Spring in Action

Although Spring officially started on March 20th this year, our vineyard looks to be enjoying its winter slumber and bud break looks to fully begin later than normal. Earlier on in March the conditions looked like the vineyard would begin bud break in the middle of the month, but colder temperatures and mostly cold, dry nights held off the new vine’s emergence from their dormant period. In 2020 bud break occurred on March 20th which was slightly later than 2018 and 2019 vintages. Currently, we are about 7-10 days behind previous vintages. With bud break occurring later this year, it could bode well for wine quality. It has the potential to push our grape harvest to a later date and give the grapes a few more precious days of hang time on the vine which will lead to more fruit concentration. Thus far, only a few buds have emerged primarily in the Chardonnay block of the vineyard.

An emerging Chardonnay bud in the Estate Vineyard

Alvaro and the vineyard team are ready to protect the newly emerged vines from damaging nighttime frost. Entering April, nighttime temperatures have stayed relatively warmer, however we have had to turn on our protection system once so far to aid the small number of emerging buds thus far. This system is set to protect vines if temperatures reach 34 degrees or lower. However, frost management does not just include turning on our watering system. It also includes necessary ground management work like removing weeds from under the vines to help promote better airflow. This airflow provides additional protection to the vines, versus stagnant air which can promote freezing of the vines.

Alvaro providing ground management in the Vineyard

Barrel Topping

During the barrel aging process one aspect we must pay close attention to is the evaporation of wine that happens on a consistent basis. Within the industry, this is referred to as the “angel’s share.” Whatever you choose to call it; it presents a few challenges. As the wine evaporates out of the barrels it creates “head space” or a void in the top. This void may have oxygen in it. In winemaking, it is not ideal to have oxygen in contact with the wine in barrel. Oxygen can lead to spoilage and pre-mature aging so we must remain vigilant to prevent spoilage by “topping” or refilling the barrels with fresh wine every month. Personally, this remains one of my favorite monthly tasks as it gives me the opportunity to taste and check on the progression of our wines as they slowly age in the cellar.

Barrel topping with the 2020 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

At the Winery, we use oak to influence the wine in the following ways:

  • Oak barrels contribute pleasant aromas and flavors to our barrel aged wines.
  • Oak barrels contribute oak tannins to the wine which are powerful antioxidants, these help to keep the wine fresh and youthful.
  • Barrel aging allows for very slow ingress of oxygen into the wines. This is a driving factor in a wines evolution process which leads to its development of depth and complexity.

Educational Tastings

This past month, I had the opportunity to lead educational trainings with a new sales team member. I presented two different sensory “Sweet Spot” tastings focused on Chardonnay.

The sensory activity set-up using Chardonnay

The first sensory experience was focused on acid and sugar levels in Chardonnay. I set up several different levels of acid and sugar combinations in the same wine to show and taste through the dramatic differences these two adjustments can make to a finished wine. The second sensory tasting was on different alcohol levels using a finished wine. I set up a single wine with four different levels of alcohol to show the influence alcohol can have on a wine’s aromas and flavors. These types of exercises are an amazing tool to help us educate about the different aspects of winemaking. They are valuable to help train one’s palate to recognize important quality parameters in a wine. I am looking forward to continued collaboration and education with our Winery Team!

On behalf of the entire team at Ron Rubin Winery, we wish you all continued good health!

Be Well,