Rotten Grapes At Their Best
Sometimes a wine is evocative of its place in this world. And I don’t mean in some figurative, allegorical way, like we all have a “place” or whatever; I mean it evokes a literal, physical place. Its home.
That’s the villa at the Ferrari-Carano Winery in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. It’s pretty impressive, as are the rest of the grounds and the pair of tasting rooms.
My wife and I visited, and befriended a fellow with a French accent named Philippe down in the Reserve tasting room where they serve up the good shit. I’m not saying the other wines at F-C are plonk, but then, I don’t know. What I do know is that this particular wine—a white dessert wine in the Sauternes style—is fantastic.
It was the last of a series of wines I tasted while sitting in the underground tasting bar surrounded by people who—by virtue of my eavesdropping, I could tell—knew a lot less about wine than they were trying to let on to their guests, or dates, or whathaveyou. In my experience, the more crowded a tasting bar is, the more likely you are to be around people pulling shit like that; partially this is because the more crowded the bar is, the more people there are, and because it’s harder to pull the ear of someone who works there, interested as they are in educating and chatting up their wine.
I think this is why Philippe liked me. Not necessarily because I know anything more or less than some of the others present, but because I don’t pretend to know what I don’t. I like to think that’s apparent when you meet me. So when I asked him if this wine, made up as it is of 90% semillon and 10% sauvignon blanc, was indeed botrytized, he smiled in the affirmative, and I knew I was in for a treat.
Botrytized? If you don’t know, the fungus that rots semillon grapes to give Sauternes wine its distinct sweetness is called botrytis cinerea, or “noble rot.” So it is with Ferrari-Carano’s Eldorado Gold.
As rich and golden as its namesake, the Eldorado Gold gives off the most incredible white raisins and vanilla on the nose. There’s a hint of honey, and a chalklike minerality that could have come straight off the white terrace out front of the villa.
I took a sip expecting great things, and got them: the Eldorado Gold is medium bodied and features dried apricot, honey, caramel and vanilla. The residual sugar makes itself present but doesn’t kill off all the good aromas and flavors that make the wine a delight.