I am a sucker for a good dessert wine during the holiday season. I’ve been known to open up a late harvest wine while preparing a holiday season meal or party appetizers. While these wines can – and should – be enjoyed any time of the year – they are particularly endearing during this season. Late harvest wine, Icewine, Port and Sherry are all included in this category. While true port and sherry is particular to specific regions of the world – this is a great opportunity to explore varieties from the “Other 46”.
Chocolate Lab, Barrel Oak Winery, Delaplane, VA – $31
Chocolate Lab is my recommendation for anyone who would like to experience something in the “chocolate wine” catagory, but isn’t enthused with the idea of merlot blended with chocolate syrup. This is a totally unique port style wine infused with essences drawn from cocoa beans added to the wine during secondary fermentation. Its not terribly sweet at 5% RS, and its been aged in recovered American oak whiskey barrels. I’ve paired with berry tarts. This is one of a kind and delicious.
Adieu, Late Harvest Vidal Blanc, Gray Ghost Vineyards, Amissville, VA – $23-25
This one is produced only in exceptional years, so its not always available, but when it is – wow – a special wine! With an RS of 11.5% – although it really doesn’t taste like its that high, it makes for a perfect after dinner sipper. Rich peach, honey, Muscat and apricot aromas compliment a light cheese platter or your holiday pumpkin pie.
Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, Ferrante Winery, Harpersfield Township, OH – $34.99
One of the sweetest ice wines I’ve tried recently is the Ferrante Cab Franc Ice Wine. This one is from select estate grown grapes frozen on the vine. Aromas and flavors of sweet raspberry and cherry. 17% Residual Sugar. While it is definitely a sweet one, the cab franc flavor from Ferrante’s wonderful estate grapes is obvious, and a red dessert wine is still a unique experience at most parties. I pair this one with savory tarts, mince meat pies or créme brule. This is a red wine, but please chill it down for the best experience.
Seven, 2009, Port Wine from Merlot grapes, King Family Vineyards, Crozet, VA $29.95
At the American Wine Bloggers Conference, we encountered some folks in the atrium pouring a Virginia post style wine that I’d never seen. Named for the 7th chukker in polo ~ like the 19th hole in golf, its made in the traditional Porto style with an American twist. This port wine is made with 100% Merlot and is fortified with brandy. Aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels for 2 years and bottled as a 500mL – slightly larger than most of these. 3% residual sugar. 18% alcohol. If you are a port fan, this wine will tickle your fancy.
Port Hanover, Chambourcin port style wine, Hanover Park Vineyards, Yadkinville, NC – $17
As a fan of the Chambourcin grape, I was really impressed with this port when I first experienced it. It is a beautiful example of all of the characteristics of the Chambourcin, a grape showing some serious success in North Carolina – and showcased in a port style. An easy port wine to pair with an asiago cheese ball or dessert pieces from Lilly’s Chocolates, like the Cinnabunny.
The Virginia and North Carolina wines are available to be shipped to Ohio, and while Ferrante is only available in Ohio, the winery’s location close to Lake Erie, and many other wineries make for a great day trip. I have not seen the ice wine in retail stores in Cleveland, but it may be available if your wine shop carries Ferrante wines.
Do you have a favorite dessert, icewine (eiswein), or domestic port? Share them in the comments!