A special publication of The Healdsburg Tribune, The Cloverdale Reveille, The Windsor Times and Sonoma West Times & News
November 2, 2017
2017 harvest a wild ride of heat, rain and fire 90 percent of fruit was already in tanks and barrels when fires broke out By Rollie Atkinson Staff Writer Sonoma County’s 2017 winegrape harvest will be forever known for a much bigger story that had nothing to do with working in the vineyards, crushing grapes into juice or making wine. And, we all know that story is the historic wildfires that burned over 10 percent of the county’s 1 million acres and destroyed more than 5,000 homes. Most call it the Tubbs Fire, but it was much bigger than a single fire. Before the Oct. 9 fires struck, with as much as 90 percent of the fruit already safely in tanks and barrels, local growers were remarking on another very promising crop. The widely spread fires above Sonoma Valley and along the Mayacama ridges abruptly put the final days of harvest on hold while vineyard access was cut off in many places and all eyes and available volunteers watched the threatening flames. In the aftermath, about a dozen winery properties sustained fire destruction or damage and some vineyards were scorched. Final pickings of cabernet sauvignon and other lateripening varietals did not happen in some places and a few vineyard owners lost some crop sales. All in all, the 2017 wine-
Photo Ray Holley
ready to Pick — Grapes hung heavy on this Alexander Valley vine in late September, before anyone thought about firestorms.
grape crop is predicted to weigh in between 210,000 to 225,000 tons. That’s not as heavy as last year, but it’s better than the recent drought-impacted harvests of 2011-2015. The source of heat that had the most impact on the 2017 winegrape crop wasn’t from the wildfires; it was from a record heat spell over the Labor Day weekend. After a long and temperate growing season that started in mid-March, the 110 degree heat streak in early September sent some vines into shock and boosted sugars to premature ripeness. Growers scrambled and hurried harvesting crews into vineyards. Others sprayed water on their vines to preserve cluster juices and most were left to wait to see what Mother Nature might toss at them next. What came next was a few days of unseasonable rain showers that confused both the vines and the farmers. “Every day turned out to be an adventure,” said winegrape grower and Sebastopol winery owner John Balletto. “I have to tell you, this was my hardest harvest ever.” And then came the wildfires. Balletto picked his final grapes (zinfandel) on Oct. 18 along Guerneville Road. “We thought we were having major problems (due to
See Grapes Page 6
‘Heritage’ applies to more than tomatoes Heritage livestock bring the best of the old world to modern times By Heather Bailey Staff Writer In Sonoma County we love anything described with words like “heritage,” “sustainable” or “heirloom” and these words have been used to describe many facets of our local food movement. But recently, those labels have come to apply to more than just tomatoes and squash, they are also being used for many of the animals being raised here, and they have become part of local movement for a return to the older, more holistic ways of farming. If you have any interest in the idea of heritage or heirloom livestock, then your first stop should be the Livestock Conservancy; a national organization dedicated to preserving America’s endangered
Photo Mardi Storm
Now Hare tHiS — A Belgian Hare
named Black Watch’s Jack.
livestock and poultry breeds from extinction. “Rare farm animals represent an irreplaceable piece of earth’s biodiversity and offer incredible variety that may be needed for future farms — robust health, mothering instincts, foraging and the ability to thrive in a changing climate,” its website reads. “These farm animals are a vital part of ensuring food security for our planet, now and for the future.” They list over 150 breeds of endangered and heritage livestock native to the United States, and provide information on the breeds and about the farmers and breeders who are working to preserve them. In addition, there are similarly endangered breeds around the world, who have advocates working to preserve them. Locally, the heritage movement is being championed by two local businesses, Alchemist Farm in Sebastopol who specializes in poultry and Trickster Hares in Forestville, who are focused on two breeds of rabbit. Franchesca Duval opened Alchemist Farm three years ago, but she has been involved with chickens since she was a child. “I was raised with them,” she said. “I had a simple backyard flock of eight hens from the age of five until I headed off to college,” she said. When she started getting back into chickens as an adult, she became interested in egg color, and which breeds would give her the greatest variety in her egg basket, which inevitably led her down the path to heritage chickens. She now has 12 different breeds on her farm, which produce a rainbow of eggs. Mardi Storm was a childhood lover of rabbits, and an avid 4-H rabbit raiser. When she was nine she saw a Belgian Hare at a show and
the rabbit captured her imagination. But it would be many years before she would get one of her own. Storm was involved in a cat rescue and ended up with a cat that had a lot of health problems. A veterinarian suggested she try feeding a raw rabbit diet to the cat, which she did and it did alleviate the cat’s issues, but the cost of buying commercial rabbit meat was daunting. “I returned to rabbits after a 20 year absence thinking it was a good idea to raise my own, as I remember them not costing much,” Storm said. She remembered the Belgian Hares, and did some research to learn more about them, then contacted a breeder. “The Belgian Hare is the first rabbit imported into the United States in 1800s for food,” she said. “It made a big splash at the World’s Fair and there was a rabbit craze in the late 1800s. They were importing them from Europe, and in around 1910 one sold for like $1,000-imagine how much money that was back then? They sounded like good, meaty stock so I got this rabbit, but found that over the last 100 years it had turned into less of a meat breed and more of a fancy rabbit, for pets and showing, and I realized it was not going to work for my feeding plans. So, I started doing research at the Conservancy.” Storm decided that if she was going to be raising food rabbits, she wanted to help restore some of these breeds to their former glory. While she dabbled in several breeds over the years, she fell in love with another Belgian breed, the Beveren, a dual-purpose meat and fur breed, with striking blue eyes and a plush coat. Their popularity has peaked with the rabbits fur craze of the 20’s but had since fallen to near extinction.
