Friday, February 03, 2012


Many wine snobs think of fruit based dessert wines as back country, homemade elixirs, high in alcohol and barren of good flavors, concocted by housewives or farmers. At least that’s how they wrinkle their noses. Indeed, at one farm show many years ago, in another state, a proprietor once bragged that his fruit hooch was the best on the eastcoast. He was modest; it was absolutely the best version of Vicks Formula 44 cough syrup I had ever tried. So I know where the snobs are coming from.

But, in fact, making quality dessert wines from non-traditional fruits (such as apples, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, etc.) is an artisanal endeavor. And the Hudson Valley is home to many great fruit wines. To extract the flavors of the fruit without ruining its delicate characteristics is as difficult a trick as there is. And of course, to keep the fruit’s flavors in harmony with the acidity and any tannin is not an easy trick.

The Hudson Valley is one of the best places in New York state to find exceptional artisanal fruit dessert wines. Lots of them. And they are great! Today’s fruit wines are much more sophisticated, with great flavor and good acidity. These wines are among the most popular wines in the valley. Open a bottle of raspberry dessert wine, and you’ll smell a big bowl of fresh, dark raspberries. A bottle of strawberry dessert wine and smell a big pile of just cut, fresh, bright strawberries. Open another and a thousand hand-picked blackberries will pour forth!

They are wonderful with soft rind cheeses and a small dollop of fig or black currant jam on a baguette. Many of the raspberry and blackberry dessert wines are an excellent accompaniment with chocolate desserts. The lighter wines are excellent with fruit tarts, pies, or crème brulee’. And all are great for just sitting by the fireplace or hanging out with a special someone. No, they won’t make anyone fall in love with you, but they will help to enhance the mood.

These wines are made from Hudson Valley fruit, and are made using old fashioned recipes, combined with new techniques, and modern methods. They are clean, bright, sweet, but not cloying. They are refreshing and dazzling!

So here are a dozen fruit wines you should make the effort to find….they are definitely worth seeking out.

Mark Stopkie and wife Lori of Adair Vineyards.

Adair Peche - A delectable dessert wine made from 100% White peaches. This wine pairs well with champagne, drizzled over a fruit salad, or by itself. Mark Stopkie’s dessert wine was a double gold medal winner in the 2008 and 2009 Hudson Valley Wine Competition, as well Best of Show in 2009 Hudson Valley Wine Competition. As quoted in the Wall Street Journal on August 17, 2010, “A delectable white peach dessert wine turned out to be one of the most memorable wines out of a dozen wineries visited.”

Johnathan Hull, owner/winemaker Applewood Vineyards

Applewood Apple Frost - Apple Frost is made from a blend of fresh harvested local apples. The juice is concentrated by freezing resulting a golden sweet wine that has over 50 apples in each 375ml bottle! This kind of wine is also known as Iced Cider, since it uses many of the same techniques as ice wine. Iced ciders have become incredibly popular, and sophisticated. Jonathan Hall, the owner-winemaker, has surpassed himself with this incredible wine! Serve it with artisanal soft cheeses. Fantastic!

Patricia Baldwin and her grandson.

Baldwin Raspberry - Patricia and Jack Baldwin and their family have been making popular fruit wines since the 1980s, as well as more traditional wines. This one is a dark elixir made from black raspberries - “Splendid,” raved The New York Times. So will you.

Baldwin Strawberry – Like having someone put fresh cut strawberries in your glass. It’s made from 100% fresh strawberries. This wine has won 5 Gold Medals! And it was named best fruit wine in New York two years in a row! “A strawberry jewel...tasting of pure strawberry,” reported The Toronto Sun

Sue and Ed Miller of Brookview Station

Brookview Station Porter’s Port – This is a serious port. Using fresh, dark sour cherries, Sue and Ed Miller have carefully crafted a top flight port worthy of aging. With a big mouthful of sour cherry, there is just enough sweetness not to make is cloying, but wonderful long lasting flavor. A neat trick, as cherry is a difficult flavor to play with. And the best part – if you age it, it will only get better!

Phyllis Feder of Clinton Vineyards

Clinton Vineyards Nuit - Silver Medal Winner, New York Wine Classic Copia Napa California CA. Gold Medal Winner, Indy International Wine Competition. Clinton Vineyards is among the top fruit dessert wine producers in the state, and one of the best on the east coast. Pure wild black raspberries produce an intense deep color and unforgettable silky rich mouth feel. It has great structure and a lingering port-like taste.

Clinton Vineyards Embrace - A remarkable rich dessert wine made exclusively from local red raspberries. Owner Phyllis Feder’s wine is smooth, rich and polished with generous berry taste which explodes on the palate. Supurb with anything chocolate.

Paperbirch Raspberry Fine Ruby – Three time Gold Medal winner (voted best dessert wine in the Hudson Valley twice!) from Hudson-Chatham Winery’s line of rich dessert wines. An intense explosion of ripe, ripe, bright raspberries. Fantastic with chocolate, cheese, or even ice cream!

David Pazdar of Pazdar Winery

Pazdar Cerise Chocolat™ - Owner David Pazdar is the king of dessert wines. From the sublime to the quirky, Pazdar’s wines are always a hit as farmers markets and wine festivals across the state. Loyal customers, and the newly indoctrinated all succumb to his sweet concoctions. Pazdar was among the first wineries in the United States to offer chocolate dessert wines. Cerise Cholat has luscious cherries with a hint of rich dark chocolate, what better way than to cuddle up with your favorite person on a cold winter's night and the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Pazdar Attitude® III – An International Gold Medal Winner, this wine is chock full of ripe sweet blueberries, perfectly balanced. An incredible nose!

Slyboro Cider House Ice Harvest Ice Cider - Awarded Gold Medal at Eastern International Wine Competition 2007 and The Concordance Gold Medal at the Indy International Wine Competition 2007. Fresh, artfully blended apple cider is pressed in the depths of our North Country winter and tucked outside to freeze. At the first thaw, a rich apple essence is drawn and slowly fermented till summers end. The resulting ambrosia is redolent of tropical fruits and warm baked apple with hints of spice.

Slyboro Ciderhouse Ice Harvest Ice Cider Special Reserve - Owner Dan Wilson’s aged ice cider dessert wine. From the 2006 harvest. A dry year and a special blend of apples yielded this rich, ambrosial ice cider. Smooth and warm with tropical fruit notes. An incredible experience. Intense. Recommended by Food & Wine magazine!