Pabuk's Gift Late Harvest Botrytized Chardonnay
A “Once in a Lifetime” Wine
Pabuk’s Gift is our Late Harvest Botrytized Chardonnay, a gift from Typhoon Pabuk. This wine was made from individually hand sorted Chardonnay grapes naturally conquered by Botrytis in the same manner as a German Trockenbeerenauslese (dried berries selection.) Production is 52 cases (375 ml.)
At the end of September just as the Willamette Valley was getting set to harvest, an unprecedented rain event from Typhoon Pabuk dropped over 9 inches of the Pacific Ocean on us in 4 days. This radically changed the harvest plan and in ways we could not have foreseen
We like to harvest our Chardonnay after the Pinot Noir. However, the extensive rains started the Botrytis clock ticking. About the 9th of October we decided we better have a look at the Chardonnay. Sure as grit, there was a fair farmin’ bit of Botryotinia Fuckeliana going down. Ernie likes to see a little bit of this activity before harvest, but this was something other. So we plucked the clusters we could, declared victory and got back to the Pinot Noir.
Well, we can’t have that. Just before an early and stress free harvest, in rolled a little “Mamma Drama” and her new boy toy Typhoon Pabuk. When it rains it pours and we received the gift of 9 inches of rain in late September. This is good for the blogosphere as it provided a little grist for the mill. We couldn’t harvest, so might just as well talk about it.
The good news is that the month we really need to grow great wine is October. The rains blew out of town, the sun reappeared and the breezes picked up. This was all very well and good for the Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Viognier and we had a very successful harvest.
After we had wrapped up the Pinot Noir harvest, Ernie took a walk to revisit the carnage in that ill-fated Chardonnay block 24. Yeah, they were brown, and yeah, they were shriveling on the vine, but they were sweet and surprisingly, they did NOT taste like mold. Well now, what the Botryotinia Fuckeliana do we have here?
What we have here is Noble Rot, plain and simple. It is a very rare year in the Willamette Valley where the conditions turn from rainy to dry in the fall. In 2013, that was the exact weather pattern after we were inoculated by Typhoon Pabuk. What to do?
One of the most fundamental things in farming is to know what you can fix, what you need to replace and how to tell the difference. But this was unchartered territory for Ernie (so what’s new?) so he asked (OK, that’s new!) the only person he thought would know how to handle this kind of fruit – Dick Erath.
Dick made it down to the farm late in October and took a look at the Chardonnay. A quick snip with Dick’s knife and in no time they had plucked a few clusters. Back in the lab Ernie squeezed those little berries until they gave up their secrets. Here is what they said “37.4 Brix at 3.42 pH and our seeds are brown. That is all we know. Well, that and it is going to start raining again.”
As “Conspiring Winemaker,” Dick shared his thoughts and experience, as well as an exemplar of his efforts with a Late Harvest Riesling from 1997. Ernie opened several other late harvest wines as “learning opportunities” but after all of the R&D, the balance of Dick’s 1997 Late Harvest Riesling won the day.
Well, you win some, you lose some and some get Botryotinia Fuckeliana. And that’s what we got. The rains got the infection started, but the dry weather afterwards kept it in check, and the little fungal spores worked their Noble Rot magic.
Seventy buckets of naturally desiccated Chardonnay grapes yielded about 70 gallons of juice – the hard way. The sorting here was berry by berry. While we had mostly Botryotinia Fuckeliana, we also had plain old rot. So we sorted the Plebian from the Noble.
The juice was something you just had to experience to believe. After whole berry pressing the raisined fruit, the juice read 43.4 Brix. We had to rack that from the fermentation floor down to the tank room. The juice was so viscous it was like moving honey. The aromas and flavors were of grilled pineapple and yellow roses with a big hit of funky.
Fermentation proceeded to about 10% alcohol and that is where we achieved the trifecta of balance among flavor, sweetness and acidity.
The Chardonnay for this wine is Estate grown in one small block. The blend is about half Dijon clone 76 and half Dijon clone 95. This block was hand harvested on October 28th.
