Harvest 2019

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A special publication of The Healdsburg Tribune, The Cloverdale Reveille, The Windsor Times and Sonoma West Times & News

November 7, 2019

From ‘overage’ to ‘outage,’ county’s harvest also called ‘outstanding’ Limited production infrastructure seen stymying apples, milk sustainability By Rollie Atkinson Sonoma County’s winegrape harvest last year was marked by an overage of crop yields while this year’s equally fine vintage will be remembered partly for an ill-timed outage. Thanks to an evenly paced growing season and harvest period, the forced electric outage by PG&E during Oct. 8 and 9 had next to no big impacts on vineyard harvesting or winery processing. The rude interlude by PG&E, initiated as a wildfire prevention measure during red flag adverse weather warnings, proved just a brief diversion to a harvest year overseen from last March through this October by an unstinting Mother Nature. The 2019 premium grape harvest followed one of the region’s wettest winters in 2018, providing abundant groundwater with a little extra rain in May during vine blossoming. The seven to eight months of growing season has been mild, uneventful with just one brief heat spike and welcomed by growers, vineyard crews and local winemakers who are declaring the picked fruit outstanding and full of desired flavors. Near auto-pilot conditions in the vineyards profited winegrape growers with extra time to focus or fret over selling their grapes in an over-supplied and soft-price market. Though a bit lighter than previous years, the 2019 crop will mark the third near-historic bumper crop in a row. Harvesting will continue into midNovember or heavy rains, and the total tonnage is being predicted to exceed 220,000 tons, below last year’s 275,000 tons but above 2017’s 206,000 tons. While under pressure, average grape prices including all reds and whites remain just under $3,000 per ton. “It was a very good growing season with not a really hot summer and it (harvest) looks to be finishing very nicely,” said Tony Linegar, the county’s agricultural commissioner. In the bad news category, Linegar predicted “quite a bit of fruit will not be picked or sold.” There’s a real glut on the market for harvested grapes and unfermented juice, said Linegar,

Printing through the fire

Photo Andrew Pardiac

PICKED CLEAN — Maria Lopez and other harvesters with Redwood Empire Vineyard Management harvest cabernet sauvignon grapes in Alexander Valley. The total harvest of grapes in the county is expected to surpass 220,000 tons. while citing a market cycle and trend that has historically been repeated over decades. “There’s been some low-balling out there” from would-be grape buyers,” he said. Lots of winegrapes are still sold by multiple-year “hand shake” deals but purchasing wineries have been tightening their requirements for quality and pre-agreed yield amounts. Almost half of Sonoma County’s winegrapes are estate grown, meaning there is no middle man and the vineyards are wineryowned. This is true among the 1,800 grower members at Winegrowers of Sonoma County, a growers’ advocate and marketing coalition, that was formed in 1992 as the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association. “There is definitely a ‘lower price pressure’ in the market,” said Winegrowers President Karissa Kruse. “There’s a little uncertainty in the marketplace.” The glut market has some

Just looking close to home, growers holding off new vineyard Proctor said he sees “a unique time” expansion plans and is seen as increasing activity to pull older vines for local growers, buyers and sellers. “There’s absolutely pressures on for new plantings — and sometimes prices and this has been a tough year new varietals. for me taking some calls from Glenn Proctor has at least three growers looking for homes for their distinct views of the same grape market. He is a vineyard owner with fruit,” the Healdsburg native said. Sonoma County his ancestor’s growers and Puccioni Ranch winery partners in Dry Creek need “to stay on Valley where their game” and they grow grapes focus of producing and make wine “quality and from vines value” to deal with planted in 1904. the downward He is also the pressures on current prices, he said. chairperson of Growers’ costs the Winegrowers Glenn Proctor and operation board of margins are directors. But his “getting squeezed” but Proctor said “day job” is his partnership with he remains “very optimistic” for the Ciatti & Company, a wine and grape future of winegrapes and wines brokerage where present and future bearing the Sonoma County grape orders are sold all around the appellations. “We can’t just sell an world.

“We can’t just sell an image, we have to produce quality and value and we’ll be alright.”

image, we have to produce quality and value and we’ll be alright.” Also, a mega-merger worth $1.7 billion where Gallo is seeking to buy Constellation Brands — which holds thousands of small and medium grower contracts — has added more unknowns into the market. That is because the local growers don’t know who their future contracts may be with, if anyone at all. Winegrapes total 70% of Sonoma County’s total annual crop and ag production which also includes dairy, poultry, apples, livestock, ornamental nursery plants and feed crops. According to the official 2018 Crop Report, the county’s farm production exceeded $1 billion for the first time in history. Of that total $778 million was winegrapes, $141 million dairy, $79 million poultry and eggs, $32 million cattle, sheep and other livestock and $3.6 million in apples.

See County Harvest Page 4

hank you for picking up Sonoma West Publishers’ annual Harvest edition. Our staff works throughout the summer and early fall to gather stories that focus on our agricultural way of life in Sonoma County. This edition was created before the Kincade Fire began on Oct. 23, though as a result of the fire and subsequent power outages, we were not able to publish at the scheduled time. For the latest on the Kincade Fire and all breaking news, please check our regular print editions and websites.


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These wineries are going to the dogs County wineries are embracing the dog friendly atmosphere By Katherine Minkiewicz The one thing that many Sonoma County residents might love as much as their pooches is sipping a crisp glass of pinot after a long day, and several local county wineries are embracing that love with dog friendly atmospheres. While different wineries may focus on certain varietals or different growing regions, Mutt Lynch Winery in Windsor, Kokomo Winery in Dry Creek Valley and Horse & Plow wines in Sebastopol all connect with dogs one way or another.

Mutt Lynch — Wide treat palates At the Mutt Lynch tasting room in Windsor off the Town Green, Chris Lynch and his wife Brenda not only cater to humans in the tasting room, but also to their furry friends. “We offer a complimentary gourmet dog treat platter for every canine visitor. We probably cater to canines more than humans,” Chris Lynch said. The names for their wine labels even feature dog-related word play such as “Unleashed,” or “Merlot over and play dead.” “Our most successful (label) program is the ‘Leader of the Pack,’ people can send us a beautiful photo of their dog and then we create a label for the wine,” Lynch explained. One of their first wine labels was called “Domaine DuBone,” and much of the label art itself features lighthearted cartoons of dogs or photographed portraits of dogs such as their own pooch Patch. “We believe the Mutt Lynch tasting experience is meant for folks that are looking for a fun, engaging thing to do especially if they love dogs,” Lynch said. “For us it is about kindred spirits. There are a lot of great wineries, a lot of great tasting rooms, some of them more serious, some of them focused on food and wine and for us, our name, our wine, we know we appeal to folks that see our labels or go online searching for dog friendly places.” Lynch said on a normal busy day they get 10 to 12 people and three or four dogs in their tasting room. In addition to being fido friendly, the husband and wife duo also run several charitable donation programs through their winery for rescue projects and organizations. “My wife and I had always supported animal causes and we realized early on that our love of dogs, putting that on the labels, naming it Mutt Lynch Winery, we just started to get calls from folks working in animal rescue groups all around the country loving our wines and looking for support,” Lynch said. The two support animal rescue groups here locally and around the country. Their Wine That Gives Back program, which started in 2017, has become the winery’s signature charitable program. “Winemaker Brenda (Lynch) works with each nonprofit animal rescue group to design a unique

label using artwork that is personal to that organization. In turn, Mutt Lynch donates 25% of the purchase price back to each organization. To date, Mutt Lynch has partnered with five very worthy organizations to create their own Wines That Give Back label — Sonoma Humane Society, Greyhound Friends for Life, Paws for Love, Compassion Without Borders and Canine Companions for Independence,” according to Lynch and the Mutt Lynch website. Most recently they did a “Yappy Hour” in support of the Grey Muzzle Organization to provide senior dogs with dental work. “We do monthly Yappy Hours that benefit rescue groups. We probably support in any given year three to four dozen different organizations and we often donate our Leader of the Pack to group’s auctions,” Lynch said. “Our love affair with all things dog truly sets us apart.” Mutt Lynch focuses on making unoaked chardonnay, a rose called “Rosie Rose,” merlot and pinot noir. “We make three different wines that celebrate dog art (labels),” Lynch said. The art is sourced from Northern California artists whose work is featured on the label. One is a Rouissan from Dry Creek Valley called “Pure Joy.” Another wine in the celebrate dog art series is a cabernet sauvignon reserve wine and a Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley. In terms of harvest, Lynch said this year looks like it will be a good vintage. “The first wine we harvest is our rose zinfandel grapes from Alexander Valley. Brenda will be harvesting and making wine for about six weeks. It is all very small lot since we are relatively small in the grand scheme of things,” Lynch said. “Brenda is very pleased with the quality of the fruit in the vineyards right now. We’ve had fewer heat spikes than certain vintages and the spring rains were perfectly timed not to impact the fruit. So for us it is looking comfortable. 2019 is going to be a really good year.”

