Short and sweet: our list of luscious (and local) dessert wines for the holiday
Silicon Valley wineries offer up some fantastic finishes to your feast
By Carol Maskus
Left Bend: Last Straw Zinfandel Blend
In 2015, Left Bend saw a serious drought with their grapes.
“The well at the Zinfandel vineyard on Redwood Retreat Road (Santa Clara Valley AVA) had gone dry, so the vines were not irrigated, as would normally be the case,” says Gary Robinson, winemaker. “The fruit was harvested in early September, and it came in withered up and raisined. The off-the-chart sugar level in the raisined fruit was not suitable for making a traditional Zin, so I was going to refuse the fruit.”
Instead, he made a dessert wine by letting the dried fruit ferment until it stopped at both a high alcohol and high sugar level, and blending it with other varietals to bring down the alcohol and sugar. The final residual sugar is 11%.
This wine is not fortified, but is made in a style similar to France’s Sauternes, which uses shriveled grapes, or an Amarone from Italy, which dries their red grapes on straw mats to concentrate the flavors. In fact, the name “Last Straw” references these mats, and also refers to how these shriveled grapes, thought to be ruined, were given a “last” chance.
“A ton of ripe dark black raisined fruit explodes on the palate. It’s rich and sweet with a hint of tartness from the acidity,” says Robinson about the taste. He recommends it with aged Gouda or Manchego cheese, raspberry and cream gelato, or just used like a thick, syrupy Balsamic over ice cream.