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The Ron Rubin estate winery incorporates feng shui design concepts in its layout.

Russian River pinot noir and chardonnay ... seriously, some of the very best in the world. So how are the valley and grapes coping after February’s historic flooding there? And exactly what is the Russian River’s connection with Waco?

The Russian River Valley update from some wineries goes as:

The rains continue to fall with another 15 inches falling in March after the 20 inches in February. The grounds are saturated across the valley, creating large runoffs into the Pacific Ocean. While winter is over, sunshine is not on the horizon yet with a very rainy April predicted. May should be dry, finally. The grapes for Russian River will have plenty of water to grow with, and that is fantastic news for Russian River wine fans. 

One effect of the cloudy, rainy weather is that the bud break is coming later as the vines continue to hibernate, protecting their buds until the warmer days of May finally emerge. These vines will fully awaken at a fast pace, giving the valley a lush green cover.

The buds are pushing uniformly across, indicating great consistency. Frosty nights after the rainstorms are still a concern, so many vineyards are bringing out the heaters and torches to prevent buds from freezing.

History Lesson

If you have ever wondered why it is called the Russian River, it is indeed because Russians owned the land in the 1700s, establishing fur trading settlements. It was an uneasy co-existence for decades between Spain, which had claim to America, and Russia. 

Russia established Fort Ross with the help of the local Pomo Indians.

California changed into the hands of Mexico from Spain, and although Mexico had no issues with Russia, General Don Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo encouraged American settlement into Northern California as a way to protect itself from Russian and European aggression and a takeover. 

The Russians abandoned Fort Ross and sold it to none other than John Sutter — my mother’s uncle! Mom’s maiden name is Sutter. This happened before the great Gold Rush, to which John Sutter had discovered one of the largest goldmines on the land Russia sold to him.

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The map shows the Russia River and Green Valley AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).

Incidentally, my mother’s uncle John’s Fort Ross was renamed Sacramento.

Anything and everything named Sutter in California is after this prominent man and the family — including Sutter Home Winery. 

Here is another little known piece of history in the wine world in regard to my family:

Before the Russians abandoned the post, they did leave behind the plantings of fine grapes. Wine was already a big commodity from the huge amounts of travel of immigrants, especially Italian immigrants, by way of the Russian River.

By 1890, there were 250 farmers with a combined 6,000-plus acres of grapes planted. Russian River valley produced one-third of the nation’s wine, but sadly, a phylloxera epidemic lowered wine prices, greatly affecting the farmers.

Then Prohibition began, followed by the Great Depression. Happily, in the 1960s creative growers were able to bring the Russian River Valley back to life. Today, it boasts six appellations in its region and 120 premium wineries.

America lost so much during these times. It would be amazing to have retained these ancient farms and vines. America could have the likes of Old World European wines, buildings and more. Older families in the area can remember the river flooded with salmon and steelhead fish.

The river has undergone great preservation methods from the degradation caused by humans. It is now one of the cleanest rivers in the nation.

Winery in Review

Ron Rubin Winery is located on 10 acres in the Green Valley of Russian River, the coolest and foggiest part of the valley located 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean and its cool breezes.

This is the first place the fog rolls in during late afternoon, and is the last place it burns off the next morning. Situated in the Petaluma Wind Gap, the winery has long cool mornings and the breezes toughen the delicate pinot noir grapes. 

Ron Rubin Winery has achieved its sustainability certification for its continued efforts with water management, owl boxes for pest control, lack of spraying for weeds or insects, solar energy and more.

Ron Rubin has entry-level wines under River Road to the premium shelf collection under the Ron Rubin logo. All are undeniably good.

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Tasting Notes

2016 Ron Rubin Russian River Valley pinot noir — Bright cherry, cranberry and raspberry aromas with hints of spice and herbs. The bouquet has sweet vanilla and berry flavors, gentle oak and acidity. A perfect balance.

A bottle costs $25. Available at and select premium retail outlets.

2016 Ron Rubin Russian River Valley pinot gris — Floral, stone fruit, pear and peppermint aromas. Beautiful flavors of peach, apricot and Asian pear followed by a nice bright mineral finish. 

A bottle costs $20. Available at and select premium retail outlets.