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MUSCATS



QUADY WINERY
"ESSENSIA"  Orange Muscat $21.99-750ml  $14.99-375ml
"ELYSIUM"  Black Muscat   $21.99-750ml   $14.99-375ml
Andy Quady started his own winery back in the late 1970s, having worked for some large wine behemoth cranking out a more quady.gif (14788 bytes)"industrial" product.  He started as a "port" specialist, having been encouraged to explore the possibilities of making fortified dessert wine from Amador County-grown fruit.  

At the time there was the "old time" Ficklin Vineyards and the other "up-start" was the J.W. Morris Port Works (which, as it turns out, didn't work so well!).  

In scouting for grapes, Quady ran across a special Muscat variety called Orange Muscat.  He vinified this with great success and has since been known more for it than for the port-styled wines he originally set out to make. "Essensia," as it's called, has great citrus blossom and honeyed fruit notes.   

The next addition was "Elysium," a nectar of Black Muscat which has a fragrance reminiscent of rose petals.  It is a great match for chocolate or, even better, chocolate-raspberry desserts. 






ROBERT MONDAVI "Moscato d'Oro"  $15.99 375ml (limited)
Mondavi used to dabble with late harvest Riesling and late-picked Sauvignon Blanc.  Today they make a perfectly lovely little Muscat wine.  

It seems to attract the attention of those who virtually never drink wine.  It's been so successful that the wine is difficult to come by and is not available all the time.  The "Moscato d'Oro" is made from Napa Valley fruit, while a "Moscato Bianco" comes from other parts of California.  Vineyard property in Napa is, these days, planted to more expensive grape varieties than Muscat, so it's not especially plentiful.  We were told, at one point, it would not be available to us.  
Marketing forecasts, it seems, were not accurate and we currently have a bit of this for sale.

 


HART'S DESIRE MUSCAT $21.99 (750ml)
John Hart made a delightful blend of Muscat Canelli and Orange Muscat to produce this flashy, fruity, mildly citrusy Muscat.

It's sweet but not syrupy.  It's wonderfully aromatic, too.  

 



BEAULIEU VINEYARD "Muscat de Beaulieu"  $9.99-375ml
This fortified Muscat used to be labeled "Muscat de Frontignan," but as Napa Valley vintners are more careful about their own appellations, most have stopped using European appellations on their wines.  That explains the name change for this wine.   As Beringer no longer makes a fortified wine of Malvasia Bianca, this is the next best thing for "old timers" who enjoyed that sherry-like, aromatic wine. 
The wine is a blend of a number of Muscat varieties and it's matured for about 5 years in wood.  This contributes some of the honey, apricot and nutty notes to the wine.  
 
 
 
 
 


MERRYVALE "ANTIGUA" $34.99 (half bottle)
The Merryvale winery bottles this Muscat de Frontignan-styled wine in a fancy square bottle.  The wine has some rather old Muscat in it, the blend comprising wines as old as 1970.  It's a deep golden color and has lots of nutty and toffee-like aromas and flavors.  
 
 

 

MALVASIA
In the 1950s on through until about the 1970s, a few wineries made Malvasia wines in the fashion of fortified Muscats or Sherry-styled wines.  Beringer was famous for its Malvasia Bianca, as was Santa Clara County's San Martin Winery.  Beringer now features dry table wines for the most part and San Martin has vanished!  Bonny Doon Vineyard, Wild Horse and Morgan make dry wines of Malvasia. 

We do have a Spanish version of Malvasia Bianca from the Torres winery near Barcelona.  It is nutty, floral and sweet.



California "Port"
 
HEITZ CELLAR Napa Valley "Ink Grade" Port   $34.99
Heitz has dabbled in dessert wines for years.  They used to offer a marvelous fortified wine called Angelica.  More recently they fortified their own, home-grown Grignolino to produce a wonderful, light, flower-scented dessert wine.   The current Heitz offering is called "Ink Grade" and comes from a small three or four-acre vineyard in the hills (a favorite bicycling road, apparently).   They've planted Portuguese varieties, including Bastardo, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Madeira, Alvarelhao, Tinta Cao, Souzao and Tinta Barroca.  I read where, encouraged by the early results, Heitz has planted Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional to augment these other varieties.  The current wine is dark in color (maybe Ink Grade is an appropriate name!) and it has raisiny, chocolate, spicy notes. 
 
HEITZ CELLAR Napa Valley "Grignolino Port" $29.99
Heitz had been experimenting with making a dessert wine from its Grignolino for a few years.  As noted elsewhere on the site, I'm not convinced the grape is really Grignolino, finding the wine more similar to a Brachetto (another Piemontese variety).  It's not especially dark in color and it has a wonderful fruity/floral fragrance...good for raspberry or light chocolate desserts.  Not especially cellar worthy, we like serving this at cool cellar temp during the warm summer months and closer to room temp in the winter.