See Heritage Page 2
Photo Noelle Gaberman
BiG fella — Franchesca Duval with an Orpington rooster named Big Red.
Page 2 • Harvest edition • November 2, 2017
HERITAGE: Continued from Page 1 Storm now focuses exclusively on the Beverens and the Belgian Hares. Along the way she started attending shows and winning, and realized that show ring success could also help increase the popularity of the heritage breeds. “I hadn’t been to rabbit shows since I was 11 and all of a sudden I was winning, so I was like ‘I better do this again,’” she said. “I got known for having these heritage breeds, so people come and buy from all over the U.S.” Despite the differences between rabbits and chickens, Duval and Storm had surprisingly similar things to say when singing the praises of their heritage breeds. “A lot of these varieties live longer and are far more healthy than breeds you’d get from a regular hatchery, which only are made to lay for two years and be slaughtered,” Duval said. “Something else that caught my attention is there are breeds that have nice roosters. I was always raised around other folk’s roosters
and had to be careful and carry a stick. I know now that heritage breeds have nicer birds and nicer roosters. I have 17 on the property and my (four-year-old) daughter could pick up any of them and not get attacked.” “There are a lot of cute rabbits,” Storm said. “And new and modern rabbits are becoming more adorable all the time — rex fur, floppy ears--cute animals, but they won’t let you cuddle them. They don’t like people; they aren’t friendly and not necessarily cuddly. But both of these breeds are known for being sweethearts with great personalities. The Bevern breeders have theorized one reason why they fell out of favor is because they were so sweet and friendly that people fell in love and didn’t want to eat them.” They both go to lengths to raise their animals as they would have been originally, which means free-range and grazing, not stuck in cramped cages. While that makes them more work-intensive to raise, they see benefits in their animals’ health and production. Both Duval and Storm also see their animals as part of
the local, slow food movement. Storm does eat some of her rabbits and Duval offers her excess roosters to families in need for meat. “Rabbits are super versatile and one of the animals that can allow people to raise their own food, which is empowering to me — discovering a viable food source and getting away from factory production,” Storm said. “We also offer chicken raising and processing classes,” Duval said. “Our chicks are sold ‘straight run,’ so you could end up with a rooster. We teach how to process a chicken and it’s great for closing the food loop and understanding where our food comes from. It’s all about treating them with respect. “Large scale hatcheries kill male chicks upon hatch, and that’s sad and a big possible food waste,” Duval continued. “We are a humane hatching and breeding facility, none of our males are slaughtered as chicks, they are donated to families in Sonoma County who raise them up for food. We are as conscious as we can be with the whole process of bringing life into the world and treating it well.”
“a lot of these varieties live longer and are far more healthy than breeds you’d get from a regular hatchery, which only are made to lay for two years and be slaughtered.” Franchesca Duval
Photo Noelle Gaberman
Rainbow — A basket of eggs from Alchemist Farm in Sebastopol.
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November 2, 2017 • Harvest edition • Page 3
Nonprofit feeding county through gleaning Produce that would otherwise be unused given to food pantries, school programs By Stuart Tiffen Staff Writer People get hooked on Farm to Pantry, according to Program Director Dani Wilcox. Farm to Pantry is a community connector, a nonprofit organization that draws lines between diverse elements of Sonoma County, which is underscored during the harvest season. Three days each week, volunteers and staff from Farm to Pantry drive out from a meeting spot to pick apples from a small grove west of Healdsburg, tomatoes at Front Porch Farm, or almost any other produce “from A-to-Z,” according to Wilcox. “It’s such a win-win for everyone in the community,” said Executive Director Connie Newhall. “We’ve harvested 150 tons of produce that would have been plowed under. We’re grassroots and small but we’re strong.” These people are gleaners, harvesting produce that otherwise would go to waste. They pick apples, apricots, artichokes, arugula, Asian pears, asparagus, avocados, basil, beans, beets, blackberries, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, “I mean it keeps going on,” Wilcox said. “We’re gleaning at a farm or a backyard at no cost to that person,” Wilcox said. “Farmers don’t have the resources to pay their employees to pick produce that’s going to be donated. It might have gone into the trash or the compost, but not to a person.” Through the efforts of Farm to Pantry, the produce goes to people in need, at no cost. “Wherever we take the produce, we make sure that it's not being charged for,” Wilcox said. The produce ends up at a variety of locations throughout the county. Food is delivered to the Healdsburg Food Pantry, the Windsor Food Pantry, the Redwood Empire Food Bank, Boys & Girls Clubs, Windsor school district after-school programs, the Interfaith Church in Sebastopol and many others. Part of the Farm to Pantry model is to have its picker volunteers also deliver the produce. “That really completes the circle,” Wilcox said. “There are children waiting for their box of tomatoes or there are seniors waiting at the Luther Burbank senior housing area. They’re there in their
Photo Stuart Tiffen
Why it mAtters — Gleaners sometimes have a narrow window of time to harvest fruit off the trees. These apples were too far gone, but the volunteers still bring in 2,000
pounds of produce each week.
