A Harvest at Forlorn Hope & Juicy Lucies #WinePW

I haven’t yet had the chance to work a harvest, but I have had the chance to catch glimpses from time to time, and it’s always really illuminating. Right around this time last year, Greg and I  had the opportunity to spend a weekend at Forlorn Hope in Murphys California, in the Sierra Foothills. 
By “had the opportunity,” I mean I sort of invited us . . . ish. My friend Monique was working as their harvest intern. Her partner Dorian and I used to work together at Bay Grape and have remained friends since. Dorian wanted to visit but was without a car at that moment, so I volunteered Greg and me to drive. 
Wine tends to evoke romantic images of what working in a vineyard is like, but it’s important to remember that wine is an agricultural product, and as such growing the grapes and making the wine is A LOT of hard work. It was hot AF the weekend we visited Forlorn Hope, and while Dorian, Greg, and I alternately hid from the sun and took walks in the vineyards when temperatures allowed, Monique and the rest of the team were doing hard labor in the sun. 

A few pictures from vineyard walks.

Different wineries each do things their own way, and they certainly march to the beat of their own drummer at Forlorn Hope (a quick scroll through their Instagram paints a picture), but the way the work is divided is fairly typical, at in terms of broad strokes. Vineyard manager Demetrio Nava heads up a vineyard team during harvest. They bring in the grapes and then the team at the winery sort, crush, press, and get the grapes ready for fermentation. That winery team consists of owner and winemaker Matthew Rorick, director of operations and Jill-of-all-trades Danielle Shehab (who is also now making wines under her own label Shehab Wines), and two to three others – in 2019, that included Monique. That’s not a lot of people to do a whole lot of work. Bigger wineries might have larger teams, but it's never easy labor.

Monique, me, Danielle, Dorian, and Matthew. This was actually taken earlier in the year on another trip up to to Forlorn Hope.
I asked Monique to share some thoughts on her harvest experiences as she’s had the chance to work at a couple of very different places:
Having only moved to California 3 years ago, I count myself fortunate to have two harvests under my belt. My first harvest was in Napa, working for a smaller, conventional, winemaker. Everything about this first harvest seems extremely structured, in hindsight, but I loved it. During this time, some of my friends worked for “natural wine” producers and visiting them in their cellars got me curious to learn about winemaking for this perspective.

I actually linked up with Danielle, of Forlorn Hope, during my first harvest. A chance meeting turned into a great opportunity for me and came with the added bonus of living on the property. I got everything I asked for and more! From lessons in visually identifying grapes to swimming through ice-cold water in a cave. Most of our meals came straight from the garden (Sidenote: I came back to Oakland with a much lower tolerance for spicy food). The harvest was intense, to say the least, but I'm grateful to have the experience and to have met so many genuine people.

She paints a pretty nice picture – and I admit that harvest is an experience I’d still really love to have myself – but make no mistake, I saw her working her ass off. Moreover, harvests in California are getting more and more complicated.

Monique is currently working at Oakland Yard – one of Oakland's awesome independent wine stores.



Like I said, making wine is hard work in the best of times. The hours are also really long. To protect the quality of the grapes, vineyard teams often pick at night or really early in the morning. If fruit sits out in the heat, it can start to rot or mold. I don’t think it’s any surprise that this causes off-flavors that will come out in the wine. Nobody wants to drink that! Therefore, once the grapes come in, teams have to work quickly to process the grapes.

As an agricultural product, wine is also subject to the mercy and vagaries of the weather. This is why wine geeks talk about vintages and vintage variation – the expression and quality of the wine varies depending on what happened in the weather that year.  In the best of times, waiting for the grapes to hit the proper level of ripeness while praying that some fall storm won’t roll in with rain to dilute their juices can be nerve-racking. With global warming, the weather is getting crazier and crazier every year. This makes it even more difficult for winemakers and vineyard owners to plan, which can cause problems even in generally good years like 2019. The roller coaster ride can leave winemakers scrambling to find grapes to buy to make their wines in vintages that have unexpectedly become difficult, and growers struggling to find buyers in bumper crop years.

Harvest dates seem to be sliding around the calendar, which adds more complications. Last year, I remember winemaker friends commenting on waiting and wondering when grapes would be ready to be picked. This year, harvest began way early. My friend Kristie of Tessier Winery will be celebrating a birthday this weekend; she never really gets to celebrate because she’s usually in the middle of harvest around now. She’s already wrapped up this year. In a text the other day, she commented that this has never happened before in her 13 years working in wine.

