Dessert Wines "California Style" - A Discussion with Andrew Quady

Much is written about the celebrated wines and terroir of Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Travel southeast from California’s “wine country” through the Central Valley and you will find a unique gem of a winery nestled in Madera County. Quady Winery has spent the past 30 years refining the art of dessert wines. IntoWine.com caught up with co-founder Andrew Quady (his wife Laurel is the other brain behind it) to talk about Quady’s California style dessert wines.

You have dessert wines -and even two vermouths- made from Orange and Black Muscat grapes. Tell us about them:

We specialize in types of wines and varieties which other wineries have ignored. Vermouth is an aromatized wine made by infusing aromatic plants into wine. The resulting wines have a character derived more from the plant materials than the base wines although the base wines must be of good quality: fresh and clean for the dry vermouth and with a sweet Muscat character for the sweet vermouth.

Our vermouths are different from the mass produced ones we are all familiar with. They are hand crafted and intended to be appreciated as delicious beverages on their own as well as useful for mixing with spirits. The botanicals used in Vya extra dry are mainly flowers and leaves and involve the parts of a plant where communication (as in plant aromatics dispersed into the air) are important. Our extra dry Vya is reminiscent of being in a mountain meadow in the springtime.

Sweet Vya derives its character from roots, bark, and seeds. These parts of plants are involved in storing energy, reproduction, and defense. These large molecules impart a wonderful range of taste characteristics, varying sorts of bitterness, warmth, and a tingling sensation. Many of the compounds used in sweet Vya were at one time important for medicinal uses. Blessed thistle for example is important in liver and kidney treatments. Sweet Vya seems to invoke memories of being in the kitchen in the wintertime when spicy desserts are being prepared. One of the most intriguing characteristics of our sweet Vya is the interplay of sweet and bitter sensations on the palate.