Vineyard Update

When I sit and write these notes I love to go back and review prior years notes for the same month of the year. It’s a good way to gauge how the growing season is tracking comparative to the most recent vintages. The biggest difference for this year is the amount of rain that we have received and the number of freezing nights. In April of 2021 the drought conditions caused the Governor to declare a State of Emergency in Sonoma County. In 2022 the dry conditions persisted, and we received only 80% of our average annual rain totals. Now going into 2023 I’m happy to report we’ve exceeded our average and are at 125% of our average total! The generous amount of rain has us feeling optimistic that our precious grape vines have all the water they need to get off to a great start. So far that is proving to be true. Out in the vineyards I’m seeing very even shoot growth, which is indicative to more even ripening later in the season. Also, at this stage we can see how many clusters each shoot carries. Ideally each shoot will have two clusters which is exactly what I’m seeing.

Ron Rubin Estate VineyardTwo grape clusters

Frost damage was a reality for a lot of growers last year, fortunately this frost season has been far milder. The frost season in 2022 ran from March 26th to May 12th and we had a total of nineteen nights of turning on the frost protection system. The 2023 frost season started on March 31st and really looks like it won’t continue into May (fingers crossed). We have run the frost protection system a total of eleven times so far and the last night was April 20th. The weather has taken a drastic turn to warm days and warm nights. This has kicked the vineyard into high gear, and we are seeing a lot of rapid growth. Within the next month we expect to see bloom where the grapes pollinate themselves and at that point, we’ll be able to assess how successful our spring has been in producing a good crop.

Ron Rubin Estate VineyardIce on the ground during a frosty morning April 19th.

Cover Crop

Cover cropping in a vineyard is one of the less glamorous aspects of grape growing but is an incredibly important one. A cover crop is a key component of sustainable viticulture systems as they have a major and direct impact on the health of vines and the surrounding ecosystem. Growing a cover crop minimizes the use of chemicals which may negatively affect the environment and reduce the physical impact of frequently running heavy equipment on vineyard soil.

A cover crop can be defined as any vegetation grown in between vineyard rows and occasionally under vines without being harvested. We plant our cover crop every fall after the grapes have been harvested. It’s comprised of a mix of different grasses and legumes that all have a purpose in naturally amending the soil with the needed micro and macro nutrients. With the all the rain we have gotten our cover crop has taken off faster than I’ve ever seen before. As soon as the ground dried out enough, we have been out in the vineyard cutting the grasses and removing them from underneath the vine rows. Cutting them and mulching them allows the material to compost back into the soil and is part of the process.

Ron Rubin Estate VineyardSpecial machine that removes the grass from underneath the vines – called a “sunflower”

We also need to remove them from underneath the vine rows, so they don’t work against us in competing with the vines for water and nutrients. We have been busy this past month and are off to a great start to the 2023 growing season!

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

Be Well,