It's no secret that Cuvaison is one of our favorite wineries since they make so many great varietals. Last night, we opened a bottle of their 2006 Espiritu Dessert wine. It's a port-style wine made with Petite Syrah grapes and fortified with brandy that makes a delicious combination. The wine maker's notes suggest this wine could age for many years, but there's no way we could wait that long - this stuff is good!
The trick to a good dessert wine is balance, since there are many flavors happening at once. There's sweetness, the alcohol, the fruit, and in port-style wines there's also brandy. Espiritu does a great job of achieving great balance -- not too sweet with very nice fruit. Lesser quality port-style wines can taste like too much caramel, too much alcohol, or too syrupy.
One note -- in our haste to drink this wine we paired it with a bowl of ice cream. It wasn't a great match, so we first enjoyed our ice cream and then enjoyed a glass of Espiritu. A good rule of thumb when pairing dessert wine with food is to pick a dessert that isn't quite as sweet as the wine. Fortunately, there's plenty left in the bottle to get it right the next time we have a glass!