Now, add in the fact that wildfires are becoming a regular fixture of harvest-time here in California. Of course, it’s 2020 and the Zombie Apocalypse, so things are extra complicated to completely understate the matter. The entire West Coast appears to be on fire and many of us are living in an eerie cloud of smoke. (As I write this the AQI is 220, and it was close to 300 this morning.) I can stay in my apartment; those working in vineyards and other agricultural fields don’t necessarily have that option. The fires started up about a month ago, and we still have a few months of what’s typically fire season to go.

This was the Bay Area on Wednesday – I'm borrowing it from a photographer friend's Instagram account since I didn't take any myself. Since then it's been a gross, dense grey.

Beyond health and safety concerns, a lot of people’s livelihoods are now regularly being threatened. I was speaking to Jennifer Reichardt of Raft Winery for Slow Wine the other day, and she mentioned that several of the vineyards she works with are currently under threat. Even if they survive, the grapes hadn’t been harvested yet might be tainted from the smoke. You can start to see  the domino effects of economic problems:  the vineyard owners lose their land in the worst case, or can't sell their grapes this year, which is better, but still economically damaging; the winemakers make less wine so there is less for them to sell; and so on.

Then there is the little matter of the pandemic and all the complications that go with that. Normally, a good percentage of harvest workers are international. (This goes both ways, a lot of people who work harvest regularly will switch off between working in the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere.) International workers aren’t an option during a pandemic, so a lot of wineries were scrambling to find help. Once teams were/are in place, there are the difficulties of keeping people safe while working.

These are just some things to consider about what’s going on as people pick the grapes that go into this year’s California vintage. While places like Australia and Spain have been dealing with similar issues with fires, other places are dealing with different sets of problems, like increasingly frequent and intense hailstorms, droughts, and other forms of extreme weather. It’s getting more complicated everywhere.

Now that I've bummed you out by talking about the difficulties of harvest, let’s get back to . . .



For this post, I opened a bottle I had "in the cellar" of the Forlorn Hope Ost-Intrigen Ricci Vineyard St. Laurent 2016 (Average price $29). While Matthew Rorick has vineyards and has been moving more and more to using his estate grown fruit, the grapes for this wine came from Ricci Vineyard in Carneros.

Rorick started his Forlorn Hope label in 2005, after a period of skateboarding for a living for a while, serving in the navy repairing periscopes during Desert Storm, later working at many different wineries in several countries, making time to surf in between. (Check out this interview from 2013 for more of his fascinating backstory.) In 2013 he bought the 75 acres that are now called the Rorick Heritage Vineyard and began the process of converting it to organic farming.
It’s a pretty spectacular place with sweeping dramatic vistas as the winery climbs up to 2,000 feet, with schist and limestone soils and rocks that sometimes jet out strikingly from the hilltops. He grows a wide array of grapes, a lot of which are pretty uncommon in California and are very worth exploring. In addition to making wines from the grapes grown here, Rorick also sells grapes to an impressive list of wineries, some of which you can check out here.

While stunning, it’s definitely a bit of a trek to get out to the vineyard and winery. Luckily, the Forlorn Hope’s tasting room, Outland, is far more conveniently located in downtown Napa, a space he shares with Poe and Farella wineries.


St. Laurent

St. Laurent (aka Sankt Laurent, Saint-Laurent) is a bit of a “rare creature” (as Rorirck refers to his wines on the labels), but it’s far more common in Austria, where it probably originated, as well as the Czech Republic, and elsewhere in central Europe. It’s also gaining popularity in Germany. It’s long been thought to be an offspring of Pinot Noir crossed with another unknown grape, however, DNA profiling has shown the two to be genetically distant (at least according to Wine Grapes), so it remains a bit of mystery.

This one showed notes of sour black cherries and blackberries on the nose, with savory herbs, pepper, and light floral notes that wafted in the background. All those notes reemerged on the palate, along with more savory notes including a quick dab of tomato paste, earth, and a pinch of sweet spices. It had juicy medium + acidity; the body
and the tannins danced on the line between medium and medium+, while the alcohol on this wine was actually pretty low at 11.19%. The overall effect of the wine on the palate was that it had richness, but was at the same time still lean and lifted.

