Sunday, October 31, 2010


La Dolce Vino

My friend Art Meripol shot me an email recently, in which he raved about a particularly wonderful dessert wine he had just finished off.

Art’s a wonderful photographer for a name-brand national magazine and has a website featuring his concert photography and shoots pretty amazing stuff on his iPhone, too.  You can keep up on that by following him on Twitter.

He wrote to me about a wine he had bought at a winery when shooting a travel story on Sonoma a few years back.  Of the Sapphire Hill VLH Zinfandel 2003, Art said, "It was superb.  Sweet, dense, intense black fruit, tar ...everything a great dessert wine should be."

I see this Very Late Harvest Zinfandel on the Sapphire Hill website in the 2006 vintage.  It sells for $26, half bottle.  This sweet product of Alexander Valley grapes is dubbed "liquid candy for grown-ups" in the winemaker notes.  At 9.5% residual sugar, it would not appear to be cloyingly sweet on its own, but is recommended with cheese or chocolate.

Not that I don't think about dessert wines a lot anyway, but Art's email prompted me to sift through my tasting notes of this past year for dessert wines I liked a lot.  Here are a few:

La Quinta Crema Marsala, California NV - Sampled at the San Antonio Winery winemaker dinner a while back, this Marsala shows a nose of raisins, spice and honey with a sherry-like flavor of candied fruit.  This brown-colored, fortified wine would be right at home after a big Thanksgiving meal or Christmas dinner.  FYI, the alcohol level nudges the 20% mark.

Coquelicot Slow Hand Dessert Wine - All late harvest fruit, 50% Chardonnay and 50% Riesling.  It tastes like a baked apple with raisins.

Kalyra Orange Muscat 2006 - Kalyra Winery, up Highway 154 in the pastoral Santa Ynez Valley northwest of Santa Barbara, makes several great dessert wines.  The grapes for this wine were sourced from Madeira, California.  Fortified to a 15% abv number, this viscous liquid is a rich, golden color and so thick and heavy it almost tries to stay in the glass.  On the nose are flowers, honey and apricot candy.  The palate shows even more honey, more apricots and some orange peel notes that play off the sweetness beautifully.  Nice acidity, too.

Pessagno Griva Vineyard Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc Arroyo Seco 2006 - Stephen Pessagno makes small quantity wines from single vineyards in Monterey and San Benito Counties of California, all estate grown.  His Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc is a Sauternes-styled wine made from grapes affected by Botrytis cinerea, or the noble rot.  It has a harvest brix of 48 and a residual sugar of 18.4%.  This is definitely a sweet wine.  The nose shows pear juice, pear cobbler aromas, and a pineapple candy profile.  The sweet custard and caramel flavors are a delight, but it’s not just a sweetie - the acidity is almost bracing and can match any dessert you may put next to it.  The suggested retail price is $35 for a half-bottle.

Graff Family Vineyards Chalone July Muscat 2007 - The Graff Family of Sonoma makes very limited-production wine.  July Muscat is a cross of four different Muscat varieties.  The grapes for this wine are grown in the Chalone appellation in California's Monterey County.  Very pale in the glass, the nose of the Graff Family's July Muscat is incredibly floral and drenched in sweet, ripe peaches and apricots.  Apricots dominate the palate and a mild acidity realizes its full potential on the finish.  That finish is a delight, lingering long with traces of fruity sweetness.

Abundance Vineyards 2008 Bacio Dolce Carignane Dessert Wine - 100% Carignane, plum notes abound in a setting which makes it easy to see why they named it the "sweet kiss."  At 19.5% abv, it’s a hefty drink.

Roxo Port Cellars - This Paso Robles producer does only Port style wines.  Roxo has quite a variety of delicious Port wines made not only from Portuguese varieties, but also Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Pinot Noir.

Mer Soleil LATE 2004 - LATE is a late harvest Viognier kissed by that favorite fungus of dessert wine fans - Botrytis cinerea.  The color is an extremely rich gold with aromas and flavors of honeyed apricots.  An orange zest profile reveals itself in the flavors, too.  

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