Port and the U.S. Open Whiskey Championship

Posted by Carla Gesell-Streeter on May 02, 2023 at 11:17 AM

Earlier last month, Tom and I were lucky enough to be judges for the second time U.S. Open Whiskey Championship. It’s part of a series of competitions that also includes the U.S. Open Beer, U.S. Open Seltzer, U.S. Open Cider, and the U.S. Open College Beer Championships.

Almost every competition, the judges and stewards receive a piece of glassware as a thank you. As we received the ones for this year, I happened to mention that the glasses were perfect for drinking port. Immediately, everyone else at our table was happily sharing their love of port. So much so, that U.S. Open Head Honcho Dow Scoggins heard us talking and brought over a very special bottle of port.

Dow's Boardroom Aged Tawny Port

If you are unfamiliar with it, Port (or Porto) is a fortified wine. It is typically higher in alcohol content than unfortified wines (typically 19-20% alcohol). It is also usually sweeter, heavier, and richer. This is accomplished by stopping the fermentation process when only about 50% of the natural sugars have been processed. Port houses do this by adding a distilled wine-brandy.

Much like the restrictions on what can be called champagne, real Port wine can only be made in Portugal, usually the northern region. Port is available is several styles including red (or ruby), white, rosé, and Tawny Port which is an aged style.

The name Dow’s has been connected with fine Port for over two centuries. It comes from the vineyards of the Upper Douro Valley. The current owners, the Symington family, are the third family owners of Dow’s and previously worked at the Dow’s vineyards for generations.

Dow’s is not available at Cincinnati area liquor stores, but you can get it at wine.com or Total Wine & More. We were lucky enough to pick up three different types of Dow’s at a Total Wine & More location last week.

Sandeman Fine Ruby Port

Later that weekend, I remembered that we had a bottle of Sandeman Port (which I had discovered at the 2019 Cincinnati International Wine Festival) at home. We poured it in our new glasses and enjoyed it with some pecans. One of the best desserts you can have.

Recently, we were dining at Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort as part of Tom’s birthday celebration. After a wonderful meal, I really wanted some port. Alas, as a French/Italian restaurant, Topolino’s didn’t have any port. But they did have this:

Angel's Envy Aged in Port Wine Barrels

I’m new to drinking whiskey and bourbon straight (thank you, U.S. Open judging!) but this is now my sipping bourbon. The folks at Angel’s Envy blend this version twice, both before and after their secondary finishing. They describe finishing it in port wine barrels as adding “subtly distinct flavor nuances that enhance the whiskey without challenging it.”

So cheers and here’s to better beers and beverages (especially port and bourbon)!