Sweet Sauternes

Ordering a dessert wine AS your dessert is always such a sweet, decadent treat. I have to admit I feel a little less guilty ordering a glass of an indulgent elixir instead of a chocolate torte – although I’m sure the caloric difference is negligible. One of my favorite choices is often a honey-sweet Sauternes.

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On a recent Friday night, my husband and I treated ourselves to a light dinner at Seattle’s 35th Street Bistro. Located in the Fremont neighborhood, this slice of European country cuisine boats your typical bistro fare: mussels with pommes frites, bouillabaisse, braised short ribs, and foie gras among other choices. While the service on each visit has been spotty at best – this most recent visit resulted in ordering an obscure dinner wine about which the sommelier had neglected to educate the staff about, which lead to a so-so wine education experience (in spite of our awesome waitress’ attempts to make it up to us) and a way overdue apology from the owner while we were on our way out the door – the bistro does indeed boast a lovely wine selection both by the bottle and glass. My mystery selection was a Gros Manseng, Domaine des Cassagnoles, Gascogne – a crisp, dry white that left a lingering mineral complexity on the tongue and which I found the perfect complement to my moules fritte (delicious).

Given our dubious dinner experience (which also took way to long to be served; but I digress…) I treated myself to a glass of heaven with a Sauternes from Chateau Suduiraut Castelnau. This 90% Semillion, 10% Sauvignon Blanc blend was caramel smooth and thick on the tongue.  Some experts recommend accompanying this wine with a foie gras or a fruit tart.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

So what denotes a Sauternes? Located in France’s Bordeaux region, Sauternes’ damp weather conditions and location create a prime breeding ground for the lovely noble rot, or botrytis, fungus we’ve mentioned in previous articles. Basically, noble rot causes grapes to dehydrate and concentrate their sugars for sweeter flavor. In many dessert wines, noble rot is added strategically as part of the wine making process but in Sauternes, Mother Nature lends a hand.