Kokomo — Lending a paw Ross James, the director of hospitality at Kokomo Winery and his 3-year-old yellow Labrador Westdale, are the leader of the pack at their Dry Creek tasting room in dog hospitality and rescue event opportunities and benefits. The smiley Westdale is also the official winery greeter, saying “Hi” to guests as they walk in, leading them to the bar. “He’s a career change from the Guide Dogs of the Bling … he had a hard first eight months. When I got him he was pretty unsocial, but I introduced him to the winery and got him socialized with greeting people,” James said, noting that he trained Westdale all on his own with commands he learned on YouTube. “He comes to the door when people come in, he’ll greet you and he’ll walk you over to the bar. On a busy Saturday we see 100 people. To

Photo courtesy Chris Lynch

FOR THE DOGS — Mutt Lynch winemaker Brenda Lynch along with her husband Chris and her dog Patch work to create a dog-friendly wine tasting room and to help dogs in need. him that’s 200 hands on him petting him. He’s really loving it being a winery dog,” James said. Sonoma West Publishers tried confirming that with Westdale, however, he was too busy making the rounds and socializing. Westdale is also going to be in the new Sonoma Winery Dog book. The new edition comes out in May 2020 and James said they will probably donate all of the proceeds to rescued and abused dogs in Sonoma County. They also plan on having an event for Westdale’s appearance in the book. “We’ll have a paw book signing party. If they come in and buy the book he will stamp the book with his paw,” James said. Their main benefit is “Artsy Dogs of Kokomo,” an event that James started eight years ago. “We started an event with Paws for Love for the adoption of dogs in Sonoma County. They set their pens out here with about 15 or 20 dogs and we get them rescued and it is a dog-friendly event,” he said. This past year the Green Dog Rescue Project, Sonoma County Animal Services and Rohnert Park Animal Services provided adoptions. The benefit also includes an opportunity for dogs to create some of their own art for $25. “They paint with their paws and create their own paintings. It is a really fun event and a nice way to get dogs rescued here in Sonoma County. It is pretty rewarding for us to do that.” James said. “Each year it gets bigger.” In terms of harvest, James said this year looks to be a great one. “Harvest is fantastic, it is really looking good … They are very excited about the fruit coming in this year,” James said. He said the late heat spikes will bring out the sugars in the grapes.

Photo Katherine Minkiewicz

ARTSY LABELS — Mutt Lynch has a series of wine labels that feature dog art from Northern California artists.




Photo Katherine Minkiewicz

DYNAMIC DUO — Ross James, director of hospitality at Kokomo Winery, and his dog Westdale have been organizing dog rescue benefits for eight years. Kokomo makes 24 to 26 different varietals from muscat blanc to pinot, zinfandels, chardonnay, cabernet, malbec, rose and more.

Horse & Plow — Relaxing for pets and owners Suzanne Hagins of Horse & Plow Winery in Sebastopol didn’t only want to change up the scene by making cider, but also by creating a nontraditional tasting experience and an atmosphere that’s relaxing for both dogs and humans. Hagins, who started the winery in 2008, has a dog-friendly tasting room. “Our tasting room is very nontraditional. It is a barn in west county. We wanted it to be very approachable and friendly. We want people to come and enjoy bringing their dogs or kids, hang out and enjoy it,” she said. Hagins herself has three rat terriers and chickens who roam around the property. “We have three rat terriers known for rodent hunting. We have the mom and her daughters. They are really sweet,” she said. Of the animal atmosphere Hagins said, “We wanted to create a comfortable atmosphere. We have two-acres, oak trees and an orchard and kids can feed the chickens. It is a lot of fun.” Hagins isn’t only passionate about animals though. She also has an eye for promoting agricultural diversity, which she does through her

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cider making. “We’ve really been into supporting agricultural diversity in Sonoma County and it is a nice way to support more than just grape vines,” Hagins said. They have several different kinds of cider, a farmhouse blend that has 12 varieties of apples, an heirloom cider that Hagins described as more elegant and refined. They also have one that has more of a hops and honey flavor. According to Hagins, all of them are bottled and conditioned so carbonation occurs naturally like champagne. On the wine front, they make red wine as well as sauvignon blanc and lot of pinot gris, grenache and cabernet franc. “We also do a red and white blend. It is aromatic and has a nice acidity,” she said. Along with Mutt Lynch and Kokomo, Hagins reported that this year seems to be a good harvest. “Harvest is going really well. We’re getting beautiful chardonnay. We had a few heat spikes on Labor Day and this past weekend, it can stress them out, but compared to Oregon or France we can deal with a little heat,” Hagins said. At the time of this writing, she said they have 30% of the fruit in so they still have a ways to go. So far have pinot gris and pinot blanc in and will make their wine at a custom crush site in Santa Rosa.

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November 7, 2019

COUNTY HARVEST: Heads turning toward hemp Continued from Page 1

Multiple stresses for local apple crop Besides the daily lectures farmers hear from Mother Nature and the weather, crop production can be influenced by labor supply, water needs, changing government regulations and a few new factors — the introduction of hemp and cannabis cultivation and the unknowns of climate change. “Farmers need a predictable and streamlined process to get their products to market,” Linegar said. “We need more processing infrastructure for lots of our products like dairy, apples, livestock and poultry.” By example, although far below historic totals, county apple growers this year could not find enough processors to turn their fruit into juice, cider, vinegar or apple sauce. “We had a tremendous crop with our Gravensteins and other varieties,” Sebastopol grape and apple grower Joe Dutton said. “But we had challenges working with our processors. There is still fruit on the trees and falling on the ground.” Where there was once more than a dozen apple processors in the county, only one remains, Manzana Products in Graton. Without Manzana being acquired by the France-based company Agrial/Eclorsa in 2012 there could be none. “We know our local growers need a certain price for their apples to keep their trees in the ground” (and not convert to more grape vineyards), said Alissa Trinei, of Manzana. “We want to be all about our local growers and our local community but if we want to stay open we can’t just buy local apples.” This year Manzana is paying $460 per ton for local apples but is importing apples from Washington State for $280 per ton (plus freight). Manzana employs 180 harvest time workers and is running double shifts. Trinei laments what the county’s apple future may look like. There are only 2,166 bearing acres of apple orchards remaining in west Sonoma County, where 50 years ago that total was 14,000 acres.

Local dairys face stiff national competition Similar grim price and production challenges are facing the county’s dairy industry, which has moved to almost 100% organic.

Photos Andrew Pardiac

THICK OF IT — As the grapes fill the containers, workers have to pull the harvest to the front to keep things even. There are 56 licensed dairies in the county where there were once 800. “We’re seeing lots of pressure to take out grasslands in the Petaluma Gap (north and west of Petaluma) and put in vineyards,” Linegar said. Meanwhile large national milk producers are flooding the market with USDA organic milk that Linegar complains should be more tightly licensed. “I have questions about their (USDA) measurements for what is organic pasture and what’s not,” he said. He said small farmers with more expensive or smaller sized lands are failing to compete in a market that is price-fixed by federal controls. Elsewhere Sonoma County is working hard to compete with wines on the international market. The Winegrowers group just won a $449,000 marketing grant to fund tours and tastings in key consumer markets across the country and other outreach efforts. Kruse and marketing assistant Amy Tesconi have recently completed 12 similar trips, pitching the name and brand of Sonoma County. A lot of the effort is targeting the local millennial market. The Winegrowers group continues to advance its goal to be the first 100% certified sustainable winegrowing region on the global map and has achieved 99% progress with many of its goals involving land stewardship, workforce support, energy conservation and economic viability. There are 62,782 acres of

vineyards in the county. Chardonnay (16,451 acres), pinot noir (14,263 acres) and cabernet sauvignon (13,147 acres) remain the dominant varietals where growers tend and harvest 44 red varietals and 22 white varietals overall.

