Sweet Wines Paired with Both Savory and Sweet Snacks
This week’s WineAndCheeseFriday was inspired by a bottle of wine from New York. Our neighbor Val’s mom had been saving this bottle from near where she grew up, and decided to give it to Val to see how she liked it. The bottle of wine was from Merritt Winery (http://www.merrittestatewinery.com) in the Lake Erie Wine Region. Knowing that wine region and it’s tendency to be sweet wine, we planned to have some savory snacks to balance it all. Val had a different idea, she though we should have some cheesecake with the wine, which I wouldn’t say no to, so we ended up having both sweet and savory snacks. When Val was picking up the snacks at Publix, she came across another bottle of sweet wine from San Sebastian Winery in Florida (http://www.sansebastianwinery.com) to bring along. She also brought a friend along, Jessica, to join in the fun. We decided to share the wine fun with our other neighbor, Amanda, so there were 5 of us in total. This is a slightly different group but our second time all getting together for a wine tasting (http://mferraro73.tumblr.com/post/135469941803/gouda-goat-cheese-with-chardonnay-and-grenache). And now onto the shenanigans!
Our first wine was the Chautauqua blush from Merritt Winery. This non-vintage wine is made from 85% Niagara grapes (white) and 15% Concord grapes (red), both locally grown in the Lake Erie Wine Region. We’ve tried a few wines from this area because Neil has family who also live in this region, so we are pretty familiar with the flavor profile of these grapes, SWEET! Remember last year when we went wine tasting in Pennsylvania, http://mferraro73.tumblr.com/post/125553865268/wine-and-cheese-tastingin-pennsylvania-we? We definitely had our share of the sweet wines then!
When Neil tasted this wine, he described it as sweet, definitely niagara and concord grape flavors and a thick texture. He was actually laughing because knowing how sweet those wines usually are, he guessed that this really wasn’t even a sweet wine for them. And then we looked at the bottle, it did say only “semi-sweet.” There was no surprise that all of us thought this was a sweet wine, but we did have a few other descriptions about the wine. I noticed a tangy aroma and flavors of grapes. Jessica agreed that it was syrupy and thick. Amanda thought it smelled kind of like rubbing alcohol but also said it was fruity, didn’t have an overpowering taste and she found a cherry finish. Val on the other hand, said it was too sweet and dumped it out. No hard feelings about the wine, guess we just weren’t really looking for a thick, sweet, wine. Neil actually compared this wine to cherry syrup that you’d pour over ice cream. Maybe that’s what we can do with the rest of the bottle?
The second wine was the San Sebastian Vintner’s Red, another non-vintage sweet wine. This wine is made from a native Florida grape called Muscadine. I used to work in a vineyard here that grew these grapes so I’m very familiar with them but it’s actually Neil who identified the flavor of the wine as muscadine grape. Jessica found this wine to be sweet but pleasant and better than the first one. Val gave it a better review too and said it didn’t smell like alcohol, and it wasn’t as sweet but it was kind of a combination of sweet and dry. She could also notice a similar flavor to the concord grape in the first wine. This was a sweet wine but I was able to pick up dark fruits as well as blueberry jam aromas and it tasted soft and like fruit. Neil did find it to be sweeter than he expected but it certainly wasn’t heavy or like syrup. He found it to be lighter and sweet with the distinct flavor of Muscadine grapes. Amanda wasn’t as excited about this one, she said it made her mouth pucker but that it just reminded her of the flavor of red wine.
It was clear to see that we all enjoyed the San Sebastian Vintner’s Red wine better but let’s see if those pairings could help redeem the blush wine?
We started with the savory pairings. Being the kind of free for all that it was, with many conversations flying around the room, the pairings weren’t all that official. In fact, Neil kept eating white cheddar popcorn with his wines but wouldn’t tell me any tasting notes. Amanda was more cooperative and said that when she paired the Vintner’s red wine with the prosciutto wrapped mozzarella cheese, the wine got sweeter. Then she tried the prosciutto wrapped mozzarella cheese with the Chautauqua blush and made a sour face. Val told her to stop eating the cheese! I guess she thought she was ruining her wine experience? I also paired the prosciutto wrapped mozzarella cheese with the blush but just thought the wine got lighter, not necessarily bad. I did one more pairing of the blush with an artichoke and the wine still tasted “grapey” but also a little more like honey. Kind of mixed reviews on the savory pairings.
For the sweet pairings we tried Strawberry Basil spiced jam with cheesecake paired with the wines. Just the combination of the jam with the cheesecake was delicious! Everyone was much more excited about trying this pairing. Everyone tried the Vintner’s Red wine with the cheesecake and jam. Neil was excited about the sweet cherry flavor that occurred. Jessica and Val found the wine and cheesecake to complement each other very well. Amanda thought the wine got drier after the pairing and even noticed a lingering, tingling finish. I found the wine to be less sweet and a berry flavor appeared. We’d all give this pairing a thumbs up! The Chautauqua blush didn’t fair so well in the pairing. Neil said it was Not Good! I agree that it was a sour flavor but then in kind of went away.
So if you are looking for a sweet wine, here’s 2 for you to try. We’d all tell you that the first one, the Chautauqua Blush is the kind of thick, syrupy sweet wine and the San Sebastian Vintner’s Red is a more pleasant, easier to drink, type of dessert wine. And although the Chautauqua blush didn’t fair too well with these reviewers, it has won numerous wine awards in it’s region. It just all depends on what you are looking for, and how can you go wrong with a night of wines and cheesecake?