Sherry is a fortified dessert wine originally hailing from southern Spain traditionally made with Palomino grapes. There are several varieties of sherry, including amontillado, fino, oloroso and cream sherry, a sweetened version made at a handful of Midwest wineries.
Missouri’s climate is well-suited for the ripe, soft character of sherry wine, according to Stone Hill Winery’s senior winemaker Dave Johnson, and that’s the main reason its award-winning cream sherry was added to its lineup in 1993. Stone Hill uses a modified version of the traditional Spanish solera method of making sherry and ages in casks in a building warmed by the summer sun. The final product is a blend of several grape varieties and vintages, dating back to 1999 for this year’s bottling. “Sherry isn’t really a wine that we would call varietal in nature, meaning that you’re not trying to highlight a particular characteristic of the grape the way we would say Traminette has floral spiciness,” Johnson says. “With sherry, it’s more about the aging and the maderization. Year to year, we’re looking for an overall flavor.” Johnson says the cream sherry, which won Best of Class in the dessert/fortified category at the 2015 Missouri Wine Competition, is a handcrafted product, on par with fine sherries produced in Spain. He suggests pairing it with nuts and dark chocolate, curled up next to a roaring fire.
Stone Hill Winery, 1110 Stone Hill Highway, Hermann, Missouri, 573.486.2221, stonehillwinery.com
“We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we do take our wines seriously,” says Noah Wright, head winemaker and co-owner of Oz Winery, located in Wamego, Kansas, about halfway between Topeka and Manhattan. In addition to its table wines, the 8-year-old winery offers dessert wines including Surrender, its cream sherry, and lighter offerings – both in style and in name – such as Glinda’s Bubbly sparkling wine or Yellow Brix semisweet white blend. Wright is passionate about using 100 percent natural ingredients in his wine: Surrender, for example, uses wine made with California-sourced Chardonnay grapes fortified with a grape-based spirit. It’s heated at 90°F to 100°F for four to six months in tanks that Wright fabricated to function like an oven. “We slowly infuse it with a small percentage of oxygen, which oxidizes the sherry and gives it nutty caramel, walnut and pecan flavors,” he says. When Wright first made sherry back in 2009, he tried baking the wine on the roof in the traditional Spanish way, “but we couldn’t get five days of 90°F to 100°F weather, let alone the five months sherry needs,” Wright says.
Oz Winery, 417 Lincoln Ave., Wamego, Kansas, 785.456.7417, ozwinerykansas.com
Niagara, a native white grape first grown in New York, takes up more than an acre of land at Blue Sky Vineyard. About five years ago, the winery in Makanda, Illinois, produced more Niagara wine than it sold, and used the excess to make cream sherry using the Tressler method, which originated on the East Coast. To make Blue Sky’s cream sherry, winemaker Karen Hand fortifies Niagara wine with a neutral, high-proof grape spirit and adds sugar, then heats the liquid in a tank at 120°F for about three months to effectively “bake” it and create Shawnee Cream, which won the Governor’s Cup for dessert wine at the 2015 Illinois State Fair Wine Competition. Hand recommends drinking cream sherry with your dessert, rather than as dessert; she enjoys it with bread pudding or almond cookies to bring out the sherry’s nut and toffee notes.
Blue Sky Vineyard, 3150 S. Rocky Comfort Road, Makanda, Illinois, 618.995.9463, blueskyvineyard.com
WHERE TO TRY AND BUY
Stone Hill Winery’s Cream Sherry: Purchase online at shop.stonehillwinery.com or at retailers and restaurants across Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and more, including select Schnucks, Hy-Vee and Gomer’s Fine Wines and Spirits locations. Find a full list of vendors under Where to Buy at stonehillwinery.com.
Oz Winery’s Surrender: Oz ships wine to almost every state in the U.S., depending on state laws. Order by phone at 785.456.7417 or by emailing email@example.com. An online store will be up and running soon.
Blue Sky Vineyard’s Shawnee Cream: Purchase online at blueskyvineyard.com or at the vineyard’s tasting room. A few retailers in southern Illinois also carry Shawnee Cream; call the winery at 618.995.9463 to inquire about specific retailers.