Joe’s Winemaking Notes: November 2015
The 2014 vintage of our Ron Rubin Green Valley of Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir, and the 2014 Cherry Ridge Green Valley Syrah have just been bottled! November is a time when wines from the previous vintage have been maturing in their barrels for the past 12 months and are now ready for bottling. The barrels for each wine were selected for size, based on the needs of that wine variety.
• We have some large barrels, called “puncheons.”They’re 132 gallon barrels, and were chosen for our more delicate Pinot Noirs.
• We also have smaller, 59 gallon barriques for our Syrah. This wine has a great need for oxygen, which is provided in higher doses in these small barrels.
Bottling is an important part of the winemaking process, and can be a stressful one. After many years of effort, growing the grapes and making the wines, we’re very careful not to let anything detract from their beauty. Gentle filtration, if needed, and attention to details are a must.
Detailed notes about these wines will be provided in future emails, and we’re very excited by the potential of the wines! They’re concentrated, yet refined in true Rubin Family of Wines style. Before these wines are offered to you, we’ll be laying them down in the cellar, for another 18-24 months. This will allow them to recover from the journey from barrel to bottle. While bottle aging, they’ll develop additional “bottle bouquet” aromas and textures. “Bottle shock” can be a very real phenomenon, and we wouldn’t want anyone to taste a “stunned” wine, as opposed to the stunning wine we know to exist in the bottle!
Although it’s only November in Green Valley, Harvest seems a distant memory. Our last fermenter was emptied on October 9th, and the young wines are all in barrels, going through malolactic fermentation. They’ll soon be resting, and will remain relatively untouched during the winter months. We do have one exception. Our 2015 Ron Rubin Russian River Valley Chardonnay of Sonoma County will receive a barrel rolling every two weeks, to mix the lees into suspension. This will help the wine develop beautiful, creamy texture that will complement the lovely acidity present in our Russian River Valley Chardonnay, also from Sonoma County.
It was an unusual vintage in the Green Valley on many fronts.
• Early spring (warm winter, less rainfall) in Sonoma County
• Expectations of another large harvest “shattered” (Poor bloom conditions in May, when cool damp weather led to poor fruit set)
• Ongoing concerns about the drought (although we saw minimal impact, and dry farmed for most of the year)
• Hen and chicks clusters (small and big berries in the same clusters) led to worries of uneven ripening in Pinot Noir, and a short ripeness window
This was the earliest start for harvest in my 18-year winemaking career, with our first grapes for still wine being picked on August 19th. This was a good two weeks before a normal harvest. We also brought in our Green Valley Syrah on September 30th, a real surprise for a variety that often hangs into November in coastal Sonoma County before ripening! These harvested grapes and young wines are showing that they’re potential blockbusters. They show great concentration and potent flavors, with varietally true aromatics and are deeply colored. The biggest challenges were keeping up with the fast pace of ripening, and bringing grapes into the winery before sugar levels (and resulting alcohol content) rose too high, and acidity dropped too low. Our efforts have really paid off. The wines in our cellar are some of the best I’ve ever tasted!