In the summer of 1889, Cresta Blanca Winery founder Charles Wetmore sat down in his Livermore office for an interview with a newspaper reporter from San Francisco. In the course of this interview, Wetmore spoke frankly about the state of the California wine industry, and of Livermore Valley wines in particular.
Wetmore identified many of the qualities of Livermore wines that made them special. During one exchange, he described the wines of Livermore Valley as possessing an “almost indescribable mellowness, called moelleux by the French, which is more than sufficient to satisfy our highest ambition.”
Wetmore used the word “mellowness” when describing his favorite white wines from the Valley. He used the term in the sense of a sweet softness in the wines, not the sweetness of his Sauterne-style wines, for which he would have used the word liquoreux, but a barely perceptible sweetness balanced with the grape’s natural acidity.
From Wetmore’s notebooks during his time at Cresta Blanca, we know he was referring to wines with residual sugars between 0.5 and 1.5 percent. Today we would call these wines off dry. Charles Wetmore found elegance in this sweetness, perceptible but not pronounced, a counterpoint to the flavor of the fruit. The ability to achieve this mellowness was something that seemed, to him, almost effortless with Livermore fruit.
Mellowness, perfume, and balance. These were unique qualities of Livermore’s finest white wines in 1889. Today, Dave and I are rediscovering these qualities in the exceptional fruit that is grown here. But, capturing these attributes in the bottle requires attention to detail, and adherence to craft. First, the fruit must be grown in a way that captures the terroir. It must be harvested moments before full ripeness, when the aroma precursors are at their peak, and the natural acidity is optimum.
In the winery, fermentation must be cold and slow, keeping the flavors in the wine. Fermentation must be halted at just the right moment, and the wine must be separated carefully from the yeast. Then, at that moment of greatest beauty, the wine must be bottled, for to delay the bottling is to lose the qualities that you have tried so hard to capture.
Our 2015 Founder’s Collection Malvasia Bianca is the result of these efforts to recapture the spirit of Livermore Valley. Harvested by hand in last August and bottled in November, our 2015 Malvasia Bianca is produced in the style of its time – slightly sweet (1.2% residual sugar), and perfectly balanced with the acidity. Truly, this is a wine like no other.