Magical Mold

Sentiments were bittersweet at the winery today, as the very last of the 2012 vintage Ram’s Gate fruit arrived around 3 pm.  Bringing what must have been his ten thousandth 1/2-ton bin this year to the scale, Asst. Winemaker Jesse, with a look of genuine surprise and a touch of forlorn, said, “It feels weird knowing this is the last day I’ll be doing this [this year].”

“Happy or sad, Jesse? Happy or sad?” I teased, recalling how many consecutive 12- and 14- and even 16-hour days he’s worked. (Too many to count.)
After a pause more reflective than my casual intonation deserved, Jesse decided on,


Although everyone has been working their socks off and deserves at least a full month somewhere warm with sun and sand and water and alcoholic beverages that they did not themselves have to produce, there’s always something a touch sad about an ending, even of something so demanding.

An ending is a marker in time, which begs acknowledgment of the fact of time and of its passing, through endings and beginnings and on and on. The cycles repeat but each iteration is as unique as a snowflake. With another vintage budded, blossomed, fruited, matured and picked, the vines are once again barren, stretching their now orangey-brown arms across wet and grass-covered hills, waiting for winter to set them into a 2 month spell of dormancy.

–Wish I could learn this trick, by the way. I don’t function well either in the cold and would love to just take a snooze and wait out the devastating cold. Sometimes evolution just doesn’t pull through for us Homos (sapiens) (sapiens).–

The fruit that came in today was Sauvignon Blanc. It’s the first year we’ll make a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc and was apparently the brainchild of some of our Wine Education Staff (your gracious wine hosts, if you’ve experienced a tasting at Ram’s Gate). A few of them got to talking about how they love late harvest Sauvignon Blancs, that they’re hard to find, and wondered if we at Ram’s Gate would ever or could ever make one.

“Challenge accepted,” said the winemaker.

And truly a challenge it is to produce a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc.

The Facts.

Fruit ripens on the vine. For most fruit, vintners go to great lengths to prevent mold from growing. For late harvest whites, this is the name of the game:

The name: Botrytis

What it is: a neoctrophic fungus (neoctrophic = parasitic = not a reciprocal relationship / one party benefits at the other’s expense, although in this case, we like the way the ‘damage’ tastes)

What it does: dehydrates the fruit, removing the water to leave a concentration of flavors and acids

The result: a more concentrated wine with more apricot and honey flavors that you get because the fruit had longer ‘hang time’ on the vines and were able to produce higher levels of sugars

In short: Very delicious wine, but a real pain in the boots to produce because weather gets iffy and vineyard workers hate to pick it (since the said weather is unpleasant (wet grounds, cold mornings) and the fruit is lighter than normal (dehaydrated berries), which means less dollars per acre.) Gnarly looking, though it certainly is, this neoctrophic fungus produces something that, if there are indeed gods or maybe even just one, and if he/she/it/they drink nectar, is what the stuff must taste like.


Today’s Very Last Fruit for 2012

“Textbook Cluster.” Yum.

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