I drink dessert wine pretty regularly. Most often it's Tawny or Late Bottled Port from Portugal. After that I'm always curious to taste the different styles of Ports and Dessert wines being made in California. When it comes to the Golden State I most often think of Late Harvest Zinfandel. That style seems to be the most ubiquitous expression in California; not surprising when you consider how much Zin there is. The last few years though I've run across a solid handful of folks making Dessert Wine or Port with Merlot. I was a bit dubious at first, but then I had the chance to taste a couple and I found there are some interesting offerings out there. Today I'll look at one from Lucas & Lewellen. The Lucas & Lewellen "Silver King" Port is produced using Merlot grapes sourced at their Los Alamos Vineyards. To that juice, neutral grape spirits are added. 312 cases of this wine were produced. It's available in 375 ml bottles for $20.
As soon as I poured this wine my senses were engulfed with deep, dark, cherry pie aromas. Chocolate dipped fruitcake notes were plentiful throughout the palate along with bountiful black cherry characteristics that kept resonating. The finish of this Port had a touch of perceptible heat. In this particular case it worked really well and provided hints of Cherry Liqueur. That finish coated the back of my throat with a thick honey-like consistency in it's mouth-feel. This wine could easily have been dessert on its own. I paired it with dark chocolate covered biscotti and found that to be a ridiculously delicious match.
What I like best about this particular port is that it's unique. While the number of dessert wines made from Merlot is increasing it's still a small segment of the whole. The fact that it stands out from the pack is reason enough to seek it out so you can have a different experience. The main reason though is that it's well made and delicious.