Archive for the ‘review sweet wines’ Category

“Moscato Madness?” or Cheap and Nasty California Sweet Wine

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Tasting a Treasure: Chateau d’Yquem 1989

yquemI don’t drink a lot of $1,000 wines.

It’s just not in my budget.

So I was thrilled when our good friends, Chris Holcombe Cotanch and Bruce Cotanch, invited us to join them to taste their bottle of 1989 Chateau d’Yquem Lur-Saluces.

What?? You mean the Yquem from an outstanding vintage that scored 97 points from the Wine God Robert Parker Jr? Yes, I’ll be honored…

So just in case you don’t know why Yquem, and Yquem in this vintage, is such a treat, let me give you some history.

“History” is the key word. Chateau d’Yquem is a French wine and winery that dates back to 1593. Yes, that’s more than four centuries ago. Here in the Americas, we weren’t even growing subsistence crops, let alone a luxury item like wine.

And in the Chateau d’Yquem vineyards in southeast Bordeaux, the dessert wine made from the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes that they planted in the 16th century earned them an international reputation. By the late 1700′s, our own Thomas Jefferson wanted to visit this prestigious winery, and he loved the wine so much that he bought 250 bottles of the 1784 vintage and some extra for George Washington. Wow! The 1784 vintage?? It kinda blows my mind.

So last weekend we were sitting down to taste the 1989 vintage. I was keenly aware of the history that preceeded us, and I’d done my research so that I could taste knowledgeably. Here’s what I learned: Read the rest of this entry »

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The Wine Lady Rants about Cheap Sweet Wine.

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Canadians World Leaders in Ice Wine — and Very Large Wine Glasses

ice wineThe Canadians are at it again. This time they’ve grabbed the attention of the wine world by setting a Guinness World Record for the Largest Filled Wine Flute. Yes, as the kick-off to the 2011 Niagara Icewine Festival, “38 Ontario ice wine makers and winery proprietors gathered to pour seventy 375 ml bottles and six 200 ml bottles” into a giant flute designed by world-renowned stemware manufacturer Riedel.

Now that’s a lot of icewine. The article said it totaled 18 liters, which by my calculation represents about $3000 worth of icewine. “Wow,” I thought: “That’s one expensive publicity stunt.” But the good news is that the alcohol didn’t go to waste: it was sipped and enjoyed by all in attendance.

Canada’s Niagara Peninsula has earned a great reputation for its icewine. It’s the world’s largest exporter of the stuff, most of it going to Japan and the Far East.

It wasn’t always so. Karl Kaiser and Donald Ziraldo of Inniskillin Winery got the idea to make icewine around 1975. “When we poured the first icewine in 1984,” says Kaiser, “people were drinking junk like Black Nun and Blue Tower.” After that, he says, people got into cheap French wine, and then because of their previous experiences with the sweet Old World wines, they were hesitant to try icewine. But that all changed in 1991, when Inniskillin’s Vidal Icewine won a Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo in Bordeaux. “The world took note,” he smiles.”

The folks in Ontario know how to have fun with their icewine. Every winter they stage a bang-up icewine festival, most of it “al fresco” in Ontario’s sub-zero (Celsius) winter. In the pictures I saw, everyone’s bundled up from head to toe, they’re all clutching glasses of golden icewine, and they’re all grinning like crazy. I guess the alcohol cranks up the old internal thermostat…

So once again, Go Canada! Here’s to ice, wine, and adventurous Canadians. Cheers!

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Good Sweet Wine

malvasiaThere are lots of people who like sweet wines. And there’s no need to turn up your nose at them. In fact, if you look at the entire U.S. wine drinking population, you’ll probably find that there are more sweet lovers than dry lovers.  I have absolutely no statistics to back up this assertion, but I know that White Zinfandel was for several years the country’s best-selling wine. And I know that lots of folks come into  my store looking for something that’s “not bitter.” That’s why I’ve made a point of finding good sweet wines. And yes, there are many good sweet wines.

By “good,” I mean wines that are naturally sweet and naturally made, instead of the drek you find in the grocery store that’s made with added sugar, artificial flavors, and God knows what. The Italians are responsible for the world’s best collection of naturally sweet wines. Moscato, a white wine, is right at the top of the list, and there are some reds that are also light-bodied and delicately sweet.  These wines usually say “Dessert Wine” on the back, but that’s too limiting. Folks who don’t have a palate for dry wines will love these before dinner, or even during dinner. It’s way too sweet for us dry wine lovers, but hey — whatever floats your boat!

