Five Top U.S. Dessert Wine Producers
Here are a few delectable domestic pours we’re sweet on.
Several stateside producers are making tasty wines that rival French vins doux and Germany’s delicious late-harvest Rieslings. Here are a few delectable domestic pours we’re sweet on.
Hermann J. Wiemer, Finger Lakes, New York
Hermann J. Wiemer is a Riesling mecca here in America, and its dessert wines are exceptional tributes to the winery’s German roots (the Wiemer family had vineyards in the Mosel Valley). The Bunch Select Late Harvest Riesling, an unctuous, sun-kissed trockenbeerenauslese-style wine, is made with hand-picked grapes that are shriveled by botrytis, then vinified slowly using indigenous yeasts—a reflection of co-owner and winemaker Fred Merwarth’s meticulous winemaking style. —Anna Lee C. Iijima
Pour this: Hermann J. Wiemer 2008 Bunch Select Late Harvest Riesling; $95/375 ml
Dolce, Napa Valley, California
The key to the sweet wine of Dolce, a subsidiary of Oakville-based Far Niente Winery, is its bounty of botrytis. Winemaker Greg Allen explains that Sémillon’s thin skin and low acidity make it susceptible to the so-called “noble rot” and account for Dolce’s sweetness. “We encourage botrytis development by growing these huge canopies to trap humidity and to protect the fruit from sunlight,” he says. —Steve Heimoff
Pour this: Dolce 2007 Late Harvest Wine; $85/375 ml
Terre Rouge, Sierra Foothills, California
Rhône specialist Bill Easton began making Muscat à Petits Grains in 1995, inspired by his love of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. A wine he creates only in certain years, it's a deliciously balanced delight of apricot and honey-nectar flavors with a crème brûlée richness. It pairs perfectly with fresh fruit and cheese, as a first course with foie gras or with fruit or nut desserts. —Virginie Boone
Pour this: Terre Rouge 2008 Muscat à Petits Grains Vin Doux Naturel; $15/375 ml
Thurston Wolfe, Yakima Valley, Washington State
Winemaker Wade Wolfe has a wonderful touch with sweet wines—his Sweet Rebecca (an orange Muscat) is candy in a glass. But Wolfe has really upped the ante with his Ports (his use of the term is grandfathered in). The best of them is the 100% Touriga Nacional, a strikingly dense wine, with black cherry, cassis, chocolate and coffee liqueur flavors. —Paul Gregutt
Pour this: Thurston Wolfe 2009 Touriga Nacional Port; $16/375 ml
Pacific Rim, Columbia Valley, Washington State
Part of the Banfi family, Pacific Rim is a Riesling powerhouse with a portfolio that ranges from dry to supersweet. Its signature sweet Riesling, Vin de Glacière, is cryo-extracted and certified organic. Winemaker Nicolas Quillé explains, “We also have all the ingredients certified organic—the yeasts, the bentonite, the little nutrient we can add—and more importantly, we are limited to 100 parts per million total sulfites.” —P.G.
Pour this: Pacific Rim 2011 Vin de Glacière Riesling; $14/375 ml