Showing posts with label late harvest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label late harvest. Show all posts

Monday, October 16, 2023

California Sunshine In A Bottle

People who are looking for kosher wines should look into the lines offered by the Royal Wine Corporation. They import wines to the U.S. from all over the world and produce wines at their winery in Southern California. They have been in business for 175 years, dating back eight generations to their beginning in Europe. Their wines are top quality, as I have found through tasting a number of their bottlings through the years.

Royal's Director of PR and Manager of Wine Education Gabriel Geller says that this year "brings an abundance of exciting releases to complement every course" of holiday meals.

The 2022 Herzog Orange Muscat is one you'll save for dessert, most likely. It is a late harvest wine, meaning the grapes were picked after becoming super-ripe and loaded with sugary goodness. Head winemaker David Galzignato has reimagined Herzog's late harvest program, bringing a "fuller, more concentrated profile"  to both the Orange Muscat and the LH Zinfandel. They are calling their late harvest wines "California sunshine in a bottle."

The wine carries a low alcohol number of 8.5% abv, but a high residual sugar number or 7.3% by weight. The retail price is $25 for a full-size bottle.

This wine has a beautiful, soft orange color. The nose has notes of honey, candied apricot, and aromatic flowers. The palate is sensual and sweet, showing plenty of sugar but hardly any acidity. It is a viscous sip that rolls around in the mouth like a drink of cream. Have it with dessert, or even as dessert, really. 

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Holiday Wine: Sémillon In Loupiac

Loupiac is a region in France's Bordeaux region, north of Sauternes and the Garonne River.  It is also an appellation exclusive to sweet, golden dessert wines made largely from Sémillon grapes.  Sweet white wine is not everyone's cup, but anyone who likes a good dessert and a good glass of wine should not object to having them in the same serving.  However, sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert.  Start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses.  Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.

Thanksgiving is a great time to start a love affair with sweet Bordeaux wines.  Have them with the pumpkin pie, sure, but try it with the turkey and ham, too.  You'll be surprised at the pairing.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth put on a virtual tasting awhile back of a nice selection of Sauternes wines, and I was lucky enough to be included.  Hosted by Snooth's co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo and wine educator Fred Swan, the event drew raves from those who participated in it. Swan, especially, won kudos all around for his vast knowledge.

One participant, Jim Vanbergen, commented on social media that salty foods are tremendous with sweet wines - not only Sauternes, but also Port, Alsace, Icewine and others.

Château Dauphiné Rondillon Loupiac 

The Darriet family runs Château Dauphiné Rondillon in Loupiac, a region in Bordeaux which specializes in sweet Sémillon wines.  This one is 80% Sémillon with Sauvignon Blanc rounding out the blend.  The grapes are harvested late, so their sugar content is maximized.  It's a 13% abv wine and it sells for $28.

The vintners say they like to serve their wine as an aperitif, but they also recommend it with salty, savory foods.  Blue cheese is a particular favorite.

This is a sweet wine that doesn't play that way.  The wine smells of honey and dried apricots.  It comes off as more savory than sweet, and that's reinforced on the palate.  The acidity is fairly lively, too, so you can pair with foods, particularly a blue cheese.  On social media, Deborah Parker Wong said that she got smoke and minerals on the finish, too.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sweet Finger Lakes Wines For Your Sweetie

With Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s a good time to pop open a dessert wine or two - sweets for your sweetie.

Fresh from receiving accolades as the top wine region of 2014 from Wine Enthusiast magazine, the wineries of New York’s Finger Lakes held a virtual tasting event featuring some of their notable dessert wines.  You can read about the bubbly by clicking here, and below is a listing of the dessert wines featured in the event, staged by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance with samples provided to me for the purpose of participating.

Goose Watch Winery Classic Cream Sherry

Goose Watch Winery is owned and operated by Dave Peterson’s family, stewards of the vineyard since 1997.  They also own Swedish Hill Winery, so they keep pretty busy in the winemaking biz.  Goose Watch overlooks Cayuga Lake, providing a scenic backdrop for vineyard manager Rick Waite and winemaker Derek Wilber while they work.

