In 2012 and 2013, we were coming off of a few cooler vintages during which we opted to co-ferment viognier with our Syrah. Beginning in 2012, we entered into a warmer, drier period and Viognier was left hanging on the vine through Syrah harvest. So, we did what anyone would do, we waited another couple of weeks and picked the sweetest, most crinkly raisins imaginable, and extracted this tiny production of Late Harvest Viognier.
A quintessential Ballard Canyon growing season (low humidity, high winds, cold nights) allowed for the Viognier to dehydrate on the vine without botrytis – creating a clean desert wine without mushroom notes.
AT THE WINERY
The Viognier fruit arrived at the winery at a sky high 39 brix of sugar. Foot trod for hours on end, then left crushed, to macerate and pick up even more flavor from the skins and pulp. After another 24 hours soaking, we pressed the wine overnight on a long, high-pressure 12 hour cycle. The goal of all this effort was to extract the tiny bit of syrupy elixir from the dehydrated grapes.
Normal winery presses aren’t strong enough to extract the syrup from hard raisins like the ones we harvested on November 14, 2013. Nope, the only way to eek a bit of liquid out is to stomp, and stomp, and stomp. After all that effort, we left it to mother nature to decide how sweet the final wine would be, and our ambient yeasts still swarming around the winery finishing up our red wine ferments, brought the Late Harvest all the way past the 14% alcohol mark – kudos, yeast!
Deep amber in color the wine doesn’t appear to be a typical late harvest wine – after all – it spent 3.5 years resting in barrel like an old world fortified wine. First impression hits with marmalade and butter on top of fresh rye bread – a toffee note hits – and then one realizes the elegance and balance of the wine. A fun yin and yang of lemon v. honey keeps me coming back for more, reinforced by some uber delicious poached pear. As I drain my first small glass (and note, I don’t consider myself a sweet wine drinker) the full crème brulee profile hits me over the head and I can’t relate the wine to anything other than decadent custard and crisp burnt sugar.