Sharpe Hill Late Harvest Vignoles 2006
This shameless golden nectar might be just about as close to Sauternes production that the state of Connecticut might ever come—and I’m not saying that with regret but with state pride. I’ve tasted a couple of the Sharpe Hill wines including ‘The Ballet of Angels’—the best selling wine produced in Connecticut—and although I don’t recall having particularly strong feelings about either of them, there is something so incredibly white Bordeaux about this bottle that I couldn’t help but share it with you guys.
In the glass this pure, golden beauty shows radiant and rich.
On the nose it is ripe and incredibly botyrised showing off unmistakable aromas of honey and apricots, less obvious hints of pineapple, mango, green tea, and maple, and ever so subtle hints of a late harvest Riesling minerality. I only wish I could more aptly describe the character of honey in this late harvest because the honey-like profile in this wine is so distinct and so familiar but something that I’m unable to adequately put into words.
It is only on the palette that the Sharpe Hill Late Harvest differentiates itself from fine Sauternes. Imagine a classic ripe Sauternes, Chateau Suduiraut for instance, and just turn it down a notch. The Sharpe Hill shows just a touch less ripeness, sugar, and substantially less alcohol—ringing in at just 10.5. With so many modern Sauternes reaching upward of 13 and 14 percent, this wine is really in a category all of its own. I must admit, I’ve had a few Sauternes that came off just a little bit warm, and that was not the case with the Sharpe Hill Late Harvest. In fact, I think late harvest wine in this particularly low alcohol category is perhaps even a bit more marketable than a thicker and sweeter Sauternes—as is it just a little more compatible with food. Not only could this bottling match classic Sauternes food pairings (blue cheese, foie gras, escargot), but it could also do those preparations with a little bit of spice and zest. Red pepper infused cheese especially comes to mind, as do salty/spicy combos.
My only reservation about this wine lies within its very structure. While it maintains good freshness, just a little more acidity would have brought it into perfect balance. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have an adequate acidity to begin with, but I like my sweet wines racy, ya know?
I guess I also would have hoped for a little more finish but that’s not to say that it falls off the palette by any stretch. In fact, I hate to get down on this wine at all. I think it’s a spectacular effort, all considered, and I look forward to marrying it to something blue-veined and pungent in the near future. And from Vignoles! Who would have reckoned?
$24.99 at http://www.anconaswine.com/sku11592.html