Between the Vines is a biweekly column on wine and winemaking in the Livermore Valley region. This information was contributed by members of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association

Each month, Livermore Valley wine country highlights a grape varietal grown in our region. In December we chose to feature port, which is actually a style of wine that can be made from virtually any grape varietal. Typically served as a dessert wine, port is also called late harvest wine and characterized as a sweet red originally made in Portugal. However, port is also widely produced as dry or semidry white wine made from Gewürztraminer, muscat, riesling, sauvignon blanc, semillon or zinfandel. All of these elixirs provide a sweet end to any meal, while retaining just enough acidity to remain refreshing.

"Every good dinner, deserves a good finish, and port provides that feeling of complete satisfaction," says Bent Creek Winery owner Tom Heineman. "Sipping on a glass of port brings a sophisticated, yet warm and friendly finish to any meal. Port has soul!"

"Port is fortified and has significantly higher alcohol and sugar than most wines. It is created in a way that captures the intense fruit flavors inherent in the grapes in the wine," says Karl Wente, a fifth-generation winemaker at Wente Vineyards. "Our petite sirah ports are fortified with oak-aged brandy before being placed in barrel for aging."


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Bill Webster, of Little Valley Winery, notes that "the traditional Portuguese port is typically made from 70 to 100 percent tempranillo, the centuries-old, renowned Spanish varietal rioja red wine. Tempranillo gives Portuguese ports that wonderful follow-through in the back of your palate on the second sip."

"I love a port that is not too sweet and our Garre Red Velvet Port is just that," says Gina Cardera, of Garre Vineyard & Winery. "For me, it's the perfect ending for a delicious meal. A glass of port and a biscotti or your favorite chocolate -- what could be better?"

William Westover Smyth, of Westover Vineyards in Castro Valley's Palomares Canyon, encourages his guests to think out of the (dessert) box when pairing port with food. Westover produces more than 30 different port wines -- more than any winery in the United States.

"Do not let people talk you into port as only an aperitif or dessert wine," says Smyth. "My wife, Jill, loves port as her wine of choice with main courses. Port is an 'anytime' wine."

Visitors will find port at more than 25 Livermore Valley wineries. To learn more, visit www.LVwine.org or www.discovercaliforniawines.com

wine country events

  • Charles R Murder Mystery Dinner -- 6 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Charles R Vineyards, 8195 Crane Ridge Road in Livermore; www.charlesrvineyards.com. Cost is $60. Can you solve the mystery? The villain might be seated right next to you! Enjoy a family-style dinner while sipping Charles R wine. For tickets, email bonnie@charlesrvineyards.com.

  • Artist Reception of Photography by Ian Danielson -- 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at Wente Vineyards Estate Winery & Tasting Room, 5565 Tesla Road in Livermore; www.wentevineyards.com. Join Wente Vineyards for a reception showcasing photography by Ian Danielson. Artwork will be on display in the Wente Vineyards Estate Winery Tasting Room through December. For more information call 925-456-2305.