Tag Archives: dessert wine

Snapshots from Kobrand Tour D’Italia

Earlier this month Kobrand Wine & Spirits brought its Tour d’Italia to the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead. Winery owners and winemakers shared their latest releases with members of the wine trade and media.

Among the many delicious wines there were a number of standouts. Take a look at the AG’s picks in the snapshots below (click to enlarge), and look for them at wine shops and restaurants in the Atlanta area.

Geography Guide:

Piedmont (Northwest Italy) — Michele Chiarlo
Veneto (Northeast Italy) — Masi Agricola
Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Northeast Italy, east of Veneto) — Fernando Pighin & Figli
Tuscany (Central Italy, on western side) — Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute, Tenute Silvio Nardi

photo credit: Cara Isdell Lee

More Red Wines | More White Wines | Under $20

AG Pick: Merryvale Antigua Dessert Wine

One of the best things is discovering a wine that you forgot was in your collection.  It’s like finding a hidden treasure that you never knew you buried.

I had that experience this weekend with Merryvale Antigua dessert wine.  I purchased a few bottles several years ago and somehow my last remaining bottle had migrated to the back of my liquor cabinet, hiding behind bottles of rum, scotch and tequila that I haven’t looked at in months, if not longer.

Merryvale AntiguaI became a fan of Merryvale wines after drinking a bottle of their Starmont Merlot on my 22nd birthday.  A couple of years later, it was the first winery I visited during my first trip to Napa.

I remember that first visit because it’s when I tasted the Antigua dessert wine.  Relatively new to fortified wines, I was intrigued by the Antigua’s flavors and complexity.  I asked for a second taste before I finished my first one.

The Antigua is made from Muscat de Frontignan and fortified with the addition of California brandy.  The wine is aged an average of 11 years in French oak, which enhances the flavor and helps to give the wine its beautiful amber-gold color.

Your first sniff of the Antigua welcomes you in with enticing aromas of orange peel and almond that continue to develop in your mouth.  These flavors are rounded out with hazelnut, caramel and a slight hint of milk chocolate-covered espresso beans on the warm and lingering finish.  The rich and thick mouthfeel will leave you satisfied, yet craving another sip.

The Antigua is delicious on its own or it can be served with cheese or desserts ranging from crème brûlée to chocolate cake.

A 500ml bottle of the Merryvale Antigua Muscat de Frontignan dessert wine costs $29.  It can be purchased online at merryvale.com.

Colorado Wine: Bookcliff Vineyards

Before I could leave Colorado I had to try some of the state’s wine.  There are more than 40 wineries in Colorado but unfortunately I only had the chance to check out one.  Fortunately it was a good one: Bookcliff Vineyards.

Bookcliff Vineyards was founded in 1999 by husband and wife John Garlich and Ulla Merz.  Their 33 acre vineyard is located in an area of western Colorado known as “the Vinelands,” a place where grapes were grown in the early 1900s.

The tasting room is located inside their fermentation and bottling facility, a relatively small warehouse in North Boulder.  When I walked inside I was greeted by Justin Jannusch, Bookcliff’s assistant winemaker who also led the tasting.  It was intimate and informal, the perfect atmosphere for enjoying a tasting.

Bookcliff grows 10 varietals (Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, Muscat Blanc, Orange Muscat, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Black Muscat), and has an impressive range of wines for its size.  In the tasting room I had a hard time narrowing down the choice of wines to taste among the 16 offered.

I decided to start with two whites.  The 2008 Viognier ($16) was a delicious introduction to Colorado wines.  Flavors of lime and honeydew give way to a clean finish that had just a hint of spice.  Next was the 2008 Riesling ($14), sweet yet light with notes of green apple and a crisp finish.

Moving on to the reds, my first wine was the 2004 Merlot ($14).  With its fresh red fruit flavors, it reminded me of the Merlot from Long Island that I enjoyed during my trip to the North Fork.  Next I really liked Friday’s Folly ($11), an upbeat red blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah), that has bright cherry and plum flavors.  It’s smooth and very easy to drink, making it a great wine for pizza or pasta.

I was almost surprised at how much I enjoyed the 2008 Tempranillo ($25).  It has lively flavors of cherry and red plum rounded out by cedar and vanilla.

My favorite of Bookcliff’s reds was the 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($25).  Raspberry, black cherry and plum flavors finish with a hint of smoke and spice.  Gentle tannins give the wine a smooth mouthfeel.  Like all of Bookcliff’s reds, this wine is very versatile and can pair with a variety of meat and pasta dishes.

I ended the tasting with the Finali ($20), a port-style dessert wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah grapes.  Fruit forward with some spiciness and sweet without being syrupy, this wine goes well with dessert or on its own.

