Top Pick Of The Week

July 1, 2008

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Ice Cream & Crumble

Topping a crumble with Royal Riesling Ice Cream. Tasting the creamy ice cream and wine against the apples is truly a royal experience. Photo courtesy of

WHAT IT IS: Premium ice cream made with wine—5% alcohol (as much as beer).
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: The only line of wine ice creams we’ve come across that are (a) so superb and (b) available to consumers nationwide.
WHY WE LOVE IT: So delicious we can’t keep away from them. We’re mortgaging the house for ice cream.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Phone Mercer’s Dairy: 1.866.637.2377.

Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream:
Over 21 And Ecstatic

CAPSULE REPORT: Like ice cream? Like wine? Here’s something to make you glad you’re over 21: Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream. Made with 5% alcohol, you must be of age to enjoy—no, to wallow in—such ice cream happiness. July is National Ice Cream Month, and we’re in love with this wine ice cream.

We first discovered Mercer’s two years ago. This upstate New York dairy had a standout Port ice cream and three other flavors of wine ice cream that were a distant second. A lot of work has gone into making all four flavors medalists at THE NIBBLE Ice Cream Olympics, and two new flavors are about to join them.

All of the flavors are an ice cream and wine lover’s dream. In Ala Port, Cherry Merlot, Chocolate Cabernet, Peach White Zinfandel, Red Raspberry Chardonnay and Royal White Riesling, these seductive frozen dreams quietly rock. As they soften in your dish, they evolve into an ice cream cocktail. No one we know is satisfied with just one serving, so here’s our advice: Don’t show restraint; order two of everything and call over your nearest and dearest to celebrate. Scoop up the details in the full review below. And for a great line of wine sorbets, read our review of Wine Cellar Sorbets, another Top Pick Of The Week.

THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.


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Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream: Over 21 And Ecstatic





Most of us have never come across wine ice cream. It’s too hard to make: Freezing alcohol in ice cream (or sorbet) successfully is something even the professionals have to work hard at, and few bother.

But a huge success has been scored by Mercer’s Dairy, a creamery in the Hudson River Valley of New York State (Boonville). Using wines from the neighboring Brotherhood Winery—the oldest continually-operating winery in the U.S.—these ice creams are a smash hit.

The ice cream has more milk than cream—it’s not a high butterfat ice cream (12%), so the recipes are in a lighter, elegant style rather than dense and rich. And they are only as sweet as they need to be; both of these factors allow the wine flavor to shine through.

The red wine varieties have more intense wine flavor than the white wine flavors, but it’s all relative. Unlike having a wonderful dish of ice cream with a wine chaser, the flavors are thoroughly integrated—and metaphorically intoxicating. The pints—which, at 5% alcohol are the equivalent of a beer, as hard as it seems to believe—have a required warning label about the dangers of driving and operating equipment while impaired.

Port Ice Cream
Our two favorite flavors of Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream, Ala Port and Red Raspberry Chardonnay, can be served at the most elegant dinner party. The new Chocolate Cabernet, though more casual in tone than these two, is also a killer flavor. Product photography by Saidi Granados.

However, we, who become lightheaded with two beers, downed four pints of Mercer’s in a two-hour period (this is a tough job, folks!) and found no intoxicating effects whatsoever. We conclude that it’s not possible to become the slightest bit tipsy from Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream; and we didn’t even get an ice cream headache.

Wine Ice Cream Varieties

These ice creams are so exquisite, they need no distraction from garnishes. But in the name of presenting guests with a visual appeal beyond a simple scoop in a dish, we’ve suggested some light touches with each flavor.

  • Any of the ice creams would sit well atop a piece of pound cake (regular, lavender, lemon or orange pound cake) or angel food cake.
  • You can put a piece in the bottom of a wide-mouth Bordeaux goblet or a sherbet Champagne glass.

If you’re having a party, the ice creams are sold in three-gallon sizes in addition to pints. We can’t think of any better dessert to celebrate a special occasion. Your guests will be be talking about this ice cream for years to come.

Port Ice Cream
It looks like regular ice cream, but the first bite will
transport you to a new ice cream heaven.

Ala Port

Port is the strongest-flavored wine, and the ice cream is the most wonderfully serious. The lavender color is exquisite. We can’t imagine connoisseur who wouldn’t like to end a dinner with a dish (or two) of this.

GARNISH WITH: Candied violets, fresh edible flowers, candied lavender, blackberries and/or blueberries.