Talk now turning to hemp Once the final harvest action is complete next month, lots of agricultural conversations likely will turn to the subject of hemp and cannabis, two crops recently legalized for cultivation in California. The county Board of Supervisors enacted a moratorium on hemp cultivation in April 2019 and ag commissioner Linegar and others have been working on new regulations and land use guidelines for the potential new crops. Hemp is the version of marijuana that lacks the psychotropic component (THC). Hemp is grown mostly as the raw product used to produce various medical products containing cannabidiol (CBD) that can now be found on drug store shelves and local cannabis dispensaries. “It’s a big potential alternative crop that is drawing lots of interest,” Linegar said. The moratorium ends April 30, and without a new local ordinance, plantings will be allowed under broader federal guidelines. A county Planning Commission hearing in Santa Rosa is set for Nov. 7 and the county supervisors will hear an update and report from Linegar on Dec. 16.

FAST WORK — Carolina Soto sheers off grapes down a vineyard line.

FILL ’ER UP — Echeverria Merino, Juan Hemendez, Roma Diaz Flores, Rosa Iba Guterez and Hilarios Reyes load up a tractor.

We salute another incredible Sonoma County Harvest We are proud to provide a sampling of Harvest Fair gold medal wines, olive oils, breads and desserts. We support the many fruits of labor provided by our local farmers, winemakers and workers.

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November 7, 2019

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Unraveling the mystery of Luther Burbank’s famous plums A local scientist is sequencing the genomes of Burbank’s plums to verify their history and create a genetic roadmap for future plant breeders notebooks with his large, ungainly scrawl, describing in the briefest of terms his Luther Burbank is still a plant breeding experiments. well-known name around Many of these descriptions Sonoma County — it graces are accompanied by the region’s largest arts hatchmarks — the meaning center and a couple of public of which is still a mystery gardens. Burbank was today — and fruit prints, America’s most famous which he made by cutting a horticulturalist (that is, fruit in half and pressing it someone who specializes in growing fruit, vegetables and onto the page. Because Burbank was flowers). Since he lived in a secretive about his plant time when most Americans breeding methods — and iffy still made their living from with his notetaking — the agriculture, his discoveries origins of seemed as vital some of his and important most famous as those of his crosses are contemporaries still Thomas Edison mysterious. and Henry Enter Ford, both of Rachel whom visited Spaeth, the him here in garden Sonoma County. curator at Luther Luther Burbank died Burbank in 1926, and Home & over the Gardens in ensuing 93 Santa Rosa years, his and a fourthreputation has year Ph.D. faded candidate at considerably, Rachel Spaeth UC Davis, but the plants working in the he created live horticulture on. An essay in the Journal of and agronomy graduate Heredity in 2006 estimated group. that Burbank introduced Spaeth said she is “looking between 800 and 1,000 new at all of the genetic diversity plants to the American that we can find in Luther horticultural universe, Burbank plums,” working to including the Russetunravel their identity and Burbank potato (still the ancestry. “We kind of know what he most common potato in America), Shasta Daisies, the said they (his hybrid crosses) were, and genetically, I Elberta peach and the should be able to tell that,” luscious Santa Rosa plum. she said. With only a high school education and no scientific When talking to laymen, training, Burbank was a self- Spaeth likes to begin with taught genius and a this clarification: “When relentless experimenter, who, somebody says the word it turns out, took extremely ‘plum,’ it’s a generic term poor notes. Still, Burbank and it’s kind of a misnomer, filled a collection of because ‘plum’ actually By Laura Hagar Rush

“Luther was unique in that he would frequently cross different species, especially ones that people didn’t think were possible.”

Photo Laura Hagar Rush

THE PLUM DETECTIVE — Rachel Spaeth is the garden curator at Luther Burbank Home & Gardens in Santa Rosa. A fourthyear Ph.D. candidate at UC Davis, she is attempting to establish the identity and ancestry of Luther Burbank plum varieties through genetic sequencing. She is holding one of Burbank’s fruit prints.

refers to between 17 and 40 different species of organisms,” Spaeth said, “depending on which kind of taxonomist you’re asking.” Spaeth is looking at 60 living plums within 10 of those species. She is using plant material from living Burbank plum trees to sequence the genomes of Burbank’s plum varieties — and she ultimately hopes to make use of the roughly century-old DNA in Burbank’s fruit prints to confirm these identifications. Spaeth said her goals are to verify Burbank’s claims about his crosses and to establish a genetic collection of characteristics, based on Burbank’s discoveries, for plant breeders in the future. “One of the major goals is to just verify his claims,” she said, noting that Burbank’s breeding claims were often disbelieved. “Luther would say that these were the parents of something, but especially with his plumapricot crosses, people didn’t really believe that he crossbred a plum with an apricot until 50 years after his death, when somebody else was able to reproduce a plum-apricot crop.”

A daring plant breeder Long before genetic engineering was even dreamt of, Burbank took a swashbuckling approach toward plant breeding — blithely crossing species boundaries to create fertile hybrids, something you’re not supposed to be able to do. “Luther was unique in that he would frequently cross different species, especially ones that people didn’t think were possible,” Spaeth said. “But if he saw that the flower morphology was similar or they had overlapping bloom periods, or if the fruit looked really similar, then he would deduce that, ‘OK, maybe I can cross these’ and he’d just try it — sometimes repetitively if he really wanted it to work, and sometimes he would get really good results.” Spaeth said the Santa Rosa plum is probably the prime example of this. “It’s a cross between a European plum and the Japanese plum. And in creating that hybridized cross, he created a plum that was partially self-fertile, but then also could be used to pollinize both European and Japanese plums. So the Santa Rosa plum became the universal pollinizer”— a role she said it still plays today. “Even if it’s not grown commercially for fresh market, they’ll always have a couple in the orchard just to make sure that they get a good fruit set on everything else.” “The other thing is it’s really intermediate in bloom time,” she said. “So whenever you’re looking at plant patents for plums, almost all of them will tell you it flowers two weeks before Santa Rosa or two weeks after Santa Rosa. So really it’s kind of like the gold standard.”

A patient investigator Before heading out to the orchards to gather plant material, Spaeth needed to get a comprehensive list of all the plums introduced by Burbank. She used two

Photo Luther Burbank Home and Gardens collection

PLANT WIZARD — With only a high school education and no scientific training, Luther Burbank nonetheless became American’s most famous horticulturalist, visited by Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Jack London and painted by Frida Kahlo. different source books, W.L. Howard’s “Luther Burbank’s Plant Contributions” (1945), a near comprehensive guide to everything Burbank introduced, and U.P. Hedrick’s “Plums of New York” (1911), a 750-page tome, filled with beautiful watercolor illustrations of plums. Spaeth hit gold immediately. “When I looked through the Hedrick book, I used an online PDF and searched for the keyword ‘Burbank,’ and I was able to discover six plums that Howard didn’t find, just because of the modern tools that we have available to us. So that was really exciting,” she said. Then using that list as her starting point, she began gathering plant material — leaves and fruit — from plum trees at three different sites: Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa (where there’s a small orchard with 34 varieties of plums grafted onto five trees); the Burbank Experiment Farm in Sebastopol (where some of the plum trees are so old they were planted by Burbank himself); and the USDA’s Wolfskill Experimental Orchards in Winters. “If we find a cultivar that’s in all three places when we sequence the genome, it should all be identical,” Spaeth said. “And then we can say this is exactly that plum. Then that becomes the voucher.” To make a definitive identification, “You have to corroborate material from three different sources,” she said. “Two different sources is OK; three is better. So if we have a sample from all three, and it comes back that one of them is different, then we have to do a little bit more legwork with phenotyping: so it would be like really looking at fruit quality, flowering time and all of that

Photo Internet Archive

BURBANK — The Burbank plum was produced from a plum pit sent to Burbank by a Japanese agent in 1883. It was named in honor of Burbank, who introduced it to the United States. information to try to match it to the historic data that we have.”

