It feels like yesterday when I sat down and provided an update on our current conditions for March 1st, 2021. A full year has passed, and we fortunately had a successful growing season in 2021. The yields were on the lower side, but the quality was high. Moving into 2022, the timing of bud break this year seems much earlier than last year which occurred at the end of March. This year we are expecting bud break to occur within ten to fourteen days from March 1st depending on the weather. Some parts of the county have seen bud break already which is earlier than normal. I am excited to report we have had more rainfall this year than last year, but unfortunately, we are still below the average. Year to date we have seen close to 26 inches which is 72 percent of our historic average. We still have some time left in our rainy season, but we would need a significant amount of precipitation to pull us out of the current drought conditions. Given the conditions thus far this season I would expect the vineyard to be on the earlier side of harvest this year with some yields potentially affected for vineyards that lack the ability to irrigate in what is looking like another dry year.
The vineyard team completing pruning for the Estate vineyard
PRUNING & FROST PROTECTION
Our Vineyard Manager, Alvaro Zamora and the vineyard team finished pruning this past week. The timing of the final pruning pass varies slightly from year to year. This year we waited later into the season to make the final pass to try and help slow down arrival of bud break. This is important because as soon as the buds open, and the green leaves emerge the young tissue is susceptible to damaging nighttime frost. This strategy has already paid off this year as a lot of the earlier pruned vineyards around the county have seen bud break and have had to operate their frost protection systems to protect the young vine shoot from a brutal cold spell that brought temperatures down to as low as 23 degrees Fahrenheit for four nights in a row at our Estate vineyard from February 22nd to February 25th.
A photo of an emerging bud from 2021 – once emerged, buds are susceptible to frost damage
We have prepared for the upcoming frost by making sure our overhead frost protection sprinklers and water lines are clear and functioning as they should. Frost season typically runs from bud break through April (and even as late as mid-May). It is a crucial time for us because frost damage can greatly affect the size of our crop. On potentially freezing nights we monitor the temperature and when it hits a critical level of 36 degrees Fahrenheit, the alert system kicks on and a member of our team drives to the vineyard to turn on the frost protection pumps which then runs that system to cover the vines in water. The water will then freeze and “hold” the vines at 32 degrees Fahrenheit protecting the tissue from damage as the air temperature drops around them. It seems counter intuitive but sometimes you must fight fire with fire, or in our case ice with ice!
Frost settled in the vineyard
HAPPENINGS IN THE LAB
As Alvaro and the vineyard team have been busy in the vineyard, my winemaking team and I have been busy in the lab working on our bottling blends for this upcoming bottling season. The 2021 vintage is turning out to be an exceptional one. As we sample our different wine lots and prepare “lab” blends I am elated in regard to the quality and potential of the latest vintage. Next month I’ll touch on some of our blend trials and share some of our methods for coming up with the “best” blend.
Blind tasting blend trials
On behalf of the entire team here at Ron Rubin Winery, we wish you all continued good health!