Dolce was born when
a purity of vision met with
a tenacious desire for the unattainable.
Dolce embraces a deceptively simple philosophy: the pursuit of perfection in the art of late harvest winemaking. Created in 1985 by the partners of Far Niente, its existence is the result of overcoming remarkable adversity and developing expertise where no one else in the U.S. had it. Dolce stands as the pinnacle, where Mother Nature and craftsmanship combine to define luxury through a wine capable of flirting with your emotions like no other.
With a classic blend of late harvest Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, Dolce is the only American winery dedicated to producing a single late harvest wine. Dolce has brought forth a wine in every vintage, yet in small, unpredictable quantities; witness to the incredible difficulties presented every year in the effort to make Dolce.
Dolce is an extraordinary wine bred from a combination of sunshine, soil, fog, expertise and dedication; a wondrous luxury, limited by nature to always being a gift of rarity.
A deceptively simple philosophy:
the pursuit of perfection
in the art of the late harvest winemaking.
Dolce is created when just the right elements—nature, craftsmanship and a little luck—come together to produce a wine that is truly a triumph over adversity. It starts in the vineyard, where excellent soils, ideal climate and expert viticulture converge. Located at the base of the Vaca Mountains at the southern end of the Napa Valley, the Dolce vineyard is planted to 20 acres of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The soils are loose and well-drained, a combination of gravel, volcanic ash, loam and clay, which ancient forces formed at the base of the Vaca Mountains at the southern end of the Napa Valley.
This is one of the coolest areas of the valley, it is well protected from the morning and evening breezes. The fog, critical to noble rot, can settle longer, helping the all-important transformation of Dolce’s small crop each fall.
We take a balanced, sustainable approach in tending the Dolce vines, using our experience with the surrounding microclimate and the science of promoting noble rot to care for the vineyard in a way that benefits both the land and final wine.
Ultimately, we grow one cluster per shoot, meaning we reduce our crop by half each summer. Yellow jackets, which feast on the sweet fruit, and the wrong kinds of mold mean that over 80 percent of what began in the vineyard never makes it to the bottle. Farming Dolce is demanding and risky, but the end result makes it all worth it.
Noble rot, or botrytis cinerea, is a mold that provides the richness, texture and complexity which sets Dolce apart. This mold was once considered a disaster but in 1600s Hungary, botrytis was discovered to be an enchantment to the grape, evaporating water and concentrating sugars and flavors.
Noble rot requires specific, naturally occurring, conditions to develop, and the Dolce vineyard is situated perfectly for this. The lay of the land and the way the vines are pruned take advantage of the still, morning air and low-lying fog. Once botrytis spreads, usually after a rainfall and a few days of warm weather, clusters turn from green to pink, then purple and, finally, fully developed noble rot.
While most vineyards are picked in a day or two, the Dolce harvest typically lasts six weeks or more. Each time-consuming picking pass results in a tiny amount of fruit, capturing only the best clusters and grapes.
Dolce is harvested by a crew trained in the technique of identifying the right grapes and gently handling the delicate fruit. Occasionally a whole cluster can be inspected, picked and gently stowed in a lug box. However, most clusters must be thinned to remove individual berries that are less than ideal. Sometimes, after minutes of work, only a single berry from the cluster is selected for the winery.
The process of turning botrytised grapes into golden-hued Dolce is technically demanding, but through the combination of science, time-tested traditions and our philosophy, each vintage releases its dazzling potential.
Pressing grapes is the first step in the three-year journey to realizing Dolce. Because of the diligence in picking only perfectly botryised fruit, there may be as little as two or three barrels of juice to show from a day’s picking and pressing. The precious juice drops from the skins and is as sticky as syrup.
After many hours of pressing, the skins are dry to the touch and the juice settles in a small tank under the scrutiny and care of the winemaker.
Where most wines complete fermentation in a few days or weeks, Dolce fermentation proceeds at a stately pace of about six months inside each French oak barrel. Juice with such a high sugar concentration is an extremely difficult environment for yeast. The winemaker constantly analyzes the wine, shepherding each barrel in its journey, as sugar is converted and flavors emerge.
Dolce invests in 100 percent new French oak barrels with every vintage. Each stave is selected specifically by its density. The barrels are toasted over oak fires to meet Dolce’s specific needs as the wine will spend nearly three years maturing in barrel. Not only are the wine’s flavors slower to release and integrate over extended time in barrel, but these are the only barrels suited to aging Dolce. Harmony between the wine and the barrel are imperative.
Time in barrel is one of constant change and transformation. At first, each barrel is opened every seven days. The wine is checked and topped to replace anything lost to evaporation. Each barrel is regularly tasted and evaluated throughout its maturation to determine if it will be selected to be part of the final blend.
Sometime during the third year, only the finest barrels are chosen, blended and bottled. The wine in the bottle represents but a fraction of the grapes, juice and wine that started the journey.
While laboratory analysis is never ignored, great blends begin and end with tasting. As each barrel is evaluated, we discover where blending two barrels creates harmony and where they clash. It is the winemaker’s sense of Dolce’s house style, in harmony with the characteristics of the vintage, which provides the perspective to create the finest blend. Hundreds of options are honed to a single wine expressing Dolce for that year.
The Dolce cellar is located within the caves of its sister winery, Far Niente, in California’s Napa Valley. Visitors to the winery are welcomed with a hosted tour, followed by a tasting of current and library vintages. Visits are by appointment, only. Please contact Dolce at 707.944.8868, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment.
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Dolce offers a wonderful combination of ethereal aromas, rich flavors, sweetness and texture, with perfectly balanced acidity, making it easy to serve with an array of flavor profiles. Some general suggestions and guidelines are divided into four food categories below:
Dolce pairs beautifully with both savory and sweet dishes. Why not try one of these recipes from Executive Chef Trevor Eliason? Check back often as we will be introducing more recipes.
With its subtly silky texture, bright acidity and lithe body, Dolce will highlight every friendly occasion, by itself or with a multitude of culinary complements. Read about the myriad ways to enjoy the experience that is Dolce.
A wine as complex and concentrated as Dolce shows its best in just the right stemware. A fine, smooth crystal stem with a bowl smaller than typical white wine glass—but larger than a Port glass—and a tapered mouth is ideal, allowing Dolce’s ethereal aromas to waft out of the glass.
Contrary to popular belief, the finest white wines—including Dolce—are best served at cellar temperature, about 57–60 ºF, to emphasize the wine’s aromas and flavors.
Dolce is fully capable of aging and evolving for decades. Cellar Dolce laying on its side to keep the cork moist with wine. When kept at consistent cellar temperature of 57–60 ºF, with proper humidity—but not high enough to promote mold growth—Dolce will age gracefully for decades to come.
Dolce is best savored in small doses; a two- or three-ounce pour is appropriate when serving with food, or all alone. A typical half-bottle of Dolce will serve about five people, but in the tragic case that you don’t finish the bottle, replace the cork tightly, store on the refrigerator shelf, and the wine will save and drink beautifully for at least two weeks.