Fruit prints then and now Ultimately, she would like to do genetic testing on Burbank’s original fruit prints, which will require scraping some of the dried fruit matter off. Some of Burbank’s fruit prints are located at Luther Burbank Home & Gardens, but many more are located in the Library of Congress. To figure out the smallest

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amount of materials she can take to get a good sample, Spaeth has been making her own fruit prints and practicing on those. “The goal is to use my prints to see how little material possible you need to be able to get DNA. We’re using techniques that people would use in forensic archaeology, adding different compounds or increasing the amount of time that your reaction has to take place so

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Harvest edition


November 7, 2019

When wine country wasn’t just about wine Long before our hills were covered with grape vines, other crops and agricultural products drove the county’s economy By Heather Bailey Russian settlers were the first to grow crops in Sonoma County, when they established their settlement at Fort Ross in 1812. Among their plantings were wheat, various fruit trees and wine grapes. It is believed that they planted the two original Gravenstein apple trees that would found the apple industry that would spring up around Sebastopol. The first wine grapes planted by the Russians came from Peruvian stock, but it wasn’t until irrigation was introduced in the mid 1800s that commercial wine grape production took off. In 1857 Hungarian nobleman Count Agoston Haraszthy brought cuttings of European varietal grape vines to Sonoma. The industry took a hit when an outbreak of phylloxera, a root destroying insect, hit in the 1870s, but it had rebounded to 250 wineries in the 1920s, with grape acreage climbing from 21,000 to 42,000 between 1900 and

1920, with 250 wineries, but Prohibition undermines this boom. By the time it was repealed in 1933, the number of wineries had shrunk to 50 throughout the county. In 1858, Green Valley rancher Amasa Bushnell brought the first hop vines to county. They were fully introduced by the 1870s and thrived in places like Windsor. By 1899 Sonoma County led the world in hops production, with Wohler Ranch and other hop kilns processing crops grown at 10 or more local hop ranches in 1900. By 1930 the annual total of hops grown rose to 3 million pounds. But, Prohibition, changes in taste and an outbreak of downy mildew in the 1960 effectively ended hop production in Sonoma County. In 1875, Charles Juilliard planted the first commercial orchard of prunes and shortly the north end of the county was the land of prunes in the early days of agriculture, with production climbing from 4,000 acres in 1900 to 6,900

HOP TO IT — Hop field near Healdsburg, July 15, 1938.

acres in 1910 and 21,5000 acres in 1920. It would remain the dominant crop into the 1970s when declining sales and a burgeoning interest in wine saw grape vines replacing plum trees. Nathaniel A. Griffith planted first commercial Gravenstein apple orchard in 1890 in the Vine Hill area near Sebastopol. The dominance of the Gravenstein apple waned as it was replaced nationally by varieties far more able to stand up to the rigors of shipping and refrigeration, and at the latter part of the 20th century the extensive orchards began to be replaced by grape vines. In 1915, the greatest acreage of agricultural land in Sonoma County was devoted to prunes with 768,750 bearing acres and 300,425 nonbearing. Apples ranked next with 350,500 bearing, and 264,036 nonbearing. In 1875, innovative horticulturalist Luther Burbank arrived and created his experimental gardens in Santa Rosa. Major finds included spineless prickly pear cactus (which was in turn used as forage for cattle in an experiment headed by Jack London), Santa Rosa plums, the Shasta daisy and the Burbank potato. In 1888, there were 500 orange trees in the general Cloverdale area, and by 1892, production had grown to the point the Cloverdale Citrus Fair was founded to celebrate the crop. By 1898 Windsor was responsible for growing much of the county’s hay on fields, covering 39,850 acres. Jewish migrants and Eastern European refugees in the 1910s founded much of the poultry industry in the county. In 1940, almost 30 million dozen eggs were shipped out of the county,

Photos courtesy Sonoma County Library

LOOKING BACK — Pavilion of Cloverdale Citrus Fair, 1913. with the peak coming in 1945 at 51 million dozen. The switch to wire cages and automatic processing in 1948 undercut the “family-farm” industry, and that year’s eggs production of 48 million dozen eggs represents the final peak for the industry locally. By the 1920s, expanded farm exports to Europe saw Sonoma County ranked eighth in the nation in farm production. Crops include wine, eggs, prunes, hops, apples, dairy and livestock. Sonoma County farms total 5,700 in 1920, and increase to 6,500 in 1930. The number of chickens rises from 3 million in 1920 up to 4.3 million in 1930. Wine grapes took over as the leading farm commodity in 1987, with a crop worth $68 million, replacing milk production in second with $64 million, which had been the leading product after eggs were dethroned in 1950. Twenty years later, the total agricultural output value in Sonoma County hits a record

OLD ORCHARDS — Prune blossoms, Healdsburg, 1963. $639 million and wine grapes, valued at $417 million, remain the leading crop. By 2008, the dairy industry, once the leader in Sonoma County agriculture, drops to about 70 working dairies still in operation.

Research for this article has been gathered from the Sonoma County Historical Society, the Cloverdale historical society, the Master Gardeners Association and the Sonoma County Library System.

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November 7, 2019

Harvest edition

Page 7

BURBANK: Scientist working to confirm methods of creation Continued from page 5 that you can get good data out of it,” said Spaeth, who sometimes jokes that she feels like the Indiana Jones of the plant world. When she’s confident in her sampling method, she’ll request permission to take samples from Burbank’s fruit prints in the Library of Congress.

Creating a genetic list of ingredients, a là Burbank The ultimate goal of Spaeth’s genetic research is to pinpoint which sections of a plum’s genetic code create certain characteristics. This is done through quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis, which is a statistical method that links phenotypic data (measurements of traits such as color, shape, disease resistance, etc.) with genotypic data in order to explain the genetic basis of a specific trait. “The cool thing about Luther’s plums is that they have a huge range of not only genetic diversity, but phenotypic diversity. So you’re looking at every color under the rainbow of plums, every size, every shape, whether it’s free stone or cling stone,” Spaeth said. “All of those characteristics get scored. And then we compare all of those characteristics to the genome,” she said. “You’re looking for QTL markers.” “In other words, you’re looking for the recipe that makes the pointy bottom plum versus the recipe that makes a smooth bottom. And then once you know that recipe, people can use that information in future breeding experiments.” According to Spaeth, the ability to create such a recipe “really emphasizes the importance of historic collections,” such as those at Luther Burbank Home & Gardens and the Luther Burbank Experiment Farm. “Because we wouldn’t have this resource, if we didn’t have people that were curating and cataloging these sorts of things,” she said.

Photo Internet Archive

WICKSON — In 1911, when Hedrick wrote "Plums of New York," Wickson was Burbank's most famous plum. It was produced as a seedling of a plum named Kelsey, crossed with a Burbank plum.

Bringing the past into the future Knowing the recipe for a phenotypic trait allows researchers to target specific regions of the genome for genetic engineering as well as traditional breeding. “From a genetic engineering perspective, knowing the recipe for the gene you want allows you to target and edit specific sequences,” Spaeth said. “This is highly useful if you want to do something like move a disease-resistance gene from cherry into plum without having to shuffle and sort the two genomes through traditional methods.” What would Burbank

think of modern genetic engineering? "It is unfair to impart our 21st century mindset on someone who lived most of his life without electricity or cars,” Spaeth said. “However, if I had to venture a guess, I would say that Luther would be open to using all of the tools in the kit to further advance his breeding lines.” By cracking the genetic code of Burbank’s hybrids and by creating a genetic database of their component parts, Spaeth is giving Luther Burbank a new place in the modern world so that future generations of scientists and plant lovers can benefit once more from his prodigious creativity.

Photo Luther Burbank Home and Garden collection

NOTEWORTHY — With only a high school education and no scientific training, Burbank was a self-taught genius and a relentless experimenter, who, it turns out, took extremely poor notes.


