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Inniskillin Vidal IcewineVidal is an French-American hybrid variety of white wine grape, a cross of Ugni Blanc and Rayon d’Or (Seibel 4986). It is well suited to icewines because it produces high sugar levels in cold climates while maintaining good acid levels.

The variety was developed in the 1930s by French breeder Jean Louis Vidal, hence the name. His primary goal in developing the variety was to produce vines suitable for the production of Cognac in the Charente region of France. Today, however, because of the French prejudice against hybrids, I don’t believe any is grown there today. Due to its winter hardiness, this grape variety is cultivated most extensively in Canada and in the north-eastern United States. It is somewhat resistant to powdery mildew.

Due to its high acidity and fruitiness, it is particularly suited to sweeter, dessert wines. In particular, because of the tough outer skin of the fruit, it is well adapted for the production of icewine, especially in Ontario and New York.

Inniskillin is one the world’s best producers of icewine. They have two wineries, one in the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario and one in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. This particular wine is from Niagara. The winery produces several different icewines from different grape varieties. Vidal is one of the easier and most consistent producers.

Like the best icewines, it was harvested at the pinnacle of Canada’s crisp winter, the grapes are naturally frozen on the vine and picked when the temperature drops below -10º . Only a few drops of luscious nectar can be extracted from each bunch. The result is one of the most expensive and sought after wines in the world.

The Inniskillin 2006 Vidal Icewine is a deep golden honey color exhibiting aromas of grapefruit, apricot, persimmon, hay, mesquite honey, and wood smoke. It’s full-bodied but not heavy, with nice crisp acidity and a medium length finish. Very good.

Appellation: VQA Niagara Peninsula

Blend: 100% Vidal

Vineyard: ???

Cases Produced: ???

Bottle Size: 375ml

Suggested Retail Price: $77

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Dr. Loosen BeerenausleseDr. Loosen is one of the more well respected modern producers in Germany. No matter what wine you get from him, you are almost guaranteed to get a clean, well-made wine. The 2005 Riesling Beerenauslese is no exception.

While I would love to get into the specifics of German wines and how they are categorized, I just don’t have the room here to explain it all. Those that are familiar with quality German wine know that it can be a complicated prospect with many variables to consider, such as the different quality levels (Tafelwein, Landwein, Qualitatswein bestimmter Anbaugebiet [QbA], Qualitatswein mit Pradikat [QmP]), ripeness level at harvest for QmP wines (Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenausless, Eiswein, Trockenbeerenauslese), village, vineyard, variety, etc. and so on.

For the sake of this post, it is sufficient to say that this wine is at the highest quality level and ripeness level, from one of the better producers in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer area.

The wine is made from grapes that have been shriveled by botrytis, the “Noble Rot.” Brought on by the misty mornings along the Mosel, the botrytis mold draws water out of the affected grapes, leaving an ultra-concentrated nectar behind. These extremely concentrated, moldy grapes are separated from the unaffected fruit and vinified to make one of the worlds more luscious dessert wines.

Botrytis mold on a cluster of grapes. It may be ugly, but it produces a delicious wine.

Botrytis mold on a cluster of grapes. It may be ugly, but it produces a delicious wine.

The 2005 vintage was one of the warmest in recent history and the wines show a certain ripe character unusual for such a cool climate. It is definitely apparent in the weight of this wine.

On the nose, the wine exhibits slight petrol, gun flint, and botrytis notes, rounded out by aromas of nectarine, apricot, and prickly pear. On the palate the wine shows good weight and acidity, with complimenting sweetness. It is smooth, refined, and clean on the finish. In a word it is: delicious.

Appellation: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

Blend: 100% Riesling

Vineyard: Various estate vineyards in the Mosel

Cases Produced: ??

Bottle Size: 187ml

Suggested Retail Price: $50

The wine is available from JV Wine & Spirits.

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I tasted a lot of good dessert wines at the recent Salon des vins de Québec, Quebec City’s first-ever large-scale wine fair. Some great Sauternes and Barsac, a terrific Recioto del Soave by Pieropan, and some nice ice wine.

But for this first post on The Tawny Times, I figured I would taste outside the box. Which is easy enough, when you get to taste a dessert wine made from 100% Spanish Merlot.

That’s right. A late harvest merlot from Pago del Vicario, a winery founded in 2000 near Ciudad Real, in Central Spain. Susana López Mendiondo, the winemaker, who trained with Peter Sisseck, of Pingus fame, makes a point of making non-traditional wines, it seems, as a solid rosado made from 100% petit verdot clearly demonstrates.

The 2004 Merlot Dulce tasted like a light, fresh young port, without the touriga nacional (and co.) character. A bit of spice, but mostly a lot of ripe, fresh fruit, good length and just a lot of yumminess. At 14.5% alcohol, it’s less alcoholic than a lot of “dry” California and Aussie reds, but without the heaviness.

Besides drinking it with great pleasure, I’d love to pour it over vanilla ice cream, or, why not, even make an ice cream flavored with it. Truly lovely stuff.

Here’s a link to PDF format tasting notes on the Dulce. Enjoy!

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