Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Three Canadian Dessert Wines

People who don't like dessert wine are insane.

There. I said it. And I'm not sorry. In this country—where extra sugar, extra corn syrup, extra sweeteners of every kind known to man are poured into our coffee drinks, our sodas, our snack foods, our donuts, cakes and cookies—what could be more ridiculous than denying ourselves a delicious sweet wine, which is made sweet not through cynicism, to sell more product, as is the case with the above products, but is rendered sweet through natural, time-honored processes and fine craftmanship.

An odd sort of snobbery and bias has, up until know, kept Americans from embracing sweet wines. Somewhere in the misty past, they were taught that dry wines are serious and sweet wines are silly, and they've held onto those words as a sacred truth every since. No doubt, the advice was born to help consumers steer clear of brands like Blue Nun and Manischewitz, but consumer have lumped traditional dessert wines, as well as semi-dry rieslings, into that unsavory lot.

And so they rob themselves of the delights of such categories as Canadian Icewine. When I was offered the chance to taste three top examples of these wines, I barely blinked before accepting. Two of the wines were from Inniskillin. If a wine lover knows just one thing about Canadian Icewine, chances are it is this unforgettable name, alliterative name. Inniskillin may arguably be Canada's most prestigious winemaker. It was founded on July 31, 1975, in Ontario by founders Karl J. Kaiser and Donald J.P. Ziraldo, who produced their first Icewine in 1984. The tall, thin bottles of silky nectar have been easily fetching high prices. (They're often kept behind the liquor store counter, so I guess they are catnip to thieves.)

I tasted Inniskillin's Niagara versions of Vidal (2006) and Riesling Icewine (2007). (The winery also makes Icewine in the Okanagan Valley in the province of British Columbia, and a Cabernet Franc Icewine in Niagara.)

Being a riesling fiend, I thought I would prefer that, but I found myself liking the Vidal more. The burnished-brass-colored wine had a delectable mix of apricot, spice and grapefruit on the nose, and a palate of ripe apricot and pear, cinnamon, allspice, golden raisins, and pink grapefruit, with brown sugar top notes. Simply beautiful. The riesling was a lighter affair. First of all, it had a sunny yellow hue. On the nose, there was honey, honeydew melon, clover, cloves, daisies and (forgive me) sunshine. It was rich like the Vidal, but brighter somehow, with less spice and tropical fruit flavors. Green apple and golden raisins dominated. I see the Vidal as appealing to more tastes.

As much as I liked the Inniskillins, I could only drink so much before I felt a diabetic seizure coming on. This, however, was not the case with the third bottle I tasted: Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine 2007. Founded it 1993 in Niagara, Jackson-Triggs has developed a high reputation for fine wines, winning copious awards along the way. The Icewine is pure heaven. It has a light apricot color. Ripe pear, spice, apricot, peach , papaya, kiwi and mango greet the nose. The taste brings mango, apricot, peach, pear, meyer lemon, a bit of tangerine. It is dense, luscious and smooth. Butterscotch and caramel sneak up on you in the finish, which is long.

I drank the small bottle in one sitting. It was easy. I smiles all the way.

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