As I was savoring the wines Justin gave me a tour of the facility, showing me everything from the crusher and destemmer to the bottle labeling and corking machines.  It was nice making a personal connection to the winemaking process at Bookcliff, and it really enhanced my tasting experience.  I definitely recommend visiting the tasting room or vineyard, or pick up one of their wines if you travel to Colorado.

For more information on Bookcliff Vineyards visit bookcliffvineyards.com.

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Mile High Mead

After all the beer I was ready to drink something sweet.  I found this something sweet at Redstone Meadery in Boulder.  Redstone produces mead, or honey wine.

Though today you won’t often find it at bars or on restaurant menus, mead has a long and illustrious past.  The name conjures up images of knights noisily clinking mugs at a celebration or vikings guzzling it on the open sea.  But mead is much older than that — archaeological evidence for mead production dates back to 7000 BC.

Often referred to as the ‘nectar of the gods,’ mead was enjoyed by people in Europe, Asia and Africa.  References to mead appear in folklore, mythology and literature.

With such a noble past, how can you not want to try mead?

Don’t let a dislike of sweet wine turn you off.  Mead comes in a variety of flavors and styles so you’re bound to find one that suits your taste.

Traditional mead is made with honey, water and yeast.  From these basic ingredients, mead can be sweet or dry, still or sparkling, flavored with fruits, herbs and spices, and even aged to give it a port-like quality.

Redstone Meadery makes more than 10 hand-crafted meads, available to try for free in their tasting room.  Much of the taste comes from the different honeys used in each recipe, which is mainly sourced from the Boulder area.  The mead spends about 5 to 6 months in stainless steel tanks, then another 5 to 6 months in the bottle (though some meads are aged longer).  All of Redstone’s meads are gluten free and have no sulfites added.

I started my tasting with Redstone’s Nectar.  These are sparkling meads that are medium in sweetness with 8% alcohol.  The Nectar is made with 5 parts clover honey and 1 part wildflower honey, with real fruit added after fermentation.

I tasted the Sunshine Nectar first ($14 for a 750 ml bottle).  It was light and refreshing, with a crisp and tart flavor from the addition of apricots.  Next I enjoyed the Boysenberry Nectar ($14), which had a nice fruit flavor and was pleasantly dry.  My favorite was the Nectar of the Hops ($16), a dry hopped version of the Nectar.  With floral aromas and flavors plus a hint of bitterness to cut the sweetness, it was fresh and delicious.

From the Nectar I moved on to the Mountain Honey Wine.  All are 12% in alcohol and are made with different honeys.  I started with the Traditional Mountain Honey Wine ($21).  Made with orange blossom and wildflower honey, it was medium in sweetness with notes of citrus and orange.  I also enjoyed the Pinot Noir Pyment Mountain Honey Wine ($21), made with desert blossom and black button sage honey.  Dry and full-bodied, this mead had a hint of smokiness from French and American oak cubes.  My favorite was the Juniper Berry Mountain Honey Wine ($21), also made with orange blossom and desert blossom honey.  Medium-dry with a hint of sweetness at the beginning, the mead had great spicy and woody flavors.

I couldn’t resist purchasing a taste of the Redstone Reserve.  These meads are made once a year and aged before bottling.  Unlike the pale colored Nectar and Honey Wines, the Reserves are dark copper to brown in color, with a sweet and syrupy taste.  They make a great after dinner drink or can be served with dessert.

When I visited the meadery they were offering tastes of two Reserves.  I started with the 2003 Boysenberry Reserve ($50 for a 500 ml bottle), which was released in August 2006 and was made from three different honeys.  It was smooth, fruity and well-balanced, with a refined sweet honey taste.  My favorite of the two was the 2004 Cyser Reserve ($55).  Released in December 2007, this was made with a trio of honeys and fresh apple cider from western Colorado.  The apples and honey made a delicious combination.  It was a warm and sweet mix that brought back memories of apple picking in upstate New York when I was younger.  It was a great end to my first real exploration of mead.

As I learned at Redstone Meadery, mead is surprisingly versatile.  It can pair with a variety of foods, from sushi to spicy dishes, to pasta and roasted meats.

You also don’t have to enjoy mead on its own.  Try using it in cocktails.  Redstone Meadery has a list of mead-based cocktails, from the simple Meadmosa (sparkling mead and orange juice), to the not-so-traditional Ophelia (mead, muddled orange, Tuaca and Jack Daniels).  Or you can use it in cooking, to flavor a sauce or vinaigrette.

Redstone Meadery offers free tours and tastings at their tasting room in Boulder.  They can ship mead to most states, including Florida.  For more information visit redstonemeadery.com.

Up next: The tasting tour of Boulder takes me to a Colorado winery

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