wheelchairs waiting for their deliveries on Saturdays after the farmers’ market pickup. It’s great for the volunteers to see that, with the experience going full circle and when I say, ‘You get hooked on Farm to Pantry,’ that's what I mean.” The whole object of the effort is to get food that might have otherwise gone to waste, into the hands of people who will eat it. But it’s not solely about going out into the fields and picking, or collecting unused produce after farmers’ markets; the group also throws annual events such as its big tomato canning. This year, on Oct. 7, some 35 volunteers gathered at the Healdsburg High School culinary kitchen and processed 2,200 pounds of tomatoes into sauce. The 2017 event marked the group’s eighth canning event, which has grown, with more people volunteering each year and more tomatoes getting canned, according to Wilcox. Helping in the kitchen with cooking and blending tomatoes at the event was Tim Wilcox, Dani’s husband. As head of food and bever-
age at River Rock Casino, when he’s not busy managing the casino’s extensive menus and wine lists, Tim is also a regular volunteer with Farm to Pantry, but the ties go both ways. While wildfires burned above Alexander Valley and casino operations were shut down, Tim and more volunteer help from Farm to Pantry were serving food at the evacuation shelter at Foss Creek Community Center in Healdsburg on Oct. 11. They also rallied to serve a hot lunch to more than 70 firefighters and helicopter crews at the Healdsburg Municipal Airport on Oct. 19. After serving hundreds of Oktoberfest Soft Tacos with German pulled pork, a strawberry shrub glaze with mustard and caraway seeds, the volunteers had a chance to get close and personal with one of the helicopters, the S-64E Sikorsky Skycrane. Gratitude flowed both ways between the helicopter crews and the Farm to Pantry volunteers. “You guys knocked it out of the park,” said pilot Roger Douglass.
Photo Stuart Tiffen
CheCkiNg it out — Farm to Pantry volunteers, Eileen O’Farrell and Sally Gross, check out a Cal Fire helicopter after organizing a lunch for firefighters at the Healdsburg airport.
Harvest 2017 A special supplement to the November 2, 2017 edition of:
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November 2, 2017 • Harvest edition • Page 5
The challenge and charm of rare varietals Winemakers falling in love with untypical grapes
TeD seghesio By Laura Hagar Rush Staff Writer Next time you walk into a wine store, walk right past the shelves of better known varietals — cabernet, chardonnay, pinot noir, et al — and head for the back of the store to the rack marked simply “Mixed Reds” and “Mixed Whites.” This is the terra incognita of the wine world, and that’s where you’ll find rare or little known varieties that most people have never tasted and sometimes never heard of. One line of thinking holds that the reason these wine varietals aren’t better known is that they’re not worth knowing, but a handful of local winemakers beg to differ. Here is a brief introduction to five littleknown grapes grown in Sonoma County and the local winemakers who love them.
Pax Mahle France, is beautiful on the vine — each cluster a marbled wonderland ranging from yellow green to yellowred to brownish-purple. “It presents on the vine in every shade or hue, and its aromatics are just as pretty,” said Scott Schultz, owner of Jolie Laide Wines and assistant winemaker at Pax and Wind Gap in Sebastopol. “Trousseau Gris was once widely planted in California under the mis-
Darek TroWbriDge paler in color, earthier and more mineral on the palate, with a bracing slate quality that belies its aromatic beginnings. The name of Schultz’s winery, Jolie Laide means “pretty-ugly,” which is a French phrase for “unconventional beauty.” A better description of trousseau gris would be “hard to find.”
because the stems aren’t being torn apart by machinery.” The grapes in Pax’s gamay are from a two-acre vineyard at the Castelli-Knight ranch on the Sonoma Coast, the first gamay noir vineyard planted in Sonoma County. He likes working with gamay so much he’s planted two and half more acres of gamay noir on a property above Fountaingrove in Santa Rosa.
abouriou Abouriou is a French Basque variety that, under the misnomer “Early Burgundy” was once more widely planted in old field-blend vineyards throughout California. Now that field blends have been replaced by single-variety vineyards, abouriou exists as a contiguous planting in only one place in the United States — a small two-acre plot west of Forestville that is part of the Martinelli family holdings. “The abouriou was planted in 1930s or 40s,” said Darek Trowbridge, a member of the Martinelli clan, who owns Old World Winery on River Road. “They’re old, head-trained vines, surprisingly vigorous given their age. When I got the opportunity to manage this vineyard and make wine from it, I jumped at the chance.” Old World Winery’s 2013 arbouriou was crushed the old fashioned way, by foot. It spent seven days on skins and stems before being pressed, and then spent two years in barrel sur lie. It’s an inky, tannic monster that needs time to open up, but when it does it rewards the patient taster with bright rose and caramel aromas and a bold blast of flavor. The 2011, which spent only three days on the skins, is an utterly different creature — delicate as a pinot — which Trowbridge says demonstrates the flexibility of the grape. Trowbridge never knows year to year what approach he’ll take with abouriou. “It depends on what happens in the vineyards.” “I’m not interested in varietal correctness,” he says. “It’s more about complexity and creating something of interest rather than some winemakers’ ideal of what a variety should be.” Like most natural winemakers, he uses wild yeast fermentations for all his wines and doesn’t add sulfites. Trowbridge sells abouriou under the name “Luminous.” He can’t use the varietal name “abouriou” because the grape is so obscure it’s not listed on the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s list of approved grape names.