Tasting Notes: Liquid gold and long legs adorn the glass. Grilled pineapple and bacon rind are pungently represented in the aroma. The palate is coated in a concentrated expression of Chardonnay framed by age worthy acidity. The finish is clean and lingers indefinitely.
- Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes
Culinary Inclinations: New York style cheesecake and Crème Brulee are classic combinations as is seared Foie Gras. This wine may also be applied topically and removed orally.
Copper-tinged gold. Deeply perfumed smoke-accented pit fruit liqueur honey and floral scents show a hint of toasted grain in the background. Lush and broad on the palate offering intensely sweet apricot and candied pear flavors and a strong jolt of mint on the back half. Hangs on with impressive tenacity on the finish leaving notes of honey mint and candied pit fruits behind.
- Josh Raynolds, Vinous, January 2017 - 92 points
Typhoon Pabuk drenched the valley during harvest and botrytised these grapes. Making lemonade out of that lemon, the winery hand-sorted the grapes and crafted this ultrarich dessert wine. Dense flavors of butterscotch and sweet lemon candy make a potent combo. One half-size bottle will easily satisfy four sweet tooths.
- Paul Gregutt, Wine Enthusiast, December 2016 - 92 points
Estate grown and bottled. At the end of September in 2012, extensive rains led to botrytis (noble rot) in the Chardonnay grapes particularly in one block. This rare event was caused by warm weather following typhoon Pabuk. The rains started the fungus infection, but the subsequent weather held it in check. Harvest Brix was 37.4º. About half Dijon clone 76 and half Dijon clone 95. Moderately light cantaloupe color in the glass. Aromas of fig, ripe pineapple, honey and wax and a dead ringer for a French sauterne. Delicious flavors of dried apricot, honey, tropical fruits and fig spread. Somewhat viscous, not overtly sweet, sliding off the back of the palate like a silk sheet. The finish is notably adorned with intensity. A superb sweet wine with a story (read about it on the website) that makes it even more appealing. I do not drink much sweet wine and review even less, so a score would be superfluous. I would just say, I loved the wine.
- William "Rusty" Gaffney, M.D., PinotFile, September 2016
Sometimes disasters have a happy ending. Such is this wine, one of the GREATEST LATE-HARVEST WINES ever created in the Pacific Northwest: the 2013 Amalie Robert Estate Botrytis Chardonnay.
In 2013, everything was hunky dory in Oregon vineyards. The beautiful vintage was right on schedule until the massive remnants of Typhoon Pabuk dumped 9 inches of rain on western Oregon over four September days. After that sogfest, the weather dried out and Amalie Robert winemaker Ernie Pink, a bit dejected, walked his vineyards, discovering that the Noble Rot, Botrytis cinerea, had infected his Chardonnay.
He and his wife, Dena Drews, managed to salvage a mere 70 buckets of shriveled and affected grapes in late October. It took them 3 days of hand picking the good mold from the bad --berry by berry-- to get the juice for this extraordinary wine. The nectar measured 44% sugar, and the wine fermented to 10% alcohol. The resulting wine is easily mistaken for a top-tier French Sauternes.
This honeyed gift is a fantastic achievement and probably a once-in-a-lifetime wine. Or so they hope! And, it is, to the best of my knowledge, the first late-harvest botrytis Chardonnay ever produced in Oregon. If anyone knows differently, Dena, Ernie, and I would sure love to know.
- Ron Zimmerman, February 2015 - The Herbfarm, AAA 5-Diamond, Seattle, WA
The 2013 Pabuk’s Gift is the result of the namesake typhoon after it wiped out the Chardonnay vines. There were 70 buckets of berries that were pressed over a day, then fermented up to 10.2% alcohol and stopped with dry ice. The bouquet is clean and pure with clear honey, quince jus, marmalade and just a touch of wax resin. The palate is medium-bodied with racy acidity cutting through the mellifluous honeyed fruit and it works because it is not overpowering or cloying on the finish, but glides across the mouth. Perhaps it should be renamed Pabuk’s silver lining?
- The Wine Advocate, March 2015 - 91 points
I strongly encourage readers to benefit from the delightfully scripted insights into viticulture and winemaking that form the "climate update" blog on Amalie Robert's website, charting the entire winery year.
- David Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate