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Top Dessert and Ice Wines

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For those seeking a delicious dessert wine find that will pair well with a wide variety of your favorite desserts or act as dessert itself, here are the top wine finds that lie distinctly on the sweeter side of the vine. Dessert wines are in a unique category of wine. Made sweet by harvesting grapes late during the harvest season when they've started to shrivel and lose some of the water content, while leaving sugars behind, or by botrytis, a sugar-concentrating fungus found on the famous (and expensive) dessert wine of Bordeaux, Sauternes. Or dessert wines can be the result of grapes freezing on the vine and separating the grape's innate sugars from the frozen water pellets prior to pressing, and finally fortification can make a delicious dessert wine by stopping fermentation before all of the sugar is converted to alcohol (and adding a distilled spirit later to bring the alcohol back up to fortified standards). Keep in mind that sweet dessert wines tend to pair best with confections that are only as sweet as the wine itself. Pairing overly sweet cakes and pastries with a semi-sweet wine will result in off flavors and a bit of bitterness.

1. Hogue Cellar's Late Harvest White Riesling (WA) $10

Hogue Cellars
This Riesling oozes apricot and citrus flavors, there is detailed balance of both acidity and residual sugar levels, making for a very dessert friendly wine. Try this particular Riesling with apple pie or crisp, fruit torte, cheesecake and white chocolate-based desserts.

2. Kracher Cuvee Beerenauslese 2008, 375 ml (Austria) $27

Kracher

The Kracher Cuvee Beerenauslese is a remarkable, decadent dessert wine from Austria.  Made from Chardonnay and Welschriesling (unrelated to Riesling) grapes that have been favorably affected by botrytis, the noble rot that is encouraged for the world's finest dessert wines, like Tokaji or Sauternes. 

On the nose you'll find classic honeysuckle aromas, followed by a sweet intensity and the flavors of jam-driven apricot along with concentrated dried fruit and an enveloping elegance. 

3. St. Supery Moscato (CA) $23

St. Supery
St. Supery's 2007 Moscato is nothing short of heavenly. You will find plenty of floral character on the nose, and the palate bursts with ripe peach. There is balance and presence with this delicate Muscat wine, making it a flawless match with raspberry cheesecake or Crème Brulée.

4. Inniskillin Vidal Icewine (Canada)$50-90

Inniskillin
Inniskillin Winery, producing internationally acclaimed icewines is one of the safest bets for your next dessert wine needs. From Cabernet Franc icewines to Riesling and Vidal Blanc icewines - the choices are seemingly endless.

5. Saracco Moscato d'Asti (Italy) $16

Image courtesy of Pricegrabber
This Moscato d'Asti is certainly a unique wine, being a semi-sparkling wine, or a "frizzante." It is noteably sweeter and lighter in both taste and palate feel, with a lower alcohol content of around 8%. It is from the Piedmont region and oozes with ripe peach flavors surrounded by honeysuckle. Makes a terrific apéritif as well as a perfect partner to cheesecake.

6. Churchill's 10 Year Tawny Port (Portugal) $32

Image Courtesy of Frederick Wildman & Sons
The Churchill's 10 Year Tawny Port presents a brickish red color, with a sweet, nutty aroma. On the palate you'll find a delicious, rich display of well ripened sweet fig-like flavors and a caramel finish. Give this Port a turn at pairing with your favorite desserts, ranging from cheesecake and tiramisu to chocolate truffles and pecan pie. Also, consider this particular Tawny port as a delicious pairing partner for aged cheddar cheese.

7. Ch. Ste. Michelle's Ethos Late Harvest White Riesling (WA) $40

Ch. Ste Michelle
Chateau Saint Michelle's Ethos Late Harvest Riesling brings the rich flavors of juicy apricots drizzled with honey and a luxurious finish. This is an amazing dessert wine find that will accommodate a wide assortment of dessert favorites from pies and cakes to fresh fruit and chocolates.

8. Warre's Otima 10 Year Tawny (Portugal) $26

Warre's
The fortified wine of the week is the Warre's Otima 10 year Tawny and for good reason - this port would make a remarkable after Christmas dinner sipper - paired with a pecan pie, raspberry cheesecake or a creamy mocha-based dessert. Otima is a very aromatic, lighter-bodied Port, with plenty of ripe, rich fruit and the expected nutty nuance. You'll find the glow of vanilla spice, rich flavors and an elegant finish - a perfect port to have on hand for the holidays and perfect for gift-giving too! Pairs well with all white, milk and dark chocolates.

9. Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto (IT) $25

Banfi Vintners
This is a red sparkling wine from Italy's Piedmont region, that is sweet and subtle with the lush flavors of ripe raspberry and juicy strawberry. Consider giving this wine a run with chocolate-based desserts, fresh fruit and pecan pie.

10. Osborne Pedro Ximénez Sherry (Spain) $17

Grupo Osborne
The Osborne Pedro Ximénez premium Sherry begins with deep, dark brown color and proceeds to a full-bodied, full-sweeping flavor wine experience. The palate profile yields a cornucopia of flavors in the form of ultra creamy caramel, a toasty fig sweetness, and a hint of coffee with a welcomed mocha extension - all surrounded by a decidedly nutty nuance. In the Osborne Pedro Ximénez, you've truly got it all - unforgettable flavor, enduring finish, options like dessert accompaniment or dessert itself and all at a well-placed price point. This particular Sherry would make a perfect partner with the likes of an apple crisp, pecan or pumpkin pie.

11. King Estate Domaine Vin Glacé Pinot Gris (OR) $18

King Estate
This is an exquisite example of an Oregon ice-wine. It has the plush textures of candied apricot fruit, heavily concentrated in layers of clover honey. This is dessert itself, no need for pairing!
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