Looking for a special kind of sweet treat for your favorite Valentine? A dessert wine can be just the ticket if you want to skip commonplace chocolate.
A late-harvest wine is just that harvested later than most other grapes. In the case of a late-harvest Riesling, it might be harvested in November instead of October. This gives the grapes time to dehydrate a bit and concentrate their sugars.
Hogue Cellars, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Kiona Vineyards Winery make late-harvest Rieslings that are superb, broadly distributed and inexpensive (typically around $10).
If youre looking for a special treat, Koenig Winery in Idaho makes a wine styled after a German trockenbeerenauslese and its a lot easier to pronounce. The 2010 Botrytis Single Berry Select Late Harvest Riesling is one of the greatest dessert wines in the Pacific Northwest, and it sells for $30 per half-bottle.
This style of wine originated in Portugal and is called a Port there. Basically, brandy or another spirit is added to the wine partway through fermentation. The result is a sweet, high-alcohol wine that often ages beautifully.
Many Northwest wineries make fortified wines, and one of our favorites is Maison de Padgett in the Yakima Valley. David Padgett makes no fewer than six fortified wines, including an amazing wine using coffee beans.
In the Bellingham area, Samson Estates Winery makes a stunning fortified wine called Oro that uses hazelnuts.
Ice wines are a real specialty, and some of the best in the world are made in British Columbia. Basically, wineries wait until the grapes freeze on the vine, then they go out (typically in the middle of the night) and harvest the grapes, squeeze out the sweet nectar, then slowly ferment it. The result is a honey-like wine thats high in sugar and low in alcohol.
In British Columbia, law dictates when ice wine harvest can begin. For the 2012 vintage, it didnt begin until last month, when temperatures finally dipped below 17 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ice wines are expensive in British Columbia, costing from $40 to $100 for a half-bottle. Few are sold in the United States, so theres the added expense of driving to Canada to get them.
A few wineries in the Northwest also make ice wines. Kiona Vineyards Winery makes a superb ice wine from Chenin Blanc that sells for about $25. Other Northwest wineries that make ice wine include Argyle, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Horizons Edge, Koenig and Waterbrook.
While some fruit wines are finished dry, many are on the sweeter side. Raspberry wines are especially enchanting because they smell and taste like, well, fresh raspberries. Making fruit wine is a specialty, and weve tasted a lot of lousy examples.
A few wineries in the Northwest specialize in fruit wines, but Oak Knoll in Oregon makes one of the best weve tasted.
Chocolate wines are made by combining red wine with chocolate. Precept Wines in Seattle launched Chocolate Shop, a wildly successful line of chocolate-flavored wines. It makes five different wines, including an outrageous sparkling chocolate red wine.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information website. For more information, go to GreatNorthwestWine.com.