Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Any Port in a Storm as Long as it's Prager

Anyone who loves port wine knows how challenging it can be to find a domestic one that is consistently good and also available every year. Most winemakers will only make port wine serendipitously; that is, when the grapes are right for making port. Alternately, if they have an excess of grapes one year they might decide to make port. What is needed is a winery whose main focus is crafting port wines. Enter Prager Winery and Port Works in Napa.

The Prager family has been making port wines since 1979, and the knowledge of three generations of winemakers attests to their commitment and passion. Many California ports are made with Zinfandel grapes, but I’ve found ports made with Petite Sirah grapes superior. Prager uses Petite Sirah, Chardonnay and a trio of Portuguese grapes for a more authentic port. Prager makes tawny, ruby, traditional and vintage ports and two white ports. All Prager ports are in 750ml bottles, most other domestic producers use the 375ml size so don’t be misled by the higher prices of Prager ports. Just divide by two.

Some folks may think port is reserved for special occasions, but I’d reply you can make a special occasion by including port. Valentine’s Day chocolate and port, most definitely, a way to get through that chocolate Easter Bunny, why not? How about a round of Stilton cheese with a hole gouged into the center into which port is dribbled for a more esoteric choice? Perhaps you can see the possibilities.

Prager also makes two very good wines. Sampling the robust 2005 Petite Syrah provides insights into the reason their red ports are so good. The nose of cedar, cigar box and cherry leads to a dark cherry and spicy palate, mellowed with 2-1/2 years aging in American and French oak. The 2007 Sweet Claire of 100% late harvest Riesling is nicely balanced and the apple, apricot and spiciness of this not-too-sweet dessert wine work with any fruit-based desserts and Asian fusion dishes. They also make premium vinegars and a Port Chocolate Drizzle that is seduction itself.

The tasting room is also fun. The walls and ceiling are layered with currency from around the world. Imagine the myriad of visitors that wished to leave their mark on this house of port before they went home. And then there’s the special spider window, but I’ll leave that for you to discover.

Chocolate and port wine always pair well, but Prager ports have a lock on the symbiosis of port and chocolate. In fact they even have jellied port in their truffle-styled chocolates. Did I mention this place might not be good if you’re on a diet? Oh, what the heck, live a little! Salud!

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