Spring has been hesitant to take hold this year, the weather has been somewhat cooler than normal. However, we remain on track to hit a normal harvest window. The weather here in Sonoma County remains top of mind. Coming off a historically dry year in 2020 (it was the third driest year since 1895), to date California has only received a fraction of the rain this season needed to replenish its water supplies. On April 21st, the Governor of California declared a drought emergency for Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. Currently there is no requirements for farmers to use less water in Sonoma County, but it has not been ruled out yet. On one hand, wine quality can increase when it is a drought year by concentrating flavors and aromas. On the other hand, it is almost a guarantee that the grape vine yields will be diminished, reducing the amount of wine made this year.
The silver lining for the vineyard however is that grapevines handle drought extremely well. Currently, we monitor our soil moisture reserves via various moisture probes in the vineyard. These allow us to understand when it is vital to irrigate. The vines are not in danger, in fact grapevines are one of the most efficient permanent crops in California in terms of water usage. Still, efficient water management during a drought is an important aspect we must pay attention to as the year progresses.
Sustainable Practices Continue
Back in January, I discussed the Winery’s commitment to Sustainability. We remain true to the fact that in everything we do, at our winery and beyond we believe in caring for the planet and the people who call it home. It is a commitment that benefits our employees, our visitors, our business partners, and the community at large. We are proud of our current certifications in Sustainability:
• Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified
• California Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance
Now, I am excited to announce our newest venture in Sustainability by participating in a new pilot program – the Climate Adaptation Certification program. This program was created by the California Land Stewardship Institute with an intended goal to limit carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions while focusing on carbon sequestration to improve the health of the soil and vineyard. The program organizers used a state-of-the-art software program to evaluate our site features such as soil type, cover crops, tillage practices, irrigation, and nitrogen use. They also considered natural areas such as trees and native grassy areas. All this information was used to develop our own custom land management program specifically designed to sequester as much carbon as we can.
Some of the site features here at the winery which help us sequester carbon are as follows:
- Our property is home to 35 native oak trees. These oaks are a natural way of sequestering carbon. One oak tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
A native oak tree on our Estate
- Our tilling practice has been reduced by only tilling every other vineyard row per year. Reduced tilling adds organic matter (carbon) to the soil. Tillage removes carbon from the soil and releases in into the air as carbon dioxide.
A completed tilled row to the left. The right row will remain without tillage
- We plant cover crops in the vineyard rows. The roots and shoots from the cover crop feed bacteria, fungi, earthworms, and other soil organisms which increases soil carbon over time.
Cover crops in a vineyard row
As of now there are twenty grape growers in Sonoma County that are participating in the program. These growers represent almost 1,900 acres of vineyards. Based on these 20 sites, up to 2,184 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents can be removed annually from the atmosphere. This equals the annual equivalent of charging 278 million smart phones or the electricity consumed in 370 homes or the equivalent of 5.4 million miles driven by passenger cars each year! We want to thank the California Land Stewardship Institute for creating this program and giving us the opportunity to participate. We are thrilled to learn how we can minimize our impact and be a force for good by maximizing our carbon sequestration!
On behalf of the entire team here at Ron Rubin Winery, we wish you all continued good health!