Spring Report

I’m already feeling optimistic about the growing season! Here at the winery and really most of California we’ve received above average rainfall. Our reservoirs are full, and we have a decent snowpack in the Serria’s. This is the second year in a row that we have had a much-needed wet winter. This bodes well for very healthy start to the season! The other important factor is we’ve had very consistent temperatures throughout March, and it’s kept bud break right on schedule. Historically we’ve experienced the vines awaking right around March 20th which puts the vineyard on a good path to reaching full ripeness at the beginning of September. With all the rains it was a concern that we would have another late year like last year. Fortunately, the temperatures have been a bit warmer, and we witnessed the first bud emerge on March 18th. Almost two weeks earlier than last year.

 Ron Rubin Estate VineyardHere we have a young grape bud just about to open!

The rain has obviously been a huge boost for the region, but it also presents some challenges. Across Sonoma County vineyard crews are working hard to catch up on pruning and ground cover management. Rainy days and saturated soil prevent crews and tractors from getting into the vineyards and doing the things that need to be done to get the vines ready to start the season. Our vineyard crew got in and pruned about a week prior to bud break on dry days. The main reason you don’t want to prune in wet weather is the rain/moisture causes the fresh pruning cuts to be susceptible to fungal and bacterial infection from spores being carried in the water droplets.

Ron Rubin Estate Vineyard
A fully emerged grape bud, in another few days you’ll be able to see the grape clusters!

The rain has made getting into the vineyard with tractors and mowing equipment difficult without the tractor sinking and getting stuck in the mud. Clearing the grass and weeds out from under the vines is important to promote air flow around and under the vines. Now that the buds have emerged the vines are in danger of frost damage if we have freezing temperatures throughout April going into May. Air flow around the vines prevents cold air from settling and damaging the fragile grape tissues.

 Ron Rubin Estate Vineyard
A freshly pruned and tied Pinot Noir vine. We even got into the vineyard to cut the grass!

Now that we have made through the main rainy season and budbreak, frost season has officially started. It’s a stressful time of year for grape growers. One bad frost event can almost wipe out the entire crop. It has been on the warmer side but that’s no guarantee that mother nature will be kind this month. We use overhead water sprinklers in our estate vineyard, it is the most effective method to prevent damage to the fragile buds. The concept seems odd at first but it’s highly effective at protecting the buds. When the temperature is above 35F we turn on the sprinklers which douse the vines in water which then freezes and forms a thin layer of ice around the newly emerged buds. The buds are held in a cocoon of ice in which holds the temperature at thirty-two degrees and prevents them from getting colder. Under thirty-two degrees the vines would take damage, but this protective layer of ice keeps them just above the critical freezing point!

On behalf of the entire team here at River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, we wish you all continued good health!

Be Well,