by Fred McMillin
for February 13, 1997

A Sublime Valentine, Born of Tragedy and Triumph

Prologue: "Dolce (dol-chay) is the first world-class American dessert wine".. from the Florida Wine Bulletin

Tragedy: The creation of Dolce about a decade ago made a big splash, and demand was expected to rise rapidly. It did, but production the third year was ZERO! Production the fourth year? None again. Winemaker Dirk Hampson had a lot of time on his hands. The problem was that to create this special wine, Mother Nature must cooperate. In the fall there must be some alternating moist and dry periods. This stimulates the growth of an organism we'll call BC (botrytis cinerea). BC coats ripe grapes, penetrates their skin, concentrates the sugar and creates incredible honey- like flavors. When there's no BC, there's no Dolce.

Triumph: However, the next year BC was back, and Dirk has been smiling ever after, not missing a vintage since 1988. So, on Valentine's Day, if you care enough to give the very best, give this magnificent '93.

1993 Dolce Late Harvest Dessert Wine
Far Niente Winery
Oakville, Napa Valley, CA
$50 (375 ml.)

Category: Excellent

Postscript: When serving, feature the wine, not the dessert. Mango sorbet with sugar cookies make a nice backdrop. and don't diminish the aroma and flavors by cooling the bottle too much. Twenty to 30 minutes in the frig is long enough.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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