|Quady Starboard Photo Credit: Bill Rockwell|
A lot of novice wine drinkers are said to start off drinking sweeter wines, then move on to drier wines as their palates mature. Through time, many experienced wine lovers learn to expand their horizons even more by adding sweeter wines back into to their portfolio of likes and dislikes. For some with eclectic tastes, it could be an austere Sauvignon Blanc one day and a Port the next. Or a robust Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner followed by a Sauterne as a digestif.
If you’d like to explore the sweeter side of the wine spectrum, Quady wines are a good choice, partly because the winery has a reputation for producing quality wines at a reasonable price. In many circles, Quady is considered a sweet wine specialist. Winemaker Andrew Quady started making Zinfandel Port 40 years ago but it was the production of a luscious Orange Muscat wine named Essensia that put the Madera-based winery on the global map.
With considerable foresight, Quady decided to plant Portuguese varietals like Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca and Touriga Nacional in the foothills of the California Sierras in 1979, a decision that bore fruit down the road with the production of a richly delicious Port-style wine called Starboard.
Quady discovered that the Portuguese varietals planted in Central California have brighter fruit flavors than their cousins in Portugal due to climatic conditions and terroir. The vineyard is deliberately managed to produce loose bunches and a small crop for an intense concentration of flavors. As to methodology, Quady uses a neutral 190-proof grape spirit to lets the flavors of the Portuguese varietals come through at an early\ier age.wine.
In 1988, Quady first decided to blend several different vintages aged an average of five years. Thus the name Batch 88. The current offering - the 2006 Vintage Starboard, was bottled in 2008 and has spent 6-plus years in the bottle. The lifespan of the wine is pegged at at least 25 years, but is ready to be drunk now even though it is expected to get more complexity as the years go by.
Described as halfway between a ruby and a tawny Port, the Starboard is dark red in color, almost black, smooth, and wonderfully balanced and near perfectly tannic. The flavor profile is loaded with black cherry, black berry and raisin. Winemaker Michael Blaylock’s tasting notes are a bit more comprehensive. They include “smells of cherry vanilla cola, leather, dried plums, green thistle and anise.” As to taste, he detects cardoon, lingering tannin and exotic notes of Fuyu persimmon and an aftertaste of Pink Lady Apple.
The wine is great by itself, but can also be enjoyed with a variety of cheeses, chocolate desserts and cheesecake. The alcohol content is 20% by volume and the cost of a 750 ml bottle is around $20.
Another Quady product I recently tried, the 2014 Essensia is made from a grape variety known as Orange Blossom Muscat. In Italy, it gets an even more lyrical name – Moscato Fior d’Arancio. Whatever you call it, the grape came to Andrew Quady’s attention in 1980 when a county farm adviser brought them to his attention. It seems they were conveniently growing nearby.
Essensia is very sweet - think a less viscous honey, flavored with orange and apricot. The wine has a lovely orange hue in the glass, and the label shows a fanciful rendition of a study of orange blossoms by artist Ardison Phillips.
The grapes are harvested at 22 brix, crushed chilled and allowed to macerate. Wine spirits are then added to the must to halt the brief fermentation. Before it’s bottled, the wine is aged in 60 gallon, mostly-French oak barrels.
Suggested pairings include chocolate, almond, peach, apricot and apple desserts. You may also want to dip biscotti into it, moisten cakes with it and sip it with chocolate truffles.
The alcohol comes in at 15%, and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board price is $24.99.