VINEYARD UPDATE – A New Growing Season

As winemakers and grape growers many aspects of what we do are tied into the weather. This time of year, it is important to pay attention to the the yearly rain totals. The official “rain year” runs from July 1st to June 30th the following year. Historically, Sonoma County receives most of its annual rainfall from mid-October through the end of March. That means we only have one more month to anticipate any measurable rain. On average Sonoma County receives 36 inches of rain annually. This “rain year’’ to date we have received just 9.5 inches of rain. That puts us at just around 26 percent of our annual total! Unless we get a large amount of rain in the next month, we would consider this a very dry year. This is a significant development for our vineyard because dry years usually result in reduced crop yield alongside potential early bud break. Early bud break may lead to an earlier harvest and could extend our frost season – more on that later. At Ron Rubin Winery we are fortunate to have Goldridge Sandy Loam soil which is a tremendous advantage in a dry year because of its innate ability to hold moisture. Due to this soil type, our vines will continue to have plenty water available to them despite the dry weather conditions.

Fully pruned Estate Vineyard, February 24th 2021

A dry February has allowed Alvaro and his vineyard team to finish pruning all 10 acres of our Estate Vineyard. While in-process, our winery team had the pleasure of learning more from our Director of Vineyard Operations, Jim Pratt about pruning and vine architecture.

Winemaking Team with Director of Vineyard Operations, Jim Pratt

In our Estate Vineyard 91 percent of the vines are caned pruned, leaving just 9 percent spur pruned. Here are a few things we learned about cane pruned vines and their overall architecture:

  • A cane pruned Pinot Noir vine should have three canes maximum left after pruning
  • On each cane, a maximum of 8 buds should develop
  • On each bud site, you can anticipate 1 shoot with 2 grape clusters on each shoot
  • On average, each Pinot Noir vine has 24 shoots with 2 cluster per shoot and will have an average of 48 grape clusters
  • It takes 5 – 8 Pinot Noir clusters to make up one pound, so on one Pinot Noir vine with 48 clusters, you could have between 6 – 9.6lb of grapes

Pinot Noir with 3 canes left from pruning

Awaiting Bud Break and Frost Season

A lot of factors determine when we will see the vines awaking from their winter slumber. Given this year’s unique conditions our Vineyard Manager, Alvaro Zamora is estimating mid-March. It depends heavily on soil moisture and soil temperatures. We are continuously watching the buds for signs of swelling. They go from a tight structure like they are now to a popcorn or “cotton” stage until the first delicate green leaves emerge.

A young bud before swelling

As soon as the leaves emerge, we enter our frost season. This is when the young, tender vines are susceptible to freezing nighttime temperatures. Alvaro is preparing now by making sure our overhead frost protection sprinklers and water lines are all clear and are functioning as they should. Frost season typically runs from bud break through April (and even as late as mid-May). It is a critical 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 the alert system kicks on and alerts members of our team. From there, it is critical Alvaro or I drive to the vineyard to ensure our frost protection pumps are on. During a bad frost season this can be a nightly vigil. I am hopeful this year mother nature will be kind, wish us luck!

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

Be Well,