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Page 8

Harvest edition


November 7, 2019

Resurgence of Newcastle disease keeps poultry producers at home Minimal cases in Northern California, but fears of a spread shut down shows through the summer By Heather Bailey

quickly to San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summer is a time for fairs, and fairs are all about livestock showing. immediately placed a quarantine on the three counties preventing But at this year’s Sonoma County movement of birds or eggs in or out, Fair and Heirloom Expo, attendees but birds continued to move and the hoping to enjoy the broad range of disease continued to spread. By April poultry exhibited at their respective 2019, 409 cases had been confirmed shows were met with signs proclaiming that, due to an outbreak with over 100,000 backyard and 1.2 of Newcastle disease, there would be million commercial birds being euthanized due to exposure to the no poultry shows this year. disease. This was a pattern to be repeated On March 15, 2019, a chicken in all over the state, as fears of the Redwood City was confirmed to have virulent and deadly disease kept the disease and was euthanized by a producers home and tucked safely away. At the Sonoma County Fair, 4- veterinarian, bringing the outbreak firmly north. H kids who had spent their year According to the USDA, preparing to show their birds made Newcastle disease spreads when due with exhibiting informational healthy birds come in direct contact posters and poultry artwork in lieu with bodily fluids from sick birds. of the birds themselves. The disease affects all species of According to the University of birds and can infect and cause death California, Virulent Newcastle even in vaccinated poultry. The disease (also known as Exotic virus can travel on manure, egg flats, Newcastle disease) is a highly contagious and deadly virus in birds. crates, other farming materials or equipment and people who have The virus is found in respiratory picked up the virus on their clothing, discharges and feces. Clinical symptoms in birds include sneezing, shoes or hands. To help keep disease from coughing, nasal discharge, green spreading, the USDA recommends watery diarrhea, depression, neck restricting access to your property twisting, circling, muscle tremors, paralysis, decreased egg production, and your birds, cleaning and disinfecting equipment that comes in swelling around eyes and neck and contact with your birds or their sudden death. droppings, including cages and tools Virulent Newcastle disease is not and avoiding visiting farms or other a food safety concern. According to households with the University of poultry. California, no If you are human cases of looking to Newcastle disease purchase birds, have ever buy from a occurred from reputable eating poultry hatchery or products. dealer, and Properly cooked request poultry products certification from are safe to eat. In suppliers that the very rare birds were legally instances, people imported or come working directly from U.S. stock with sick birds can become Franchesca Duval and were healthy before shipment, infected, but the USDA symptoms are recommended. Also, maintain usually very mild, and limited to records of all sales and shipments of conjunctivitis and/or influenza-like flocks. Keep new birds separated symptoms. Infection is easily from your other birds for at least 30 prevented by using standard days. Keep young and old birds and personal protective equipment. birds of different species and from different sources apart. Outbreak If your birds are sick or dying, The current outbreak facing contact your agricultural extension California began in May 2018 in Los office/agent, local veterinarian, local Angeles County, and it spread

“I want to do my part to make sure they get a lid on the situation, which has been going on for more than a year and a half now.”

Photo Heather Bailey

CANCELED — Poultry shows at fairs and expos all over California were canceled this year in an effort to prevent the spread of Newcastle disease. animal health diagnostic laboratory or the State veterinarian. Or, call the USDA toll free at 1-866-536-7593.

Local impacts Franchesca Duval of Alchemist Farm in Sebastopol ships birds and eggs all over the country. While she is concerned about the outbreak, she said biosecurity of her farm and birds has always been a strong priority. “From the beginning of our farm business we have maintained tight biosecurity in the case of an outbreak just like this,” she said. “We do not open our gates or offer tours of our farm/hatchery. When we host chicken/quail keeping classes, all participants are required to wear special booties and are kept 250 feet away from any of our chicken pastures. Folks who are driving from Southern California have to park off of the farm to attend classes in case there are any microbes hiding out in their tire treads. “We are a closed farm, which means we do not bring in any chicks or adult birds from other breeders/farms just in case they are carrying diseases within them,” she continued. “When we need to freshen up our genetics, we order fertile hatching eggs, which then are treated with antibiotics and then

incubated in a special way to ensure proper biosecurity.” While biosecurity has always been a priority, Duval has seen some impacts from the disease on her business. “I ship hatching eggs and chicks all over the United States, right now because of the Newcastle issue in Southern California, I am unable to ship into Florida because there is a general ban on all shipments of eggs and poultry from California into their state,” she said. “The same situation is happening in Southern California. It is currently illegal to ship hatching eggs or chicks into ZIP codes 90000-93500 because those ZIP codes get routed through LAX, which could be a possible contamination site.“ While Duval has always exhibited at the Heirloom Expo, and missed participating this year, she believes it’s better to be safe than sorry. “It was the right call to cancel the show because while we are hundreds of miles away from the outbreak, all it takes is one person not playing by the rules to spread pathogens knowingly or unknowingly,” she said. “The disease (spread) when folks were illegally selling adult birds from Southern California. Thankfully, the purchasers recognized the birds were sick, turned them over to the proper

authorities and the rest of the home flock had to be euthanized as a precaution from further spreading of the disease.” Duval said to get through the current crisis, every chicken owner from the smallest backyard flock to the largest commercial operation must be willing to cooperate and sacrifice to end the outbreak. “The issue has not resolved because in Southern California folks are unwilling to tell the authorities about their flocks — they want to protect them and do not want to have them euthanized,” she said. “There is currently no end date for the quarantine/ban being lifted. We need three months of no instances being reported. We were at two months a few weeks ago and then it popped up in a feed store in Southern California, again from folks not playing by the rules so the clock is now reset and we have to wait another three months. “Some breeders ignore that and smuggle hatching eggs labeled as something else to customers, but I refuse to do that because I recognize the severity of the situation and what it could mean for the greater poultry industry/food system in California. I want to do my part to make sure they get a lid on the situation, which has been going on for more than a year and a half now,” Duval concluded.

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November 7, 2019

Harvest edition

Page 9

Changing crops abuzz with need for bees As increased amount of crops demand more bees, local organizations are trying to educate the public By Zoë Strickland Local bee populations seem to be being hit by all sides — while there are calls being made to help recuperate the pollinator population, the increase of bees being brought into the county also puts local hives at a higher risk for disease or death. Their pollinating nature has led to increased demand for honey bees and while some people may be trying to meet that demand, a lack of education and the dramatic increase in bees has put local pollinators at risk. Amber Hamby, founder of SustainaBee, has experience both keeping bees and educating the public about beekeeping. Hamby founded SustainaBee last fall. The group aims to educate community members on beekeeping in return for housing SustainaBee’s hives. She runs approximately 200 hives throughout Sonoma County, with the bulk of them being housed in Healdsburg. While the hives produce honey that’s sold throughout the county, at the crux of the company is the goal of educating the community on the importance of bees, working to increase local bee populations and developing resilient queens. “Beekeeping is a huge educational curve,” Hamby said. “It’s not something where you can plant it and give it some water and it’ll be good to go. I think the learning curve especially requires the education component to begin with. Beekeeping is somewhat of a philosophy — you can talk to five different beekeepers and get six different answers on how to do things. I don’t have the answers. I can’t say what exactly is right and what exactly is wrong, but I try to provide facts and provide education and really provide facts about bees.” The Sonoma County Beekeepers’ Association (SCBA) also works locally to help increase awareness of local bees. The association has around 500 members and travels to local fairs, classrooms and public meetings to help educate the general public on best practices. Additionally, members within the group share different species of bees as a way of diversifying local bee populations. “Everybody is basically in it to protect the bees. Everybody is very aware of the plight of pollinators,” said Kelli Cox, 2019 SCBA president. “Sonoma County Beekeepers is trying now to expand people’s views and rather just think only of honey bees as pollinators, we’re trying to just think of other bees that are out there that we need for pollinators.”

Photos courtesy Amber Hamby

WHAT’S THE BUZZ — As interest in beekeeping grows, SustainaBee is working with people throughout the county to house hives while educating them on best practices for maintaining a happy, healthy, sustainable hive. The efforts of both SustainaBee and the SCBA work to ensure that people who decide to keep bees do so in a way that helps the already existing population, not harm it.

Higher demand One issue that can be seen as a threat to the local bee population is increased demand. Locally, both Hamby and Cox pointed to California’s growing almond crop as being one of the catalysts in increased demand for bees. According to an August 2018 article put out by Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West, California had 1.33 million acres of almond orchards, nearly triple the 500,000 acres that were recorded 20 years prior. “The growth of almond orchards has made the Central Valley the new center of gravity for migratory beekeeping,” the article states. “With this shift has come new concerns over the health and safety of bee colonies, both on the road, and while they forage in California’s crops.” While both called out almond crops as being a primary contributor to pollinator demand, the crop is primarily located in central California and the California Department of Food and

QUEEN BEE — According to SustainaBee founder Amber Hamby, the best way to combat the spread of fatal diseases and pests is by having strong queen bees.

