This summer we met with proprietor Peter Prager at the family winery in St. Helena. If you haven’t been there you must stop by for a visit if you’re a fan of the wines of the Douro. The Pragers have specialized in Port since they started the winery in 1979.
The tasting room is the definition of casual and you might catch some Pink Floyd on the stereo as we did during our visit. There’s something about sipping Port and listening to Wish You Were Here that took me back to the more hedonistic days of my youth.
One of the key points that differentiates Peter’s approach to Port production is the choice of fortifying spirit. While many producers use high strength neutral spirit at 96%, Prager prefers to employ spirit at 85%. He feels that brandy at this lower alcohol level yields a more seamless integration in the finished wine. You see this pan out when you taste the wines, where the alcohol is intertwined with the other components of the wine, rather than dominating them.
One specialty that only a handful of producers in California attempt is White Port. Getting this wine right is a challenge, as is any fortified white wine. You have to hit the mark just so, otherwise the alcohol dominates the taste profile. I was so taken with this wine that I purchased a bottle that day. Drink this when you want a bold and powerful aperitif before dinner, especially as the autumn evenings are become cooler.
Prager, Napa Valley, Aria, White Port 2005 In the nose there is a fresh, grapy smell and a sense of brown sugar on top of baked apples. In the mouth it is nutty, warm and smooth with a linger essence of caramel. Chardonnay is the grape behind this wine, grown in the Carneros. The wine is aged for 3 years in oak. P&B in St. Helena 19% $48.50 at the winery.