Port goes especially well with cheeses, nuts, fruits
The holidays are the perfect times to enjoy Port. Instead of steering you to those expensive vintage Ports, following are several that are delicious and can be found in the $20 range. All of the famous Port-producing houses make non-vintage wines, which are the signature of the winemaker and the “terroir.”
Each producer’s offering will closely reproduce the same flavor profile each year. The winemaker will accomplish that by blending. Port goes especially well with cheeses, nuts, fruit and many dessert offerings. I truly enjoy Port with crème caramel, although many of my acquaintances prefer an oloroso Sherry. Be careful with your consumption of these wines, as many are 15 percent alcohol. The oloroso can have alcohol added up to 18 percent.
Following are some recommendations. The prices are approximate. In the $18-25 range are: Graham’s Six Grapes, Cockburns (pronounced ko-burns) Special Reserve and Sandeman Founders Reserve. If you enjoy chocolate truffles or a cheese soufflé, look at tawny Port.
Two interesting and perhaps difficult-to-locate tawnys are named Colheita Port, which is made from grapes that all share the same vintage year, and crusted Port, which is unfiltered tawny that develops visible sediment, “crust,” and needs decanting before serving.
A 93-point tawny Port that can be found around $30 is Croft 10 Year Old NV. Dried mango and ginger nose opens to mixed berry, peach and apricot. This wine’s finish is nothing short of spectacular, with a lingering blend of caramel, sage cream and honey.
For those who wish to go upscale, the 94-point Fonseca Port 20 year old NV can be found around $65. Here, the nose and flavors are an intertwined blend of butterscotch, toffee and chocolate with a lovely mocha and dark roast coffee nuance. The finish is long, pleasant and clean. It presents flavors of peach and spice box. Fonseca is tops at bringing us an intense, powerful, complex wine. It can easily stand alone as dessert. The beauty of these offerings is they are consistent, regardless of the vintage year.
The 92-point Schild Estate Shiraz 2010 reviewed last summer is still around priced under $19. Do yourself a favor and buy some. It was picked No. 30 in the WS 2012 top 100. Will age for several years.
I had a nice mail from Janet Myers, director of winemaking at Franciscan Oakville Estate and Mt. Veeder since 2005. Following a master's degree from UC Davis in 1995, she began a long apprenticeship while still in college and continuing by working in Europe, Australia and California after UC Davis. Ms. Myers is one of the better-known women in the winemaking industry. She won high acclaim for the Meritage named Magnificat.
Many don’t recognize that her Napa Valley Cabernet is a bargain. I just sampled 2010 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. In the glass a brilliant dark garnet color, the wine, when swirled and aerated, gave off aromas of blackberry, plum, vanilla, dried herbs, violets and toasted oak, very slightly alcoholic. Complex nose needs air to open. Decant for best effect. On the palate, rich, silky and well-balanced oak and fruit, plum and blackberry. The long finish is very dry, with more fruit and some mocha. The oak is a bit forward, but I attribute that to the wine's youth. Two or three years in cellar should serve. This is 90-plus points if priced under $26; two price points McD.
Barbara and I had the pleasure of visiting this winery in 1984 when it was young and first starting production. I returned in 1993.
The place is extraordinarily beautiful to visit. Perhaps someday you will travel to St. Helena on your own wine-tasting venture. Be sure to visit and sample their wares. In addition to those mentioned are Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley Chard, Cuvee Sauvage Chard and some in-house gems such as Fountain Court White, Rosé, a selection of Clos and winemakers reserves plus Stylus Cab.
Tra Vigne and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen for those who plan way ahead or know someone important are wonderful restaurants located nearby in St. Helena. Cindy’s in owned by Cindy Pawlcyn, who made her Cali cooking bones at Mustards early on.