Holiday Dessert Wines | Catavino
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Holiday Dessert Wines

CabralesWith the holidays here, and time seemingly short, I thought I would rely on some old tasting notes. It’s pretty crazy around here, but I wanted to share with you one of my favorite holiday treats. It’s a classic, and not really a surprise, but this year I’ll give it a Spanish spin.

After a big meal, presents and relative overload, Gabriella and I love to cap off the night with a sweet wine. Be it Sauternes, Port or otherwise, nothing beats the delicious sweetness to wind down and relax a bit. To nibble with the wine, we always turn to blue cheese. One of my favorite combinations in the world is sweet wine and spicy cheese!

Above is a pic of one of my favorite Blue cheese’s Cabrales, from the north of Spain. It’s made and aged in the caves of the Picos de Europa and before I left the States, I found that it was becoming more widely available. Stronger and more spicy than say a Roquefort, its salty/sweet nature pairs well with some of the richer dessert wines- ideally, Port, Pedro Ximenez, or possibly a richer Sauternes.

Below, I’ve posted some of my favorite “Stickies”, as we call them, from the past year. Many are widely available outside of Spain and Portugal, so I hope you have a chance to check them out, maybe with a little slice of Cabrales!

Till soon, Ryan Opaz


  • 2004 Gramona Penedès VI DE GEL – Spain, Catalunya, Penedès (11/27/2005)
    Light color(yellow pale) with a light rose hint. Light floral notes with some honeydew, faint raisen and maybe lime? The nose is very light and really does not show well. Heavy in the mouth with viscous nature, medium acidity and a fresh sweetness. Flavors of lychee, peach, light lime, and not much else. It has a pleasant acidity to balance out of sugar/acid and thus is an incredibly easy drink, though a bit on the simple side, especially for Gewurztraminer.

    3.5 grape
  • N.V. Ontañon Vino de la Tierra Riberas de Marco Fabio – Spain, La Rioja, Valles de Sadacia (4/28/2005)
    Riberas de Marco Fabio Vino Dulce de Moscatel
    Late harvest Moscatel, 12.5%
    Vino de la Tierra – Valles de SadaciaSteely light yellow color with out much viscosity. Peach, honey, pear, light melon, and light flowers. Med weight in the mouth with a richness that lingers. Very sweet though a nice acidity does balance it out well. Rich peach flesh, light gooseberry, honey, light bitter orange and more as it warms up. I want a bit more complexity in this wine, though I can’t complain it really is a fun wine to drink!
    C5a11t16o7=89 (89 pts.)


  • N.V. Graham Porto 20-year Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto (3/1/2005)
    Maple, nut brown color, beautiful! Rich wood, and raisen nose with soft toffee caramel notes. Med weight in the mouth with a rich sweetness that drys a bit on the finish followed by an alcohol burn that seems well integrated. Rich wood flavors of oak and a biscuit note that leads me to believe it was covered with caramel. Light fruit through out though only of the dried variety and a soft spice of cinnamon and spicy vanilla. I could drink a lot of this. C5A13T18O9(95 pts.)
  • 1998 Graham Porto Late Bottled Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto (3/1/2005)
    Deep reddish purple all the way to the rim. This spent 6 years in Oak. Elementary school paste with light anise and pencil lead on the nose with a rich berry quality lurking behind it all. Rich in the mouth with a strong alcohol presence on the finish. Sweet fruit and lots of spice, black pepper, anise, clove, and a nice black berry quality to support it all. Though here they say it cannot age, I think this might gain from 2 or 3 years lying down. C5+A12+T16+O7=90 (90 pts.)
  • 1974 Taylor (Fladgate) Porto Quinta de Vargellas – Portugal, Douro, Porto (1/25/2005)
    Medium intense color with slight orange tinge at the rim. Mose of wood, anise, deep berry notes, faint clove and lots more. Rich mouthfeel w/slight woodiness, rich dried fruits of cherry, blackberry, Plum and dates. Big in the mouth with a strong alcohol finish. this kept developing for at least 2 hours showing candied cherries later on. I was really surprised how big this was for being 30yrs old. Maybe not the most complex port but defiantly delicious!


  • N.V. Alvear Montilla-Moriles Pedro Ximénez 1927 Dulce Viejo – Spain, Andalucía, Montilla-Moriles (11/2/2005)
    Deep and dark with a light red glint. Brown sugar, molasses, light cinnamon spice and a wisp of wood all show on the nose. The palate is thick and viscous with a medium acidity that doesn’t fully balance out the intense sweetness. The flavors get lost in the viscosity showing mainly caramel and molasses, though with time dried dates and light cinnamon came to the forefront.

    3.5 grape
  • 2003 Alvear Montilla-Moriles Pedro Ximénez de Añada – Spain, Andalucía, Montilla-Moriles (10/24/2005)
    Thick burnt caramel color with a viscousity that makes motor oil look delicate. Made from dried grapes the nose of this is full of dried fruits from raisens to prunes to peach or nectarine. Soft nuts and caramel, along with very light wood polish all fill in around the fruits in the nose of this wine. In the mouth this wine sits thick on the palate though what makes me so excited is that fact that there is a ton of acidity helping to keep this wine fresh and alive in the mouth. The finish, well, I started this note on Saturday night and come Monday morning it’s still lingering. As far as the flavors, think caramel, honey, molasses(light), myriad nuts, caramelized peaches…all of this combined with notes of cinnamon, anise and cloves. The first time I had this it was one of the first PX’s for me. Now that I’ve had many others, this one still is damn close to perfect!

    5 grape