Sweet wine from Oregon ranges from Willamette Valley Vineyards Edelweiss to sweet ice wines from Andrew Rich. His Les Vigneaux Gewurztraminer sweet wine has to be at the top of my list of dessert wine favorites. This little bottle packs a wallop of flavor! For one thing, Andrew has brought out the natural spiciness of the Gewurztraminer grape in a wonderfully balanced wine that, though sweet, is so much more than just sweet. Far too many late harvest-style wines seem to offer intense sweetness as the measure of quality, when in fact it is varietal flavor that is the hallmark of greatness in late harvest wines.
Andrew's wine serves up a wonderful example of Gewurztraminer's sweet apricot and nectarine fruitiness, along with hints of tart orange and a tangy allspice and clove-infused honey character that is simply delicious. Thankfully, the sweetness in this wine is balanced by an acidity that keeps it from becoming heavy and overbearing-like so many sweet wines that are simply, well . . . sweet. In fact, the sweetness in this wine acts not as a bludgeon of sugar, but rather as a soft backdrop upon which the flavors of the grape can be painted. If there is an Oregon wine that signifies Christmas to me, it is this one!
A wonderful sweet wine of a different kind is the lightly sweet Silvan Ridge Semi-Sparkling Muscat. This delightful wine offers a very light-bodied (around 6.5% alcohol) and lightly sweet style that makes it great for serving at holiday parties regardless of the time of day. The semi-sparkling Muscat style was originated by Oregon winemaker Joe Dobbes, some years ago.
The softly sparkling style is great for bringing out the earthy-sweet character of the Muscat grape, while still offering a certain verve through the soft, barely detectable fizz. Personally, I think it is a wonderful way to get through all the fruitcake offerings of the season; just sip the semi-sparkling Muscat and then quickly down the fruitcake. If you do it right, you'll enjoy the wine and won't even taste the fruitcake!
Contrary to popular belief, not all late harvest wines are intensely sweet. An excellent example of this phenomenon is the Amity Vineyards late harvest Oregon Riesling. Fairly bursting with apple and peach flavors, this wine delivers a wonderful uplifting fruitiness whose sweetness acts as a resonant tune to the fruit, rather than a singular note of its own. Though residual sugar is above 9%, this is not a wine that feels dramatically sweet. The balance is superb, making it an excellent choice of a variety of sipping situations, from aperitif to dessert-in-a-glass.
It is also true that not all Oregon sweet wines are of the traditional "late harvest" style. One of the most popular sweet wines of Oregon is made from raspberries, to which has been added neutral grape spirits. The "Raspberry Framboise Vin d' Ete" produced by Eola Hilla Wine Cellars is a perennial favorite. Made by crushing ripe raspberries, and then stopping fermentation by the addition of grape spirits, the result is an intensely concentrated, intensely raspberry, syrupy sweet wine. Pouring a glass of this is like pouring pure raspberry puree!
While this wine is more like a fruit liqueur than a wine, it has an undeniably appealing, in-your-face raspberry concentration and an incredibly lingering finish as the essence of the fruit stays in your mouth seemingly forever. This is great stuff for pouring over ice cream, adding to tonic when the hearthside gets too warm, or simply enjoying by itself.
This is certainly a wine for sipping, with a warming character that lulls you into contemplation or romance, depending on your inclination!
Oregon's sweet wines have become popular across the country over the last few years. There are many more wines showing complexity and balance, and fewer showing simple sweetness. There are also more winemakers trying different styles, giving us consumers a wider variety of sweetness to choose from. This is a wonderful trend that I hope will continue! In any event, I think you'll be happy with any of the wines reviewed here-they are great to give or get this holiday season!
Of the four principal varieties of the muscat grape, including Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Blanc, Muscat Hamburg, and Muscat Ottonel, the most widely propagated and also most representative of the family character is Muscat Blanc, known as Muscat Frontignan in France and Moscato di Canelli in Italy.
Each muscat produces, with subtle variation, wines with the distinct, intense, aromatic, sweet, and easily-recognized scent of muscat and, unusual for most wine varieties, that actually taste like grapes. Muscat of Alexandria and Muscat Hamburg are, in fact, cultivated as table grapes, as well as for making wine.
Muscat is a very ancient variety and, with its strong and distinctive perfume, was probably one of the first to be identified and cultivated. Nearly every Mediterranean country has a famous wine based on muscat and varying from light and bone dry, to low-alcohol sparkling versions, to very sweet and alcoholic potions.
The muscat vine is not very vigorous in most soil types, especially sandy mixtures, and seems to prefer damp, deep soils. It also falls victim quite easily to any of several vine diseases. Normally early in budding, muscat may also suffer from Spring frosts. All things considered, muscat would not seem to be a grape that would be cultivated so widely as it is.
The full name is Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and the berries are quite small and round, but not always white. The spectrum includes pale green, pale yellow, golden, pink, red, brown, and black berries. Some vines produce fruit that can be different colored each vintage.
Oregon Sweet Wines