SPRING IS HERE!
Spring officially started on March 20th and our vineyard awakened right on time with bud break beginning on March 21st. This is a few weeks earlier than last year, but right on par with 2020. In terms of weather, the temperature has been up and down this month. We broke a heat record on March 22nd where the temperature reached 88 degrees Fahrenheit at the winery. In stark contrast, on the morning of March 13th we dropped to a low of 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, the vines remained dormant through this tumultuous period and awakened to more moderate temperatures going into April. Now that the new buds have emerged, we are on high alert for potential frost damage if the temps drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. So far, we had just two close calls but have not had to turn on our frost protection system quite yet. Some of our fellow grape growers in the county have not been so fortunate. Some vineyards went through bud break in early March and have had to run the frost protection systems several times already this year. This time of year can be a stressful period for grape growers as there can be many sleepless nights working in the vineyard protecting this coming years precious grape crop from damaging freezing temperatures.
Bud break in the Pinot Noir block of the Estate Vineyard
My team and I have spent a lot of time this past month blending our 2021 wines. It is one of the most enjoyable aspects of winemaking for me. I remain incredibly excited with the quality from this past vintage! Blending is the process of taking all the different vineyard or fermentation components and mixing parts of them together to complete a finished wine blend. It’s more of an art than a science as blending results tend to be unpredictable.
Blending Session with Educator, Adam Lee
We blend wines for a couple of reasons. One, it gives us an opportunity to create more consistent wines from year to year. Given that every growing year is different which results in slightly different characteristics, we can use blending to create similar profiles. Two, we can achieve more complexity in the finished wines. I can take one component that is highly aromatic but lacking in texture and blend it with another component that has a wonderful mouthfeel but lacks aromatic intensity and thus the result could be an aromatic wine with a great mouthfeel. One particularly fun blending method is to have several people come up with a different blend and then taste them blind as a group to see if there are any clear winners. This is the method my team and I used to blend a new Pinot Noir project we are calling the “Five-Barrel” program. It’s a joint project with our Pinot Noir Educator, Adam Lee.
We are essentially picking five of our best Estate Pinot Noir barrels and creating a blend to highlight the amazing quality of our estate vineyard. I, alongside Assistant Winemaker, William Thiersch and Cellar Master, Matthew Hunter, met with Adam Lee joined by Morét Brealynn. Each of us then tasted through thirty different barrel samples. We each came up with our own unique blend of five barrels which we thought would work best together. After assembling “lab” blends we randomized them all and tasted through them blind (without knowing who created which blend). After evaluating the different blends, we then ranked them and chose our favorite. Our goal with this method is to create the “best” wine and I am thrilled with the wine that was blended during this exercise. The exercise was successful and brought us closer together as a team. The fact that any one of us could have won highlights the spirit of collaboration that I love being a part of.
We also have had the opportunity recently of leading blending sessions for one of our restaurant partners, Sushi Ran restaurant in Sausalito, California. Each year, I lead the Sushi Ran team through a blending exercise to determine the best blend for their private label Chardonnay offered exclusively at the restaurant. Again, it is a great way of achieving maximum complexity and, in this case, also ensuring the blend meets the needs of the specific customer.
Blending Session with the Sushi Ran Team
On behalf of the entire team here at Ron Rubin Winery, we wish you all continued good health!