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North vs. South – A Dessert Wine Showdown

Quick!  Word association time.  I say “wine.” What do you think of? 

Most, of us think “red wine.”  It is unfortunate that our wine conversational palate doesn’t often include the entire ecosystem of wine, including cordial, sparklers and dessert.

I bring this up because, a day late, I am writing about Wine Blogging Wednesday and this month’s theme, North vs. South, hosted by Remy Charest, the writer at The Wine Case, an erudite blog written by Remy at his outpost in Quebec, the France of North America.


His thematic premise is simple – choose a wine varietal or style and then compare the two—one from a northerly location and another from a southern locale.

I chose an icewine from the Niagra peninsula in Canada versus a Late Harvest wine from the Finger Lakes North Fork of Long Island (thanks to Daniel from Casual Kitchen for the catch).  Geographically in the same region, but separated by about 500 miles, both wines are fine representatives of their style, but more on that in a moment.

First, I do want to expose what I believe to be a real injustice in our wine culture.  Cordial wines (i.e. sweet wines), sparkling wines and then dessert wines are often times relegated to 2nd class status in our wine conversations, veritable coach passengers to red and white wines first class status.

And, I don’t know why.

So many people, rightfully so, advocate wine as a natural complement to food and a partner at the table of conviviality and good living, yet we mentally neglect a significant portion of the wine styles available.  It stands to reason that we all have some work to do in terms of helping grow acceptance for a nice cordial style wine that can act as a nice preamble to the meal, a sparkler that can act as an aperitif, and a dessert wine that caps off the comestibles, these styles book ending a red or white wine, as it may be.


That said, this brings me to my wine choices for this months theme – ice wine and late harvest wine.

This article from The Seattle Times nicely summarizes the differences between ice wine and a late harvest style:

There are significant differences between late-harvest and ice wines. The term “Late Harvest” has no legal definition in the U.S. It generally means that the grapes were allowed to ripen past the sugar levels at which ordinary dry table wines are picked. The extra ripening may extend hangtime for weeks …

True ice wines are rare indeed. In Canada, Germany and Austria, ice wine (or eiswein) is strictly regulated. There are standards for sugar levels and temperatures at harvest, and other regulations regarding the actual pressing of the grapes.

What ice wine delivers that ordinary late-harvest wines do not are extremely concentrated, tropical fruit flavors (often pineapple is the dominant note) along with a crystalline clarity and vivid acidity. These wines are ready to drink when released …

I chose the 2007 Jackson-Triggs Vidal Ice wine – est. retail around $17

It pours like undulating yellow amber 5W 30 motor oil, not a great descriptor, but apropos in terms of viscosity, a light and lively style that is beautifully balanced between sweetness and acidity with notes of super ripe mango and apricot on the nose and a tropical party on the palate – pineapple and peach on the palate.  This invites sip after sip and can stand alone as dessert by itself.  An excellent value for the price, Jackson-Triggs is recommended. 

My other choice was the 2007 Waters Crest “Night Watch” Late Harvest Wine – est. retail around $45 (available at winery web site)


Comprised of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Gewürztraminer, and 10% Riesling, this deep yellow / light ochre wine pours like 10W 30 motor oil, a little heavier and thick with a pleasant mouth coating weight to it.  Mild acidity that could be incrementally more present, this wine offers delicious honeyed pineapple and fresh apricot with a faint floral note on the nose and beautiful dried pineapple and honey on the palate.  It is a very nice wine that dances the fine line close to overly sweet, yet it does not go over the top.  But, the Waters Crest does not stand alone, doing its best work if paired with a cheese course and/or savory dessert, offering well-matched counterpoint and a level of intrigue and deliciousness.  I would go with a hunk of Parmesan Reggiano.  Waters Crest is Recommended. 

Overall, in my opinion, the well-equipped wine enthusiast manages an eco system of wine that lives in a life cycle and the dessert wines, ice wine, late harvest and ports deserve a spot in the cellar, ready to magically cap off a meal and good conversation.  Both of the wines discussed here are good places to start.

Additional Reading:

Ice wine


I received both reviewed wines as media samples

What I wrote about a Year Ago:

The Amazing, Incredible Shrinking Wine Price Segment - a post about the abandonment of the $11 - $15 price segment by domestic producers


Posted in, Good Grape Wine Reviews. Permalink | Comments (8) |


On 03/19, Arthur wrote:

Hi Jeff

I just had the 2006 Jackson-Triggs vidal Icewine last week.

It is a very nice wine.

On 03/20, Daniel wrote:

Completely agree that sweet wines don’t get their due.  I think most people, once they learn enough about wine to become dangerous, adopt the attitude that “dry = better” which of course is a mindless prejudice just like any other. 

Just a minor correction to your post, however.  The New York wine you tried isn’t from the Finger Lakes… it’s from Long Island.  The Finger Lakes region is in central New York state—it’s where all those long and finger-shaped lakes are between Syracuse and Rochester.  Thought you should know!

Casual Kitchen

On 03/20, Jeff wrote:

Hey Dan,

Thanks for the comment.  And, thanks for the head’s up.  Good catch.  I corrected.

Thanks for reading!


On 03/20, Dylan wrote:

Hey Jeff,

Thanks for including that article excerpt for the differences between eiswein and late-harvest style. I’m always trying to learn something new about wine and I have your post to thank for that today.

On 09/16, Food sealer wrote:

The houses in Ancient Greece were commonly of the atrium-type: the rooms were arranged around a central courtyard. In many such homes, a covered but otherwise open patio served as the kitchen. Homes of the wealthy had the kitchen as a separate room, usually next to a bathroom (so that both rooms could be heated by the kitchen fire), both rooms being accessible from the court.

On 05/24, TN Pas Cher wrote:

open patio served as the kitchen. Homes of the wealthy had the kitchen as a

On 10/31, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Concerning dry wines, I’m just not there yet. I’ve started as a semi-dry fan, still there, after three years. It just feels like it has the best from both sides. As for your recommendations, I had to check a flight site, I’ll probably book a flight to Canada to check the birthplace of that ice wine ASAP. Great tips, thanks for sharing them!

On 11/18, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I’ve never understood those beach commercials that present people sobbing on a cocktail when obviously a glass of wine by the seaside at Royal Sunset is what Heaven on Earth means. I prefer it as dry as the sand I sit in. It all fits perfectly.


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