The Goose Watch menu includes Viognier, Pinot Grigio, and Merlot with some unusual varieties like Aromella, Traminette, Melody, Diamond and Lemberger thrown into the cool-climate mix.

Classic Cream Sherry by Goose Watch is made using both red and white grapes, and plenty of them.  Native American, hybrid and vitis vinifera varieties are included - everything from Chardonnay to Cabernet Franc to Cayuga White and Catawba contribute to this wine.

It is produced using a solera process.  New barrel-aged vintages of the sherry components are introduced each year, so the blend grows by a year each vintage.  It's the aging that gives the wine its incredible flavor.  New additions are warmed, then oxygen-injected over six weeks or so, which "gooses" the aging process.  In the barrel, the wine is exposed to extreme temperatures - both hot and cold - to further stimulate the aging.  Most of the barrels used in this process are old and well worn, to avoid imparting too much oak influence to the wine.

Alcohol is hefty, at 18% abv, while the 12% residual sugar more than justifies the wine's categorization as a dessert type.  At $16 for the half bottle, it's one of the better dessert wine buys you are likely to find.

The Goose Watch Winery Classic Cream Sherry looks fabulous.  The deep amber-brown color is even darker than bourbon.  The high alcohol content is noticeable on the nose, but so is a strong whiff of raisins, caramel and burnt brown sugar.  The mouthfeel is full and lush, with a very soft essence that plays counterpoint to the heat of the alcohol.  Raisins, caramel, baked apples, mocha and a splash of lime decorate the palate, with the fruitier aspects lasting into the finish.  The moderate acidity feels a little lively on the tongue, but the softness isn't spoiled.

Boundary Breaks 2012 Late Harvest Riesling #90

The east side of Seneca Lake offers somewhat milder weather in New York's Finger Lakes region due to the depth of the lake and the prevailing winds.  The extremely deep, glacier-cut lake features a churning effect, in which the colder and warmer waters exchange levels and help moderate the temperatures in the vineyards.

Boundary Breaks Winery resides on that eastern shore.  Established by Bruce and David Murray in 2007 - on a farm that never had a vineyard on it - the winery specializes exclusively in Riesling, in five different styles.

Vineyard manager Kees Stapel assists several moonlighting winemakers at Boundary Breaks:  Peter Bell of Fox Run, Kelby Russell of Red Newt and Ian Barry of Barry Family Cellars.  All contribute to the various wines in Boundary Breaks' cellar, but Barry is the winemaker of record for this late harvest Riesling.

The Boundary Breaks 2012 Late Harvest Riesling #90 is named - er, numbered - for the Riesling clone from which it comes: Neustadt #90.  The wine underwent a slow fermentation in stainless steel tanks and reports an alcohol level of 14.2% abv and a whopping 12.7% residual sugar number.  The winery's website comments on the mid-December harvest for these grapes: "At this time of the year, the fruit has become a bronze color and many berries have de-hydrated and wrinkled into raisins. This produces a dense Riesling nectar that retains its acidity alongside its flowing richness."  An apt description.  It retails for $30 per half bottle.

A light golden color, the wine smells a bit like pears and a bit like apricots, with a lovely, light note of honeyed petrol coming through.  The taste is gorgeous, as befits a dessert wine.  The sweetness is not cloying, thanks to a nice acidity - not razor-sharp, but noticeable.  It is, to be sure, dessert.  It also fits well with salty almonds.

Standing Stone Vineyards 2013 Riesling Ice Wine

Standing Stone Vineyards has an old school look about it - farmhouse and all - but Marti and Tom  Macinski founded the business in 1991. Marti is the winemaker, assisted by Jess Johnson.

The vineyards were planted in the early 1970s, and a notable block features a planting of Saperavi, an old vinifera grape that makes a dark red wine.

The 2013 Riesling Ice Wine is one of four dessert wines they make - they also sweeten up Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Vidal grapes.  They are not true ice wines, in that the grapes are not harvested frozen but frozen after picking late in the season.

