Santa Barbara County
There is a good reason dessert wines are rare—they are hard to craft. If something can go wrong in the winemaking process it does, and it has taken me years to build up the knowledge to avoid all the pitfalls.
In the past, successfully making very sweet wine was unusual—dependent on specific weather conditions—and since very sweet things were rare (honey comes to mind) they became sought after. Famous examples from Sauterne and Tokay have always gotten high praise, but today the rest of dessert wine’s many incarnations are rarely discussed or reviewed. Partly this is because they are polarizing wines—with a minority loving them unconditionally and a majority dismissing them. Also, in recent history sugars in drinks (high fructose corn syrup!) became ubiquitous and the interest waned in dessert wines.
Dessert wines can be made in so many ways. From late harvesting, drying the grapes, noble rot infection (botrytis), and natural or manufactured freezing. The common feature of these techniques being to concentrate sugars and aromatics compounds of the grape—and magnifying their attributes. The result is a heady and complex experience.
We have been making dessert wine from Viognier since 1996 and over the years have learned what attributes we like to see in this wine. When choosing to make a dessert wine out of Riesling for the first time, we knew we had the experience, but this great grape surprised us. Riesling’s perfume and natural acidity are wonderful attributes that bring a level of drinkability and deliciousness we hadn’t seen before.
You can’t make real ice wine in California, but making it our way–taking healthy grapes to a commercial freezer—has its advantages. Instead of waiting for a rare day that is cold enough to pick frozen grapes on the vine, we can choose to harvest when the grapes are at the peak of flavor.
Our ice wine grapes are picked, driven to a commercial freezer, and then brought to the winery a few days later for pressing. By pressing grapes while still frozen, ice crystals are left behind, and only concentrated grape juice is recovered. The juice is drained into older barrels for fermentation and aging and then bottled into half bottles in the spring.
The evocative aromas of peach and pear are followed by flavors of honey, peach and buttered toast. This full throttle sweet wine is a perfect match for fruit desserts like pie or cobbler and for the more adventurous has enough floral Riesling character to be used as chutney with spicy southern Indian dishes or Thai cuisine.
Blend: 100% Riesling | Alc: 10.0% | Vinification: 100% Neutral Oak | Barrel Aging: 7 Months | Total Production: 345 cases (325 ml bottle)
Antonio Galloni’s Vinous
“Ojai’s 2013 Riesling Dessert Wine Kick on Ranch Vineyard is soft, pretty and very nicely textured. Jasmine, lychee, spices and mint meld together in an expressive, high-toned sweet wine laced with the essence of white peaches, mint and wild flowers. The 250 grams of residual sugar are barely noticeable in this impeccable, refined dessert wine. Light on its feet, the 2013 should drink nicely for at least a handful of years.”- AG 92 Points
Stephen Tanzer’s Internaional Wine Cellar
“Bright gold. Expansive, exotic pit and tropical fruit scents show excellent clarity and a suave touch of honey. Sweet but lively on the palate, offering sappy mango, pineapple and peach nectar flavors braced by juicy acidity. Clings impressively on the juicy finish, with lingering notes of candied exotic and pit fruits. Bottled in 375-ml. format.” – JR 92 Points