Trousseau gris Trousseau gris, a white mutation of the red trousseau grape from
believed we had a superior clone to work with, and we were not disappointed.” The Seghesio arneis is a flagrant charmer, opening with aromas of guava and bright citrus, revealing stone fruit and pineapple on the palate, with nice acidity and a long honeyed finish. The vermentino is slightly more restrained with aromas of pear and lime, a melony palate and nicely balanced acidity. “We were also intrigued with vermentino for many years due to its presence in several countries around the Mediterranean Sea, which have similar climates to us. It is a thick-skinned variety, which adds a pleasant phenolic quality and textural richness. Think Key Lime pie. We recently began fermenting and aging percentages of arneis and vermentino in concrete vessels, which help to retain freshness and adds another layer of complexity.” “We used to produce chardonnay and sauvignon blanc,” Seghesio says, “but find that producing Mediterranean whites like arneis and vermentino pique consumers interests.” Seghesio brand manager Brett Johnson agrees. “People tend to come here for our reds, so they’re often surprised to find aromatic whites at a winery that’s best known for its red Italian varietals and zinfandels, but they really enjoy them. People like discovering new things.”
What’s driving the production of unusual varietals? Trousseau gris nomer ‘Gray Reisling,’ but when the grape fell out fashion in the 1980s, it was ripped out and replaced by higher-paying grapes throughout California,” Schultz says. Happily, one local vineyard owner, Arcangelo Fanucchi bucked the trend and planted two acres of trousseau gris in 1981. Today, farmed by his son Peter, alongside the family’s better-known old-vine zinfandel vines, the Fanucchi-Wood vineyards near Fulton and River Road is the only trousseau gris vineyard in Sonoma County, and one of just two in California. Fanucchi sells his trousseau gris to seven different wineries, including Wind Gap and Jolie Laide. Schultz says that when Wind Gap’s owner Pax Mahle first discovered the Fanucchi-Wood’s trousseau gris, it was being sold as a blending grape for Chardonnay. Looking for a fastturnaround, aromatic white to add to his line-up of reds, Mahle decided to give it a try as a single varietal. It quickly became a tasting room favorite. Wind Gap’s trousseau gris is a beautiful pale apricot color with melon and peach aromatics. Fresh, light and bone dry, it reads in the mouth like a crisp but flowery rosé. The Wind Gap trousseau gris is crushed by foot, sits on the skins and stems overnight, then is pressed and fermented into concrete eggs, then stainless steel. Jolie Laide’s trousseau gris, has an equally extravagant nose, but is
Vermentino and arneis
Wind Gap’s Pax Mahle also produces gamay noir under his Pax Wine Cellars label. Gamay noir isn’t as rare a creature as abouriou or trousseau gris. France produces boatloads of gamay — mostly in the form of gamay Beaujolais and Beaujolais nouveau, but true gamay noir is hard to find in California, perhaps because, like the wines discussed above, it was the victim of a name mix-up. What used to be known as gamay or Napa gamay in California was, in the age of DNA testing, discovered to be a completely different grape, known as valdegui. As grapes go, gamay noir isn’t very noir at all. Lighter in color and feel than pinot noir, gamay noir is a cross between pinot noir and an ancient white variety called gouais, which is believed to have been brought to France by the Romans. Pax’s gamay noir is fresh and bright on the palate with vibrant plum and red fruit highlights. Like Trowbridge, Mahle is a practitioner of natural wine making. “This gamay is made the way gamay has been made for hundreds of years,” he says. “Nothing’s added, no enzymes, no chemicals. The grapes are crushed by foot and we do a wild yeast fermentation. We do whole cluster crushing because we like the structure and spice that provides, but because we crush by foot, we don’t get any negative aromas
Most Americans’ understanding of wine is still Franco-centric, which is why we’re more familiar with French grapes than, say, Italian. Over the last 20 years, several longestablished wineries started by old Italian families in Sonoma County set out to change this by making major investments in lesser-known Italian varieties. This gamble was a mixed bag financially, but it blessed Sonoma wine country with intriguing and delightful Italian varieties that Californians had never tasted before. The Seghesio family in Healdsburg was deep into Italian varietals from the very beginning. In the 1890s, Seghesio’s founder Edoardo purchased his first vineyard in Sonoma County, planting it to Sangiovese and Barbera. One hundred years later, his descendents added an array of northern Italian whites, including pinot grigio, fiano, and arneis at their Keyhole Ranch vineyard in the Russian River Valley. In 2008, they added vermentino. Seghesio has since discontinued the pinot grigio and fiano programs, but vermentino and arneis remain popular and the tasting room. “We chose to pursue our Italian roots, when we planted Arneis in the Russian River Valley in 1993, thus adding to our collection of Italian varietals already in production,” said winemaker Ted Seghesio. “We
Bryan Cooper, owner of the Sonoma Wine Club in Sebastopol, thinks the rising interest in new varietals is being driven by a combination factors. “Folks who love wine love trying new varietals. They also love small producers and often these go hand in hand. These wines are experimental — tiny plots producing just a few tons of fruit that may be all there is for the whole state of California. Often a winemaker has tried a super example and falls in love with the grape.” Wine drinkers may like discovering new things, but Pax Mahle believes the drive to experiment with unusual or heirloom varietals comes mostly from winemakers themselves. “It’s a reaction to the standardization and globalization taking place in the wine world,” Pax Mahle says. “When you hear or read about another new hot cabernet, it's not very exciting in my opinion because people are all making their cabernets exactly the same way: nothing is really different, nothing is new, everything is very big and rich and concentrated. They taste exactly like everything else and they're very expensive.” “If you want to do something unique or different it's harder to do that with a variety like cabernet sauvignon because if there’s an expectation of what that should taste like. But you have a blank slate when you’re working with gamay noir or trousseau gris. There’s more room for creativity and for creating something different and interesting.”
