This sweet vermouth came about sort of by mistake (one we’re thrilled by!). It starts with a wine base of 100% Flora, a cross between Sémillon and Gewürztraminer developed by Harold P. Olmo, a professor at the UC Davis, in 1938. They add a number of fruits and herbs to infuse, including home-grown blood oranges, sour cherries, and cardoons. Drink over ice while you’re cooking dinner, or whenever you want an amazing, slightly sweet and subtly bitter liquid treat.
Each year the fruit was picked very late, with some botrytis and raisins at harvest. Besides the natural high sugar, the must was sweetened further by chaptalizing with organic cane sugar, to around 45 brix.
The grapes were fermented whole cluster (skins and stems) in open-top fermenters with manual punch downs twice a day. We let the fermentation stop naturally, with 120-170 grams per liter of residual sugar remaining due to the high brix when the grapes were crushed, and pressed the wine into partially full used barrels.
We added no sulfites during elevage and didn’t top, instead allowing the wine to slowly oxydize and develop the wonderful nutty and dried fruit flavors. The two vintages were barrel aged between eight and thirty-two months.
To complement the natural grape aromas of the Flora we made infusions of our own home-grown blood oranges and sour cherries, along with coriander seed that we purchased. The infusions were made in a base of high-proof neutral grape spirits.
The bittering was mainly done by adding an infusion of our own home-grown cardoons, but we also purchased cinchona bark, wormwood, and blessed thistle to infuse for a little more complexity.
The two vintages were blended and the infusions added into the wine right before bottling.
The wine was bottled unfiltered. 590 cases of 375ml bottles were produced.
The Napa Valley Sweet Vermouth No. 3 makes a great boulevardier, blood and sand, negroni, manhattan, or even better, can be served neat as an aperitif or to accompany dessert.