As best I can tell, Ost-Intrigen means “Eastern Intrigues” (or something like that), and I did indeed find it intriguing, and yet it didn’t take itself too seriously.
I couldn't find a tech sheet on this wine, but generally speaking they make no chemical adjustments, or add anything in, other than minimum amounts of sulfur in some wines, and fermentations are all with native yeasts. They use also no new oak allowed in the winery. 
I will note that Forlorn Hope is a a darling of the natural wine movement, however, I rarely find them to be funky. They're sometimes experimental, but pretty clean in my experience. 


We cooked most of the nights we were at Forlorn Hope, given that we were the interlopers and it was the least we could do. By “we,” I really mean Dorian was head chef and I played sous chef. Dorian has a catering business and is a queen of the grill, so before the zombie apocalypse hit I was hoping we’d be able to all get together an open some FH wines alongside some of her BBQ, but alas that’ll have to wait for some other time. (Be sure to check out her website for the bakery offerings and follow her on Instagram to get info on the occasional pop-ups she’s been doing during Covid.) 

On one night we were there though, Ruben, another winemaker who often works with the FH team during harvest made Juicy Lucies – my first time trying these. A Juicy Lucy (or Jucy Lucy) is a burger that originated in Minneapolis that has American cheese tucked into the middle of the burger so that it becomes all molten and melty in the center as the burger cooks. When you bite into it, the cheese oozes everywhere. 

I decided to recreate the memory by making Juicy Lucies to go with this wine . . . sort of. Greg and I have taken to putting pimento cheese on burgers and we just couldn’t resist doing it this time, so we ended up with pimento cheese on top and American cheese in the middle, and it was GLORIOUS. I also made some grilled onions to put on top and piled it all on homemade buns (I have been loving this recipe). It was one delicious mess! 
Purists will certainly say that these are no longer Juicy Lucies, so Greg had the idea to call them Juicy Lucifers given the pimento cheese and hints of spice in the burger mix.

The pairing was also freak’n fantastic, the only issue was that I couldn’t stop to take a note on the ins and outs of how it worked. I was just seamless and SOOOO GOOD!

Quick note, I also put a little hot sauce on a bit of my burger for an extra kick, which was quite tasty, but it did throw off the pairing a bit. 
burgers, pimento cheese
Servings: 6
By: Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Juicy Lucifers

Juicy Lucifers

Prep Time: 15 MinCooking Time: -4 MinTotal Time: 11 Min
These burgers are a riff on Juicy Lucies, but as we’ve added pimento cheese and some spices with a little heat, we decided to call them Juicy Lucifers. I prepared these in a cast-iron skillet inside, but of course, you can also cook them on a grill outside.


  • 2 pounds 85% lean / 15% fat ground beef
  • salt, a generous pinch or as needed
  • ¼ tsp pepper, or to taste
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • Pinch of umami powder
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • Pinch of onion powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 American cheese singles
  • Cooking oil, as needed
  • 6 buns
  • About 12 Tbsps pimento cheese
Optional Toppings
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Hot sauce
  • Lettuce
  • Onions, raw or grilled (as shown here)
  • Tomatoes


  1. Mix together the beef with salt, pepper, all of the spices, and the Worcestershire sauce. Make a small test patty and cook in cast iron skillet. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  2. Divide the beef into 6 portions. Split each portion into 2 balls and form into two patties. Place a slice of American cheese in between the two patties and form the burger around the cheese. Make divet in the center of the burger. Repeat with the other 5 burgers.
  3. Heat cooking oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook each burger for 3 to 4 minutes per side, for medium-rare, or to the desired level of doneness. Work in batches as needed. Once the burgers are cooked, allow them to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. While the burgers are cooking and resting, spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of pimento cheese on the top half of each bun. Warm buns in a toaster oven or oven until the cheese is lightly melted.
  5. Once warmed, place desired condiments on the plain half of the bun and place a burger on top, followed by the remaining bun half and serve.
Did you make this recipe?
Tag @thesommstable on instagram and hashtag it #sommstable
Created using The Recipes Generator

The Wine Pairing Weekend blogging group (#WinePW) are exploring the theme of climate change while also celebrating harvest. Read the invitation to re/consider harvest here. If you see this early enough, join our Twitter chat this Saturday Sept. 12 at 8am Pacific by following the hashtag #WinePW 

