Category Archives: Dessert

Chateau Simon Carretey 2008 Sauternes

Sauternes AOC, Bordeaux, France; 13.5% ABV
imported by Halby Marketing, Inc., Sonoma, CA
$7 for 375ml at the Richmond, CA, store on 27 Feb

chsimoncarretey_2008_sauternesOn the nose and then on the palate, the wine shows full-flavored but delicately delineated honeysuckle, yellow pear / apple, pineapple, ripe Asian pear, very slight (if any?) botrytis, and ripe apricot.  This is not the most amazing Sauternes, but it is an outstanding bargain.  Like most such sweet wines, this could probably develop well for at least another ten years in good storage.

The next day, the flavors were much the same, with the flavors more delicate and “liquidy.”


Graham Beck 2011 Rhona Muscadel sweet dessert wine

made from Muscat de Frontignan and named for the proprietor’s wife
produced and bottled by Graham Beck Wines, Robertson, South Africa; 16.5% ABV
$6 for 500ml at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 July.  We got only 12 bottles.

GrahamBeck_2011_RhonaMuscadelI was very excited when I saw these bottles, as it’s quite rare that the GO gets a dessert wine.  However, it’s not a typical dessert wine, in that it’s fermented on the skins for a while and then fortified (video).  While it’s not as exciting as its lovely appearance, it is a pretty tasty sweet wine for the price.

Like a couple ports I’ve reviewed here, this wine’s flavors (and acid) came out more after it had been open a few days.  (I took only small pours each day.)  Now, the wine shows flavors of golden grape / raisin, apricot, hints of orange peel, balancing acid, and an edge of caramel / roasted nut on the finish.  I couldn’t taste any Botrytis, but it bears enough of a resemblance to my memory of Tokaji to be entertaining.

Gérard Bertrand 2008 Banyuls

Appellation Banyuls Protégée, (southern) France
Vin Doux Naturel, a type of fortified wine; 16% ABV
Made from Grenache Noir and Grenache Gris
$9 for 750ml at the Richmond, CA store on 3 Nov

Bertrand_2008_BanyulsI did not know what Banyuls was before finding this wine, so I am still learning about it.  Apparently, it must be made from at least half Grenache, and the fermentation is stopped early by adding grape spirits, increasing the alcohol and retaining the sugar from the grapes.  It struck me as sort of in between Port wine and a Cotes du Rhone.

The wine shows Grenache flavors of red / black cherries and black raspberries, red grape, maybe redder plum, lighter raisin, and wood.  While the fruit is sort of like a Cotes du Rhone, it’s obviously sweet and shows a slight oxidation.  On the other hand, it’s not as heavy and sweet as a young Port.  It went well with dark chocolate, but not so well with dates, which seemed a little too sweet.  I expect roasted nuts would be a good complement, maybe a creamy blue cheese.  The Bertrand web site says, “To be enjoyed at 16°C (61°F), with fruit desserts or Catalan pastries but also as an aperitif.”  Overall, it’s quite pleasant and an interesting experience, but I won’t be getting more.  Part of that is that I’m not that into dessert wine, and part of that is that it’s not especially complex, although it is better than Donna’s Dessert wine ($6).  I’m curious about what others here think of it.


Indian Peak Vineyards “Donna’s Dessert Wine”

California; 19.75% ABV (so says the label)
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 Sept

IndianPeak_DonnasDessertWineI picked this up thinking, “Oh, maybe this could be something interesting.”  Then I saw the alcohol percentage and the slightly risque back label and thought, “Okay, good or not, this is a true Gross Out find!”

When I looked at the Indian Peaks web site, the winery struck me as a pretty serious and credible effort.  And I think this wine is pretty good!

Although it’s apparently made from Syrah, there’s not all that much in the flavors that would tip me that it’s not, for example, Cabernet instead.  Nonetheless, the sugar and flavors of medium red cherry, raspberry, and earth / aged complexity are evenly balanced with raspberry / cranberry acid.  I’m not familiar with ruby port, but from the name, I could easily imagine its being something like this.  For this price, if you like fortified dessert wine (it doesn’t say so, but I can’t imagine this alcohol level was reached otherwise), I think this is a pretty tasty deal.

Darrell also liked this wine.

Bordeaux Standard 2005 Sauternes

Bordeaux, France; 13.5% ABV
$6 for 500ml at the Richmond, CA, store on 28 Apr

BS_2005_SauternesAfter liking the Bordeaux Standard reds (2004 Haut-Medoc and 2006 St. Emilion), I jumped at this Sauternes from an outstanding year.  Although this wine is a little lighter than previous Sauternes I’ve tasted, it’s quite delicious.

The first small glass was a little reserved, but the second opened to gently viscous honeyed ripe pear and melon, butterscotch, slightly bitter caramel, and botrytis.  I am not that much into dessert wines, but this even, balanced, decently complex wine is outstanding for the price.

Note that I have here gone with a Lim13-style portrait of the whole bottle as I agree that, in this case, a close-up of the ugly label doesn’t do it justice.

2010 Ste. Chapelle Snake River Valley Late Harvest Riesling, Idaho $3.99

Silverdale, WA    12.5% alc.    375 ml.    (Purchased on 4/9/14)

IMG_1470Brilliant medium golden color.  Just like the 2008, the nose is delightful…sweet, honeyed, peaches, nectarines and apricots.  I could smell it for hours and not have even a sip (o.k., I’m exaggerating slightly).  In the mouth it’s thick, but not syrupy, smooth, quite sweet (but at about 16 percent residual sugar, not quite as sweet as the 2008) and equally as delicious.  The flavors match the fruits of the bouquet…mainly yellw/orange stone fruits.  The acidity balances the sugar.

