In 2010 the conditions in our Sauvignon Blanc vineyard were just right for the development of Noble Rot, a natural mold that winemakers normally refer to as Botrytis. Usually this is viewed as an unwanted event and we do our best to prevent and control the spread of Botrytis that can occur in cool, damp years like 2010. But sometimes Mother Nature takes over and you have to revert to plan B. In this case we harvested all of the clean clusters of Sauvignon Blanc grapes, at their normal time and made our lovely 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes that were affected by noble rot were left on the vine to do their thing; the berries slowly dehydrate, thus concentrating the sugar and flavor potential of the berries.
The rot is called “Noble” because it produces a sweet rich nectar that we can press and ferment into a lovely dessert wine. We came back in the vineyard late in November and harvested the now quite sweet (34 Brix) fruit, pressed the berries and collected the juice. The yield at this point is about half the amount we would get from clean fruit. We fermented the juice down to about 10 Brix (13.5% alcohol) and then stopped the fermentation. The wine was then aged for 18 months in neutral oak barrels to allow the honeyed, rich fruit to mellow to perfection. This style of winemaking is common to the Sauternes region of Bordeaux where wines like Chateau d’Yquem are made.
I named the wine Noblesse in honor of the “Noble” rot that engendered this wine and also as a play on the concept of “Noblesse Oblige” which loosely means if you’re going to call yourself noble, you should act like it. I think this sweet little number does.