The Essence of Essence

Blog Post

What classifies a wine as an Essence?

Ridge has been making our rare, late harvest wine called Essence since the first vintage was produced from Geyserville grapes in 1966. In order to produce an Essence, the vintage’s conditions need to be just right and the selected vineyard parcel needs to have a good amount of green foliage. This is why so few Essences have been made over the last 50 years.

ridge essence late harvest dessert wine
Label from the first vintage of Essence

Paul Draper explains what goes into producing an Essence wine:

Each of our Essence wines have been vinified from grapes that were intentionally left to hang on the vine for an extended period of time. During this added length of time, the grapes concentrate the flavor and sugar by on-the-vine dehydration. Typically the sugar, when picked, exceeds 35 degrees Brix (although this is impossible to measure due to the soak out effect of the dehydrated berries).

The fermentation typically stops naturally at an alcohol content between 10.5 – 13% v/v with substantial residual sugar remaining (generally 6-10+% w/v). The combination of high alcohol and residual sugar content creates an intolerable living condition for saccharomyces cerevisiae (and most other microbes, including acetobacter) due to osmotic pressure within their cell walls. This allows the wine natural stability from future spoilage while aging.

Generally this natural stability allows for bottling without filtration, and therefore occasionally one may find sediment in such bottlings.

The typical attributes for Essences are: unctuous ripeness, jam, plum, raisin, candied fruit. The palate tends to be amazingly thick, heavy, viscous-syrup, dense exotic fruit definition, and spicy.

Sugar is a natural preservative to allow for extended bottle aging. An Essence, 30 year old, will still have amazing depth of flavors, color, and richness. The complexity increases as the essence takes on caramel- like flavors as the primary sugar combine into more complex polysaccharides.

-Paul Draper
Our newest bottling of Essence

For just the second time in the past ten years, the vineyard conditions were just right in 2017 for us to produce an Essence bottling. Our newest Essence comes from the Dusi Vineyard in Paso Robles.


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