Wine of the Week

Sweet Libations

We've had a spate of superb dessert wines and liquors from Austin-area winemakers and distillers this year. One way to make everyone in your family Texas-proud is to show off some of these sweet libations during the holidays.

Paula Angerstein (www.paulastexasorange.com) is an Austinite who values the delicious after-dinner drinks in rural Italy. The standard method there is to take an item you like (in her case either lemon or orange), steep it in high-octane alcohol, then mix it with a simple syrup to bring it to the normal level of about 40% alcohol (80 proof). This works at home, too, using Everclear as the alcohol base. But, most of us won't be able to get as much flavor into our concoctions as Paula. Her two products are Texas Orange and Texas Lemon (both $25), and she has mastered the process, infusing both drinks with massive amounts of citrusy flavor. My personal favorite is the Texas Lemon, a drink that will remind you of liquefied Cavendish and Harvey's Sour Lemon Drops. ÊÊ

Flat Creek Estate is a winery on the north side of Lake Travis. Owners Rick and Madelyn Nabor set out to build a world-class winery in Central Texas, and they have achieved their dream. Their dry wines win awards all over the U.S. and deservedly so. But the real head-turner in their portfolio is their 2005 Travis Peak Estate Muscato D'Arancia ($16). This wine is about as perfect as a dessert wine can be. The aromas are powerful and similar to orange-tinged narcissus; the texture of the wine is rich and dense, and the flavors hit every part of your tongue. This is truly a world-class wine.

Part of the reason for the quality of the Flat Creek wines is the guiding hand of Aussie winemaker Craig Parker. Craig also lends a hand at Stone House Vineyard in Spicewood, where they have taken their estate-grown Norton grapes and made a fantastic portlike wine. Named Scheming Beagle (the name is a play on the multihundred-dollar Screaming Eagle wine), Parker lets the grapes overripen, then uses a gentle basket press to extract the juice. Their wine carries the aroma of plums, prunes, and dried apricots and carries enough acid to prevent the wine from tasting too sweet. The Norton grape is a tough customer; bad versions can smell like a wet wolf. But Parker has avoided the trap and makes a distinctly Texas wine that is pleasant from start to finish and reasonably priced at $25.

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