After a savory dinner, I love to wrap up the night with Unionville’s Vat 19 Port and a cheese plate. The salty cheese and sweet Port are bold enough to stand up to one another yet play with your taste buds. This pairing has tantalizing flavors that fall on opposite ends of the flavor spectrum. Pair our Port with a mix of aged blue cheeses such as Stilton or Gorgonzola and a soft goat cheese like Chevre. For added sweetness, roll your goat cheese in either dried cranberries or apricots. Round out your cheese plate with some roasted almonds, walnuts, chocolate-covered cherries, and dark chocolate. Yum.
Photo courtesy of Brick Farm Market
a great place to find the perfect cheese
If you have not already figured it out, I believe Port is a very special red wine, for a number of reasons. But I promise you, I will only name a few.
Port is not just a red wine, it is a fortified red wine. Once the sugar falls to an optimal level, high-proof brandy is added to stop the fermentation process and preserve the natural sugars. This process creates a sweet, higher-alcohol product often consumed for (or with) dessert. Combined with tannin, the natural grape sugars create great aging ability.
Port can be made with a variety of grapes. At Unionville, we use Chambourcin, which is a hybrid grape with murky roots. Chambourcin is one of the few varieties of grapes that has color throughout the berry, while most grapes have pigment only in the skin. The result is a lot of pigment available for extraction.
There are several different styles of Port. There is a style of Port that will satisfy anyone’s taste buds. The two most popular styles are Tawny - which is aged longer in barrel imparting “nutty” notes - and Ruby - which ages in stainless steel and is characteristic of having a lighter body feel. At Unionville, we hold our vintage Ports in barrel - each year held separately. Just before blending, the barrels are unstacked and tasted. Vintages are then blended with this year’s Port to create the perfect Port. Cameron aims to embody the joy and character of a Tawny coupled with the youth of a Ruby. A late-bottled Vintage Port, yummy now but with the ability to age gracefully.
Unionville has been making Port for over 14 years. Have you wondered why other, younger, local vineyards do not make Port? Unionville has been making Port for so long that we were grandfathered into the clause which states that, “Only fortified wine hailing from Douro Valley, Portugal is allowed to be called Port.”
Currently at Unionville, our Port is fermenting in stainless steel tanks. Once the sugars dropped to 12°brix, we added high-proof brandy. The grapeskins were left in the tank in order to extend contact between the wine and the skins. This pulls out intense flavor and color. The grapes and wine marry or macerate until about Christmas in the stainless steel tank in which it was fermented. We then press the wine very lightly and store the Port in a new tank for a month. The wine is then racked to neutral French oak barrels with virtually no oak character to impart to the wine. Once in barrel, the Port is not removed or topped until it is used in a blend for one of our Vat series Ports.
Coming Soon: Holiday desserts perfect to pair with both Vat 19 Port and Cool Foxy Lady.
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