  • Terri at "Our Good Life" celebrates Harvest Time at Twin Meadows Winery .
  • Andrea at "The Quirky Cork" discusses The Art of the Harvest .
  • Deanna at "Asian Test Kitchen" pours French Style Wines by the Sea from Windy Oaks (With 3 Fab Food Pairings)
  • Susanna at "Avvinare" declares Robert Biale Petite Sirah & BBQ, A Perfect Match .
  • Nicole at "Somm's Table" posts A Harvest at Forlorn Hope & Juicy Lucies .
  • Jane at "Always Ravenous" hosts a Fall Harvest Dinner with Wine Pairings .
  • Robin at "Crushed Grape Chronicles" highlights Regenerative Agriculture at Tablas Creek - A Meaningful Way to Farm .
  • Cam at "Culinary Adventures with Camilla" shines the spotlight on Donkey & Goat: The Brandts Bring Natural Farming Philosophies Into the Cellar .
  • Lori at "Exploring the Wineglass" describes Harvesting the Land While Overcoming Global Changes .
  • Sue and Gwendolyn at "Wine Predator" have A Harvest Conversation with The Ojai Vineyard’s Adam Tolmach and Fabien Castel .

    For fun, I leave you with a few more of Greg's pics of the vineyard.

     Additional sources used for this post

    This post contains Amazon Affiliate links, from which I might earn a commission at no cost to you.




    1. What an interesting name for a winery. I don't think the wineries in the Sierras get enough attention, so it's nice to see one highlighted. The name is very memorable as I think 2020 will be too, and a vintage we will recall with more than just being too hot or too much rain. I also am in love with the name Juicy Lucifers...and just might have to make it. Jucy Lucys are midwest, so a West Coast version with heat is FIRE!

      1. Thanks Deanna, love that you like the name Juicy Lucifer -- I think Greg was pretty proud of himself with that one. ;-). I really think your comparison to 2020 in general is (sadly) a very good one!
        As far as the name Forlorn Hope, the SF Gate article I linked to in the sources says this about how he came up with it: "After reading a book about the Duke of Wellington's peninsular campaign against the French, he became intrigued with "forlorn hope" - a permutation of "verloren hoop," Dutch for "lost troop," both of which refer to soldiers chosen as the first wave in an offensive. Massive casualties were a way of life, but survivors reaped significant benefits. The name was surprisingly on point."He thought the term was descriptive of the financial prospects of the venture at the time.

    2. wow! That burger looks incredible! I did scan their IG posts, you are absolutely right, a lot of character! I love the video on the steep hillside vineyard!

      1. Thanks so much Lori! And the burger really was awesome ;-)

    3. I have long wanted to taste a "Rare Creature". I followed Forlorn Hope from afar for quite a while. I remember that Matthew had made some field blends from abandoned vineyards, or should I say "found" vineyards? Lost and forgotten plantings...I found that fascinating and enchanting. I love that you were able to share more of their story from an inside perspective.

      Now that the temps have cooled here, those Juicy Lucy's are looking so good. Saving the recipe, jusst need to locate "umami powder"!

      1. Thank Robin and I hope you find some rare creatures soon!The umami powder is from Trader Joe's, but completely optional. It's also largely made up of mushroom powder.

    4. I love the name of the winery! Forlorn Hope...how beautiful. I also had no idea St. Laurent was being grown in CA. I think it's my favorite of the (red) Austrian grapes.

      1. Yeah, it's pretty cool! There are actually a couple of others making St. Laurents around as well. Thanks Andrea!

    5. I am curious to try a St.Laurent. I have had Spätburgunder from Germany, do you know how they compare?
      I smiled when I saw you paired it with a Juicy Lucy! My daughter went to school in Minneapolis and raved about the JL - I have yet to try one, but it looks amazing!

      1. I admit I haven't had a ton of St. Laurent, but from the ones I've had, I'd say more black fruits and spice mixed in with the cherry notes it has in common with Spatburgunder, as well as a little more tannin in the St. Laurents vs the Spatburgunders.

        And so glad the Juicy Lucy made you smile. :-) Thanks Jane!

    6. Nicole- So interesting to read about Forlorn Hope and I really appreaciated your going through how hard harvest really is and all the concerns that one faces. It all seems picture perfect on Instagram everyday and a little reality check is a good thing. I like St. Laurent and that burger, wow that was a mouthful. It looks sinful so Juicy Lucifer is an awesome name. I too have no umami powder but may get some to go. Cheers, Susannah


    Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!