The one I’m writing about today is San Giulio Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco. Malvasia is the name of the grape, and it’s made in the traditional style for these wines: fermented only until about 6% alcohol is reached, and then hit with cold temperatures that bring it down close to freezing. This kills the yeast and stops fermentation. After a period of cold storage, it’s warmed just enough to restart fermentation in a sealed vessel. This produces a slight spritz, along with the natural sweetness. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sweet, but not too sweet – Hogue Wine Review

washington stateWe’ve all had bad sweet wine — stuff that tasted like table sugar or, worse yet, chemical sweeteners, and left a nasty aftertaste in your mouth. Yuck… So what do you do for good sweet wine?

Meet the Riesling grape. It’s native to Germany, which is one of the coldest places in the world where wine grapes are grown. The grape likes cold — in fact, it needs cool temperatures to develop the acid that makes the wine crisp and clean. Why is “crisp and clean good”? Because in a sweet wine the “crisp” keeps it from tasting syrupy or cloying. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ice Wine Review – King Estates

frozen grapesYes, we make Ice Wine here in the U S of A. But some purists might argue that it’s not “real” Ice Wine. Why? Because in the very cool climate regions that specialize in Ice Wine, such as Germany and Canada’s Niagara Peninsula, the grapes are frozen on the vine by Mother Nature’s sub-freezing temperatures. Vineyard workers (and volunteer wine fanatics) go into the vineyards before sun-up to harvest the frozen grape berries. But in the case of this King Estate’s Oregon Ice Wine, the grapes are artificially frozen after harvest. Is this cheating?

Who cares. If the proof is in the glass, then King Estates’ Vin Glace 2007 is as authentic as it needs to be. This dessert wine is made in Oregon from Pinot Gris grapes that have been left to hang until their brix (sugar content) tops 32 degrees (or %). That’s a lot of natural sweetness. After freezing, the grapes are pressed, releasing concentrated juice and leaving ice crystals behind. (If you’ve wondered why Ice Wines are so expensive, this is it — it takes a whole lot of grapes to produce enough juice for a bottle of wine.) During fermentation, the process is stopped before all the sugar is converted to alcohol, leaving the residual sugar you taste.

So what’s it taste like? I’d say “divine”… Now, I’m not a sweet wine drinker — a little usually goes a long way for me. But what works about King Estates Vin Glace is the bright acid on the finish that keeps it from being syrupy. The palate sets you up with rich apricot and honey, and a lingering tangerine flavor. Then the finish gives up a hint of spice as it lingers with that lush fruit and bright, crisp acid.

And here’s the best part: this dessert wine comes in at about half the price of many Ice Wines. At $20 or under for a half bottle, it beats the pants off the usual $40 for a 375ml bottle. I’m dying to try this with some Creme Brulee, Cheesecake, or other decadent rich dessert. After all, what are dessert wines for??

$22.99 King Estate Vin Glace 2007 375ml

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Sweet Heaven — A Dolce Stilnovo Rosso Wine Review

dolce rosso“Sweet wine is real wine, too.” There, I’ve issued a challenge to all those wine drinkers who turn up their nose at wine that isn’t dry. I’m not sure where this prejudice started — probably with all the now-sophisticated winos who started their drinking careers under the bleachers in high school, swilling sweet Boone’s Farm straight from the bottle.

Today’s true, high-quality sweet wines are a world away from Thunderbird. About 4000 miles, in fact… In Italy, they grow a wonderful grape called Moscato that makes heavenly sweet wine without any added sugar. The trick is that during fermentation, they stop the process before all of the sugar has been converted to alcohol. The rapid, intense refrigeration that stops the action of the yeast also leaves a little bit of natural spritziness in the wine. The result of all this is a naturally-sweet, slightly bubbly, clean, fruity, wine.

So let’s talk labels. Most Italian Moscato’s are from the Asti region, and almost all are white. These have a lush peach-y flavor. But there’s one “Red Moscato” called Dolce Stilnovo Rosso 2009, made by Cantine Aurora in Piemonte. Instead of peaches, this one offers delicate sweet strawberries on the palate. If you like sweet wines, it’s to die for. In fact, it’s very close to the more famous Banfi Brachetto d’Acqui, but about $10 less.

The back label calls this a Dessert Wine, and it’s great that way alongside something chocolate-y with, say, a raspberry drizzle. But for all those folks with a sweet palate, it’s a great everyday drinking wine. And there are lots of those folks out there! At $15, this is the perfect bottle to bring out when the “non-drinking” relatives come to dinner. They’ll take a sip, and before you know it they’ll have polished off the bottle. Not to worry — true Moscato’s are only about 6-7% alcohol (because of the stopping-fermentation-thing, remember?) So Aunt Ethel won’t get hungover from her night of wine drinking.

Try this for yourself, and let your mind stretch to accommodate a good, sweet, wine.

$15.99 Dolce Stilnova Rosso 750 ml
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