Our 2006 Forté is a fortified wine produced from Portuguese varieties (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cão, Sousão and Alvarelhão) made in the Late Bottled Vintage Port style. That sentence is a mouthful, and so is the wine.
We do not use the name Port on the bottle because the wine is not from Portugal, for the same reason we do not use the name Champagne on our sparkling wines. The difference between the name “sparkling wine” and “fortified wine”, is that the Federal government, who approves all of our labels, will permit us to use the word “Sparkling” on a label to describe a sparkling wine type, but will not allow us to use the word “Fortified” to described a fortified wine type. So, we had to get creative and come up with a proprietary name, and we chose the French word “Forté”. In French, Forté means strong or fortified. I guess the federal inspectors don’t speak French. Similarly, on our Riesling Ice Style Wine, they would not allow us to use the word “Ice”, so we changed it to the German spelling of “Eis”, and they approved it. I guess they don’t speak German either.
Anyway, enough about a winery’s labeling woes; let’s talk about the wine and the vineyard. Back in the late 80’s, Chuck Sisney planted these Portuguese varieties on a wonderful vineyard site in the mountainous area of the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County, California. A perfect area to produce this style of wine. All four varieties ripen towards the end of the harvest, giving the grapes long hang time into the fall, producing rich, full flavors without over-ripening. Because they ripen during the cooler days of late fall, we avoid the raisin effect, while getting the full mature flavors of each variety.
The wine is produced just like a Late Bottled Vintage Port would be produced in Portugal. The grapes are co-fermented in open top fermenters and are treaded during the fermentation. When about half of the fermentable sugar is fermented out, the wine is pressed away from the skins and is fortified with 98% alcohol to around 20% alcohol. It is then left to age in neutral French oak barrels for five years before it is bottled. The barrels are kept topped, or full, so the wine retains its vibrant color and does not lean in the direction of a Ruby or Tawny Port.
Veritas in Vinum,
Scott Harvey, Winemaker