Recently I came across a question on social media. The person wondered if anyone knew of Cabernet Sauvignon being made un-oaked. It is a rarity these days, to be sure.
Cabernet Sauvignon berries are small, giving a greater skin-to-flesh ratio. The skins are where the phenolics reside. Phenolic compounds include tannins, which give texture to the wine, and anthocyanins which give the wine its color. The seeds in Cabernet Sauvignon are also very tannic. Add to that the fact that this is a late-ripening grape that, when picked early, retains green notes, and you can see why some oak influence and aging would be the norm with this wine.
Aging in oak softens the tannins and adds spice to the wine. Of course, the use of oak, which is often new French Oak when dealing with Cabernet Sauvignon, is expensive, and holding the wine while it ages, is also. That would be one of the reasons that so many Cabernet Sauvignons are so pricey.
Back to the original question about Un-oaked Cabernet
I recently received two samples from Ron Rubin Winery. Both were un-oaked, one a Chardonnay and the other Cabernet Sauvignon. Pam Rubin, Ron’s wife, prefers un-oaked wines, so Ron developed this line called “Pam’s Un-Oaked” with his winemaker.
( I received these wines as Media Samples. No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own)
An un-oaked Chardonnay is starting to become a norm. Most Chardonnay producers create oaked and un-oaked versions of their Chardonnay to appeal to a broader audience.
But an un-oaked Cabernet Sauvignon? They are out there, but they are few and far between. The grapes are destemmed and cold fermented in Stainless Steel. So this wine from Ron Rubin was intriguing.
A bit about Ron Rubin
I admit that I was unfamiliar with Ron Rubin when I received these wines. Here is some background on Ron, his business, and the winery.
Ron knew he loved wine early. He studied Viticulture in the early 70s before joining the family business. The family business was in the Beverage Industry, Central Wholesale Liquor Co in Illinois.
He spent 22 years working on the family portfolio. Then in 1994, he read the book “The Republic of Tea.” This book is a series of letters between partners Bill Rosenzweig and Mel & Patricia Ziegler (co-founders of Banana Republic)as they brainstormed and created their company, The Republic of Tea. Ron was so impressed and inspired that he bought the company. I’ll admit that gave me pause (you know I often write about small companies,) but I also admit to being a lover of the Blackberry Sage Tea for Wisdom.
In 2011 he returned to wine, the beverage he fell in love with early on. He purchased River Road Family Winery in Green Valley within the Russian River Valley. From there, he produces estate wines from River Road and then has two other labels, Ron Rubin and Pam’s Unoaked.
This past year the Ron Rubin Winery became a Certified B Corporation. The idea behind B Corps is “Business as a force for good.” This third-party certification is through the nonprofit “B Lab.” Companies are certified based on creating value for the environment and community. Social and environmental responsibility is key to this certification.
(Who else is a B Corp? Well, companies like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and wineries like Bonterra, Piper-Heidsieck, Symington, Viña Concha y Toro, Sokol Blosser, Brooks, Stoller, & Winderlea (yes, there are quite a few in Oregon.)
Want more info on B Corps? https://www.bcorporation.net/en-us/
On to the wines!
Pam’s UN-Oaked 2021 Chardonnay
The grapes for this wine are sourced from Clarksburg and Lodi. These regions south of Sacramento are both known for their Mediterranean climates.
When I stuck my nose in the glass, I found citrus blossom, chalk, green apple, and Meyer lemon. In my mouth, it was bright but softened by additional notes of pear and softer citrus. It has a great balance of acidity and brightness with body.
We paired this with shrimp pasta and found the wine delicious with the dish and on its own.
100% Chardonnay, it sits at 12.5% abv and retails at $14.
Pam’s UN-Oaked Cabernet 2021
This vintage dealt with the drought that affected yields. It was harvested early in September. Compared to other vintages, Ron Rubin found this “lighter-than-usual.”
The grapes were destemmed and cold fermented.
This wine is fresh! It is juicy without being a fruit bomb, with its alcohol level at 12.5%. Not something you typically say with Cabernet Sauvignon.
Drinking this wine was like eating ripe but tart fruit that drips down your chin. It is luscious berry juice with notes of plum skin, red cherry, raspberry, cranberry, and black cherry, with a touch of cedar.
This wine is glou glou, and I enjoyed it slightly chilled. We had it with holiday ham, and it was delicious. It is a delightful red for all year round. It retails for $16.
Often when you get a stainless steel unoaked wine, it can be “simple.” These wines are fresh, vibrant, and straightforward but not simple.
As we sipped, we kept turning to each other and saying, “I like this!” These are not heady wines you must contemplate, but they are not background wines that don’t grab your attention. They sit firmly in between in the space for conversation and joy. These are the perfect wines to enjoy with family and friends over a meal. These are approachable wines—the kind for sharing when the conversation and the wine keep flowing.
Find more infomation about these wines at https://ronrubinwinery.com
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
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