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Port Call

'Bohemian' staff sample a roundup of local ports and a ringer

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Pedroncelli 2011 Four Grapes Dry Creek Valley Port ($20) Although this is a blend of four traditional Portuguese grape varieties, including Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cão, each grown on its own acre, the Pedroncelli is the most reminiscent of a big, ripe and chewy California Cabernet Sauvignon. Fresh and grapey, with flavors of chocolate, currant, plum and raspberry, all noted by Bohemians, this young vintage port doesn't betray heat or cloying sweetness. ★★★★

Heitz Ink Grade Napa Valley Port ($35) Our runner-up favorite is more complex, suggesting disparate aromas of cigar wrapper and cherry liqueur, its red fruit flavors, though well-rounded with age, driven by a lively line of acidity. Decades ago, before his winery gained fame for pioneering the cult of single-vineyard Cabernet, Joe Heitz also made fortified wines. This is made from a plot of eight port varieties planted in the 1990s. ★★★★

Cockburn's Special Reserve Porto ($18) Like Graham's, Dow's, and Taylor's, Cockburn's name isn't particularly Portuguese in heritage, but they celebrated 200 years in the business in 2015 with this bottling. Nutty, complex and woodsy, with evolving notes of pomegranate, fig and molasses, it's a classic, silky smooth tipple. ★★★½

Sonoma Portworks 2013 Aris Clarksburg Petit Verdot Port ($34) It isn't just a few years of aging that lends this juicy port, made from a variety more often seen in Bordeaux-style blends with Cabernet, an intriguing, musty-in-a-good-way aroma of antique store. The grape brandy, distilled next door at Stillwater Spirits, is also aged in a four-barrel, fractional blending solera system before being used to quell the fermentation, adding a woody note of brown booze. ★★★½

Trentadue 2012 Alexander Valley Zinfandel Port ($26) Among the charms of port is that it keeps well in an opened bottle, so you can just have a nip or two over several days, or even weeks. Though three months is a stretch, this Trentadue still stands out among the oxygen-addled survivors of this lineup for its bright, bramble-fruit Zinfandel character. Jammy on the finish, but less cloying than their Petite. ★★★

Sonoma Portworks 2011 Aris Clarksburg Petite Sirah Port ($38) Portworks owner Bill Reading feels that classic California varietals like Petite Sirah have the potential to make better ports here. This nutty, spicy and chocolate liqueur-toned sipper makes a case—check out Portworks' newly released, tawny-style port for a smoother, extra-aged rendition. ★★★

Trentadue 2011 Petite Sirah Port ($26) Intriguing aroma combo of ancient and fruity, like dried plum from the crypt, finishing a little more on the flat and sweet side than some others. ★★½

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