Dow's 10 Years Old Tawny Port is the perfect ending to a holiday meal
There's a huge snowstorm coming into New York, the news is filled with stories of travel chaos, and the white stuff's already piling up in the street under my window. So I decided to finish my dinner with an apple. But not just an apple. An apple accompanied by the best Stilton cheese available in America, Colston Bassett, and a glass (or three) of Dow's 10 Years Old Tawny Port ($30), the perfect end to a meal on a cold and nasty night. The port business is going through hard times these days because its flagship product, vintage port, is expensive and takes many years to mature. It is bottled young and requires decades of careful storage before it reveals its true magic, so in this intemperate, instant-access age that's not the formula for commercial success it had once been. But if you want to gain an appreciation of how magnificent this wine can be, there's a very agreeable shortcut—tawny port. This is port aged not in the bottle but in barrels for the specified number of years—usually 10, 20, or 30—and then bottled ready to drink. No waiting until you are worrying about your grandchildren's education, no messing about with decanters. Just pull the cork, pour a small glass, and savor the wonder of this delicious wine. It is superb with Stilton and other blue cheeses, and works its magic with the sort of rich dessert, such as fruit pies and even chocolate, that is a challenge to lesser wines. But it really shines with old-fashioned Victorian Christmas concoctions made with dried fruits like Christmas pudding, mince pies, and fruit cake. Dow's 10 Years Old Tawny is a beguiling, bright-ruby color tinged with amber, hence tawny. It doesn't have vintage port's explosive fresh fruit flavors but its glorious, sweet creamy richness is perfectly balanced by a tart crispness that prevents it from being cloying. But what makes it special is the unique flavors of candied oranges, roasted hazelnuts, and dried apricots that become apparent on the long, lingering finish. To find a wine of this enticing depth and mystery at this price is astounding, and well shows the advantages that accrue to the adventurous aficionado who's prepared to step off the well-trodden path of viniferous fashion by trying a bottle of this most Dickensian of Christmas cheer. When to Drink: Now Breathing/Decanting: No Food Pairing: Cheese; desserts, especially made with dried fruit Appellation: Port Region: Douro Country: Portugal Price: $30 Availability: Very good Web Site: www.dows-port.com See more wines at www.nickonwine.com.