Favorite California Dessert Wines for the Holidays

It’s that time of the year when friends and family gather for holiday Dessert Winesevents and good cheer.  This is often accompanied by wonderful dessert wines ranging from sweet white rieslings, gewurtraminers, and viogniers in late-harvest, sparkling, and ice-wine formats as well as velvety red ports, black muscats, and late harvest zinfandels.  All of these sweet and semi-sweet dessert wines pair well with different types of cheeses, chocolate, cakes, pies, and other delectable dishes such as crème brulee, cheesecake and flan.

This week’s blind tasting included 6 different dessert wines from California – including 4 whites (late harvest riesling, gewurtraminer, viognier, and suscat) as well as two reds (sweet black Muscat and a late harvest zinfandel).  Our five Millennials wine judges found it difficult to find any faults with the 6 wines and awarded 5 silver and 1 gold medals.  However, the three top favorite wines are listed below:

***** (96, GOLD) 2007 Harvest Moon Gewurtraminer (Iced Wine Style) – $32harvest_moon_estate_wine1

A lovely floral nose of roses and sweet apricots, with luscious sweet vanilla and honey on the palate.  Good balance of acid and fruit, with a long finish and good intensity of flavor.  Drink alone as a dessert or with vanilla cake.  The #1 favorite of Kelly, Ally, and Shannon.  Available at http://www.harvestmoonwinery.com/.

**** (SILVER) Chateau St. Jean 2006 Late Harvest Riesling – $50csj

Complex nose of peaches, honeysuckle, and minerals.  Palate of sweet peach and a refreshing lemon zest acidity.  Excellent balance of fruit, acid and sugar.  Long finish and pleasing complexity.  The favorite of Katie.  She would drink it with vanilla gelato.  Available at:  www.chateaustjean.com.

**** (SILVER) 2005 Murphy Goode Box Cars – Late Harvest Zinfandelmurphy

Dark purple black depths.  Rich lush berry nose of blackberry, raspberry and blueberries.  Spicy with cinnamon and forest floor notes.  Not as sweet and jammy as most late-harvest zins – more refined and complex with excellent concentration of fruit and long finish.  The favorite of Matt who would drink it with chocolate cake.  Available at: http://www.murphygoodewinery.com/.

How the Judges Scored the Wines

All the judges are millennials between the ages of 21 and 30 and are attending university.  They have varying degrees of wine experience, but have been trained on how to use the Wine Tasting Evaluation form (see next section on How We Evaluate Wines).  All judges complete the Wine Tasting Continuum Questionnaire below and completed the PROPO test to validate their score in order to determine if they are tolerant, sensitive or hyper-sensitive tasters (see section on The Wine Tasting Continuum for more information).  Following are wine preferences of each judge:

Matt is from Sherman Oaks, California.  He is a Sensitive Taster with a score of 4 on the Wine Tasting Continuum.  He prefers dark red wines with big tannins.  His scores were: Harvest Moon = Silver-18; Chateau St. Jean = Gold-19; Murphy-Goode = Gold-19, with his favorite being the Murphy-Goode.

Shannon is from Lodi, California.  She is a Sensitive Taster with a score of 4 on the Wine Tasting Continuum.  She prefers red wines such as cabernet and pinot noir, and is found of a well balanced wine with spicy oak, smooth tannins and firm acid.  Her scores were: Harvest Moon = Gold-20; Chateau St. Jean = Bronze-15; Murphy-Goode = Bronze-16, with her favorite being the Harvest Moon.

Katie is from Solvang, California.  She is a Sensitive Tasters with a score of 4 on the Wine Tasting Continuum.  She enjoys all types of wine with no preference of white over red, but selects wine based on the food and occasion.  Her scores were: Harvest Moon = Silver-18; Chateau St. Jean = Gold-19; Murphy-Goode = Bronze-16, with her favorite being the Chateau St. Jean.

Ally is from Novato, California.  She scored a 3 on the Tasting Continuum and verified with the PROPO paper that she is a Hyper-Sensitive Taster.  She prefers sweeter white wines, fruity reds, Champagne, and sparkling wine.  Her scores were: Harvest Moon = Gold-19; Chateau St. Jean = Silver-18; Murphy-Goode = Silver 17, with her favorite being the Harvest Moon.

Kelly is from St. Helena, California.  She scored a 1 on the Tasting Continuum and verified with the PROPO paper that she is a very Hyper-Sensitive Taster.  She enjoys sweet white wines and fruity reds.  Her scores were: Harvest Moon = Gold-20; Chateau St. Jean = Silver-18; Murphy-Goode = Bronze-16, with her favorite being the Harvest Moon.

Video of Millennial Judge’s Favorites and Food Matching

http://www.viddler.com/explore/Lizthach/videos/4/

 

 

How We Evaluate Wines

Each judge is trained in how to complete a Wine Tasting Evaluation form which includes analysis of wine color, aroma, flavor and quality.  Quality is determined based on balance, length of finish, intensity, and complexity.  Judges are also asked to describe the “x factor” of whether they like the wine or not – and why. See “How We Evaluate Wines” on main menu.

 

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2 Responses to Favorite California Dessert Wines for the Holidays

  1. Ally says:

    The dessert wines were my favorite wines to taste, all so sweet and delicious! The Harvest moon had very different flavors ranging from vanilla and honey to delicate fruits. I would drink this wine all by itself as dessert, or with a slice of vanilla cake.

  2. Katie says:

    It was a lot of fun to taste dessert wines! I was very interested in how different each varietal tasted. Although I enjoyed them all, my favorite was the Chateau St. Jean ’06 Late Harvest Riesling. It was fruity, floral, nicely complex, and very well balanced. I think this wine would be a delicious dessert served alone or paired with creme brulee!

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