2018 Once in a Lifetime
Viognier, Ultra Late Harvest
95 points - Antonio Galloni
Each bottle of this sublime dessert wine is like a little miracle. In the vineyard, our quest for extreme ripeness rendered a crop with clusters that were about half raisins, after having been engulfed by the “noble mold” Botrytis. The golden 40 brix! Juice that took a whole day to squeeze out of the shriveled berries had a viscosity which was almost that of a motor oil. To put this in perspective, most of the ripest wines made every year come out of Germany and are in the category of Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA). The threshold for TBA is about 150 to 154 degrees oechsle, which converts to 33 to 35 of the units we use, degrees brix. With any late harvest approach, to go from 30 brix to 35 feels like an order of magnitude in the development of the fruit. It puts you at TBA sugars. To go from 35 brix to 40 feels like a rarely seen, rarely captured, leaving of the stratosphere, as your fruit goes into orbit. On one web site I looked at, the highest level of ripeness even described was 178 degrees oechsle, or 40 brix, right where we are at. I guess they figure that it simply can’t get much higher.
In the cellar, we were very fortunate to not run into the kinds of bacteria that can foil an effort like this, turning it into vinegar. After 160 nerve-racking days of a very slow, yet very clean fermentation, the wine finished at 22 degrees brix. Every bottle of this stuff is now like a golden nugget with the with one of the world’s most horizontally complex, sublimely sweet wine that was made in 2018.
A really nice thing about it is that you can open a bottle and mesmerize your palate with small servings, and when you return what’s left of the nectar to your refrigerator, it stays fresh for weeks, if not months, because the ultra-high residual sugar acts as a preservative. This stuff really doesn’t oxidize.
Once in a Lifetime describes the fact that I will most likely never see the stars of a late harvest wine align like this ever again.