Production is limited, at just 198 cases.  The retail sticker shows $25 for the half bottle.  The wine has an incredible 20% residual sugar and shows 12.4% abv on the alcohol side.

This is one beautiful wine, the color of a very rich apple juice or bourbon.  The aromas are just as beautiful, with apricots, pears and tart apples bursting from the glass.  The palate follows suit, with the apple flavor showing a little stronger and some peaches thrown into the mix.  The acidity is delightfully zippy, but the mouthfeel is oily and viscous.  This wine is fresh and clean and makes a great, light dessert.

Wagner Vineyards 2013 Riesling Ice Wine

Winemaker Ann Raffetto has been with Wagner Vineyards for three decades, but that only qualifies her for newby status there.  As one of the oldest Finger Lakes wineries - and the first on Seneca Lake's eastern shore - There have been five generations of grape growers toiling in the 200-acres of vineyard-with-a-view, a quarter of which is planted to Riesling grapes.

The grapes for the Wagner 2013 Riesling Ice Wine were not taken while frozen, but picked after traditional harvest and frozen after picking.  They say this process helps the grapes retain their natural acidity.  At 24% residual sugar, this wine is super-sweet and with alcohol at 12.1% abv, it is very near the same content as a table wine from this area. 1400 cases were produced, and the half-bottle sells for $25.

The Wagner Ice Wine shows pale gold in the glass, with a nose of dried apricots and a beautiful floral aspect.  Alcohol also hits the nose a bit stronger than I would imagine, at just 12.1%.  The palate has a lovely layer of the earth filtering the sweetness of the peach and tropical fruit flavors.  The wine is rather viscous and sports a great acidity.  Pair it with an apple pie or drizzle it on vanilla ice cream. Or both.

Knapp Winery and Vineyard 2013 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine

Knapp Winery is located close to Seneca Falls, on the shores of Cayuga Lake.  It opened for business in 1984, and winemaker Steve DiFrancesco, vineyard manager Chris King, and cellar master Richard Iddings combine to make wines that showcase the great terroir of the Finger Lakes.

The Vidal grapes for this sweetie were picked in late November, when the temperature was 14 degrees Fahrenheit.  They were pressed while frozen, which results in more concentrated aromas and flavors.  This is the sweetest of the wines featured here, with residual sugar at 24.7%.  Alcohol is slightly reduced, at 11.36% abv.  Only 54 cases were produced and the half-bottles retail for $25.

The Knapp wines I have experienced really show a great earthy quality, and the Vidal Ice is no exception.  The earthiness does sit a bit farther behind the fruit in this dessert wine, though.  There is plenty of fruit on the nose - pineapple, pear and peach are draped in honey - while a beautiful floral aspect leads the way.  Extremely viscous in the mouth, the Vidal does not disappoint in sweetness.  It's a beautiful and delicious wine, with flavors of pear, peach and tropical fruit.  The finish lets a bit of the earthiness linger with the sweet for an amazing counterpoint.

The winery says you can enjoy the Knapp Vidal Blanc Ice Wine on its own or with a ripe cheese.  Any kind of savory tidbit - salty pretzels, almonds - will be set off beautifully against the counterpoint of the sugar found in this wine.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer Wine: Castello di Amorosa

A man’s home may be his castle, but one man’s Napa Valley castle is his winery.  Dario Sattui - of V. Sattui fame - built Castello di Amorosa in the latter part of the twentieth century.  It looks like it belongs to an earlier time.

Sattui belongs to an earlier time.  He has spent his life fighting long odds and naysayers in order to accomplish what he wants - needs - to do.  It is compelling reading to flip through his descriptions of rebuilding his great-grandfather’s winery, traveling the world for his castle obsession and ultimately willing the enlistment of those whose help he needed.

The Napa Valley estate vineyards are planted mainly to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and Primitivo, but he also has vineyards in Mendocino County and Anderson Valley.

It is from these outlying areas that Sattui gets enough Gewürztraminer to produce four different profiles of the aromatic and fruity grape.  200 acres in Mendocino County and nine in Anderson Valley provide most of the fruit.  Additional needs are handled by select growers in Mendocino.  A publicist for the winery was kind enough to send samples of three Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer views.

