Late harvest is a term applied to wines made from grapes left on the vine longer than most other wine grapes. The grapes themselves are often raisined, or nearly so, but have been naturally dehydrated on the vine. We allow botrytis to develop—a beneficial fungus that, in response to the humidity of warm days and cool, misty mornings, shrivels the fruit of its water content but preserves its acidity and natural sugars. It takes careful cultivation—and ideal conditions—to foster the growth of this fungus (botrytis cinerea, also called “the noble rot”), for if the weather is unremittingly damp, or rains come shortly before harvest, the botrytis spores run rampant, causing “gray rot” that spreads throughout the clusters, spoiling the fruit.
Even in favorable conditions, harvest workers typically have to go through the vineyard several times to hand-pick the choicest bunches; and often the usable grapes from a single vine may only produce enough juice for a single bottle.
You’ll find that we have been successful once again with a small lot of Riesling that we fostered through the late fall months of 2011 and were rewarded with an amazingly concentrated and intensely flavored after-dinner wine. Rich and sweet, there’s a very desirable honeyed and complex nature to both its aromas and flavors, reminiscent of dried apricot, tangerine and vanilla.