Page 6 â€˘ Harvest edition â€˘ November 2, 2017
GRAPE HARVEST: totalled about 2,200 men and women said Kruse. According to a recent UC Davis survey, Labor Day weather, mixed with sudden rain),â€? the winegrape harvest laborers in Sonoma and said Balletto. â€œBut that was nothing compared Napa counties are the highest paid in the to what happened to people who lost houses or world. even family to the fires.â€? Other segments of the countyâ€™s farm comAs many as 300 farmworkers lost houses in munity and ag industry also were disrupted by the fires that destroyed entire neighborhoods the wildfires. Livestock had to be evacuated, in northern Santa Rosa and residential areas in along with humans as a precaution. Sonoma Valleyâ€™s Glen Ellen and Kenwood. Reports of significant damages to some medSonoma County Winegrape Commission ical cannabis operations were heard and local President Karissa Kruse and former director farmersâ€™ market sessions were temporarily Nick Frey both lost their Fountaingrove and cancelled or postponed. Mark West homes in the fire. Rain or no rain, fires or no fires, agriculture The single biggest loss was the total destruc- production remains Sonoma Countyâ€™s largest tion of Paradise Ridge Winery and its vineeconomic sector, even without counting its yards owned by the Byck family. tourism, special events and world-famous marOver time, each vintage acquires a nickketing prowess. Total crop production was $898 name. Perhaps this will become the million in 2016, the most recent available totals SonomaStrong Harvest of 2017. ahead of the 2017 tally) that wonâ€™t be completed The earliest harvest field reports in August until early 2018). about lots of gorgeous fruit and Winegrapes ($586 million) desired colors in the pinot noir were two-thirds of that total â€œWe had other issues followed by dairy ($146 milcrop continued to be enforced as the harvest progressed. lion), poultry ($40 million), catbut I donâ€™t think the tle Some of the chardonnay and other livestock ($51 milshowed signs of heat stress, but smoke on the vines lion, nursery stock ($27 milmore than a few winemakers lion), vegetables ($10 million) will be a problem.â€? and were overheard expressing apples ($5.5 million). delight over the mature flavors Led by the Winegrowers John Balletto and potential. Commission with 1,800 farmerâ€œThe overall quality was members, Sonoma Countyâ€™s ag really strong,â€? said Kruse, doing her best to identity and farming practices are recognized conduct business as usual a week after the fire as national leaders in sustainable farming and and the loss of her house. â€œSome of the variproduction practices. etals were lighter (in yield) than others but our Almost two-thirds (60 percent) of total vinegrowers were pleased.â€? yard acreage across 1,220 individual vineyard The year began with record winter rainfall, properties have been certified as sustainable. following five years of drought. The crucial The 2017 wine vintage will be the first year spring blooming and bud season was mild and where wine bottles will carry a new rain-free. A few late season heat waves cliâ€˜Sustainably Farmed Grapeâ€™ label whenever at maxed with the Labor Day thermometer-bustleast 85 percent of the grapes were grown in ing temperatures and a few late-maturing Sonoma County as opposed to blended with grapes lost some tonnage. As usual, nothing grapes from other locations. was normal. â€œSonoma County is a beautiful place to live â€œLooking back, what didnâ€™t look so good at and farm. We are blessed to live in a county the time (Labor Day heat) actually helped us by where farmers and the community alike making for an earlier harvest ahead of the embrace the concept of sustainable farming,â€? wildfires,â€? said Balletto. said county ag commissioner Tony Linegar in Otherwise there may have been fewer his annual report. mature grapes left on the vines to be tainted by The countyâ€™s farmers are the leading open wildfire smoke. â€œWe had other issues but I space and natural beauty preservationists, donâ€™t think the smoke on the vines will be a Linegar said. â€œThatâ€™s why Sonoma County is problem,â€? Balletto said. such a desireable place for residents and visiGoing into the growing season, the top contorsâ€? he said. cern was a possible shortage of labor, due The 2017 wildfires will have lasting impacts mainly to the uncertain immigration policies of on the countyâ€™s ag industry along with all other the new Trump Administration. economic sectors and individual lives. â€œIt was still a big conversation but everyone But Kruse said Sonoma County still has a seemed to have navigated through it okay,â€? very positive story to keep telling the rest of said Kruse. â€œThe tougher challenge turned out the world. Although several recent marketing to be all the extra logistics the growers went events and seminars were cancelled during the through moving crews, trucks and bins ahead fires, Kruse said her 1,800 members led by an of the heat and early compacted harvest.â€? executive board of 11 men and women will conMore growers and wineries resorted to tinue their efforts to reach 100 percent sustainmechanized picking and Kruse said many of ability as an industry by 2019. her members used more full-time workers and Speaking about the impact of the fires and less seasonal crews, except for an increased rumors about smoke taint, Kruse said, â€œmy number in H2A federal documented workers. members have worked too hard to ever put out The total farmworker force this year any crappy wine.â€?
