Nectar of the gods.
That’s what Brad Holstine is shooting for when he makes a late harvest dessert wine.
The winemaker is behind our wine of the week winner — the Husch, 2016 Late Harvest Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer, in a 375 ml bottle at $25.
If you have a wine-lover on your holiday gift list, the Husch gewürztraminer and others in our flight offer sweet treats and are irresistible dessert wines. (See accompanying wine list.)
The Husch showed particularly well. What made it a standout was its lush texture. This is a silky, late harvest gewürztraminer with aromas and flavors of apricot, honey and clove. It’s complex and rich, and it lingers on the palate, sip after sip.
Holstine knows how to cultivate the best results from grapes infected with botrytis. For the uninitiated, this form of infection is known as “Noble Rot,” and those sun-drenched grapes can create delectable, concentrated, sweet wine.
“We’re striving for the highest possible sugar and significant Noble Rot,” Holstine said. “Of course, there comes a time late in the season, when weather turns and nothing is gained from additional hang time. The trick is pushing for everything the vintage has to offer but getting the fruit off at the peak of its late-harvest potential.”
The most gratifying part of making this dessert wine is the Husch tradition of the company pick, Holstine said.
“We come together as a company and pick the final grapes: office, production, sales and tasting room staff all show up with boots on and picking shears,” Holstine said. “When the last cluster is harvested, we then celebrate the end of harvest as a company over a barbecue lunch while tasting through a vertical of older late harvest bottlings. This, to me, is the essence of winemaking: hands-on, family and co-workers.”
Holstine, 48, is the head winemaker and part-owner at Husch, and he has been with the Philo winery since 2003. He’s a graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, with a degree in Environmental Engineering.
The engineer-trained vintner said winemaking turned out to be a great fit for him.
“It’s the perfect blend of art and science,” he said. “This is a job that lends itself to experimentation and rewards attention to detail. I’m lucky to still be crafting wines at our small family winery ... I find it hard to imagine a better career for me.
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Late Harvest Dessert Wines
Husch, 2016 Late Harvest Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer, $25 for 375 ml bottle. ★★★★
If you have a wine-lover on your holiday gift list, the Husch gewurztraminer and others in our flight offer sweet treats, irresistible dessert wines. The Husch showed particularly well and what made it a standout was its lush texture. This is a silky, late harvest gewurztraminer with aromas and flavors of apricot, honey and clove. It’s complex and rich, and it lingers on the palate, sip after sip.
Martinelli Jackass-Hill Muscat of Alexandria, 2013 Russian River Valley, $28 for 375 ml. ★★★★1/2: Aromas and flavors of Gardenia, apricot, peach and honeysuckle. Gorgeous.
Navarro, Cluster-Select Late Harvest Riesling, 2015 Anderson Valley, $20 for 750 ml. ★★★★: A lovely late harvest pick with notes of peach, green apple and a kiss of honey. Striking.
Grgich-Hills, Violetta, Late Harvest, 2013 Napa Valley, $85 375 ml. ★★★1/2: Notes of Mandarin orange, pear and honeysuckle. Sweet, but not over the top. Pretty.
Stony-Hill Semillon de Soleil, 2015 Napa Valley, $30 375 ml. ★★★★: Pretty notes of apricot, pear and a caramel finish. Silky finish. Impressive.