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Recommendations: Local dessert wines

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Local dessert wines are more than just a sweet afterthought. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 1:29 PM

Dave McIntyre considers these to be among the best locally made dessert wines. They can be purchased directly from the winery and might be in limited distribution; try asking a wine store to order through a distributor.

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Veritas Vineyard & Winery "Kenmar," 2007
Virginia, $35, 375 ml

Kenmar is made from traminette, a hybrid grape related to Gewurztraminer that shares some of that grape's seductive floral aromas. Smelling the Kenmar is like sticking your nose into a bouquet of roses. Linger awhile, and you might detect honeysuckle and jasmine as well. Savor it in your mouth, then slowly exhale as you return to reality. Oh, good; there's more in your glass.

Linden Late Harvest Petit Manseng, 2006
Virginia, $28, 375 ml

Petit manseng is an obscure grape from southwestern France that does well in Virginia because it tolerates humidity and ripens fairly consistently. Jim Law's dessert version is acrobatic with citrus and apricot flavors that don't know how to quit. Fist-pumping, table-thumping good.

Chester Gap Cellars Petit Manseng, 2009
** 1/2
Virginia, $19
(Great Value)

Winemaker Bernd Jung doesn't call this a dessert wine, even though it clocks in fairly sweet, with 6 percent residual sugar. That's because its acidity keeps it perfectly balanced on the razor's edge between sweet and dry. This wine calls for food, but you have choices: fruit desserts or cheeses, for example, or spicy entrees. Note this is a full 750-ml bottle.

Barboursville Vineyards Malvaxia Reserve Passito, 2006
** 1/2
Virginia, $30

Made in a vin santo style, with juice gently pressed from grapes that have air-dried for several months, this is effusively apricot-y and rather dry-tasting for a dessert wine (probably from the oak aging; the dryness should mellow as the wine ages). Perfect pairing: blue cheese with dried apricots and almonds.

Gray Ghost "Adieu" Late Harvest Vidal, 2009
Virginia, $24, 375 ml

The golden color and honeysuckle aromas hint at this wine's rich thickness. Flavors of orange peel and clove float through the honeyed texture.

Elk Run Lord Baltimore Port, 2003
Maryland, $30, 375 ml

Made from cabernet sauvignon, with the fermentation arrested by the addition of neutral grape spirits, this classy libation begs to be paired with chocolate cake.

Pearmund Late Harvest Petit Manseng, Mount Juliet Vineyard, 2009
Virginia, $19, 375 ml

It's elegant and straightforward, with appealing floral notes. Fairly dry, suggesting that lighter desserts or cheeses would be the best pairings.

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