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Wine of the Week: Charbay Pomegranate Dessert Wine

Fri Apr 3, 2009

I love tradition. Not the staid, dogmatic kind, but tradition that bubbles up through generations,  crafts  passed from grandfather to son to grandson. These traditions hold the secrets of the land, of the sun and, in Marko Karakasevic’s case, the still. Marko is a 13th generation winemaker and distiller at Charbay, a winery and distillery perched atop Napa’s Spring Mountain. He works with his father, Master Distiller Miles Karakasevic,  mother Susan,  sister Lara and  wife-to-be Jenni, to create and promote some of the most adventurous spirits on today’s market.

I first learned of the Karakasevic clan from the folks at Martini House in St. Helena while working on an article about pomegranate cocktails for the San Francisco Chroncile. I’m a big fan of their clean-drinking, natural tasting pomegrante vodka, along with a number of their other products, particularly their Ruby Port. So I was duly excited when I recieved a sample of their newest product, a Pomegranate Dessert Wine, in the mail. Made using organically grown, tree-ripened, California pomegranates, this digestivo combines the tart-sweet flavors of full-flavored pomegranates with the earthy undercurrents of barrel-aged Pinot Noir brandy.

I have to admit, I wasn’t immediately a fan of this, like I was of their vodkas. I served the bottle with a sweet fruit dessert, which just amplified the port-style wine’s sweetness. I also served it room temperature, which made the wine’s 18.7% alcohol seem overwhelming. I tried it again though, about a week later, at cellar temperature and on its own, and was swept away by the tangy, deep pomegranate flavor. It had the vibrancy and fruitiness of ruby port with high tones of orange zest and cherry to counter the spice-spiked chocolaty richness in the mouth. But what really wowed me was the prominent acidity, which lingers with a faint pomegranate flavor on the palate long after your last sip. At cellar temperature, the alcoholic heat faded and the sticky sweetness was tamed by the juicy acidity. I recommened trying this with a triple-creme brie and Marcona almonds or poured over vanilla ice cream. It would also make a delicious Kir or a possible substitute in brandy-based cocktails (Pomegrante Sidecar?). I’m thinking I might pair it with strawberries for an upcoming sorbet experiment. So many options!

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