Saturday, September 18, 2010

Catchup: "Laughing Pig Rose; JC Cellars Ripkin Late Harvest Viognier"

Delayed notes on a couple of tasty bottles from last month.

Laughing Pig Rose, Big Table Farms, Oregon, Pinot Noire Rose 2009, 14.1%, $22:

Top line: A *delicious* rose -- flavorful, yummy, just-one-more-glass-please -- you know, all those technical terms. If you like rose, you'll like this dry, flavorful, aromatic and lovely wine. If you don't like rose -- well, you're just wrong, you haven't been tasting the right roses, that's all.

Big Table Farm

JC Cellars, Alexandra, Ripkin Vineyard Late Harvest Viognier, Lodi, 2007, 11.5%, $24 (half bottle). Top line: Jesus, this, this is so good it should be outlawed in most states.

This dessert wine is intensely sweet, voluptuously sweet, like the most delicious candy you've ever tasted, except in liquid form. My eyes roll back in my head every time I take a sip.

And no wonder it's sweet: Brix at harvest: 42 (!). Residual sugar: 19.4%. This is a wine lollipop.

But don't let that sound like something that should put you off. This is a wine you sip and savor every tasty drop. Now, I know lots of people who immediately say, "I don't like sweet wines." I have to tell them what I tell those who don't think they like rose, above: You haven't tried enough dessert wines to know what you're talking about.

I will concede that *if* you have an anti-sweet tooth and don't like candy, soda, ice cream, pies and cakes, or anything else that has sugar in it, due perhaps to a genetic tragedy -- then yes, you will not like this wine. For all the rest of humanity -- you will. Your taste buds would have to be dead for you not to enjoy sipping this nectar.

If your experience with sweet wines is White Zinfandel, or cheap German whites, or other similar plonk, then what you don't like isn't actually the sweetness. It's the lack of balance -- the white Zins you drank in college lacked the acid to balance the sugars, resulting in a wine that is easy for a new drinker, but quickly becomes boring because it's flabby. A well-made dessert wine, on the other hand, is in no way boring.

Or maybe you've been served a port, and while others raved, you were turned off by the brandy added in the production process, and decided that if this is what a sweet dessert wine tastes like, then no thanks.

But there's a wider world of wines out there, you shouldn't close your eyes. As Jeff Cohn, founder and winemaker of JC Cellars, says on this bottle: "You'll never know unless you try it." And he's right.

Remember, one of the most expensive wines in the world, Chateau d'Yquem, at $200 the half bottle, is a sweet white dessert wine that is also as sweet as Jeff's here. And, frankly, Jeff's isn't significantly less delicious than that French wine priced ten times higher.

Do yourself a favor.

I did; I was back at the winery last week and bought two more bottles. I know what good is.

JC Cellars, 4th Street, Oakland, CA.