Joe’s Winemaking Notes: January 2019
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
At Ron Rubin Winery, it’s been another rewarding and interesting year. Fermentations are complete, and the wines needing oak aging are nearly all in their barrels. We’re looking ahead to another great year. On January 1, I always find it worthwhile to reflect on the experiences of the year just ended.
The year started out with a sense of gratitude, in that we had made it through the difficulties encountered in 2017. The winery and our vineyards hadn’t been damaged by the wine country fires, and all employees and their families were safe. The wild vintage of 2017 was uniquely challenging; providing good quality, but small in quantity. As 2018 arrived, the entire team was ready for a fresh start and a sense of normality, in the new year.
The winter season was indeed very different than the previous year, with cold temperatures and rainfall slow to arrive. Yet, once we entered March, the needed rain started to fall, and it left us with plenty of water to get through the season. Delays in bloom and veraison pushed our harvest dates back to times more typical of the 1990s and 2000s, later than we’ve become accustomed. Once we finally picked our last vineyard, the large amount of fruit, great quality, and the rewards from being patient were fully apparent. We’ve been consistently impressed by these young wines, as we track their progress, and expect to have some beauties to bottle, in 2019. The patience theme will be useful as we enjoy the 2018 wines, with their grapes’ concentration and bold acidity. They’ll be long-lived!
Other successes included the establishment of several breeding pairs of owls in the nesting boxes, the complete elimination of herbicides throughout the property, and the launching of our highly successful and award-winning Trained For “Saving Lives” program, created by Ron Rubin.
Throughout California, Ron Rubin Winery has donated over 186 AEDs to winery tasting rooms and still counting. Each AEDs has a value of $1,700, and each winery has the responsibility of an American Red Cross training, for their staff. Each day, California becomes more heart safe, in the possible event that CPR or an AED would be necessary. All of these 186 wineries are now Trained For “Saving Lives,” with over 1,000 newly trained staff members ready to take action, if and when necessary.
The vines are in their fully dormant state, waiting out the cold and wet days of winter. This is when we evaluate each and every one of our 12,000 vines. We can actually see the “bones” of the vines, without their covering of leaves, allowing us to select the strongest ones for supporting the new year’s crop.
Our vineyard manager Alvaro Zamora is making some dramatic changes in a few blocks of our vineyard, as he prunes the hardened wood. Below you can see the upgraded trellis structure, with the addition of a short cross-arm to the vertical post. This cross arm will carry two wires supporting the fruiting canes, as opposed to a single wire on the post. It may not look like a big change, but we anticipate big quality gains.
• Separate the clusters horizontally, increasing airflow, and reducing the likelihood of mildew or Botrytis rot
• Add width to the leaf canopy, which has the potential to reduce sunburn during hot spells
• Provide flexibility in managing cane length, bud counts, and the vine yield
• Remove permanent cordon arms, reducing the likelihood of vine vascular disease
Before Trellis Modification
After Trellis Modification
LOOKING AHEAD IN 2019
One of our core goals, at Ron Rubin Winery, is implementing “Kaizen.” This is a concept that originated in Japan and is the practice of continuous improvement. This carries over to everything we do, and means that we will always have new innovations to share with you!
I’ll be coming back to you every month in 2019, with updates and more information about the techniques we employ, to grow the best grapes and make the best wines possible. Ed Morris’ Cooper Notes will return, introducing more concepts and explaining why these old-school vessels are still one of our most impactful winemaking tools. Some of the most exciting developments in the wine world are occurring in this sphere, so he’ll have interesting notes to share with you.
The past year has been a successful one for us, for which we have a lot of gratitude.
• We had an incredibly dedicated harvest team, who made it possible to bring in near-record quantities of grapes, from the vineyards into the winery.
• New staff members Christina LoMedico and Brittany Sapp brought engagement and cheer to our front office.
• Our “Dream Team” of advisors gave us the knowledge and resources to increase the quality of grapes harvested.
• The 2018 vintage wines are our best yet, the business continued to grow, and the entire team enjoyed good health all around.
Here’s to 2019!
Next year will certainly be a unique one, as the idea of a “normal” year is now hard to grasp. Wild swings of climate, yields, and timing of events mean we’ll have to remain nimble, but we’re ready for the challenge. Thank you for following along with us!
From all of us at Ron Rubin Winery,
Have a prosperous, healthy, and happy New Year!