine. He would be delighted to hear from you. Following here are few images of some current work in progress. Click on the website to see more images.Stine Poole – Furniture by Design
Full Moon Hike to Bald Mountain
Our constantly evolving group of local hikers routinely depart just before sunset to climb Bald Mountain inside the Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Sonoma, arriving at the top just as the full moon rises over St Helena and the Napa Valley. We climb approximately 1,500 feet in 2.5 miles, pause to watch the full moon rise, share some great snacks, pass around Tequilla shots, and head down hill under the light of that full moon.
Sonoma Barn Owls and social tidbits…we’ve lost many grapevines, three years in a row, to damaging gophers. The gopher population is out of whack. Hard to say why? Maybe not enough snakes? We don’t want to use poison or traps, so what’s the better option? Owls!(not interested in Owls? Scroll down for Sonoma social tidbits)
A single owl can eat 155 gophers per year, equal to almost 55 pounds of gophers! Imagine what this family of barn owls will do?
They are nocturnal, hunting mainly at night; this image captured a couple of stealthy killers in broad daylight.
Owl box 1 was installed overlooking the house and yard:
Owl box 2 was installed overlooking the vineyard:
Owl box 3 was installed overlooking the hay field:
The official work shirt of Sonoma County BOMP – ‘Barn Owl Maintenance Program’ (shown here with famed owl box installer Mike McGuire).
Mike is establishing the GPS location of each installed box:
And the resulting GPS records look like this. This data gets entered into a database back at the office. And then tracked along with all the other boxes around the County. Hoping the boxes get some new Owl occupants soon:
Recent socializing across the Sonoma Valley…
Vintage Festival– The Valley of the Moon “Vintage Festival” is running this weekend. Click on the video below to see a short clip from last night’s parade which is primarily a series of glow-in-the-dark floats from the Sonoma Valley schools. A great small town tradition…
Harvest: Our first full crop of estate fruit was harvested on Monday. This fruit will be the basis of the ‘yet-to-be-named’ 100% Hydeout estate wine made of 87% Sagrantino, 6% Petite Sirah, 5% Cabernet, and 2% Primitivo. It follows on the heels of its sister wine, the Dysfunctional Family Winery “Red Blend”.
2 tons of the estate fruit blend getting ready for the flatbed truck:
Movie night: Hydeout Sonoma hosted 125 people to an outdoor movie event benefiting the ‘Sonoma International Film Festival’. The film festival is scheduled for next March 25th-29th, 2020. It is my very favorite event of the year in Sonoma; seeing films all day, meeting actors and directors and film buffs, enjoying great wine and food, parties at night, etc. Get tickets here: Sonoma International Film Festival. And here’s a short clip of the film we screened on Friday night, Jonathan Demme’s “Stop Making Sense” by the Talking Heads:
Sonoma Parks: We attended the annual event benefiting the Jack London State Park, and honoring several major Sonoma luminaries, including entertainment and an incredible meal served by honoree and Chef, Ari Weiswasser, of the Glen Ellen Star:
Diana Ferris, Cynthia Wornick, Basha Cohen, and Lynn Goodman (cocktails locked and loaded)
Closer to home: Cynthia Wornick is busy prepping ‘Early Girl’ tomatoes from the Hydeout gardens; her 13th batch of tomato sauce (much of which has been sent to the freezer where it will re-emerge during the winter as a delicious memory of the summer 2019)
In the winery (part 1): Doing it the old fashion way, making sure a client’s precious fruit is carefully ‘macerated’ by the gentle action of human feet before the fermentation begins. Don’t laugh, this really is a great tried-and-true way to break up the grape skins (and release color and flavor) without breaking the grape seeds (which can release objectionable tannins into the wine). And yes, we washed my legs and feet thoroughly with citric acid. This approach works especially well for small quantities of fruit such as this half-ton bin of Sonoma Valley Syrah and Cabernet Franc (with a small proportion of very aromatic Muscat Canelli tossed in)..
In the winery (Part 2): New York City clients with family and friends celebrating the 2019 harvest and tasting the 2018 from barrels…
Bad Company concert at Silverado: It was a surprisingly energetic hard-rocking show. Here are a couple of videos…
I will soon be sharing images of the re-construction of an iconic Cabernet vineyard in the next blog post. But while we wait for the newly planted vines to grow, please enjoy this short sampling…
This is the project we’ve been working on all summer, with old vine Zinfandel and new Petite Sirah and the recently planted new Cabernet block. What a view into the town of Sonoma and down into the bay.
And this is the ‘before’ picture. Steep slope, boulders, rocks, red volcanic soil. Someday, this new Cabernet block will look just as spectacular and produce a gorgeous Sonoma Cabernet.
It is really hard work to dig the vine holes in the heat and on rocky terrain.
This is what a bundle of new Cabernet grapevines look like. They are “dormant benchgrafts”, sound asleep, fresh out of the cooler. More on that another time.
