Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fortified (Port-Style) Wine of the Yakima Valley: Episode 1; Cabernet Sauvignon

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When a wine is referred to as 'fortified,' it means it's been made stronger (or 'fortified') by adding a distilled beverage, traditionally brandy. The brandy is added before the fermentation process is complete, which kills the yeast, leaving behind more sugar, which results in a stronger, sweeter beverage. As I mentioned here, to properly be called Port, the wine must hail from the Duoro Valley in Portugal. Since the wines I received were grown and bottled in Washington, they are more properly 'port-style' or 'fortified wines.'

I would like to take you on a figurative journey through the fortified or Port-style wines of Yakima Valley, through nine Yakima Valley wineries and one Idaho winery. In order to give you a sense of what I had the pleasure to taste, I'll be breaking out my posts based on varietal. We'll be touring fortified wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sangiovese, or using a traditional port-style blend. Today's post will focus on the fortified wine made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape.

Without further ado...Cabernet Sauvignon

I received three samples of fortified wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon: The Forte from Terra Blanca and two American Port-Style wines from Eaton Hill, Lot 99 and Lot 03. Because port-style wines are so enjoyable, I asked some friends to join us for the tasting of the Cabernets.

We started with the Terra Blanca Forte, 2005 ($42), which is 100% Cabernet. Put simply, it was quite good. This fortified wine is Terra Blanca's homage to the great Ports of the Duoro Valley. The nose had cherries and raisins, and one friend "definitely smelled raspberries." It went beautifully with dried figs and chocolate truffles, which enhanced flavor elements of the wine, including a resounding plum flavor that everyone picked up. Gwynne cited cassis which sent the group into a disagreement over what cassis actually was. Gwynne was right. The technical notes mentioned that the grapes were left to hang until mid-November. The sweetness that came out of that resulted in a very smooth texture in this delicious dark ruby wine.

Eaton Hill sent two fortified wines, the Lot 03, and the Lot 99, the respected harvest years of the fruit used in each.

The Lot 99 ($40) is made from Cabernet grapes and aged 17 months in oak barrels. This wine was awarded a silver medal at the 2003 San Diego National Wine Competition, and it came with a cool little silver sticker on the bottle. Gwynne described the nose of this wine perfectly: "it smells like a hot sunny day with over-ripened black berries crushed on the sidewalk." It had flavors of plum and caramel. We drank this along side the Theo Bread and Chocolate bar, which was a hit.

The Eaton Hill Lot 03 ($50) was amazing. Stunning. The nose of this wine is unbelievably luxuriant. This wine certainly benefited from the 30 months it spent in oak. Though it paired very well with the chocolate, cheese and dried figs we had on hand, this wine is a dessert in and of itself, with a nose of dried rose petals and vanilla. The wine tastes of chocolate, cherries and plum jam. One guest even a smoothness and depth of flavor reminiscent of crème brûlée. The wine was silky smooth and by far our favorite of the evening, and it had the jewelry to match. With six silver medals and one bronze medal this wine had more bling than Lil' John.

My next fortified wine post will be coming soon, but in the meantime, if you find yourself in need of an after-dinner drink, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any one of the Terra Blanca Forte, Eaton Hill Lot 99 or Eaton Hill Lot 03.

1 comment:

  1. I've had the Terra Blanca Port (style) and it's fantastic! Wonderfully crafted and informative post! Fortified wine doesn't get the attention that it deserves (neither does ice wine)

    Josh @nectarwine on twitter