So what is Noble ROT? It is the perfect attack on wine grapes by the benevolent botrytis cinerea. Our 2018 Noble ROT consists of a botryised Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend. Only 50 cases of this wine were made. There are several reasons for this small number. It is easily one of the hardest wines in the world to make great – and I consider our ROT a great botrytised wine. On the plus side, if you nail it, the wines can outlive most of their winemakers. We produced four other Noble ROT wines in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2014 – again very limited. They vanished quickly to people who cherish them.
Weather conditions must be perfect to make a wine with a high degree of botrytis cinerea infection. If weather conditions go wrong at any time, you can easily lose everything, and not make wine at all. This has happened many times to those brave producers in Sauternes, Barsac, or on the steep slopes of Germany, and other rare pockets of land that have built reputations on these wines. At their pinnacle they are very expensive to make, and their prices reflect that, as they should.
One of these, Chateau d Yquem, is what our Noble ROT is modeled after. Our winemaker for this special project is Roger Harrison who has been making these challenging wines in California for over three decades. I personally know of no winemaker in California who can make these wines any better than Roger. That is why I call him, “Mr. Botrytis.” Roger and I go back 30 years to when he worked with Myron and Alice Nightingale on the “Nightingale” wine—arguably, California’s most historic sweet wine. I championed the project; I love these wines, and wish more people had a chance to explore them. Their sweetness has an exotic quality unlike any other sweet wine. They are underdogs who become heroes when the corks are removed. Trust me on this.
Botrytis cinerea is a special fungus the French romantics call “pourriture noble” or in English “noble rot.” This rare fungus, under perfect weather conditions, dehydrates the clusters of grapes with thousands of small punctures, removing water, concentrating the sugars and flavors without excessive heat, like most sweet wines (ice wine being an exception).
Everything must line up perfectly for the great ones, ones with the concentration of our 2018 Noble Rot. The grapes were picked by hand, sometimes grape by grape, to reach the needed high-levels of sugar – for us in 2018, 39.8 brix. This wine was aged in used French oak barrels and bottle aged a total of five years.
ROT is TOR spelled backwards or read in a mirror. Our 2018 Noble ROT is a bottle of luscious nectar. The finish creates dichotomy between sweetness and freshness, that ultimately leaves you wanting more. It is ready to enjoy now but will continue to prove its greatness for decades to come.