The vine tag indicates the variety is Cabernet Sauvignon, clone is UC Davis Foundation Plant Services clone 30.1 (the famed Disney Silverado clone) with rootstock 110R (very drought tolerant).
A protective grow-tube is placed around the plant. And the water flows. A great sense of relief.
In ten short days, the vine has sprung to life!
And in twenty days the new vine has pushed out of the grow tube reaching for the sun. And another iconic Sonoma Cabernet vineyard begins it’s life, soon to be delicious wine at your next meal.
Bonus Round! KSVY Sonoma radio, you made it this far. Now for the fun stuff…
Am I on the air?
From left to right, the infamous Sonoman Simon Blattner, special guest Ken Wornick (yours truly) and smooth operator and radio host Rick Wynne enjoying a commercial break during “The Morning Show” on 91.3 KSVY Sonoma.
You can listen right now to the ‘grapes and wine’ segment of “The Morning Show” Click here and go to minute 26
Hydeout Sonomaand Dysfunctional Family Winery attended the annual Sonoma Valley Vintner’s and Growers annual member’s BBQ and “launch the harvest bell ringing”. Had a great time visiting with our fellow vintners Muscardini (Michael and Kate), Landmark Cellars (Tom and Michelle Rouse), Nun’s Canyon (Kimberly Hughes), Beltane Ranch (Lauren Benward Krause), and the incomparable Sondra Bernstein.
Snakes are a rare sighting but sometimes the swallow something large (see the swollen middle) and cannot move off. In which case, they become the focus of much conversation and observation. The camouflage is amazing, right?
Back home at the Hydeout Sonoma ranch, summer is veggie time. But that new Cabernet vineyard project kept us busy. Forgot all about these carrots. A wheel barrow and a trash can full! Turned them into a delicious carrot soup.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more blog postings on the world of grapes and wine.
Here is your Sunday Morning just before brunch wine podcast. While you were sleeping, Sonoma Valley was hard at work harvesting wine grapes at night.
You might ask, “hey Ken, what’s it like to prepare for a night harvest?” I’ll tell you…Are the grapes ready?, where is that lab report?, where are the lugs and bins?, get the tractor over here asap, tell Don Tacho to grab more diesel fuel, make sure we have the crew ready to go…oh no, the bin trailer broke down!, get the welder on the phone, and how late is Sonoma Market open for burritos? These are some of the features of getting ready for the nighttime harvest…
Do you love that cool-climate Pinot? Maybe that spicy Syrah or that dark inky GSM blend? To make these wines, the grapes must arrive at the winery very chilled. Warm grapes will begin to ferment almost immediately. Start picking at 7:00am, and the grapes will be 85 degrees by mid-afternoon. And that’s how bad flavors can arise – like vinegar (acetobacter) and nail polish (acetone). So picking at night assures the grapes will arrive at the winery in mint condition.
Many vineyards are too large to be picked in a few hours. So we must start a few hours after dusk in order to get all the grapes picked, loaded, and delivered by the early morning. Whether the vineyard is large or small, wineries (and winemakers, like me) prefer that fruit arrives at daybreak – so that we have the early morning to calmly process the fruit and move it into fermentation tanks. And then run the labs: brix (sugar), pH (logarithmic scale used to specify the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution), TA (total acidity), etc.
If you have not fallen back asleep yet, terrific. Here are a series of short (and hopefully dramatic) videos documenting one of our recent September 2018 night harvests:
Its a few hours after sunset, the cool fog has rolled in, and we are underway…
Highly experienced grape picker Señor Claudio keeps his AM radio going to Oaxacan La Banda music all night long. Claudio has many loving nicknames, my favorite is “El Maquina” (the machine) mostly because rain or shine, hot or cold, he never ever wears a hat or jacket. Believe me, we have offered, begged, cajoled, but he insists…
Hydeout Sonoma has many wonderful clients. Our New York-based clients, owners of the Sovare label, came into town to taste their 2017 vintage. Sovare is an estate hillside vineyard near Sonoma Mountain comprising equal percentages of Cabernet, Sangiovese, and Zinfandel.
Hydeout Sonoma took over management of the vineyard in 2015. At that time the vineyard was not in good shape. After a lot of dedicated attention, this is the vineyard as of July 2018:
And here is a pictorial essay of Sovare’s visit to the Arcana Winery custom crush facility where Hydeout Sonoma makes the Sovare wine:
Using a wine thief, I am pulling equal sample volumes from these barrel and blending into wine glasses ‘on the fly.’
Almost ready with equal parts from several different barrels:
The moment of truth, tasting the 2017 vintage.
Discussion follows, how much more time in the barrel, in what way is the 2017different from 2016, what wood to use in 2018, and so on.
And more discussion…
And more discussion…
Having settled on the key next steps fro 2017 and 2018, now we need to decide where to go for lunch! We ended up at El Dorado Kitchen on the square for some al fresco dining.