Agriculture’s 2018 California Almond Acreage Report didn’t list Sonoma County as having any almond acreage (the counties leading almond production were Kern, Fresno and Stanislaus.) However, for many beekeepers hoping to earn a living keeping bees, one of the most viable ways to do so is to move their hives to different locations throughout the season as part of migratory beekeeping — a type of beekeeping wherein beekeepers from around the county travel with their hives to help pollinate crops. Balancing bee demand with bee health can be complicated. “I think right now it’s a little complex,” Hamby said. “Because of the almond industry, it’s bringing a lot of new beekeepers into the industry. That being said, there’s a lot of land that beekeepers have to cover. What I’m finding is Sonoma County is seeing a lot more pressure from more bee populations coming in. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s a double-edged sword.” With increased demand introducing more beekeepers and by proxy, more bee colonies, into the county, there’s a higher risk for disease and pests. One of the most detrimental of which is the varroa mite — a parasite that specifically targets honey bees. According to U.C. Davis’ El Niño Bee Lab, bee colonies with high varroa mite numbers likely don’t survive the change of seasons and the options available to beekeepers as a way of managing varroa mites are limited. When faced with a varroa mite infestation, Hamby said that beekeepers often have to choose one of two routes — either employ varrocides (chemicals used specifically for varroa mite removal) or take a more natural approach and “let Darwinism take its course.” One of SustainaBee’s goals is to help cultivate stronger queens with the hope of colonies eventually being able to survive when faced with infestations of the parasite. This potential solution, however, requires time for the queens to evolve and adapt to the mite. For Cox, the introduction of bees meant specifically for pollinating large-scale crops introduces the possibility of the larger, commercialized bees attacking smaller ones. “One of the challenges that Sonoma County is facing right now

MORE BEES PLEASE — Both SustainaBee founder Amber Hamby and Sonoma County Beekeepers’ Association president Kelli Cox said growing almond acreage has increased demand for pollinators. is that as the almond areas around Sonoma County are increasing, where they treat their bees and where they use a lot of pesticides, as they’re growing, they’re starting to push more hives into Sonoma County,” she said. “They’re bigger, fatter bees and those bees, usually around now or earlier, will come and annihilate local bees because they’re hungry.”

Pollinator education One of the biggest challenges facing local bees is “bee hype,” Cox said. “Everybody goes ‘Oh my gosh, save the bees,’ and people came up with things like the flow hive or all of these other things that are inappropriate in the management of bees, and they try and keep bees without much knowledge.” She said that while most people decide to keep bees for good reasons, many don’t have the education to fully understand what they’re getting into. Coupled with Hamby’s goal of

producing stronger queens as a way of strengthening colonies to where they can eventually evolve to defeat varroa mites is her mission to help educate people who may want to try their hand at beekeeping. Beginners who employ Hamby’s help will learn what to do when inspecting a hive, what to look for, as well as bee biology. With those who are more experienced, she shifts her teaching more toward tricks and trades. “There’s different things that I can do, but the more important thing is that I go into their own setting and teach them what needs to be done in order to make sure that those beehives are alive,” she said. “I think importantly like anything, there’s a lot of information out there. When you hear things from the media about what’s killing bees and what you should do, you take in a lot of sound bites. I think really the education part is important for the entire community to get on the same page,” she said.

Page 10

Harvest edition


November 7, 2019

Using technology to reclaim water By Andrew Pardiac Reclaiming all the water used on a farm takes a lot of planning, and an investment in technology as well. Tim Bucher, owner and president of Trattore Farms, has created a system over the years that captures and reuses the water at his farm. Whether it’s water used for washing grapes, or even the moisture from his olive and grape waste product, Bucher and his team have managed to capture it and reuse it for irrigation and fertilization of his 40 acres. Bucher said the system of pipes, regulators and tanks cost more than any savings on water, but it’s the right thing to do to help the planet. He gets a lot of his inspiration from his children and their generation. He said along with his wife, they have helped create his recycled water system, providing ideas, tech set up and more. “Farmers are one of the main catalysts for changing to sustainable practices,” he said. Bucher said he also had the honor of giving a commencement speech at University of California, Davis, where he said, “You’re the generation that’s going to save this planet. “And the whole place erupted. That’s cool.” Trattore Farms was also built on hillsides steeper than what the county now allows for. As a result, Bucher said composting and using a compost “tea” made on site helps keep the soil fertile. It took years for Bucher to connect all the pieces of the recycling puzzle, but he said now not one drop at his farm is left to waste.

processing to a three-stage tank system. The first tank allows solids to settle, and the water can flow over the top of a lip into the second tank. Then the same process happens again, then the third stage pumps the water to the water recycling plant proper. A similar process occurs with his olive processing, where he grinds the fruit for olive oil. The water is then held in a 10,000-gallon tank, where the pH is balanced. Then microbes are introduced in a dissolving bag to eat away harmful bacteria. The microbes look like a bag of dark sawdust. As the water moves along to another tank, the microbes die and the water is oxygenated, mixing the gas in from the bottom of the tank. Water then trickles in to a 5,000-gallon tank, where it is aerated again for at least a day before it can be mixed with well water for irrigation. Up to a 10% mixture is sent out in zones to the area’s of the farm that need it most. There are several control centers for the system, each with a set of controls to prevent backflow into the main well, ensuring the right mixture of recycled and fresh water and switching from reclaimed water to the compost tea. The system is then set up so that every detail can be controlled from Bucher’s phone.

Time for compost tea The farm also creates its own compost. Grape skins, olive pumice and even apple cores from workers’ lunches are brought over and dumped out back Tim Bucher onto a covered concrete slab. Bucher said by the end of all his harvest, there’s a swimming pool-sized soup that will continue to decompose for the next

“Farmers are one of the main catalysts for changing to sustainable practices.”

How it’s reclaimed The reclaimed water at his winery in Dry Creek Valley first enters a series of pipes that bring water used in his

Photos Andrew Pardiac

WASTE NOT — Tim Bucher walks through the many check valves that control how recycled water is reused at Trattore Farms. several months until it’s ready to be mixed with manure and laid out the next spring. In the winter, Bucher said you can see a plume of steam from the heat of the decomposing matter. The final mixture is roughly a third each of olive pumice, grape waste and manure. The dumped compost is allowed drain through a fence with straw tied up with organic twine. The moisture is then added to the compost tea, which Bucher said is filled with nutrients his plants need. The compost tea is run through the same lines as the irrigation water, which kept Bucher from having to create another line system. As he drove around the property, he pointed under each road and path and along other treelines, explaining how at one point, all of it was dug out to install the system, which had a lot of trial and

error to it. The compost and recycled water are not the most pleasant smelling of operations, and Bucher has strategically located his well away from the tasting room and winery. But for as messy of a business as it seems, much of Bucher’s equipment is self cleaning, sensors and flush valves decorate much of the equipment, with catchment for everything flushed out. Composting on site does save some money, Bucher said. He used to haul his waste product to Petaluma, a practice he said many farms still do. The downsides of hauling off waste beyond cost were also hurting the longterm viability of the land, as nutrients were hauled away and fossil fuels burned to do so.

Open source Bucher learned a lot along the way. Sometimes parts broke that he thought were

SORTING THROUGH — Bucher checks a machine that separates olive waste solids and liquids. explain in a more technical way what his farm is doing. He also said that anyone else who works with the land is welcome to call and set up a tour. Trattore Farms is located at 7878 Dry Creek Road. Call 707-431-7200 for more information.

the answer to his recycling needs. Others were fabricated from scratch at the farm. But no matter how custom-built, Bucher said he is open to explaining what he’s learned to any other interested farmer. He plans to have a white paper out soon that will

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November 7, 2019

Harvest edition

Page 11

Going grain:

