Note: The Robert Rue Winery was sold to Kirk Venge in 2016. The new name of the winery is Croix Estate.
“Rue the Day” is the catchphrase at Robert Rue Vineyards. It really should be “Rue the Day” for those wineries that lost out when Robert Rue and his wife Carlene stopped selling their old vine Zin grapes and decided to start making their own wine from these prized grapes. Robert Rue Vineyards is unique in character in that, not only are the Zinfandel vines over 100 years old, but also the vineyard is sprinkled with Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchet, and Carignane. Yes, an old field blend where all the grapes are harvested together. That is how wine was made in the old days.
It was in 1973 that Robert and Carlene Rue decided to purchase a small ten-acre ranch of Zinfandel vines in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. But it was not until 2001 that the Rues stopped selling their grapes and began to make their own wine under the guidance of Carol Shelton, and now Dan Barwick, as consulting winemaker. We first tasted the Robert Rue wine, a 2004 vintage, a few years back at the ZAP tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco. What a delicious Zinfandel we thought, and when we heard that Robert Rue Vineyards had recently opened a tasting room we headed up north on Highway 101 to the winery. Like so many small wineries, this one is such a treat and a joy to visit. We got a tour of the vineyards and winemaking facility from both Robert and Carlene, and we heard first hand their struggles and fortunes of making a go of their winery. What fun to open a bottle of wine when you have met the owners and know the story behind the making of the wine.
In the tasting room, we sampled 2005, 2006, and 2007 vintages. Perhaps it’s the fact that wines are made from 100-year-old field blend vines, but this Zinfandel has a character all its own. 2006 was our favorite of the tasting. It is smooth and elegant but rich in flavors. No harsh tannins; in essence, a superb dinner wine.
Just last year, the Rues decided to plant some Sauvignon Blanc. It will take a couple of years to yield enough grapes to make a sufficient amount of wine. For now, the Rues have purchased Russian River Valley fruit and have a made a very exquisite Sauvignon Blanc wine.
The 2010 vintage for the Rues is going to be a little tougher than usual. You might recall the terrific heat spike of August 24, where temperatures surged over the 100-degree mark. Because of the very mild summer, most of the vineyard managers had trimmed the overhanging canopy that normally provides shade to the maturing grape clusters. The weather outlook called for continued below-normal temperatures. The last thing the farmers wanted was to have the crops not ripen until into November when the heavy rains come. When the heat spike occurred, it caught everyone off guard. The result for Robert Rue vineyards: sun-damaged grapes and perhaps as much as 40% crop damage.
If you plan on visiting Robert Rue Vineyards, nearby are two other interesting wineries. Benovia is a brand new winery loaded with beauty and state-of-the-art winemaking equipment. They specialize in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Also nearby is Battaglini Winery, much in the same character as Robert Rue. All three are a delight to visit and will make for a fabulous wine country getaway day trip. Tasting hours at Robert Rue are Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10-5pm or by appointment Monday through Thursday.
View Robert Rue, Benovia, Battaglini Wineries in a larger map