Over 8 inches of rain arrived at our vineyard during the month of December, and was welcomed by us all! If you’ve read these notes over the past three years, I’m sure I don’t need to remind you about the relief the first significant post-harvest rain brings. It signals the end of our seasonal fire risk, and reinvigorates our coastal environment.

One key visual indicator of the arrival of a Sonoma County winter is the changing color palate in the vineyard. No more brown ground, as our perennial cover crop has sprouted up among the vines. The dramatic green is a wonderful contrast to the dormant, almost skeletal grapevines, which have lost their vibrant fall leaf color. I am a big fan of our winter scenery, enjoying its yearly return as much as the first snowfall when I lived in the Midwest!

Cover Crop
Cover Crop

The biggest project in the vineyard the next few months is dormant pruning of the vines, making sure they are ready for spring. We’re hoping a stretch of dry weather will allow us to complete this job under clear skies, but we’ll push ahead regardless. By the time the vines reawaken in mid-March, this task needs to be behind us. Look for a detailed description of the pruning process in next month’s Winemaker Notes.


One understanding that is becoming clearer to winemakers and wine grape growers is the changing nature of the wine world. A surging enthusiasm for innovative wines, along with a saturation in the market for “classic” wines is leading us to explore a wider range of styles. Dry table wine quality has never been better, and it’s a great time to be a wine lover, but many customers are ready for wines that break from traditional molds. We are especially well prepared for this new world of wine, taking our lead from winery owner Ron Rubin. Ron has been innovating in a wide range of beverages (including tea, sparkling water, and wine) for over 40 years.

2019 Wine Innovations
2019 Wine Innovations

Some of the wines we’ve launched in the last year include blends of Chardonnay with Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir with Cabernet Sauvignon. These 50% blends of each join the classic Bordeaux varieties to their counterparts originally from Burgundy. We figured that it was time for a marriage of these two kings and two queens of the wine world!

We’ve also had great success with a lower alcohol, chillable red wine. This wine has connected very strongly to consumers who are, more than ever, open to rule-breaking wines that simply taste great!

A third wine launch in 2019 was our Russian River Valley Rosé in 375 milliliter cans. This wine delivers the beautiful, expressive nature of our Russian River Valley Pinot Noir as a lightly textured rosé wine, and does it in an incredibly accessible way!

Although our Green Valley of Russian River Valley vineyard continues to perform at a very high level (great character and strong yields), we maintain our “Kaizen” approach here. This means continual improvement, searching for ways to improve even when things seem to be working well.

The final block of clone 667 Pinot Noir is undergoing conversion to cane pruning, completing a five year transition to a style of pruning much better suited to our cool, coastal climate. This should ensure continued health and vigor for many years to come.

Clone 667 Pinot Noir Block
Clone 667 Pinot Noir Block

In 2020, we will continue and expand our sustainable winegrowing efforts. The partnerships with California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) and Sustainability in Practice (SIP) continue, and we’re excited to have been selected for a new pilot program offered by Sonoma County Winegrowers and our local Resource Conservation District. The study details have yet to be announced, but a focus will be on preparing vineyards for climate change.

We will tackle the very real challenges that exist due to a changing climate. Farmers are the most resilient folks I know and will certainly find success despite the unique conditions encountered in each vintage. We will continue to incorporate viticultural improvements that enable us to thrive in an unpredictable world.


We continue to support educational programs for our team and are excited about 2020 staff enrollment at University of California, Davis, in winemaking, as well as at Sonoma State University, in a variety of wine business courses. Additional certifications in wine education are on the agenda for the coming year. Lifelong learning is an important goal for all of us!

“Meet the Maker” tastings will continue in 2020, effectively taking the tasting room experience on the road to engage wine lovers who aren’t able to make it to Wine Country. We love sharing the stories behind the wines, and meeting our customers around the country.

Meet the Maker Tasting
Meet the Maker Tasting

As mentioned above, we’ll continue to create new wines that provide insights into the possibilities offered by wine grapes. There is no fruit quite as dramatic and flavorful as a perfectly ripe wine grape! Many possible wine styles have yet to be fully explored, so while the winemaking team and I will continue to make classic, beautiful wines from the Russian River Valley, we will also explore innovative, modern wine expressions.

As we enter a new decade, the whole team at Ron Rubin Winery wishes you a healthy, prosperous and happy New Year!!

We anticipate many more good things in store for 2020, and will keep you updated along the way!