Just Desserts

Every resident of the great snowy north has developed a way to find happiness in the darkest, most frigid weeks of winter. For some, it’s snowshoeing. For others, it’s poring over seed catalogs or booking a flight to Mexico. For wine lovers, this dark season is the perfect excuse to uncork an indulgent dessert wine in front of the fireplace. The flames flicker, your glass catches and reflects the firelight, and a little something sweet and warm transforms a cold night from a nuisance into a profound delight. How good are they? Once you taste a few of these, you may find yourself so captivated you’ll pack a bottle into your canoe for summer camping among the fireflies and pine breezes as you try to relive a bit of winter during summertime.

Quady Essensia California Orange Muscat, 2008

Orange blossoms! Nectarine, peach, apricot blossoms! Ginger-nutmeg psychedelic candy yippee-doodah! In short: high-summer, in a bottle. Available: Lunds, 3455 Vicksburg Lane, Plymouth, 763-268-1624 ($16)

Ch. d’Orignac Pineau des Charentes NV

Château d’ Orignac has been producing cognac and the aperitif wine pineau since the 1200s; pour a glass and you’ll see why they’ve had customers for 800 years. The pineau has remarkable scents and flavors: candied-almond praline, peach blossoms, musk roses, vanilla tea. Pair it with shortbread or a good blue cheese. Available: Hennepin-Lake Liquors, 1200 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-4411 ($34)

Graham Tawny Port 20 Year Old NV

Weighty, elegant, and echoing, this well-bred gentleman of a port offers a complex arrangement of every toasty note known to human taste: toffee, whisky, caramel, butterscotch, fruitcake, mocha, baked apricot. A sip conjures a world as rich and old-world as a gold pocket watch consulted in a mahogany boardroom. Available: Haskell’s, various locations. ($59)

Inniskillin Riesling Niagara Peninsula Ice Wine, 2007

Celebrate northern winter with wine made from grapes left in Canadian fields until it’s 10 below. The result is just gorgeous—apricot, pear, and candied burnt-lemon flavors supported by a racy energy and bright acidity. What joy may be seized from the depths of ice and winter! Available: Byerly’s Wine & Spirits, various locations. ($93)