Angelica is thought to be one of the oldest California wines, made originally by adding brandy to grape juice by the Mission fathers in the 1700’s. Similar wines are made in Spain by adding brandy to the grape juice from sun dried grapes for the wonderful PX Sherries and also in Australia for the fabulous Muscats and Topaques of North east Victoria. In all these wines, the resulting very sweet wine only reaches extraordinary heights after long barrel aging so that the sweetness is balanced by complexity developed through slow oxidation. The demands of modern business have made such wines difficult to make because of the long-term inventory costs and this is a pity as I’ve enjoyed many of these Muscats, Topaques and PX sherries.
To keep the tradition alive (and just because I like them!) I’ve made my version of Angelica, but with a twist. The grape variety is Viognier, which I think makes great dessert wines, and the fortification is done with pure grape alcohol. The base wine was made in 2007 and the wine is aged in older French oak barrels in the traditional Spanish Solera method where some of the oldest wine is drawn off for bottling, then the solera topped successively from the younger barrels. Additional wines have been added to the solera in 2012 and every year since then. This is the fifth bottling of my Angelica, still more than 85% from the original 2007 harvest and the extra year of aging since the last version has added significant depth and richness. It is like bottled Christmas, lots of toffee, cinnamon spices and nuts. Best enjoyed after dinner with cheese or by itself and will remain unchanged for up to a month after opening.