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California Dreamin'

Many of us are dreaming of places we’d like to travel to but can’t right now so instead, we are navigating through websites, movies, books and food to vicariously enjoy an otherwise unattainable and hopefully, short-lived situation. I have been traveling far and wide exploring wine regions around the world, one glass at a time. Today my wine glass and I are off to sunny California to taste Ron Rubin wines.

Ron Rubin
Ron Rubin is no stranger to wine. Having grown up in the wine/spirit wholesale business that his father started in 1950 in Illinois, Ron decided to pursue a degree in viticulture and enology at UC Davis in the early 70s. Bitten by the bug of California wines, Ron started adding wines to the company portfolio. Ron recalled, “The salesmen could not understand how to sell these wines. What I learned early on was that I needed to take our team to California, visit the wineries, learn, and then come back to sell the wines. It worked.”

Ron Rubin; Photo icredit: Ron Rubin Winery

It wasn’t until late 2011, that Ron fulfilled a 40-year dream and purchased River Road Family Vineyards and Winery in the Green Valley AVA, a subzone of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. The winery sits in the mid-slope “sweet spot” of the Green Valley.

Green Valley – Russian River AVA
Although Green Valley is one of the smallest appellations in Sonoma, it is the most consistent of any North Coast appellation in terms of soil, climate and flavor. Its trademark is the fog and Goldbridge soil.

The fog that originates at the Petaluma Wind Gap in the coastal mountains defines Green Valley. Due to Green Valley’s proximity to the gap, this is the first place that the fog rolls in and the last place to burn off. Because of this, Green Valley encounters cooler morning temperatures for a longer period, more so than the northern parts of the Russian River. Temperature shifts are subtler here and the cool marine climate, cooler daytime readings and long growing season allow the grapes to slowly develop character and flavor as well as retain acidity and balance of sugars. This, in turn, adds to the complexity, aromas, lower alcohol and freshness of the wines.  

Goldridge soil is the most predominant type of soil here. It is 60% sand, 10% clay and 30% silt particles that are the remains from an ancient inland sea dating back three to five million years ago. The soil consists of a top layer of fine sandy loam that covers a subsoil of sandy loam and fractured sandstone. The soil provides good drainage and excellent, natural chemical balance. This is a perfect growing environment for cool-climate grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Goldridge soil    Photo courtesy thepressdemocrat

River Road Vineyards/Ron Rubin Winery
The winery has nine acres of vineyards of which 6.5 acres are devoted to growing Pinot Noir and 2.5 acres are for growing Chardonnay. Ron also buys fruit from a carefully chosen handful of growers, three of whom have been selling fruit to the winery for decades. The winery is both SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certified and Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. 

Photo credit: Ron Rubin Winery

With his head winemaker, Joe Freeman, Ron produces two well-defined brands, Ron Rubin Wines and the River Road collection.

I received seven bottles of wine representing both brands.

River Road Collection
Most of the wines in this portfolio are priced from $14-$20, with the exception of a Pinot Noir priced at $30. The portfolio includes an extensive range of wines established by the winery’s former owners. Ron believes that good wine should be accessible, “exceptional wines at a great value.”  A signature of this collection is its easy drinking style. Ron says, “I’m a fan of low alcohol wines. I keep the alcohol in check to produce elegant wines that you can enjoy, glass after glass.”


Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2019
Chardonnay grapes are sourced from both estate-owned and family-owned vineyards. This is a fresh, light wine with nice aromas of citrus and hints of honeysuckle.  A palate of green apple, grapefruit, pear and crisp acidity makes this quite refreshing.
Alcohol:  12.5%
SRP:  $14

Reserve Chardonnay 2018
Chardonnay grapes for this wine are sourced from the Russian River Valley. The wine is aged in both oak barrel and stainless steel tanks.

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Floral, pear and vanilla aromas segue onto the palate with hints of citrus, apple, peach and lemon zest on the finish. Bright acidity and a creamy mouthfeel blend well together.
Alcohol:  13.7%
SRP:  $18

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are sourced from the Alexander Valley. This wine is aged for nine months in French and American oak barrels. A juicy bouquet of berries, plum and baking spice continue onto the palate with blackberry, strawberry, dark cherry and toasted oak. Fresh acidity rounds out the palate with a smooth and pleasant mouthfeel.
Alcohol:  13.9%
SRP:  $25

Pinot Noir Stephanie’s Cuvée 2017
Pinot Noir grapes are sourced from Green Valley and the wine is aged in 20% new French oak barrels.

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

This wine opens with a bouquet of ripe red fruit, floral, baking spice and a touch of blueberry and raspberry. The palate offers lush blackberry, raspberry, spice, cocoa and a dollop of dark cherry and vanilla on the finish. It is a smooth blend of fresh acidity and tannins.
Alcohol:  14.3%
SRP:  $30

Ron Rubin Collection
These wines are mostly made with Russian River fruit made from blends of different estates that add complexity and consistency from year to year. Winemaker Joe Freeman says,“Differences in terroir are more important with Pinot Noir. For Chardonnay, it’s the clones that have more impact.”  The wines carry a price tag of $14-$25. 

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Pam’s UN-Oaked Chardonnay 2018                                                          
When Ron Rubin bought the winery, his wife Pam asked him to please make an un-oaked version of her favorite white grape, Chardonnay. Ron and Joe Freeman set to work and one year later, Pam’s UN-Oaked Chardonnay made its debut. 
The grapes for this wine were sourced from Clarksburg, Lodi and Mendocino County. This is a fresh fruit, off-dry wine with plenty of juiciness and moderately low-alcohol. Citrus, lots of pear, sweet apples and nectarine envelop the palate. It is balanced with just the right blend of alcohol, acidity and sugar. And yes, there is the slightest hint of effervescence.                        
Alcohol: 12.5% 

SRP:  $14                                                               

Ron Rubin Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2018                         
Grapes were sourced and handpicked from an intricate blend of clones in the winery’s favorite vineyards. The grapes were barrel fermented with a mix of French and American oak. After fermentation, the wine was aged for over six months in oak barrels with another six months or so in the bottle.

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Pear, tart apples and baking spice greet the nose with an abundance of juicy pear, apples, honeydew and hints of minerality that entertain the palate. A creamy texture with a balance of bright acidity adds to the structure of this wine.
Alcohol: 13.7%
SRP: $20        
Ron Rubin Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2017                               
​This wine is made mostly from Green Valley grapes grown on the estate with some grapes acquired from a few local, family vineyards. The wine was aged in new French oak barrels.

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Aromas of ripe red fruit, sweet spice, cherry, berries and a hint of herbs lead to a palate of sour cherry, cranberry, ripe red fruit, vanilla and a touch of earth. Soft tannins and crisp acidity round out this fruit-driven wine.
Alcohol:  13.7%
SRP:  $25

All of these wines are light, food-friendly and price approachable and they are fun to drink. Pour a little California sunshine in your wine glass!

​Until next time…




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