Continued from Page 1
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November 2, 2017 â€˘ Harvest edition â€˘ Page 7
â€˜Next genâ€™ farming How Millennials will change and improve Sonoma County agriculture more with less. Less soil, less water and fewer laborers.â€? Manoukian has been involved in agriculture since she was young. Todayâ€™s farmers are not like last As the youngest in a trio of sibgenerationâ€™s farmers. Theyâ€™ve progressed as new technologies crop up, lings involved in Future Farmers of America, Manoukian was well making farming easier and more versed and experiefficient. enced in raising prizeIn the same vein, winning sheep and tomorrowâ€™s farmers pigs. will not be like But more than todayâ€™s farmers. showing animals, her Faced with the FFA experience introperennial challenge of duced her to many needing to do more areas of agriculture, with less, the next including politics and generation of Sonoma science. County farmers will Today Manoukian be charged with is a freshman at Cal adapting to â€” and Poly â€” San Luis ideally, being ahead Obispo, where she is of â€” agricultural majoring in agribusigame changers and ness with a minor obstacles, including emphasis in agriculclimate change, labor â€œWithout the tural communicashortages and tion. increasing regulaenvironment or the Sheâ€™s part of a tions. cadre of 20-someâ€œThereâ€™s a general land, we donâ€™t have things born into mulstereotype of farming a job. We donâ€™t have ti-generational farmas old fashioned,â€? food. Weâ€™ll have to ing families from said Emma the county Manoukian. â€œThatâ€™s do whatever it takes around who not only accept, simply not true. Itâ€™s one of the most innoto stay sustainable.â€? but dive head first into their role to vative sectors. Weâ€™re Jake Dutton drive todayâ€™s farming constantly doing By Amie Windsor Staff Writer
Photo courtesy Emma Manoukian
FarMing SCiEnCE â€” During high school, Emma Manoukian conducted an
experiment to test the effects of temperature change on chardonnay grape juice.
Photo courtesy Jake Dutton
LoaDEr â€” Jake Dutton is working his way through learning the many roles of the ranch in effort to understand its intricate parts and how they can become more sustainable and efficient.
standards toward a more sustainable and environmentally conscious position. â€œClimate change is a big factor in agriculture, especially in California,â€? Manoukian said. â€œWater issues will never go out of style and biotech is going to play a big role in the future.â€? Manoukian believes droughtresistant crops are going to be key for the county and stateâ€™s ability to provide food for the rest of the nation. â€œSo much of the nation relies on California for so many crops,â€? she said. â€œWe canâ€™t afford to have short, unbountiful years.â€? Californiaâ€™s agriculture sector is a $45.3 billion industry, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Sonoma County alone accounts for almost $900,000 of that total receipt. According to the countyâ€™s 2016 crop report, alongside a 17 percent increase in production over the previous year, the countyâ€™s farmers are making gains in its dedicated sustainability efforts under programs like the vineyard and orchard development permits (VESCO) program. The voterâ€™s latest and successful effort to ban genetically modified crops in unincorporated Sonoma County could put a halt to any type of drought-resistant crop. Itâ€™s a type of policy that Manoukian believes was made and approved without farmers in the room. â€œSo many decisions get made without considering the farmer,â€? she said. At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Manoukian studies with environmental science majors, enabling two sometimes opposing forces â€” those who work the land for their livelihoods and those who believe the land should be left alone â€” to gain better understanding of how environmental preservation and agriculture can find common ground and
â€œAs the ranch progresses we are work together to fight mounting having to do more with less,â€? he issues, including climate change. said. â€œThatâ€™s the big thing in the â€œItâ€™s a big misunderstanding that farming industry. We have to grow farmers donâ€™t care about the land,â€? more product with less ground.â€? Manoukian said. â€œThereâ€™s a huge Dutton said the ranch, which is gap between environmentalists and owned and operated by his father agriculture. I see a lot of environand uncle, is conmentalists in political stantly trying to be and advocacy roles, more efficient. which is great. But He acknowledges, agriculture needs repjust as Manoukian resentation too.â€? does, that additional Thatâ€™s where efforts will be needed Manoukian comes in; â€” and demanded by she hopes to use her legislation â€” in the education and passion future. As such, the for politics to be a ranch has to plan voice for the undermany seasons ahead represented farmer. to ensure sustainabilâ€œDecisions canâ€™t be ity efforts donâ€™t made by people who bankrupt the farm. have no understandFor example, by ing about what goes 2025 all large semi on at the farm,â€? she trucks used by farms said. â€œSo much of the must be equipped Such decisions, with a diesel exhaust Manoukian said, can nation relies on flow system. be detrimental to the â€œNone of our farmer. â€œChanges California for so trucks have that take time. They canâ€™t many crops.We now,â€? he said, adding be made overnight,â€? she said. canâ€™t afford to have that the system canâ€™t just be placed into an Jake Dutton short, unbountiful existing truck. â€œItâ€™s agrees. Jake is the going to be a multifourth generation of years.