When you’re known for fusing pyrotechnics and towers of sugar, chances are your dessert wine would be described as fruity and dense, maybe cuddly like a kitten but tough as nails. Those are just a few descriptors used for Duff Goldman’s new Steel Kitten wine, a recently released dessert wine collaboration with direct-to-winery Club W.
The pastry chef and owner of Charm City Cakes West, Food Network personality, and Foie Grock-er didn’t necessarily plan to get into the wine game. But he has thought about it over the years. “But as a pastry chef, I didn’t really know how much demand there was for a dessert wine,” he says.
While studying at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, Goldman learned about sweeter wines like port, ice wine and Gwurztraminer, and became fond of drinking and cooking with them. “Plus, the CIA is in the old Christian Brothers Winery, which is known for its brandy,” he adds. “And when I was in high school, I read a passage in Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac where he describes drinking Christian Brothers wine at a dinner in the mountains the night before a big hike. That passage always stuck with me. So I guess it was kismet that I would make a port-style wine.”
Working with the Club W winemakers, who also made Michael Voltaggio’s limited-release Rust wine, Goldman described the kind of wine he wanted to make—a soft, smooth, sweet dessert wine—picked the name, and designed the label. He even welded the copper cat that serves as the wine mascot (the steel kitten…get it?!). He left the actual winemaking to the experts, who selected which grapes to use, in this case a late-harvest Alisos Canyon syrah picked for their raisin-y quality and richness. After pressing, the wine was fortified with brandy.
“I went up to the winery and was there for the crush and the fortification,” Goldman says. “That was a pretty amazing process. And I got wine all over my motorcycle jacket.”
He describes Steel Kitten as big, but not invasive, something to drink with anything rich and creamy like mousse, ice cream, chocolate, or any fall flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves. It pairs well with something like his pumpkin chocolate chip cake with buerre noisette buttercream. “The pumpkin is earthy and full of fall flavors, and the brown butter is nutty, rich and not too sweet,” he adds.
Whether Goldman thought he’d ever make a dessert wine is beside the point: His Steel Kitten is like chocolate-covered raisins in a glass, with a little raspberry syrup drizzled in for good measure. Dessert-wine fans wouldn’t kick it out of bed.
“I always thought that if I did get into wine, I would do a dessert wine,” says the chef. “It just makes sense. I happen to know a thing or two about sugar.”
You can only get the 2014 Steel Kitten Port via Club W. Find more info here.