by Fred McMillin
for April 20, 1999


A Dessert Alert


Renaissance Vineyards' late-harvest dessert wines, first released in 1989, have been particularly successful.

...Wine Historian Charles Sullivan, California Wine Companion

Author James Laube commenting on a Renaissance late-harvest wine: Tasty now, will be best about its sixth year.

Rennaissance Late-Harvest Rielsing

Renaissance has over 100 miles of grape-growing terraces north-northeast of Sacramento.

The Rest of the Story

So we pulled a six-year-old Renaissance Late-Harvest Riesling out of our cellar and tucked it into a blind tasting. BINGO! It drew an EXCELLENT rating.

Now, what dessert to serve with the Riesling? For the answer, we went to the most charming small restaurant in San Francisco, the Ovation at the city center hotel Inn At The Opera. They carry the dessert Renaissance Riesling, selling it both by the glass and the 375 ml. bottle. We asked maitre d' Richard Hernandez and Chef Hao Tran their selection. It was a chilled lemon mousse. It fits OUR policy, too, of making sure the dessert wine is sweeter than the dessert, and that the dessert flavors are not too intense.

Now, exactly what is a cold mousse? Let's look briefly at the history of iced desserts, and ice.

700 B.C.—The Chinese built ice houses, storing winter ice for summer.

1600 A.D.—Mughal emperors of India had mountain ice and snow brought to Delhi for making fruit-flavored ice desserts, or sorbets.

1660 A.D.—Sicilian Francisco Procopio introduces ice cream and water ices to Paris. They were sold only in the summer for the next 100 years.

1769—The Experienced English Housekeeper publishes the first English-language recipe for ice cream.

1845— European demand for American ice is big business. One hundred and fifty thousand tons of natural ice is exported from Boston alone.

1860—"Hokey Pokey" becomes the rage in London, made by Italian Carlo Gatti with his new gadget, a hand-turned freezer using salt and ice for cooling. By now, mechanical refrigeration devices are being invented.

1890—The first artificial ice is produced. Also, the French have developed a variety of iced desserts called Bombe Glace, leading to the creation of iced mousses, such as today's lemon mousse. (Dessert mousses are light and smooth, employing cream and beaten eggs, either chilled or frozen.)


The Wine: Rennaissance Late-Harvest Rielsing, phone: (530) 692-2222, FAX (530) 692-2497.
The Restaurant: Ovation in San Francisco hotel Inn At The Opera, phone: (415) 553-8100, FAX (415) 861-0821.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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