â€? million dollar investDuttons to farm Sonoma County land. Emma Manoukian ment.â€? Despite the dauntThe Dutton empire ing costs, Dutton is includes a ranch, excited about what the future vineyards and apple orchards brings. â€œI definitely see electric vehispread throughout west county. â€œA lot of these decisions can suck cles making their way onto the farm more,â€? he said. â€œItâ€™s going to help for the small farmer and the small limit a farmâ€™s carbon footprint, business,â€? Dutton said. â€œBut at this which right now, can be really big.â€? point in time, we canâ€™t be selfish.â€? Dutton said bringing electric Dutton has been involved in the vehicles into the ranch will be an ranchâ€™s work since he was 14 and continues today at age 20 in between important effort to help the countyâ€™s agricultural leaders fight climate studying at Santa Rosa Junior change. â€œWithout the environment College. or the land, we donâ€™t have a job. We While he acknowledges that the ranchâ€™s operations are working well, donâ€™t have food,â€? Dutton said. â€œWeâ€™ll have to do whatever it takes to stay he admits that changes to become more sustainable are on the horizon. sustainable.â€?
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Page 8 • Harvest edition • November 2, 2017
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If your property has been affected by the fires and you have questions or concerns regarding your water well or water system please contact us at 707-433-3419, we will be doing all we can to help all the fire victims in Sonoma, Napa, Lake & Mendocino County.
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“A huge thank you to all first responders, volunteers and the community for coming together to help in this time of need. Our roots in Sonoma County run deep, and our hearts go out to all those who have been affected by this disaster. We will do everything we can to aid in the rebuilding of our great community and region.”
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November 2, 2017 â€˘ Harvest edition â€˘ Page 9
Cannabis growing into the mainstream Cloverdaleâ€™s Patrick King a leader in expanding industry By Ray Holley Staff Writer Patrick Kingâ€™s first arrest was at age 11. It was for growing marijuana. King has always been interested in growing things. â€œWhile the other kids were playing with Legos, I was planting flowers,â€? he said. He graduated from rose buds to cannabis buds, and even though he thought he was growing in secret on wild land near his Bay Area home, he got busted. Decades later, the world has caught up with Patrick King. Medical cannabis has been legal in California for 20 years and recreational use was legalized a year ago. As with every growing industry, the world of cannabis has a mix of shady characters and positive leaders. King is one of the good guys. A beloved figure in Cloverdale, where he works tirelessly to support local causes and even set up his own donation center for fire victims, he is equally well-regarded in the cannabis industry, where his Soil King Garden Center is the supplier, advisor and booster for hundreds of cannabis-related businesses, from backyard growers to trimming machine manufacturers. Heâ€™s also still growing pot. King has a private seed bank of rare strains and is constantly hybridizing and nurturing new varieties. On a recent visit to Pine Mountain, a rugged and remote area above Cloverdale, he spent time with Bill and Sally Disbrow and their son Jackson, who are growing 60 cannabis plants in a fenced garden on a hot, dry hillside. It was a harvest day. The massive plants had previously been topped â€” the buds that grew toward the sun cut off so that light and air could reach deeper into the plant and stimulate another budding. The Disbrows and an international crew of workers were cutting, trimming, sorting and freezing high grade cannabis. â€œSeventy-five percent of this farmâ€™s production will not be smoked,â€? King said, explaining that his â€œHealth before Wealthâ€? philosophy was shared by the Disbrows, who were selling their harvest to other small operations that would make it into tinctures and into oils for â€œvaping,â€? using a device that vaporizes the active molecules in concentrated marijuana oil.
The Disbrows are happy they found King and Pine Mountain. â€œWe lived in Florida and all the kids had left and we were looking around, saw this piece of property and bought it,â€? said Bill Disbrow. â€œWe wanted to make the property pay for itself and start a family business with our son,â€? Disbrow said. â€œAnd then we met Patrick.â€? King helped the Disbrows with advice at first and later got into business with them on the grow. â€œMost people are just in this industry for the dollar,â€? King said. â€œThis family (the Disbrows) are the perfect partners.â€? Bill Disbrow admitted that theyâ€™ve made a lot of mistakes in their first year, and Sally shows off a smaller garden where the plants are too close together and wonâ€™t yield well. â€œWith Patrickâ€™s help, we keep improving,â€? said Bill, who said he expects to net about $1,000 for each of his 60 plants â€” not enough to recoup the initial investment, but a good start. â€œA healthy harvest should bring you about a 20 percent margin,â€? King said.