ROBERT MONDAVI'S "WOODBRIDGE" PORTACINCO $13.99-750ml
I'll bet that 30-something years ago when Robert Mondavi launched his winery in Oakville, he'd never have imagined he'd be making a fortified dessert wine. He would probably have wagered he'd not make "jug" wines either, but having received a wine facility out in Lodi's "Woodbridge" as a settlement in the family dispute over the Mondavi family's "Charles Krug" winery, they started making "Bob Red" and "Bob White" (because they were "cheap, cheap, cheap!"). 

Over the years they've removed the "Robert Mondavi" name off the labels and replaced it with "Woodbridge" as the brand name. As so much fruit comes from this hot, hot, hot climate, someone suggested planting Portuguese "Port" varieties and they've got five of 'em being cultivated on a little more than 4 acres. And, so far, so good! 

The initial wine was labeled as "Portocinco" and this has recently been changed to "Portacinco™." If you're into details, the current bottling has 49% Touriga, 16% Alvarelho, 15% Bastardo, 11% Souzo and 9% Tinta Co. It's then matured for about 2 years in small oak cooperage. 

Pretty nice. And it's reasonably priced! Mondavi, who has teamed up with wineries around the world to make collaborative efforts, has yet to sign up with a Port producer.  We suggest the following pairings and brand names: 
Cockburn + Mondavi=Fumé Port
Graham + Mondavi=Five Grapes
Warre + Opus One= World Warre Two
Offley Forrester + Mondavi= Offley Good
Rozes + R Mondavi=Rozes R Red
Smith-Woodhouse + Mondavi Woodbridge=Smith-Woodbridge
Quarles Harris + The Mondavi Brothers=Family Quarles










FICKLIN VINEYARDS
"Tinta Port"  $17.99-750ml
"Ten Year Old Tawny Port"   $24.99
1991 "Vintage" Port $29.99 
The Ficklin family has been in California's Central Valley growing fruit since the early 1900's.  It wasn't until 1946 that they set up a winery and began their work as California's "port specialists."  They have about 35 acres of vineyards, all devoted to "Portuguese Port" varieties.  They blend for consistency, producing wine in a "solera" aging/maturation system.  About 60% to 80% of the blend is Tinta Madeira, 2% to 10% is Tinta Cao with Touriga and Souzao each accounting for 10% to 25% of the final blend.  Their wine is very fairly priced and offers a really nice alternative to the Douro Valley Port wines. 

 Ficklin now makes a 10-Year Tawny Port.  This wine shows a more spirituous quality.  Whether this ever mellows and becomes a better balanced wine, I can't predict. 

 

 

 

MEYER FAMILY
The late Justin Meyer was one of the founders of a little winemaking enterprise in Napa called Silver Oak.  He sold his share of Silver Oak to his partner and embarked on a small wine project in the Yorkville area of Mendocino County.  

They have a Tawny-styled "Port" which is based on Zinfandel and fortified with Alembic brandy.  



Currently in stock:  Meyer Family Cellars "Tawny Port"  SALE $34.99 (375ml)

 

Late Harvest Wines, etc.

MR. K (KRACHER & KRANKL)
There's a very famous and much-admired winemaker in Austria whose wines are held in the same high esteem as France's Chteau d'Yquem. 
That would be Alois Kracher, who makes a remarkable array of sweet wines.  

One of his admirers is Manfred Krankl, a local wine geek and winemaker whose wines are sold under the label "Sine Qua Non."  I think that's a Latin phrase for "Very rare, very artistic, high-point-scoring wine."  Imagine putting together a collaboration of Kracher and Krankl.  Those two very special K's have teamed up to produce dessert wines called "Mr K." 

Currently in stock:  2000 Noble Man $119.99 (375ml)
2000 Straw Man $119.99 (375ml)



 
 
 
 
 
 
 









"DOLCE" 2005 Napa Valley (List $81) SALE $71.99 375ml
Setting their sights on producing a wine which rivals France's Chateau d'Yquem, the owners of Far Niente produce but a small amount of this deluxe, rich, vanillin, honeyed, moderately oily dessert wine. It is made of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc which have been barrel-fermented in French oak. The wine spends a fairly lengthy aging period in wood, too. As with other Far Niente products, attention to the details of packaging are important. With respect to the wine, comparisons with Chateaux Suduiraut, Climens or Rieussec are appropriate.






ANDREW RICH
This fellow is a graduate of the Bonny Doon Winemaking School, having been a cellar rat/winemaker at that institution (we can't call it an "organization", now, can we?).

Andrew learned, amongst other things, the "recipe" for Bonny Doon's "Vin de Glaciere," having seen the production of various varietals made as "ice wines."  Of course, the U.S. government prohibits the term "Ice Wine" on dessert wines made from grapes which have been chilled down in a freezer instead of subjected to frost-bite temperatures while the grapes are still on the vine.  

