May has brought little relief from our drought concerns here in the Russian River Valley. Even though we have had some cooler temperatures and brief rainstorms around Sonoma County our rain gauge which measures precipitation in our vineyard shows 0.01’’ for the month. A considerably low amount! Due to the dry conditions our soil moisture levels are historically low for this time of year. To put our vines on the right path and even out the vine growth for the 2021 growing season we applied an early irrigation to help charge the vines for the warmer months ahead.
While the weather continues to be a concern, luckily our vineyard remains on track in the vine cycle. Bloom season (also known as flowering) in the vineyard started off on schedule this year. This flowering occurred just about five weeks after budbreak. Four to six weeks post budbreak is typical. This is an important phase where the number of berries per cluster is determined. The flowering clusters emit an amazing sweet, perfumed fragrance throughout the vineyard. It is quite a treat to walk the vineyard during this time! Although honeybees can be found in the vineyard during bloom, they are not essential to the pollination process as grapevines are self-pollinating. The vineyard is well on its way to reaching full bloom potential after which the pollinated flowers will begin to form small green berries. These small green berries will then grow into individual grapes. This is called “fruit set”. Fruit set is the first indicator of how abundant harvest may be.
Flowering in the Vineyard
Another key task that our vineyard crew performed this past month is shoot thinning. This is necessary to manage the vines rapid growth this time of year. By removing excess shoots, we can manage the crop levels for each vine. Shoot removal decreases the number of grape clusters and is essential for keeping the vines in balance.
Vineyard Manager, Alvaro Zamora has also been busy managing the cover crop of grasses and legumes planted between the vine rows. This time of year, the cover crop requires frequent mowing to keep things in-check. It will continue to be a busy time in the vineyard as we work hard to balance the vines to set us up for a great harvest!
A high point throughout the winemaking process for me and my team is when one of our wine blends comes together and we can experience the fruits of our labor. The 2020 Russian River Valley Chardonnay barrels have been selected for our bottling blend and we are starting to empty those barrels into our tanks. Emptying barrels is a delicate process, at this point in the wines life any exposure to oxygen can degrade the quality of the wine.
Barrels of 2020 Russian River Valley Chardonnay
We use a highly specialized winery tool called a gas pressure racking wand. This tool consists of a racking tube that is inserted into the barrel. We then adjust the height of the tube to draw only clean wine off the heavier solids or “lees” that have settled in the bottom of the barrel. Once the racking tube is set, the barrel gets pressurized with nitrogen gas which forces the wine up and out of the tube, through the hose and into the tank. Using an inert gas such as nitrogen to move wine is very gentle on the wine and has the benefit of protecting it from oxidation.
Assistant Winemaker, Matthew Boschetti using the Gas Pressure Racking Wand
Wines for Summer
As we all head into summer, I am extremely excited to introduce a new wine in our portfolio of Chardonnay’s – 2020 River Road Reserve Un-Oaked Chardonnay. This Reserve Un-Oaked Chardonnay is sur lie aged which translates to “on the lees”. After the slow primary fermentation, this wine undergoes an additional four-month sur lie aging period in stainless steel tanks. This leads to aromatic retention, development of soft textural components, and helps to capture a richer and fuller-bodied Un-Oaked Chardonnay. This wine is balanced with flavors of citrus and stone fruits. It goes great with a variety of seafood and chicken dishes. I know you all will enjoy this recently released Reserve Un-Oaked Chardonnay, just as much as I enjoyed making it!
2020 River Road Reserve Un-Oaked Chardonnay!
On behalf of the entire team here at Ron Rubin Winery, we wish you all continued good health!