Scheming Beagle Port 2004

Stone House Vineyard produces Scheming Beagle, a Texas Port that stands above the rest

Scheming Beagle Port 2004

Scheming Beagle Port 2004

Stone House Vineyard

At a recent tasting of Texas wines, this unforgettable Port stood out so far above the other domestic Ports that it made an indelible impression. Silky smooth, it has prominent fresh plum and deep blueberry notes with just the faintest traces of caramel and walnut. The color is deep violet, and there is just a hint of allspice in the aroma. The finish is long and complete. Scheming Beagle's superiority is striking; you could blithely serve it to the hugest wine snob of your acquaintance without a qualm. It has been awarded both the silver (2006) and the bronze (2007) medals at the Lone Star International Wine Competition, as well as being named Port of the Year.

Scheming Beagle is made by Angela and Howard Moench, who own and operate Stone­ House Vineyard, a tiny, 6½-acre vineyard on the shores of Lake Travis, which exclusively grows Norton grapes, a native American varietal that is vigorous and disease-resistant. The name "Scheming Beagle" is a play on Screaming Eagle, the name of a very small producer in the Napa Valley whose bottles regularly sell for thousands of dollars apiece. The Moenches have an adorable yet very crafty beagle, whose picture appears on the Scheming Beagle label.

When I asked Angela Moench why Scheming Beagle is so very exceptional, she explained to me that while some domestic Ports are failed vintages to which refined sugar and spirits have been added, Scheming Beagle is "made properly." To begin with, the grapes are not harvested until the sugar content is very high. When the wine has fermented to the appropriate point, it is transferred to French oak barrels, and the aged brandy spirit is added to fortify the wine and stop the fermentation process. The Port then ages in the barrel for 18 months, at which point it is bottled and continues to mature in the bottle.

Scheming Beagle ($24.95) is available at Grape Vine Market, the Austin Wine Merchant, and directly from the vineyard.

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Scheming Beagle Port 2004, Stone House Vineyard

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