paloma dulce cesar toxquiOne of the joys of traveling around the country tasting wine is finding unusual gems tucked away in office parks or warehouses. This is one I discovered last fall while poking around Hopland in Mendocino County. I’m not sure what to call it. It is more or less a ruby port-style wine, sweet, fortified to 19% alcohol, and made from red grapes, primarily Merlot with some Zinfandel, Syrah, and Sangiovese in the blend.

It has the ripe berry and mocha flavors of a port but sherried caramel notes, tamarind, and nut aromas give the nose a unique, funky aspect . Port-like on the palate up front, but while port has a syrupy expansion at mid-palate, this wine stays crisp, refreshing, and silky with good acidity and fine tannins on the finish. It comes off as a hybrid of Oloroso sherry and ruby port but more refreshing then either. It’s sweet enough to go with dessert but it’s an enjoyable sipper as well.

Born in Mexico, winemaker Cesar Toxqui got his start in the Fetzer vineyards and learned winemaking at night school and on weekends. It’s an inspiring story. He mans the tasting room and is happy to explain his approach to handcrafted, small production winemaking.

An original, what you would expect from Hopland, unusual winemakers with vision trying to find their way.

Score: 90

Alc: 19%

Price: $18

For this inspirational story and unique wine we need that most inspirational of songs “Don’t Give Up” featuring Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush