Settle down after dinner with a sweet treat and a perfectly paired drink. To help you find just the right pairing, Michigan Wine Country asked sommelier Randall Coats for his recommendations for wines to pair with some classic desserts, plus his own personal favorite wine and dessert pairing.
Coats is the founder of Wine 4 Da Ppl, a wine consulting and education company. “I do a lot of experiential events based around educating people, but in a more inclusive and fun way, where you can let your hair down and really be more free and open,” Coats says.
Here are his pairing picks (along with two ideas from Michigan Wine Country from the 2021 Judgement of Michigan winners’ list to round out the pairings).
To pair with cheesecake: Pinot Gris
“Pinot Gris is in the Pinot family — all clones of Pinot Noir,” Coats says. “But if you compare Pinot Gris to Pinot Grigio, I always look at Pinot Gris as like the sexy cousin.”
Coats suggests a Pinot Gris reserve. “It gets more care, and a few extra steps are in the winemaking process to impart more texture in the mouthfeel and more sweet flavors like honey and cinnamon and tropical fruits as well,” he says.
But the wine is acidic enough to balance the fruit flavors and complement the richness of the cheesecake.
“And I would even take it a step further with the cheesecake and maybe top it with a stewed fruit marmalade or even maybe grilled pineapple,” he adds.
Try Chateau Chantal’s 2018 Proprietor’s Reverse Pinot Gris.
To pair with apple pie: Gewürztraminer or a white blend with Gewürztraminer
Gewürztraminer is known to be aromatic but also has notes of apple, cinnamon, honey, ripe peach, and lychee, Coats says.
“The apple and cinnamon in the Gewürztraminer would be great with apple pie,” he says. “And [a Gewürztraminer blend] has enough of that clean acidity to add richness and go a la mode with the apple pie.”
Try Mari Vineyards’ Totus Porcus (Gewürztraminer, Riesling, and Pinot Grigio blend).
To pair with chocolate mousse: Chambourcin
Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid grape that thrives in Michigan’s climate.
“It’s similar to Pinot Noir,” Coats says. “It has those tart, dark fruits, a little bit of chocolate, but also a savory aspect. And that would really go well with a dark chocolate mousse.”
He also suggests adding a fresh berry topping to the mousse. “That would be really enjoyable.”
Michigan Wine Country’s suggestion: Try White Pine Winery’s Mirage Reserve.
To pair with carrot cake: late harvest Riesling
“Late harvest Riesling has some developed honey and nutty flavors,” Coats says, “and it’s a very well-balanced and complex wine” that would pair especially well with a decadent carrot cake with “a real rich icing.”
Late harvest Rieslings typically aren’t released every year, which means only the prime grapes are chosen for the wine, he says. “The vintage is just the best grapes that have the most complexity and the biggest bouquet of flavor.”
Michigan Wine Country’s suggestion: Try Verterra Winery’s 2020 Late Harvest Riesling.
To pair with vanilla ice cream: sweet sparkling wine
Coats recommends a sweet sparkling wine with especially delicate bubbles, which result from the traditional and Charmat methods of making sparkling wine.
With such a wine, “there’s acidity there to balance with the richness of the vanilla, but there’s also a little richness as well from those real delicate, soft bubbles,” Coats says. “It would really liven vanilla ice cream up.”
Try MAWBY’s Detroit sparkling wine (Traminette, Riesling, Cayuga, and Muscat blend).
To pair with chocolate chip cookies: Sauternes
Sauternes is a Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle blend that gets its name from the region in western France where it is traditionally made.
“It’s a classic dessert wine that goes with pretty much any dessert,” Coats says. “It is complex enough to stand up to chocolate, even dark chocolate, but then you also have the sweetness — the sugary side of the chocolate chip cookie.”
Try Lemon Creek Winery’s Silver Beach Sauterne.
Coats’ personal favorite pairing: cranberry scones and lemon curd with ice wine
Specifically, with Lemon Creek Winery’s Blood Moon ice wine, a blend of Vidal and Chambourcin grapes that “has these flavors of candy apple, apricot, pineapple, and ripe raspberry,” Coats says.
“Over the summer, my partner and I shared a bottle, and we had it with cranberry scones and lemon curd — it was a moment.”