Sat 18 May 2013
The grapes from which distilled products and fortified wines are made often get no love in terms of being used for table wines, the exceptions being the red grapes grown in the Douro Valley that traditionally go into Port. Few people would rally round ugni blanc as a producer of great wines, yet it’s the principle grape in Cognac. Similarly, you will find few advocates of California’s old mission grape as the source of fine wine — no one attests to the drinkability of sacramental wine — but the humble grape can find a higher calling in fortified dessert wines, one such splendid example being the Angelica produced by Swanson Vineyards from a vineyard in Amador County planted in 1856. Yes, these gnarled ancient vines still deliver a few intense grapes every year, enough to make about two barrels of this Angelica that aged six years in neutral oak barrels and was bottled in July 2010. Immediately after fermentation, the wine was fortified with brandy to 19 percent alcohol. Angelica is what’s called “non-vintage,” meaning, really, that it derives from several vintages.
The Angelica nv, Amador County, offers a ruddy, dark amber color of beautiful transparency and luminosity. Aromas of cloves, toffee, orange zest and maple syrup are woven with notes of toasted coconut and roasted hazelnuts, cinnamon and fruitcake and an intriguing sort of wheatmeal-graham flour earthiness. Sweet? Oh, hell, yeah, like bananas Foster is sweet, like chocolate bread pudding is sweet — and there are tantalizing touches of each here — but tingling, lip-smacking acidity and a deepening close to startling spicy nature temper the sweetness from mid-palate back through the finish that surprisingly brings in a shade of graphite-like minerality. The texture goes beyond supple to ethereal. Drink from now until Doomsday; I mean this stuff is probably immortal. Production was 350 six-bottle cases. Excellent. About $140.
A sample for review.