Hey, bud â€” Disbrow Farms cannabis.
Trim Time â€” Patrick King (rear) visits with a group of marijuana trimmers at Disbrow Farm on Pine Mountain.
Photo Ray Holley
Photo Ray Holley
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Page 10 • Harvest edition • November 2, 2017
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November 2, 2017 • Harvest edition • Page 11
County offered better pay, better conditions to attract labor Growers answered immigration crackdown fears with higher wages and benefits By Bleys Rose Staff Writer An anticipated shortage of vineyard workers to harvest this season’s wine crop was mitigated by growers offering higher wages and improved benefits and by an influx of farm workers from the fields around Stockton and Fresno who were attracted to better conditions in Sonoma County. Last summer, vineyard owners and vineyard management companies in Sonoma and Napa counties made little secret of their fears that several factors, especially bellicose rhetoric from the Trump administration about restricting labor by undocumented workers, would result in fewer people available to harvest this year’s wine crop. While the median hourly wage in Fresno County this year for farm workers was $10.76, many vineyards were willing to pay about $15 an hour in Sonoma County during this season’s harvest, according to Armando Elenes, the United Farm Workers national rights president who works out of Santa Rosa offices. They primarily came from lesser-paying jobs in the areas around Stockton and Fresno, he said. “Yes, there was a labor shortage but, no, it did not have a major impact because the fact was, labor was attracted to our area,” Elenes said. “The bigger impact was that our growers began competing for that labor and they were used to relying on a surplus.” Many of the big names in wine, like Gallo and Mondavi, and the local brands prominent on the upscale market — like Balleto in the Russian River Valley, Iron Horse in Green Valley, Ceja in the Carneros region and St. Supéry in the Napa Valley — reportedly improved the health benefit packages offered as well as increased pay in order to compete and ensure this year’s crop was harvested in time. About 60 percent of Sonoma County vineyards contract with vineyard management companies to supply workers with the expertise to maintain roots through the winter and spring, trim leaves in the summer months and recognize the optimal time for harvest in the fall. Some vineyard managers said they were paying about 33 percent higher wages this harvest than the one in 2015. Currently, there are 5,186 full-time workers toiling in vineyards in the county, according to the Sonoma County
Gloria Macias was working a chardonnay grape picking crew off Eastside road in early september. Part crew chief, part den mother, Macias kept her crew of four men moving, singing to them, asking about their families and making sure they left no ripe grape on the vine. she came to sonoma county to help her uncle, who has a brain tumor and was going through radiation and chemotherapy. she said sonoma county is beautiful, but she misses her home. “My rent here is higher than my house payment in arizona,” she said.
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Winegrape Commission, and another 2,644 workers who come here to perform seasonal tasks. Commission officials say the highest skilled workers during harvest can make up to $30 an hour. Also, the vineyard labor situation appeared to benefit from the reputation of north coast wines as premium products that often require skillful handling rather than mechanized harvesting. While some portion of Sonoma County vineyards are harvested by mechanical pickers, producers on the premium end prefer undamaged and unbruised grapes and that requires higher levels of skills. “When we are talking about the fine wines produced here, a lot of it is hand pruned and hand cut,” Elenes said. “Growers were not willing to sacrifice quality and they were more willing to compete for labor and they were not used to that.” At the annual Wine Industry Financial Symposium last September in Napa, many speakers identified problems with labor availability as a major challenge facing the recent harvest. Most agreed that they are looking at mechanical harvesting as a partial solution, but that hand picking and hand sorting remains the preferred option. At the symposium, Bobby Koch, president and CEO of the Wine Institute in San Francisco, told the assembly that his organization remains concerned about the affect of national immigration policy on the available labor, but that, “no one is sure what might happen in D.C.” Elenes conceded that the UFW and the grape growers “were on high alert” most of the year as they worried that Trump administration policies restricting undocumented workers and threatening deportations would deplete the workforce. A crackdown on farm workers in Oregon last March set many on edge for what similar efforts by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency might mean for the local wine industry. Nationally about half of all farm workers lack proper residency documentation, according to several studies, but that figure is disputed locally by vineyard management companies that insist they verify paperwork as best as they are able. However, stepped up federal immigration law enforcement efforts did not materialize in the vineyards, according to vineyard managers. “There was a lot of rhetoric and a lot of fear and 70 percent of it was fricking nuts,” Elenes said.
Page 12 â€˘ Harvest edition â€˘ November 2, 2017
Thanks to the heroes. Sonoma County Winegrowers thank the brave men and women who have risked their lives to protect our families, our homes and the land we love. We are blessed to have such courageous first responders and citizen heroes who dropped everything to help protect others when often their own homes and families were threatened. Our hearts go out to all of the many families impacted by the wildfires. Much was lost, but together, our community will rebuild. We are Sonoma County Strong.