♦ 2008 Rabelo – Late Bottled Vintage ♦
A Portuguese-style dessert wine
Tinta Roriz (50%) – Touriga Nacional (34%) – Tinto Cão (16%)
Fermentation arrested with Tinta Roriz alambic brandy
A Rabelo is the boat that traditionally carried the barrels of new Port wine from the upper Douro Valley to the aging houses across the river from the town of Oporto.
We believe we are the only winery in California to be making a “Port” that is made not only out of the true grape varieties used in Portugal, but also fortifying it with very complex alambic brandy made from the same grapes from the same vineyard. It is a single vineyard Port-style wine, all the way down to the brandy!
If you tour the Port houses in Portugal you often see beautiful old copper alambic stills sitting in the tasting rooms. They used to produce their own brandy from their own vineyards to fortify the Port. But since the early 1970’s the law requires the Port houses to buy grape neutral spirits directly from the government for the fortification brandy, and they are no longer allowed to distill the brandy themselves. These old alambic stills produced a much more complex brandy than the neutral spirits that are now required in Portugal.
Here in California we have no such restrictions. Quinta Cruz has a partnership with a small distillery in the Santa Cruz Mountains called Osocalis. Because of this relationship we decided it would be an interesting project to make a Portuguese-style dessert wine that was perhaps even more traditionally Portuguese than modern true Port. The brandy is produced in a still made in Cognac in the early 1900’s. This double distillation process produces a very complex brandy that adds a very significant amount of complexity to the finished product. You can’t get nearly this complexity by adding neutral spirits as most everyone else does.
So the brandy is one factor that makes our Port-style wine unusual - the other is the ripeness level of the grapes we are using. The great majority of California Port-style wines are made from varieties that are never used in Portugal, and, more importantly, they are usually made from very over-ripe fruit (read, lots of raisins!). In fact we would argue that perhaps a majority of California “Ports” are arrived at by someone ending up with grossly over-ripe fruit that they couldn’t ferment dry so they decided to throw some brandy in and call it Port.
Ports in Portugal aren’t made from over-ripe fruit! Our version of this traditional dessert wine is made with ripe but not over-ripe grapes that retain so much more fresh, bright, fruit character than a base wine made from essentially raisins.
We hope you enjoy this debut release of this truly unique product!