Andrew makes a delicious "ice wine" (I can call it whatever I want, but Andrew can't!) from Gewürztraminer.  Most of the juice in this little bottle comes from Oregon, but he augmented with a bit of Washington-grown fruit as well.  

The 2008 is a fine example of this sort of nectar.  It's extremely aromatic, featuring the usual lychee-like fragrances, rose petals and grapefruit.  While quite sweet, the wine is not "heavy" nor is it cloying.  Paired with a bowl of summer fruits or an apple pie, this is a bit of heaven.

Currently in stock:  2008 Andrew Rich "Les Vigneaux" Gewürztraminer  $23.99 (375ml)



 





FERRARI CARANO
This Dry Creek Valley winery makes a small quantity of "El Dorado Noir" and "El Dorado Gold." 

The Caranos, who also own the El Dorado hotel and casino in Nevada run this winery.  The sweet wines are named after the hotel...
Black Muscat is the grape in the El Dorado Noir.  

Currently in stock:  El Dorado Noir $27.99 (375ml)






HART'S DESIRE
John Hart really makes this wine for himself and Mrs. Hart.  It's a late-picked Zinfandel from Sonoma County vineyards.

"I usually only make it every-other-year." he told us.  |

The reason is it's for his own, personal enjoyment.

He sells us a few bottles, too, as we find it to be one of the more interesting late-harvest Zinfandels.

Usually, late harvest Zinfandel arises when the vintner is asleep during September/October and forgets to pick the grapes when they're ripe.  As Zinfandel tends to ripen unevenly, sometimes a heat spike for a day or two is all that's needed to push the sugar to extreme levels.  When the wine won't finish fermenting, the winemaker is "stuck" (and so is the fermentation!) with a red wine with sugar.  When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.   Or late-harvest Zinfandel.

Hart's sweet little Zin avoids the weird and funky notes of many of the wines made "by mistake."  That's the advantage of approaching this sort of wine "on purpose."   It's intentional and a winemaker can do a better job.

You can pair this with blue-veined cheeses, of course.  We like it with chocolate and a fire in the fireplace.  

Currently in stock:  Hart's Desire 2003 Late Harvest Zinfandel Sold Out





JOSEPH PHELPS
The first winemaker at the Phelps' winery was Walter Schug, a fellow who's German-born and who has friends and family back in Deutschland.  I remember that he even helped some wineries arrange for their wines to be sold here in California way back in the 1970s!

Schug even made Gewürztraminer and Riesling for Phelps and those were nice wines, though they fell out of favor eventually.  

Phelps planted a wonderfully curious German grape variety called Scheurebe.  This variety is a hybrid of Riesling and Silvaner and was "born" in 1916.  Georg Scheu gets the credit for this variety (or is it the "blame"?).  We're fans of drier versions from the Pfalz, Rheinhessen and Franken regions.  Phelps makes a delightful dessert version of Scheurebe.

The grapes are grown in their Spring Valley Vineyard near St. Helena.  The fruit is harvested at a mature level of ripeness and then they put the grapes in a deep freeze.  This accomplishes something akin to the German and Austrian practices of picking grapes in the dark days (before sunrise) of winter when there's a freeze.   The frozen-solid fruit is then pressed, allowing just the sugar and "essence" of the grape to be extracted.  While the old-world method may be more romantic (unless it's you freezing your tail off while all the neighbors are still sleeping), the California method is rather practical.

We have Phelps' 2002 is sold out  and it went for a list price of $30 per 375ml.  The new vintage Phelps is offering is listing at $45 per half bottle, quite jump in price.  We may be able to special order it for you.

Currently in stock:  PHELPS 2005 "EISRÉBE" (list $45) Special Order Item 











STONY HILL
Stony Hill is one of the great classic wineries of the Napa Valley.  

It was originally the "summer" home for Fred and Eleanor McCrea.  They were advised that they might be able to raise goats there or, if they preferred, cultivate wine grapes.  Having consulted some U.C. Davis researchers, they chose to plant Chardonnay, despite warnings that it was a difficult grape to grow.  The first vintage was awful and they threw it out.  But eventually, having the advice and suggestions of some neighboring winemakers, the quality of the wine improved.  The McCreas sold their wine to friends in the Bay Area.  I remember visiting them in the early 1970s.  We had a lovely chat and tasted some good wines, but everything was sold.

Having planted a tiny parcel of Semillon, Stony Hill makes a lovely, curious wine from grapes which are dried in old, wooden prune-drying trays.  When the fruit arrives at the right point of sugar, the grapes are pressed and the juice is fermented in old French oak cooperage.   This wine is a bit of a throw-back, so it's quite unlike late-harvest wines which have some influence from the "noble rot" called Botrytis cinerea.  

Interesting these bottles can age most handsomely, too.

Currently in stock:  Stony Hill 2001 Napa "Semillon de Soleil"  $22.49 (375ml)



 

 


  

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