Gewürztraminer is a great, refreshing, white wine for summer - but don't put it in a box.  Gewürztraminer is great all year round.  Kudos to Castello di Amorosa’s Director of Winemaking, Brooks Painter.

Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer 2011

This is the dry version, produced entirely from Mendocino County estate grapes. The alcohol level is 13.5% abv, 1,100 cases were made and it sells for $23 retail.

The wine has the color of light straw and an extremely floral nose - absolutely beautiful with pears in the aroma profile.  As I was tasting all three wines, Denise kept asking, “What is that?  It smells great.”  She smelled it from across the room.  The palate shows golden apples and pears with hints of spice.  There’s a great acidity and minerality package that runs from start to finish.  I’d love to have it with some enormous crab legs.

Castello di Amorosa Dolcino 2011

Dolcino means “lightly sweet” in Italian, and that’s what you get in this bottle.  At only 12% abv, it’s light to drink, as well.  1,849 cases were made from estate and grower grapes out of Anderson Valley.  It sells for $24.

The nose is laden with honeysuckle and ripe peaches.  I don’t like to gush, but the bouquets on these wines are fairly amazing.  The palate is lightly sweet, as promised, with fruit up front and herbal notes and a gentle minerality flowing beneath.  The acidity is more gentle than in the dry, as well.  The wine finishes beautifully, with floral and fruit lingering beyond the sip.

Castello di Amorosa Late Harvest Gewürztraminer 2011

The dessert wine expression comes from estate grapes in Anderson Valley that were blessed with the noble rot, botrytis cinerea.  The thick skins of Gewürztraminer make it resistant to the mold, so it’s a rare treat to have this bottling.  The grapes were harvested a week into November.  The alcohol is a low 11.2% abv and 2,694 cases were produced.

It shows a nice golden color, a little lighter than most dessert wines.  The nose of honeyed citrus comes on like grapefruit candy, while the palate is silky and viscous.   Rich grapefruit and apricot sweetness drapes itself over the sides of the glass, dense and seductive, with a nice level of acidity to top it off.  A lot of people like to have a few dessert wines around during the holidays, and this one would be quite welcome next to an apple pie or peach cobbler.  For that matter, the dry and the Dolcino versions would be great around holiday time.

All the wines of Castello di Amorosa are available only directly from the winery, either in the tasting room or online.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010


Pessagno Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc

Making great wine is a special gift.  Those who can do it are to be admired for their ability.  Those who can make a special dessert wine have a little something extra in the admiration bank.

Stephen Pessagno’s passbook in that bank must be bulging.  
Pessagno makes small quantity wines from single vineyards in Monterey and San Benito Counties, all estate grown.  His Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc is a Sauternes-styled wine made from grapes affected by Botrytis Cinerea, or the noble rot.

The Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc has a harvest brix of 48 and a residual sugar of 18.4%.  This is definitely a sweet wine.  But a 13.5% abv number is an indication there’s something more going on.

The nose shows pear juice, even 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.  Why waste a dessert, though?  This wine is dessert enough on its own.

The suggested retail price is $35 for a half-bottle, so it's a splurge wine.  But it’s so splurge-worthy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dessert Wines of Monterey County

The holidays always call for special wines.  You can bring out all the heavy-hitting Cabernets, big Bordeaux blends and dry-as-a-bone Rieslings you want.  The wines that create the biggest stir and the ones that make the biggest impression on your guests are dessert wines.  Sweet and delectable, dessert wines fit in with the holiday mood almost as well as cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.  As a matter of fact, they fit right in with the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.  The Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association supplied me with a small treasure chest of these sweet delights and asked me to pass along my impressions.  The following wines were provided to me at no cost for the purpose of review.  All of them are in 375ml bottles - except the Potbelly Port, which is in a 500ml bottle - and the prices were provided by the MCVGA.

