O ur virtual tasting world expanded somewhat tonight with a Port tasting that featured 4 Ports from the House of Sandeman, a port house dating back to 1790. Now if you are up in your wine knowledge you would know that Port is a term used to describe a style of wine that only comes from the Douro Valley of Portugal. The style is described as “fortified, ” which means brandy is added to the wine to bring the alcohol level up to 18-20%. It typically is aged in barrels and lasts in the bottle for many more years than traditional wines. A Zinfandel Port from California can’t be marketed in Europe because Port is not from Portugal.
So thanks to the Internet we able to join Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth’s editor-in-chief and George Sandeman, 7th Generation Sandeman and Executive Board Member Wednesday night in a virtual tasting where we watched and listened to their commentary as 14 of us sampled the four wines we were sent.
They also sent us some drink recipes ranging from a Sangria, which we loved, to mixed drinks using Port to flavor up the bourbon they were mixed with.
The gentlemen were discussing the history and lore of this classic region but to be honest with 14 people we had our own lively discussion. After we tried the four there was a discussion about innovative Porto cocktails starring mixologist Andy Seymour.
We tried the Sandeman’s Sour and won over a few people. Winning over people was one goal of the evening. Many think of Port as a winter drink. But when you look at it with Sangria or with a Sandeman’s Sour summer looks very promising.
The port house was established by George Sandeman in 1790 (like we said the George featured tonight is the 7th generation). Sandeman has been shipping fine portos all over the world for more than 200 years.
Sandeman this evening said you can use any glass you want which excites the tasters here because with 14 people here we are stretched for glasses. It was a nice tasting. Here’s what we said as we tasted. We got a bit lost so we might not have tasted in the proper order but who’s keeping score.
Here are the wines we tried in this order(click to see more):
This is a mixed drink we tried made with the Sandeman Founders Reserve
Here are the detailed wine notes:
Sandeman Tawny Porto Ten Years Old
We looked at the label and it said “Matured in small oak casks this porto has devloped a strong and appealing tawny character balancing ripe fruit, jam and dried fruits with hints of vanilla and raisins. Serve in a large glass and enjoy with strong cheeses or a tarte tatin, custards or ice creams. Tawny lovers should also taste Sandeman 20 or 30.”
We tried this second. Our tasters said this is much more complex than the Founders Reserve. Spicy. more character, more fruit forward. Mark suggests some cloves and maybe some nutmeg. We tried this with the chocolate and everyone is loving it. Several tasters said they liked the Tawny Ports more than the traditional.
Winery: House of Sandeman
Sandeman Vau Vintage Porto 1997
This vintage is from 1997 but was bottled in 1999. The label says “the finest wine made in Quinta do Vau, our top rated vineyard in the Douro Valley, was used as a base for this 1997 Vau Vintage. Careful blending with varietal wines made by Sandeman from grapes grown for us by our leading farmers results in this powerful and distinctive Vintage Port. Rich in the fruit and fire that typifies a great Vintage Port, our 1997 Vau Vintage has full, lush qualities, balanced by a good structure of tannins which make it appealing to drink young. It will also age well over the next decade.”
We had cork issues. The other three used a topped cork which you pull off by hand. This wine had a regular cork because the wine is meant to stay in the bottle longer. This cork broke apart when we tried to uncork it. We had to decant it through the busted cork.
Dennis decided to save this wine for last because it was a Vintage wine. Maybe it would have been better as number 2. This is not spicy. Fruit forward but drier at the start than the others. It has a sugary finish. This one lacks the complexity of the others that makes the natural sweetness hit you in the face. This one is sweet. Dark for sure. This was our least favorite of the night.
For Dennis it was the favorite, but he likes vintage Port. He thought the wine had the most complexity and a subtle nutty character.
Sandeman Tawny Porto 20 Years Old 1997
The label says “Dried fruit flavors are harmoniously balanced in this much acclaimed 20-year-old Sandeman porto. Aged in wooden casks, the color matures from deep ruby through to amber producing a rare and delicious tawny porto which unsurprisingly has won many prizes around the globe. Perfect to drink in a large glass with foie gras, salty vols-au-vent or simply with a fresh peach.
This was one surprisingly light in color. Very smooth and with textures the 10-Year-Old and Founders didn’t have. More elegant says Dennis (His second favorite wine of the night.). Maybe some apricot flavors. A hint of raisins. The lighter color makes it very appealing. Everyone is waiting for the others to look away so they can sneak another taste. For me the amber color reminds me of the sherry the Goddards used to have handy when Mrs. Blackwelder stopped by for a chat when we lived back in Griffin, GA.
Winery: House of Sandeman
Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto
The label says “Named in honor of the founder this reserve captures the full rich flavors which are the essence of top class portos. Supurb on it’s own served in a large glass with cheeses or rich chocolate desserts, or as an aperitif chilled, or on ice.”
The first port of the evening. Everyone is giving it a thumbs up. The neophytes of the group are asking what Port is and we’ve been filling them in. Angie gives a thumbs up saying “fruity and very nice.” It was Leigh’s favorite of the night. To Mark it’s a little on the lighter side or more so than he expected. A little sweeter than he likes but considering its age he thinks it pretty good. He gives it a 6 out of 10. Dennis says, warm smooth, soft and an amazing wine that is quite drinkable. Dennis bought another bottle and used it to make the sangria recipe that was sent earlier this summer. We might be trying this next. WOW. I generally don’t like sangria but using the recipe they sent is great. Minty with watermelon with the flavors of the port coming through.
This is the recipe for a Sandeman’s Sour. They sent this recipe along with the ports.
3/4 oz Port
1 1/4 oz bourbon
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
1 egg white (optional and we opted to not)
Directions: Prepare the cocktail like a Collins. Pour bourbon, lemon juice and simple syrup into a mixing glass. Add ice and shake briefly. Strain over ice into a rocks or old-fashioned glass. (We left the ice in the glass.) Float the Sandeman’s Founder Reserve Port on top and garnish with an orange and brandied cherry.
Everyone who tried one liked it. A nice summertime cocktail. We used Marker’s Mark for the Bourbon. We think we extended the evening by a good hour because of this one.
We also tried the Founders on the Rocks cocktail, and it was a great summer drink that’s easy to make. Just pour the Port over ice and add fresh mint and an orange slice. I liked it even better when I added some sparkling water.
Mark tried the Tawny-tini and liked it. It featured 2 ounces of 20 years Tawny Port, a splash of Chival Regal and an orange twist.
Sandeman’s Watermelon Mint Sangria
1 bottle Sandeman’s Founders Reserve Porto
12 oz lemon-lime soda
1/4 watermelon muddled and strained for juice (I put the watermelon in a blender.)
20 mint leaves, muddled
10-15 strawberries, halved
Slice strawberries in half and set aside. Slice watermelon, muddle and strain for juice (or put it in a blender). Mix Port, lemon-lime soda and watermelon in a pitcher. Add strawberries and let sit for 8-12 hours. Middle mint leaves and add to pitcher before serving.