In this series, The Conscientious Consumer in Quarantine, I’m going to point to some of my favorite producers, wineries that are owned by individuals human beings, human beings who use their wineries to employ other people and feed their families, human beings whom I would encourage you to support with your patronage. Wineries make money primarily in two ways, namely by selling wine and by having visitors. Both of those revenue streams are being deeply slashed during the Covid 19 pandemic, as restaurants are closing and, in many if not most instances, tasting rooms have been asked to close down for the time being to help stop the spread of the disease. The following wines are wines I encourage you to purchase online to help support these small producers so that, when this is all over, they will still be there for all of us to visit.
Port wine. It’s one of my favorite all-time sips. It can be refreshing, served as an aperitif, paired with meals, served with dessert, imbibed solo, even mixed into a cocktail. It was the Prager Brothers who got me thinking about Port wine as something more than dessert, and I’m so glad that they did. I’ll tell anyone who will listen about how great their white port, “Aria”, is with lobster bisque. By the way, Sonja, that’s what I want for my birthday dinner. 😉
Port originates from Portugal, as the name suggests, and due to labeling laws — unless you’re grandfathered in because you’ve been doing it for so long, you can’t call your fortified wine “Port” in the United States. Nevertheless, fortifying wine with spirits, typically up to around 20% ABV, can make for pretty great wine no matter what you’re calling it. Today, I’m going to share just a few of my favorite fortified wine producers, in the hopes that perhaps my readers will support them in these tricky times.
Barnard Griffin Syrah Port, Washington — $17
I recommended one of Rob’s other wines in a previous post in this series — his Merlot, and I’m likely to recommend his rosé when the time comes as well. In the interim, I’ve always thought his fortified was killer, and he basically gives it away at this price. I can’t get enough of it. Get yours at BarnardGriffin.com.
LaBelle “Three Kings” Port, New Hampshire — $26
You read that right: New Hampshire. Sonja and I visited this beautiful winery while we were near Boston for a wedding, and we bought a bottle of their fortified wine to bring back home with us because we liked it so much. This one is made from Foch grapes, a hybrid favored in regions like New Hampshire and my home in Nebraska for its durability and flavor. Named for the French WWI commander, I love this grape, and Amy LaBelle’s fortified variation is sure to please. Buy it at LaBelleWineryNH.com.
Mayo “Ricci Vineyard” Old Vine Zinfandel Port, Sonoma — $37.50
Mayo is a winery that Sonja and I visited on our honeymoon. We fell in love then with their Barbera and Cab, but on our last visit it was their sparkling wine and Zinfandel port that got us most excited. All of their wines are great. You can buy them online at MayoFamilyWinery.com.
Meadowcroft “All She Wrote”, Sonoma — $35
My appreciation for Tom Meadowcroft and his wines is pretty well documented at this point. “All She Wrote” is Tom’s fortified, and Sonja and I have always enjoyed it. Tom also just recently made a fortified white wine called “Let It Bee” that Sonja and I enjoyed the other night. While they aren’t listing these tiny production wines on their online store — Tom makes around 100 cases of each, you can go to MeadowcroftWines.com and either call or email, and I know they’ll take good care of you. While you’re there, check out the Mt. Veeder Cab and some of his small-production white wines, too!
Prager “Aria” White Port, Napa — $50
Sonja and I stumbled on Prager from a good recommendation, and have been huge fans ever since. If I could have only one fortified wine producer in my life from now until eternity, it would be Prager. I’m recommending Aria right now for it’s price point (that’s a full .750 for $50!) and uniqueness, but to be honest you can’t go wrong with any of them. Try Royal Escort for sure, and check out what else they have to offer at PragerPort.com.
Robledo “Mama Maria’s” White Port, Lake County — $42
Sonja and I also visited Robledo on our honeymoon in 2013, and we loved the atmosphere, the wines, and the family’s story. Every year, I open a bottle of 2013 Robledo Cab Sauv on our anniversary, and we have a bottle of Mama Maria’s White Port cellared as well. I’ve always enjoyed this wine because it reminds me of creme brule. You can get this and other great wines from Robledo at RobledoFamilyWinery.com.
Soaring Wings “Airport One”, Nebraska — $30
Jim at Soaring Wings does a lot of neat things, including growing his own Syrah grapes right here near Omaha, a rare accomplishment, and making a damn nice wine from them. His “Airport One” is pretty great as well, and like Prager can be purchased in a .750 at a very reasonable price. Reach out to Jim at SoaringWingsWine.com.
Sparkman Cellars “Hallelujah”, Washington — $60
Sparkman is fast becoming a cult producer, and for good reason. I ran into them at Taste of Washington a few years ago and was deeply impressed. While I can honestly recommend all of their wines, this fortified really hit the spot. You can get yours at SparkmanCellars.com.
Alright then, friends, you know your assignment. Do your part to keep small producers in business while this pandemic keeps their tasting rooms closed and the restaurants that sell their wines shuttered. If we do, then they’ll still be providing us with great wine once things get back to normal. I always appreciate your readership, and your comments. Until next time, have a terrific afternoon, stay safe, and take care of each other!