It's been a little over a year now since wine stores have been able to sell the fortified offerings of Oporto in Idaho, and it has taken that long to get in one of the heavy hitters from the region--Dow's. The history of this prestigious brand dates back to 1798. Now a part of the Symington family, the Dow's brand still maintains its own unique style and identity. And, while the three names that top most Port lover's list are Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Grahams, Dow's is also a serious player, producing opulent wines that on occasion outscore its rivals. Here are a few of my favorites from a recent tasting of the Dow's lineup:
Dow's 10-Year Tawny, $26
Aging young port in oak barrels, with the subsequent exposure to wood and air, causes the wine to lose the ruby color of youth, and acquire instead the amber hue that gives the wine its name. This Tawny is a blend of wines with an average age of ten years (some older, some younger). It is a very fresh take on the style, with a nice caramelized nut quality and richer, more youthful fruit than most. Served lightly chilled, it makes a deliciously different apéritif.
Dow's Crusted Port (Bottled in 1999), $22
An interesting alternative to Vintage Character and Late Bottled Vintage Ports, the Crusted Port is a blend of several vintages matured in oak casks for two or three years, bottled unfiltered, then given further age in the bottle before release. To my taste, it's a closer match to a true vintage Port, with a nice mellowness and the smooth, rich fruit that can only come from time in the bottle. An outstanding value.
1994 Dow's Vintage Port, $76
With ten years under its belt, this wine is just starting to become approachable. In this exceptional vintage, Dow's held its own against the competition (rated an impressive 97 points in the Wine Spectator). But what's truly impressive is that the wine is still available. Very rich with chocolate, toffee and dense berry fruit, it's still a baby, but absolutely delicious. Throw in touches of hazelnut and vanilla with creamy cassis on the long finish, and you have a marvelous wine that should age well for another ten to twenty years.