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Sonoma after the grape harvest

Written by Ken Wornick

Backed by 20+ vintages and many dozens of wines produced, Ken is a Sonoma-based wine consultant and founder of Hydeout Sonoma and Dysfunctional Family Winery.

November 30, 2022

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What happens in Sonoma when the harvest is done?

The very last tank of grapes has finished fermenting. The tank is drained of wine and placed in barrels (that liquid is called the “free run”). Then the remaining fermented grapes in the tank are moved into the press and gently squeezed (and the result is called the “press fraction”). And what’s removed from the press after pressing (called the “pomace”) is either sold as animal feed or recycled into green waste or sent to our distiller and turned into Grappa, Brandy, and Cognac; and the seeds are further pressed into grapeseed oil. And that really marks the end of the harvest season.

This is what 2 tons of dense Syrah grape pomace looks like when it comes out of the press. It’s dark purple and bone dry. The very last cuveé of wine has been barreled.

There still remain some chores to manage over the winter: the newly filled wine barrels will be carefully monitored as the secondary Malo-Lactic fermentation is monitored and managed (and where the tart Malic acid, think green apple, is slowly fermented into Lactic acid, with potential health benefits including improved gut health, immune system support, and antioxidant effects). Barrels must be topped off due to evaporation. And as the wine settles we need to taste every wine to assure things are coming along to our liking. And, we start thinking about which of the older wines need to be prepared for bottling this spring. Last, now is the time for the winery to be thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom. And only then will it be time for everyone to have a much needed rest.

A brief note about the 2022 season: It started off with a really hard freeze right as many grape varieties were just budding out. There was some damage to some vineyards resulting in crop loss as much as 50%. Then after a normal but very dry summer, the record heat wave struck, 5 days over 100F and 5 nights in the 80F’s putting extreme stress on ripening fruit. And then adding insult to injury, 2 inches of rain. It was one of the most confounding and complicated growing seasons ever. More on that when the 2022’s are ready for release in 2024.

Halloween

Halloween is usually the first sign that the wonderful long slog that is harvest and winemaking is about to wrap up. When bright orange pumpkins start appearing all over town, we know the harvest season is almost over.

Chickens

As the cold weather settles in at the Hydeout, the chicken egg production starts to fall off as the chickens shift their energy from egg production to winter feather production. And in our case, they also start flying the coop and hiding their eggs in hilarious hard-to-find places.

Final garden harvest

As is the tradition in the Fall, it’s time to harvest the last of the garden produce, clean it up, and pickle it all in bell jars.

Wood slab table – restarting an old project

In 2020, St Helena in Napa Valley was surrounded by the Glass fire. Acres of gorgeous oak forest was lost. With help from friends, I located and set aside one of the fallen oaks and had one of the fire department crews mill it into oak slabs for me. The new table from this project will go into the new winery barn here at the Hydeout.

Two oak slabs, about 10 feet long and 18 inches wide, will be joined along the inside edges to form a new table. The outer live-edges still show the burn scars from the fire. It is a stark reminder of how the fires damaged lives and property.

Margaritas

By the time of the Thanksgiving holiday in late November, winemaking has truly concluded, and our Prickly Pear Cactus flowers are ripe. And that means it’s time for the whole family to get involved in producing our Prickly Pear Agave Nectar. And our tart, sweet, smoky, mezcal Margaritas!

Recipe: Click here!

Living art at the Hydeout

Dear friend, character, bon vivant, and Sonoma artist Jock McDonald, with assistance from his wife Sherry McDowell, set up a photo shoot for a new project Jock is developing called “TRASH.” I can’t say any more at this time as the final form of this new work is on its way to Art Basel in Miami, Florida right now! These are preliminary images only and in no way depict the final art form that Jock has developed. To learn more, click here.

FAMILY

This is the time of year we all gather as family and enjoy another wonderful year of life, trials, tribulations, health and happiness. Here is the entire Hydeout team:

Happy holidays from the entire Wornick family – Ken, Dennis, Sophia, Cynthia, Harry, with Elyse, Jessica, and Tony the dog

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50 images of the Sonoma Valley Grape Harvest 2022

50 images of the Sonoma Valley Grape Harvest 2022

Growing and harvesting the fruit is half the battle. Next up is the winemaking. Every load of fruit is very carefully weighed, by law, so that each grower’s property can be carefully tracked all the way into bottle; every drop.

7 Comments

  1. Chris Towt

    Prickly pear margaritas? Sounds delicious!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Anne Duguay

      Wishing you and Cynthia the best holidays spent with family and friends!
      Cheers!

      Cindy D

      Reply
  2. Lisa L

    Wishing you, Cynthia and the entire family a very happy, healthy and restful holiday season! Cheers!

    Reply
    • Gary Hultquist

      From here in Cochella desert, very nice to see you and family. Reminds me of my youth on a farm. And thanks for the intro to the world of Jock McDonald. Polly and I anxious already for your Sagrantino!

      Reply
  3. Sally

    Interesting as always.

    Reply
  4. Ranger

    and you say I have a lot of projects… you are the coolest.

    Reply
  5. Kavrell

    Got to get the right Mezcal! (Cinco Sentidos)

    Reply

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