Distillers go near and far to source whiskey For Redwood Empire, most of their grains aren’t sourced locally, When developing a new whiskey, and are instead gathered from the first thing to create is the mash various sources throughout the bill — the profile of grains that will United States — they get their rye be used to create a distillery’s final from North Dakota and Minnesota, product. From there, distillers have corn from the Midwest and barley to decide where to source their from Montana. The malt, however, grain. Locally, the source of what is sourced in Alameda. makes up Sonoma County whiskey Duckhorn said that while the runs the gamut. company doesn’t currently source For both Jeff Duckhorn, the head the majority of its grain locally, distiller at Graton-based Redwood they’re in the process of trying to Empire Whiskey, and Adam Spiegel, figure out how to do so. Redwood founder and whiskey maker of Empire experimented with Rohnert Park-based Sonoma California corn during last year’s Distilling Company, figuring out the production, but received a smaller yield than with product it had mash bill for their whiskeys meant sourced from other areas. looking to what products were “Flavors were good but the yield already on the market. wasn’t very good,” Duckhorn said. “I try to work my way “Typically a lot of the grain backwards,” Spiegel said of his produced in California is made for whiskey making process. What’s food production, not whiskey helped him develop the distillery’s four whiskeys has been the ability to production.” As a result, Duckhorn said that recognize “that there are people out he has challenged the distillery’s there who have been doing it for a long period of time,” he said. “Not California supplier to go back and living in a vacuum has really been try out different types of corn. Grain sourcing is the opposite for helpful for us.” Sonoma Distilling Company, who Sonoma Distilling Company was sources the bulk of the grain for its founded in 2010 and touts itself as mash bills from California (corn, being one of the first 200 distilleries wheat, unmalted rye), with some created in the country, as well as types coming from the United one of the first to call Sonoma Kingdom (malted rye), Wyoming County home. (malted barley and cherrywood Redwood Empire’s operation is a smoked barley) and Canada (corn bit newer. The distillery began and wheat). developing its “Having a 70mash bill in mile radius for us 2015 and released its on 70 to 80% of our first whiskey in mash bills is sort 2017. of a big deal,” “With all of Spiegel said. “We take a lot of pride our spirits we in being able to do a lot of work with market farmers. It’s nice research as far to work with as tasting farmers and be what’s out able to hand them there, getting a check rather an idea of what than going the set looks through a like and where company.” we want to be,” Spiegel said Duckhorn said. “That was what Adam Spiegel that the company’s age we were likely works in its working on — favor when it comes to sourcing laying those down and figuring out grain, since they’ve already been our style. We decided we wanted to able to spend the time needed to do a lot of rye, both the rye whiskey cultivation relationships with local and rye in our bourbon as well. Similar to wineries, there are blends farmers. that involve different materials from See Whiskey Page 12 different places.” By Zoë Strickland

“I’m constantly interested to see how the Sonoma County market continues to evolve. It’s always been so well known for beer and food and wine, so why can’t it be distilleries or spirits that we can do well?”

Photos courtesy Sonoma Distilling Company

GROW — In the past year, Sonoma Distilling Company has expanded its distillery space and added a tasting room.

OLD TIMERS — Sonoma Distilling Company touts itself as being one of the first 200 distilleries in the country.



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Page 12

Harvest edition


November 7, 2019

WHISKEY: Carving out space in the county’s shifting market Continued from page 11 Having the bulk of its mash be close by to its distillery is part of a larger, Earthconscious vision that Sonoma Distilling has, Spiegel said, allowing then to cut down their carbon footprint. He said that while making premium whiskey is part of the ethos of the company, another part involves being good stewards to the environment.

Connecting back to Earth Being rooted in the environment is a thread that runs between both distilleries. At both Sonoma Distilling and Redwood Empire, spent grains get donated back to local farmers who use them to feed livestock. Redwood Empire takes a more upfront approach with its appreciation, naming each of its three whiskeys after regional trees and adorning the bottles with quotes from John Muir. “We really wanted to give it a sense of place — we wanted to tie in our location here in Northern California,” said Jessica Gray, marketing manager for Redwood Empire Whiskey. “Whiskey aging and whiskey maturation is largely impacted by the environment that it ages in, and we have this incredible temperate climate in Sonoma County. It definitely impacts the way our whiskey ages.” Additionally, the distillery works with a nonprofit to plant one tree for every bottle purchased. The trees are often planted in countries that have been impacted by deforestation, Gray said. Fairly new to the Sonoma County, local whiskey distilleries are constantly growing and developing — and distillers are excited to see where the industry goes. “We’ve definitely seen a continued surge of interested in both whiskey and gin as well,” Duckhorn said (Redwood Empire has a sister brand that produces gin). According to Spiegel, the per capita alcohol consumption today is less than it was in the 1970s, meaning that there’s room for consumption levels to go higher. “We might not be able to compete with the big guys … but that doesn’t mean that we both can’t sit on the same shelf, at the same time, have two distillers sit on the same stage, and sit on equal footing,” he said. “The quality of food, the quality of restaurants have dramatically changed in the last five years, let alone the last 10 years. Having all these players (bartenders) either come into the game or step up their game — what that’s done is that’s caused all of us in this industry to think ‘what are we offering that can give these people more to work with?’” Spiegel said. “I’m constantly interested to see how the Sonoma County market continues to evolve. It’s always been so well known for beer and food and wine, so why can’t it be distilleries or spirits that we can do well? I feel like the whole county is primed because the nuts and bolts that we have here in Sonoma gives us so much opportunity.”

Photos courtesy Redwood Empire Whiskey

BUILDING BILLS — Redwood Empire Whiskey Head Distiller Jeff Duckhorn processes grain.

FOR THE FOREST — Redwood Empire Whiskey’s three whiskeys are dedicated to Northern California forests.

POST PRODUCTION — Spent grains from both Redwood Empire Whiskey and Sonoma Distilling Company are donated to local farmers after they have been used for production.




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November 7, 2019

Harvest edition

Page 13

HHS student named FFA finalist in national competition Healdsburg agriculture student will compete this month for viticulture science project By Katherine Minkiewicz One of Healdsburg’s younger agricultural enthusiasts is making headlines. Healdsburg High School agriculture student Emersyn Klick has landed a spot in the national Future Farmers of America (FFA) contest finals in Indianapolis for her take on agriscience — studying the correlation between the length of vine shoots and the Brix level, or sugar content in grapes. “My agriscience project was testing the Brix level of wine grapes from long shoots versus short shoots. I tested the Brix level of 10 vines of the cabernet sauvignon variety. From each vine, I took a cluster of grapes from a short shoot (18 inches or shorter) and a cluster of grapes from a long shoot (36 inches or longer). My hypothesis was that the longer shoots would have a higher Brix level, but my experiment proved this incorrect,” Klick explained. Klick said her data showed that the shorter shoots had a higher Brix level. She said the average Brix level for the shorter shoots was 24.75, while the longer shoots had an average of Brix level of 24.44. “However, this difference is insignificant because in order for it to be significant it would have to have at least a one degree difference in Brix. Less than 0.5 degrees difference in Brix is insignificant and in the case of my experiment, could be a sample error. My data may suggest that the sugar content of the clusters of grapes does not only come from the shoot it is on, but from the whole vine. The vine may compensate for the shorter shoots, but more research would need to be done to prove or disprove this theory,” Klick said. “My project is prevalent because many wineries ask that the fruit on the smaller shoots be cut off because they assume that the Brix level will be lower than that of the longer shoots.” Klick will be competing this month where she will create a project board and go through an interview process with a panel of judges and a Q&A session. For Klick the most rewarding part about being involved in student agriculture is that at the end of the day there is more of a reward than just a grade. “In most classes kids take, they are given a curriculum, they do the work, they get a

grade pretty much directly based on how many hours they put into their work. In Ag classes you are doing more than just turning work in for a grade. Kids are directly involved in the ag community,” she said. “Whether it’s a project like this, animals, or learning leadership skills, you ultimately end up with an overall sense of accomplishment that you don’t necessarily get from other classes.” She added that the most challenging aspect can be the time commitment and being challenged out of your comfort zone. “I probably would have not been pushed out of my comfort zone in these ways and therefore wouldn’t have known my true abilities. In the end the rewards have always won out over the challenges,” Klick said. According to Klick she’d like to further pursue agriculture and sustainable science through her upcoming junior internship. “I have requested to be placed with an environmental engineer to explore that side of science if possible,” Klick said. “Only time will tell if this leads to further ideas on what I want to eventually study in college.” However, Klick isn’t the only student who is passionate about continuing work in sustainability and agriculture. Wesley Hunt, who has been an agriculture teacher at Healdsburg High School for seven years and an FFA advisor for 10, said the school is seeing a lot of students who decide to walk down the agriculture path. “We have tracked our students after graduation each year, and 50% either go into the industry or ag majors at a university. As our classes get bigger we see that percentage growing,” Hunt said. Last year the graduating senior class was small, but 60% of its agriculture students ended up pursuing the industry or choosing an ag-related major. Hunt said former students who now work in vineyard management often return to the high school to discuss the role with students. And while farm employment only makes up 2.1% of the county’s workforce — according to figures from the 2016 Sonoma County Economic and Development Board economic and demographic profile report — the industry

Photos courtesy Emersyn Klick

FFA FINALIST — Healdsburg High School junior Emersyn Klick has landed a spot in the national Future Farmers of America (FFA) contest finals in Indianapolis for her viticulture project. has long been known as one of the leading sectors, bringing in a total of $1.1 billion in production value in 2018, according to the county economic and development board. For Klick, whose family works in the agriculture industry, joining the ag program in high school wasn’t something she always planned for. “I didn’t get interested in agriculture myself until my freshman year of high school. I went to elementary schools that didn’t necessarily promote agriculture so I really didn’t think about it. At that time it was just something my dad did for work. At my freshman year orientation, a friend of my sisters, who was very involved in FFA, approached me about what classes I would be signing up for. They were having kids spin a wheel for candy or, if you were lucky enough, some cool FFA swag. When she saw that I was planning on following in my siblings footsteps of the traditional science classes she was more than enthusiastic about sharing all the reasons why I should go the ag route at Healdsburg High School instead. It was a bit of a leap,” Klick said.