J Lohr Vineyards Late-Harvest White Riesling ($25) -  The 2006 vintage was the first White Riesling crop since 1995 for J Lohr's Bay Mist vineyard in the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County.  It's a 100% varietal wine with 12.3% abv and a luscious 10.3% residual sugar.  Don't write this one off by sniffing "sweetie" and moving along.  The sugar belies a wonderful acidity that makes this wine great for pairing with desserts.  You may like it with an apple tart and vanilla bean ice cream.  You may also like it all by itself.  There's a nose of honeyed fruit and, on the palate, that wonderful "bitter with the sweet" sensation one hopes for in a Riesling.  A beautiful, rich golden color looks great in the glass, too.

Joyce Vineyards Pudding Wine 2007 ($28) - The Johannesburg Riesling grapes for this wine came from the Franscioni Vineyard.  Luscious to look at - it's a deep, rich golden color - the aromas and the flavor remind me of a very fine sherry.  It should go very nicely with a pumpkin or pecan pie.  If your sweet tooth isn't shouting for attention, you may find that it makes a fine dessert on its own.  12.5% abv may be a tad high for some, in a dessert wine, but you could minimize the effect of the alcohol by doing as the Monterey wine people recommend - have a pear poached in Pudding Wine.

Paraiso, Souzao Port, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County NV ($25) - Listed as a "tasting room only" wine on their website, this 18.5% abv port-style wine is made from the Souzao grape, which is a Portuguese varietal but now becoming more common in California.  The Paraiso Estate features only about three acres of Souzao, but they managed nearly 600 cases of production.  The wine is aged in French and American oak for two years before bottling.  Quite viscous and very full in the mouth, it's got a rich nose full of candy cherry aromas and an explosive taste that reminds me of raisins and chocolate-covered cherries at the same time. It's a bit rough and over-the-top, so don't expect too much subtlety.  Serve this with chocolate and score big with sweet-toothed guests. 

Graff Family Vineyards, Chalone, July Muscat 2007 ($16) - Billed as a sweet table wine, this is made from grapes grown in the Chalone appellation.  It's 100% July Muscat, quite a rare grape variety developed in the '50s at UC Davis.  Its 10% residual sugar and 11.3% abv level gives a soft and aromatic wine with strong floral notes.  It's an amazing accompaniment to an apricot or pear tart.

Ventana Vineyards Orange Muscat 2008 ($18) -  Tropical fruit and vanilla greet the nose, while the flavors of peaches dominate on the palate.  The alcohol level is 15% - quite a bit higher than most Muscats - and residual sugar is 7.2%.  You can serve this chilled as an apertif, or alongside a biscotti.

Mer Soleil LATE Late-Harvest Viognier 2004 ($36) - Botrytis-influenced Viognier gives a warm, golden color in the glass and the aromas are as sweet as honey.  The taste is sweet, too, but with a good level of acidity that sports a nice hint of orange peel.  Expect a lush and long finish.  Pair this with Foie Gras or with warm blue cheese-stuffed Mission Figs for a delightful dessert.

Pessagno Late-Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($25) -  Fully Botrytised grapes from the Arroyo Seco appellation clock in at 13.8% abv and 18.4% residual sugar and spent five months in wood, making this a dessert wine lover's dessert wine.  This Sauterne-style wine is dessert all by itself, but you can drizzle it over fruit or let it make a Creme Brulee memorable.

Kendall-Jackson Late-Harvest Chardonnay 2006 ($25) - Floral and cinnamon aromas lead to candied fruit flavors in this lush drink.  The winemaker calls it "the nectar of the gods."  He may be biased, but he does know what he's talking about.  This sweet Chard really dresses up a plate of butter cookies.

Mission Trail, Potbelly Port ($36) - Maybe the unflattering name arises from the fact that this wine is jammed full of grapes.  There are six Portuguese grapes here - Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cao, Tinta Roriz, Souzao, Tinta Madeira and Tempranillo.  Brandy was added halfway through the fermentation.  The result is a Port that is jammy and rich, with flavors of chocolate-covered cherries, black pepper, anise, tobacco and clove.  Top off your feast with this portly port and a chocolate bread pudding for a dessert as memorable as the holiday.