Another wonderful sweet, delicious dessert Riesling from a producer who consistently knows how to do it well.  Peaches in lemon-touched syrup lingers in the finish.  Grab a bottle or three of this treat and pour it nice and cold over fresh grilled skinned peaches in the summer.  Add a plop of vanilla ice cream too!  Should note also that the alcohol on this one is slightly higher than the 2008 and the price is a buck more (which is still incredibly reasonable for what you’re getting).

1997 Woodbridge Lodi Portacinco, CA $5.99

Silverdale, WA    20% alc.    (Purchased on 10/2/13)

75% Touriga, 10% Trousseau (Bastardo), 10% Souzao, 4% Tinto Cao, 1% Alvarelhao

IMG_1195Real cork…not a hand-pull type.  Opaque deep purple with a brownish caste, showing it’s age of 16 years.  Nose is definitely typical sweet, fortified, high alcohol, raisiny Port.  Quite sweet and syrupy on the palate with tobacco, black plum, raisin and perhaps some cocoa.  It has held up extremely well and it’s really very tasty.  For me, it lacks the back-of-the-throat grip of true Port, but I’m always pleased to see American port style wines employing true Portuguese varieties in their production.  A fine fireside sipper as the autumn (and soon to be winter) nights turn much cooler here in the northwest.  A very inexpensive and tasty well-aged, fortified dessert wine for those willing to give it a try.  Nice effort.  I categorized this as “Kitchen Sink”, but Portuguese/American “Kitchen Sink”.

Worked great as a cooking component in one of our favorite entrees…filet mignon with port blue cheese reduction sauce (using smoked blue cheese crumbles this time).  Mmmmmmmmmmm!

And by the way, BargainWhine was kind enough to alert me to the fact that reader ffchick shared her review of the 1999 vintage of this wine nearly two years ago in November 2011.  She apparently paid $7.99 ($9.99 minus 20% during that year’s winter sale).  So comparing her review with mine and noting the current price…I’d say this is a real bargain!

2006 Kiona First Crush Columbia Valley Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, WA $5.99

Silverdale, WA     375ml.    11% alc.    (Purchased on 10/2/13)

“Produced from nearly frozen grapes that measured 37 degrees brix at harvest and has a finished residual sugar of 17% by weight.”  From a reputable and long-time family producer on Red Mountain in the eastern Yakima Valley (Benton County).

IMG_1190Brilliant medium golden; Meyer lemon and candied fruit in the nose, but it also has a somewhat off-putting plastic or chemical quality too that gradually disappates.  In the mouth, it’s thick, viscous and syrupy sweet.  The sweetness is cut a bit by gentle tart acidity, but it could stand quite a bit more for my palate.  Flavors show more candied fruit and some canned peach with honey in the background.  Long peachy finish.  It’ll be fine with sweet fruit desserts or as a dessert by itself.  Much different than the late harvest Rieslings I’ve found at GO in the last couple of years.  Different varietal, different flavors, lower acidity.  Only vaguely similar to true Sauternes.  Quite tasty, but not very complex.

2010 Gabbiano Moscato, Piemonte, Italy $3.99

Silverdale, WA    7% alc.    (Purchased on 7/5/13)

IMG_1075Excellent very tightly sealed cork gives a subtle pop as it’s extracted.  Fine frothy sparkle (frizzante’) as it’s poured into a glass.  Brilliant pale straw color and typically aromatic fruity, melon and orange Muscatty nose.  Tingles on the tongue.  Quite sweet, but not syrupy and showing well-defined fruity Muscat flavors.  Well-balanced lemony acidity and the sparkle help cut the sweetness.

For true Moscato lovers, this is a fine example and at this price, it’s really hard to beat.  Serve it well-chilled with brunch or as a summer sipper with nuts and salty cheeses…or pour it over fresh berries or peaches for a light, but flavorful dessert.

Toasted Head 2008 Late Harvest Viognier ($6/375 mL)

Dunnigan Hills, CA. 38º Brix at harvest, 200 g/L RS;12.5% ABV
Purchased 5/10/2013 at the Berkeley, CA store

Toasted Head 2008 LH ViognierA pretty clear bottle with only painted labeling allows you to see the color, which is a deeper gold than you might expect even given the concentration of this juice; Viognier is not known for aging, so I was a little worried about oxidation, but the clear bottle also revealed a nice natural cork in great shape, so for $4.80 it was worth a try.

Not bad, not great. Some very nice and varietally correct aromas – fat and waxy, honey/honeysuckle over peach/nectarine tending toward the dried apricot end, some slight oxidation notes in a nutty, toasty, caramelized vein. Nice but didn’t have the nose soaring from the glass I look for in great examples of a Viognier, especially for a late-harvest version. Not an aromatic powerhouse, but the palate is full of rich, creamy fruit and has buckets of ripe acidity to balance the syrupy sweetness, so it’s quite drinkable if a little bland. Really a well-made wine with no real flaws, just getting a bit long in the tooth  for those who prefer more perfume and freshness in a dessert wine, although you may like it better than I did if you enjoy Vin Santo and other more caramelly, nutty types of dessert wine. I would like to give it a Thumbs Up for effort but really can’t go higher than Drinkable + in good conscience because I just don’t find it exciting enough to be worth the caloric intake regardless of the price. Maybe pour it over ice cream instead of drinking it if you’re really feeling decadent.