Friday, August 29, 2014

Sweet Wine From Bonny Doon Vineyard

Sweet wine is not just for the holidays, although many people feel that way.  These may be the same folks who only drink Champagne on New Year's Eve.  Sure, a nice dessert wine with pumpkin pie is great.  A sip or two while unwrapping presents on Christmas morning helps us give a picture-worthy smile even for the gifts we know we'll be returning on Boxing Day.   But does it pair with turkey?  Can we drink it all year long?  Yes, if we can afford to.

At $24 per 375 ml bottle, it's actually a pretty good deal for dessert wine.  Still, if you are serving a group of people it can get pricey to give everyone a good pour.  And everyone wants a good pour of dessert wine.

Bonny Doon's Vinferno 2013 is light on the alcohol - 11.2% abv - and heavy on the residual sugar - 14.6%.  The Grenache Blanc grapes are harvested from the Beeswax Vineyard in Arroyo Seco which has been put to such great use by winemaker Randall Grahm in other wines.  And props to Mr. Grahm, while we're at it, for producing a single-vineyard sweet wine.  Vinification took place in stainless steel tanks.

The grapes are air-dried, by the way.   Grahm waited for botrytis to set in - the mold that makes dessert wine sweet - but it never came to the vineyard in 2013.  So Vinferno turned out to be a late-harvest wine, in which the grapes dried on the vine.  It would have made for better marketing copy had the grapes been laid out for three months on top of a carport housing a Citroen, but it was not to be.  Hang time did the trick.

Vinferno is a sweet wine, to be sure, but there is plenty more going on, which lifts it from "dessert wine" status to the level of a great table wine.  First of all, there is a savory aspect to both the nose and palate that keeps it from cloying.  Second, the acidity is bracing, and it's especially noticeable when served unchilled.  It's definitely food-friendly.  Third, the flavors probably go best with fruit or a soft, creamy cheese, but they work well with lightly herbed meats, too.  Even bratwurst.  Salty peanuts.  At this point, you'll need another bottle.

This wine has color to burn.  It's a beautiful, whiskey-tinted amber that is quite enticing.  Aromas of pear, apple, apricot, pineapple and honey have a savory blanket of earth over them.   Fruit flavors come across sweetly, with a complex savory story of their own to tell, too.  The herbal notes are huge, and welcome anytime.  But I want this on Christmas morning.

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