Sweet Beginnings: James River Cellars Divino

Hello Friends,

Usually my dessert wine posts are titled “Sweet Ending;” however, since this is my first Virginia dessert wine of the New Year I find it appropriate to title it “Sweet Beginnings.” Officially, my sweet beginnings started off with an indulgent and hedonistic Tokay Aszu (4 Puttonyos). Yummy! For those of you that have a hankering for sweeter wines and have not heard of this Hungarian liquid gold, visit your local wine shop and seek some out today. These are some of the most prized dessert wines in the world.

Chardonel Grapes

My Virginia “Sweet Beginnings” kicked off with the popular James Rivers Cellars Divino dessert wine. Divino is an “ice-styled” wine made using the Chardonel grape variety. In terms of wine grapes, Chardonel is a fairly new hybrid variety created in New York State from Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc parentage. It was released in 1991 and created namely for its hardiness and adaptability to colder climates like that of New York. While not as popular here in Virginia, I found the Chardonel grape used in blends and made into varietal wines when I visited the Finger Lakes 2 years ago. The wines produced by Chardonel are usually crisp and lean with good acidity; however, with Chardonnay as one of its parents, it is very capable of producing more medium-bodied, high quality, complex wines.

James River Cellars Divino

Ice-styled wines produced in places such as Virginia where cold temperatures do not cooperate, are basically late harvest grapes that are picked and frozen post harvest and then pressed. True ice wines are picked while frozen on the vine and then pressed; no need for the Canadians and Germans to freeze these ultra ripe grapes. Ice wines are usually made from grapes that are naturally high in acidity (ex. Riesling) in order to balance the high sugar levels. Ice wines, both true or not, are typically housed in 375 ml bottles and are usually pricey; this holds accurate for true ice wines. This has a great deal to do with the winemaking process as well as the fact that since the grapes are frozen you are getting a droplet of liquid gold per grape, versus what you would get if the grapes were not frozen. Lastly, in my opinion there are differences between true ice wines and ice-styled wines other than the price tag. Other notable differences include sight and taste. True ice wines have greater depth and intensity in color, as well as more intense flavor characteristics. True ice wines are opulent and more mouth-filling than the ice-styled wines. With that said, ice-styled wines can be beautiful and complex, so lets take a look at the James River Cellars Divino, shall we?

Review: The James River Cellars Divino 2005 is a half-bottle dessert wine exhibiting a light golden color. The wine has a real cork enclosure, but there is no indication on the label as to the alcohol content. The nose is sweet and inviting, lending itself to flavors of pear, apricot and subtle hints of honey racing about the palate. This wine goes down smooth with a sugar- laced medium length finish. Nothing overly complex, just a good sweet table wine as the label suggests. Try this with cheesecake, pumpkin or sweet potato pie, or sip it on its own as an after dinner sweet ending. Price: $20

TIP: Stop by World Market or Total Wine and also try a bottle of Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Reserve Vidal Ice-wine. This Canadian selection is also $20, and is a nice introductory true ice wine offering. Try both of these scrumptiously sweet selections and enjoy every golden droplet!

Producer: James River Cellars, 11008 Washington Hwy, Glen Allen, VA 23059

  • Hope everyone's 2008 is off to a great start !!! Stay tuned ...more to come !!!

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