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Wine Review: Sweet wines worth a sip

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While sweet wines have exploded into the marketplace recently, their popularity is not new.

Modern sweet wines gained public interest with the introduction of the sweet blush zinfandel rose. Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home Family Vineyards is among the first major producers of this style who often is credited with its introduction.

Modern sweet wines are not made by simply adding a sweetener to a finished wine, an act that is illegal in most countries. To make a sweet wine, the winemaker must stop the fermentation process, usually by chilling the wine to kill the yeast, resulting in a portion of the grapes’ natural sugars remaining in the wine. What results is a naturally sweet, fruity wine with a lower alcohol content.

Sutter Home preserves the true flavor signature of the varieties, while keeping their wines priced affordably.

Sutter Home Moscato Sangria ($8)
This is probably the most interesting of the new sweet wines. Sutter Home had the chutzpah to introduce a sangria to a very critical wine public. The results are favorable, and this beverage is worth a purchase.

Sutter Home Sweet Red ($8)
Several years ago, some great medical brain announced that red wine was an antioxidant and good for the heart. The red wines at that time, except for the low quality stuff, were all dry. With all that evidence, the wine industry, known for being reactionary, failed to capitalize on the new information except for, you guessed it, Sutter Home. All the flavors and aromas associated with a red wine have been captured and offered up by this astounding sweet red wine. As a confirmed red wine lover, the Sutter Home Sweet Red has found a place in my wine library.

Sutter Home Gewurztraminer ($8)
If you can’t pronounce this one, good, that leaves more for me. Gewurztraminer is noted for being the most aromatic of all of the world’s wines and all too often an overlooked white wine variety. The scents of honey, spring flowers and pear abound and reach out from the glass to invite the first sip. That first sip suggests the flavor of melons and sweet tropical fruits with apricots and honey in the background. This wine shines when served with Asiatic foods.

Terra d'Oro Zinfandel Port ($25)
If anyone is a movie buff and watches Turner Classic Movies, they have witnessed the dull British drawing room movies of the distant past and this inevitable line: “The men will retire to the study for port and cigars and the women may adjourn to the library for their sherry.” That was enough to put port wines at the very bottom of the red wine list. Again, it is Sutter Home that took a look at port wine and did something to change all of that. Port wine is a full-bodied, sweet red wine in which the fermentation is ended by adding brandy to the fermenting mix, killing the yeast but raising the alcohol content. This produces a sweet after-dinner dessert beverage. The Terra d'Oro Zinfandel Port is a powerful and complex beverage blessed with a full fruity flavor and a perfumed aroma that the zinfandel grape is capable of.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at


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