Ala Port makes us so happy that we’ll forgive that it was named by someone who does not understand that (a) even fake French should be spelled correctly (À la Port, not Ala Port), (b) should have a meaning, and (c) if there are several flavors in a line, they should follow a nomenclature system—e.g., all in English or “French.” Please, next time the labels are printed, substitute something for the meaningless “Ala.” In the interim, we’ll continue to eat all of this great flavor that we can get our hands on.

Cherry Merlot

This is one of two new flavors that are hot off the churn—the ice cream is ready but the pint cartons, which require months of lead time, won’t be in for another couple of months. The flavors in Cherry Merlot are not as intense as some of the other varieties, but the net effect is a delicious brandied cherry ice cream (or, wine-soaked cherries in a very lightly-flavored cherry ice cream). While the ice cream itself isn’t very cherry, large chunks of bing cherry, distributed throughout, let you know what you’re eating with every bite. This flavor pairs beautifully with chocolate cake, brownies, fruit pies and cobblers.

GARNISH WITH: Brandied cherries, or your own Merlot-soaked cherries. Here, we’d just add the cherries as a garnish, without any heavy sauce. These ice creams need to be enjoyed for every nuance of taste, not covered up with anything else.

Chocolate Cabernet Ice Cream

Mark your calendars and check the website for availability, because this new flavor will be the favorite of many. It’s a chocolate chocolate chip ice cream with plenty of Cabernet flavor. All flavors are in perfect balance. Interestingly, a chocolate ice cream base brings the concept down from the heights of elegant dinner parties to everyday good chocolate ice cream with a nifty twist. Everyone who likes chocolate ice cream could easily fall for it—and being the good chocolate ice cream it is, one pint could end up as a “single serving.” Watch out: this flavor just might become known as Notorious P.I.N.T.

GARNISH WITH: There’s so much going on here, that beyond a decorative raspberry and mint leaf, we fear that adding anything more than whipped cream would detract from the flavors.

Peach White Zinfandel Ice Cream

What could have been the putative crowd pleaser slightly misses the mark, although it’s delicious, like all of the flavors. The color is light peach with chunks of peaches. The peach flavor of the ice cream is overwhelmed by the White Zinfandel, but then, that’s the point.

Zinfandel Ice Cream
It looks like regular ice cream, but the first bite will
transport you to a new ice cream heaven.

GARNISH WITH: Brandied peaches, fresh peach purée, fresh raspberries or raspberry purée.

Chardonnay Ice Cream
Red Raspberry Chardonnay, a favorite, ties with Ala
Port as our favorite flavor, but we love them all.

Red Raspberry Chardonnay Ice Cream

This flavor does a great job of marrying raspberry ice cream with Chardonnay: both flavors shine, unlike the Peach White Zinfandel. The difference is that Red Raspberry Chardonnay is made with raspberry puree, while Peach White Zinfandel has no purée, just chunks of peaches. Might we suggest adding some peach purée the next time around?

GARNISH WITH: Fresh raspberries or raspberry purée.

Royal White Riesling

Royal White Riesling could be mistaken for a dish of vanilla, but one bite  tells you that something very subtle is going on. You’d want to taste this first: The Riesling used is a light one, and this is the lightest of the wine flavors. People who want the tiniest hint of wine will prefer it. It’s delicious, but if you want a bigger wine hit, try one of the other flavors.

On the other hand, if you want a wine ice cream to top a pie, crumble or chocolate cake, this may be your best bet. There’s enough wine to be alluring, and not enough to conflict with the assertive flavors of the pie or cake.

GARNISH WITH: Fresh edible flowers, small dice of cantaloupe and honeydew, melon and blueberries, or melon and diced strawberries.

However happy ice cream has made you to date, you’ll find a new kind of happiness with Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream...and a spoon.

— Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves ice cream and a good glass of wine.

Ala Port, Cherry Merlot, Chocolate Cabernet, Peach White Zinfandel, Red Raspberry Chardonnay, Royal White Riesling

  • Pint
    Cherry Merlot & Chocolate Cabernet
    Pint Sizes Available In Fall 2008
  • 3-Gallon Size Available
  • Adult Signature Required At Delivery

Purchase by phone directly from Mercers Dairy: call 1.866.MERCERS 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

Purchase online 24/7* at

Email for a retailer near you (include your city, state and zip code). Or to send an email order, include this same information plus phone and what you would like, and she will respond with payment information.

Mercer's Wine Ice Cream Pints
From top, clockwise: Royal White Riesling, Red Raspberry Chardonnay, Peach White Zinfandel, Ala Port.

*Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. THE NIBBLE does not sell products; these items are offered by a third party with whom we have no relationship. This link to purchase is provided as a reader convenience.

Check Out These Other Top Pick Of The Week” Ice Creams:

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