Ag in the classroom

GATHERING DATA — To test her agriscience theory, Klick cut all of her own samples from cabernet sauvignon grapes.

While there is a specific agricultural curriculum, such as sustainable agriculture, soil science, advanced ag, agriculture business, farm-to-table and viticulture, each student has to complete their own

HYPOTHESIS — Klick’s project was based on a hypothesis that longer vine shoots would have a higher Brix level (sugar content) than shorter shoots. supervised agricultural project, which is where Klick got started on her sugar study. “Every student has a supervised ag project, students self-select what they do,” Hunt said. She said many choose to raise animals for the local FFA fair and others often have jobs directly related to the wine industry. “Every student in the fall does an agriscience project that utilized the resources in Healdsburg,”

Hunt explained. Last year, the high school even had a vineyard put in for more hands-on work opportunities. The vineyard has three varietals: cabernet, merlot and petit verdot. With these three varietals the class will make a heavy cab blend, according to Hunt.

Lifelong lessons Hunt said even if students don’t end up pursuing agriculture, the lessons learned through class can

still be beneficial for the future. “The biggest impact on kids is learning about where their food comes from. Students learn how to be a better consumer and make more informed choices even if they do not pursue ag as a job,” Hunt said. As far as FFA, she said kids can learn good leadership skills “They’ll gain skills that will make them a better citizens,” Hunt said.

Page 14

Harvest edition


November 7, 2019

From France to Sonoma County A vineyard owner and exchange student share culture and knowledge

Photos Andrew Pardiac

OVER A BARREL — Vineyard owner Parke Hafner has been hosting foreign exchange students for decades. His most recent student, Pierre Bardinet, is from a family winery in France and stayed over the summer. Hafner said it was unusual to host somebody who had as extensive a background in wine as Bardinet does. By Andrew Pardiac There’s always more to learn at the vineyard, whether you’re a seasoned proprietor or a student. At Hafner Vineyard, owner Parke Hafner and exchange student Pierre Bardinet have been learning from one another over the summer and through the harvest. Bardinet comes from France, where he lives on a family vineyard. He came to the U.S. to refine his English and learn more of the culture, not only of wine, but America. Hafner has been hosting for years, long enough for some of his first students to come back and teach him something about the industry. He said that for most exchange students, it’s their first time learning about wine, making Bardinet somewhat of an exception. “I grew up on a winery. I live on a family property in France where my mom makes wine, so I’ve been in the wine industry since I was born in some ways,” Bardinet said. Bardinet then went to an engineering and agriculture school in Toulouse, France, where he joined an internship program to learn English in America. Bardinet first came to Hafner Vineyard on July 15, and had a stay of three months. The biggest difference between

wineries in France versus here, Bardinet said, was the attitude toward grapes and the history of the wine. “In France, you grow your grapes and with those grapes you make your wine. It’s all one. Whereas here, it seems to be much more separated, with the grape growing on one side and the winemaking on the other side,” Bardinet said. Hafner said his experience in France showed him a winemaking process that relied more on instinct and tradition. “I was scientifically trained at UC Davis. So when I was first in the industry, that was the lens through which I looked at everything,” Hafner said. “Then I worked in Burgandy, in a very small, traditional winery that didn’t have the technology that I had been used to and yet they made the best Chardonnay I’ve ever had. My eyes were opened to the art of winemaking.” Hafner, who has been making wine since 1982, said bringing that knowledge back home was like placing more pieces in a puzzle. “You kind of find your own path for winemaking. A lot of it’s sciencebased but a lot of it is also just kind of getting a feel for the kind of wine,

TECHNICAL KNOW-HOW — Hafner shows Bardinet how some of the machinery in his winery operates.

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November 7, 2019

Harvest edition

Page 15

EXCHANGE: Hafner has long history of hosting Continued from page 14 the style, that we’re looking for,” he said. Hafner said another difference he’s seen traveling back from Europe is the way wine is viewed as a part of a meal across the Atlantic. “Here it seems like something people ooh and ah over. It’s look at how expensive my wine is or the beauty of the winery I bought it from or whatever,” Hafner said. Bardinet said that in France, wine is not only a large symbol for the nation, but a big piece of rural history. He said he saw a shift to what he described as “factory” winemaking in the U.S. when he saw other wineries. It was a large difference from the “hand-made” wines of small families in France. Bardinet said he not only wanted to bring back winemaking skills, but a knowledge of the business side, which could help him if he decides to pursue a career in sales. He’ll also be bringing home many good memories, he said, including many bike rides through the countryside.

Getting to work At the beginning, due to the timing of the internship, Bardinet learned about the end of the process, bottling. But when harvest came, the two — along with the rest of the team — were out at 4:30 a.m. and would be out for around 11 hours. “We’ll be bringing in 20 tons of Chardonnay tomorrow,” Hafner said during the harvest. “We press them and settle the juice. Then in two or three days we’ll put the juice into barrels for fermentation.” Bardinet said it was a lot to take in. “I’ve grown out on the winery in France … but being here for three months, working every day, I’ve learned much more than when I worked one or two days a week or when I’m just helping my parents in France,” he said. He said while he only made red wine in France, he learned about white, red and

rose here. The technology is pretty similar, Bardinet said, with the exception of the harvest machines used in Sonoma County.

Experiencing the U.S. When Bardinet wasn’t working, he kept a full schedule seeing the sights and taking in American culture. “I really wanted to discover the American way of life because it’s something the teachers talk about since we are 10,” he said. Hafner said they did some traveling, heading out to Donner Lake up in the mountains and to San Francisco and Berkeley, where he saw an American football game. “I really like the feeling in general, with people singing and happy and all the shows,” he said. “But I couldn’t really understand the rules.” Before staying with Hafner, Bardinet did have some other U.S. experience in Connecticut, and also went to a boarding school in England. And while Hafner said Bardinet’s English was good from the start, Bardinet said he still had a learning curve for all the technical terms on the vineyard. Hafner does encourage a little bit of the mother tongue, with a couple days a week of French peppered in over a meal, which includes other team members.

Learning circle Hafner said the immersion of living on the winery and the attitude toward wine in daily life helps impart his winemaking values to students like Bardinet. Explaining the reasons for everything, and not just giving direction, helps students wrap their heads around the purpose behind the process. Hafner said he hosts so many students in part as a way to pay it forward for his own internship abroad, which has turned into a web of education. “I had the to do Parke Hafner opportunity an internship in France a year before we built the winery here. It was such a valuable experience for

“You kind of find your own path for winemaking. A lot of it’s science-based but a lot of it is also just kind of getting a feel for the kind of wine, the style, that we’re looking for.”

Photos Andrew Pardiac

CHECKING IN — Parke Hafner and Pierre Bardinet look into a barrel to check the fermentation process of the wine. me, that when the opportunity came for me to possibly reciprocate, we jumped at the opportunity,” he said. Hafner said his first intern was in 1985, after hosting a winemaker the year before. He’s continued to host every year. “We enjoy it. Our kids are out of the house, so it’s brought some youth back into the house. We love the opportunity to teach what we do here and we know that it’s an investment for us as well,” Hafner said. His daughter was in Bordeaux learning abroad as Bardinet finished his internship, with Hafner’s intern from 1990. The full circle of interning goes even further, Hafner said, as he’s hosted a father and later his son. “Many of the interns become close personal friends, especially if they come back to visit,” Hafner said.

MAKING IT — Part of the winery at Hafner Vineyard.

Jennifer Higgins: Winemaker, Lambert Bridge Winery

Lou and Susan Preston, Owners Preston Farm and Winery in Dry Creek Valley

The T he he heart eeart art of He Healdsburg Healdsbur aldsbuurrg A toast to the growers, workers, makers, and harvest time partners – the people that work hard to help create our world class wine country destination. We thank you for all you do. You are at the very heart of a very special place – Healdsburg. Thank you from the Healdsburg Tourism Tourism Improvement District

stayhealdsburg.com yhealdsb

Page 16

Harvest edition


November 7, 2019


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