We're huge fans of Ortega at Westwell - a highly aromatic variety which shares much with its parent varieties Müller-Thürgau and Siegerrebe.
Ortega is a perfect partner for our cool climate; ripening well even in chilly conditions. Though yields can be high, the fruit maintains depth of flavour and possesses a good balance of sugar and acidity. Those are two of the reasons that it's becoming established as an excellent grape to grow and make wine from - but for me, where it excels is in the flavours it produces. It’s capable of producing great floral aromas, often bringing a honeyed sweetness with rich tropical fruit to a wine. It can also be refreshing, with stone fruit and an almost savoury note that makes it perfect for pairing with food. Depending on when and how you pick, press, ferment and age the grapes and must, you can accentuate its many characteristics and produce wines with real complexity, depth and interest.
We have 6.5 acres of Ortega at Westwell that were planted in 2008 and 2021. We’re getting high yields; around 4 tons an acre, and this fruit is achieving exactly the balance of sugar and acid that we want for our winemaking. The only issue we’ve had so far has been the occasional development of botrytis but we manage this by removing any damaged fruit prior to harvest and during picking so that it doesn’t reach the press.
Ortega is an exceptionally versatile grape making it a delight for the winemaker. It ages well in oak and has the ability to create oxidative styles. It's also great for blending - in previous years, we've mixed with Pinot Noir to make a rich but refreshing rosé. Ortega also makes an excellent dessert wine either by allowing it to continue its ongoing relationship with botrytis (to which it is susceptible), or by treating it as you would an ice wine (freezing the fruit, then extracting small amounts of the very sweet resulting must).