Saturday, February 27, 2010

Delightful Or Discounted, Fortified Wines Take Wide Berth

Just when I think I know it all, I’m reminded of how much more I need to learn.

The other day I tasted a 2004 Red Mountain Fortified by Hedges Cellars. It was delightful to say the least. In a few moments I’ll share my tasting notes with you. But, First I need to tell you about my faux paux.

I told Patrick Jaynes, my contact at the winery, how much I enjoyed the “Port”. Immediately I knew from the silence that I had just royally screwed up. Patrick, being the ever patient and kind host, explained to me that at Hedges they don’t call it “Port” because they adhere to the “Wine Place and Origin” philosophy.

The “Wine Place & Origin” philosophy is something that was started in 2005 by the regions Champagne, Jerez, Napa Valley, Oregon, Washington State, Porto, and Walla Walla. Since then there have been several other regions that have also added their names to the agreement. Now there is even a website that you can go to learn more about this agreement, and even add your own name to the petition. The website is .

While I agree with this whole philosophy of correctly naming a product by its place of origin to ensure quality, I’m also now a little stymied. How do I tell you that I enjoyed a style of wine and have it not confused with many other styles of the same name.

“Fortified” is a term used for wine product where alcohol has been added in order to enhance flavor, kill off bad bugs, or give the wine a little kick. There are basically six types of fortified wines: Port, Madeira, Sherry, Marsala, Vermouth, and Low-End Fortified wines.

Most of us are quite familiar with Low-End Fortified brands Thunderbird, Night Train, and Mogen David 20/20. Developed during the Great Depression, vintners were able to produce these very affordable, sweet wines that still remain highly popular for their low cost and high test.

On the other hand Port, Madeira, Sherry, and Marsala are centuries old winemaking methods that are steeped in culture and history. I’ve been privileged to taste Ports and Sherries that were in the $300 per bottle range. Vermouth also comes from a long history, and is a required ingredient in some of the most affluent mixed drinks.

I hope that this explains my situation.

So, when I explain to you that I enjoyed a bottle of this Hedges 2004 Red Mountain Fortified, please understand that I am not talking here of a three dollar bottle of Banana Red. I’m talking here of a bottle that will run you the cost of a really good steak dinner.

This wine is 56% Souzau, 25% Touriga, and 19% Tinta Cao. All three varietals are very rare for this region, however are common in Portugal, where Port is made. The wine is so dark and rich it is nearly a blue-black color. The nose is full of dark fruits, orange zest, tobacco, herbs, and violets. The flavors of the sweet brandy hit your tongue first, followed by orange, chocolate, and cherries. At 21.6% alcohol, and 5.6% residual sugar, this is pretty smooth stuff.

Anyone wishing to try this fantastic “fortified” wine should reach out to the winery by going to their website at .



  1. Interesting that they don't like it to be referred to as port, even thought they use the Portuguese grape varieties. Sounds like a fun wine to taste. I'll have to seek it out some time. Cheers~

  2. Thanks Thomas! is reminiscent of Champagne being from Champagne only. There's some pretty fine sparkling out there, but don't call it Champagne!!!! LOL!


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