The Hundred Acre Fortification
As proprietor Jayson Woodbridge boasts (justifiably), this is the world’s first true single vineyard fortified wine with brandy also distilled from a single, but different vineyard. The non-fortified Cabernet Sauvignon portion emerges from the Hundred Acre Kayli Morgan Vineyard; the brandy is distilled from another vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Most readers realize that port is essentially sweet wine that is altered or manipulated or improved, depending on your point of view, by the addition of alcohol, which stops the fermentation as the yeasts are killed. Most ports come in between 19 and 21 percent alcohol, have a certain degree of residual sweetness, and are much more powerful and muscular than a dry red table wine. Far too frequently, little attention is given to the type of alcohol/brandy added to a wine to fortify it. However, the ever-curious and irrefutably brilliant Jayson Woodbridge decided to produce a port from Kayli Morgan Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon that is fortified with brandy distilled from another Napa vineyard. The process of culling out the finest part of the alcohol from the Atlantic copper stills is a craft practiced by only a few, and Jayson Woodbridge, along with several of his Master Distiller friends, have done just that. His goal (which I believe he has achieved) is to distill an incredible brandy as opposed to some of the rough and tumble alcohols often used in making other fortified wines.
There is a definite science to what is called „fractal“ distillation, where a cut of alcohol is taken from the first distillation, called the heart, avoiding the top and bottom thirds of the distillation, which are the rougher, more rustic parts. The heart is then re-distilled, and 25% of that is retained as the „heart of hearts.“ I’m not sure I fully got it, as it is something that probably bears watching and living through at least several distillations. The result is a one-to-one reduction in the final product. As Woodbridge put it, through his process 2,000 cases of red wine ultimately end up as 200 cases of double-distilled brandy, which are then put in his used Hundred Acre French oak barrels for at least 5-6 years. He loses 15% of the brandy through evaporation, so his original production of 2,000 cases of red wine ends up being essentially 170 cases of double-distilled, high-octane brandy. Because of European Union laws, Woodbridge can not legally call his product port, so he calls it Fortification. As of 2014, it is the only single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon port fortified with another single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon double-distilled brandy. The bottom line is that Jayson Woodbridge believes the wine has to be the very best he is capable of achieving from his vineyard, and that the double-distilled brandy has to be aged for a long time so the flavors are mellow, and add complexity and dimension to his Fortification.
As the following tasting notes indicate, it is no exaggeration to say that Jayson Woodbridge may be making the greatest fortified wine in the world, even eclipsing such greats as Fonseca, Taylor, Graham’s, Dow, etc. Bold talk, I know, but the proof is in the tastings. Of course, all of this effort, as well as his perfectionist methods, do not come cheap – nor should they. This product retails for about $500 a bottle, is extremely limited, and is made in a patient, hand-crafted manner. While vintage ports tend to spend less than two years in cask, Woodbridge’s Fortification spends at least four years in wood. He believes they have a 100-year aging potential. While none of us will be around to see if that is true or not, they are extremely compelling and special products.
So whats the bad news? Yearly production is only 100 cases, half of which Jayson keeps for himself and his family. Analytically, these Fortifications boast 19.5 to 20.5% alcohol, and while residual sugar is not measured, the fermentation is arrested at approximately 10-12 brix.
Di Lenardo + Co. Zürich
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