Essensia and Elysium Bring Home the Gold for the U.S. at IWSC

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Our specialty is sweet and aperitif wines, and we’re quite proud of that. We’ve been making them for nearly 50 years! There are countless ways to enjoy quality sweet wines and the expressive flavors they bring to the table (or beach, patio, picnic, and so on…). Regardless of the occasion, time of day or time of year, sweet and aperitif wines always seem to have a place.

Essensia Orange Muscat and Elysium Black Muscat were two of our earliest distinguished sweet wine creations. While they were first released in the early 1980’s, they’re still enjoyed around the world to this day. As a testament to the timelessness of these two wines, we were recently thrilled to find out that they were awarded two highly coveted gold medals from this year’s International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC). These golden medallions aren’t just some commonplace gold medals you may find from some wine competitions. They’re actually quite rare and prestigious. In fact, of the nearly 3,500 wines that received medals at this year’s IWSC, only 148 of those were golds. We were the only U.S. winery to win any in the fortified wines class!

All of the credit for Essensia and Elysium’s early and continued success goes to our winemaking and production teams. They spend long hours perfecting every vintage of our wines, and it’s times like these that really shows. To honor the announcement, we prepared a press release highlighting all of the details which you can read below. So if you’re a fan of Essensia and Elysium: crack open a bottle, pour a glass, and celebrate with us!


Quady Winery (Madera, California) was recently awarded two gold medals at the 2021 International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) for their high scoring Essensia (96 points) and Elysium (95 points) fortified dessert wines. These were the only two fortified wines from the United States to earn gold medals in the category.

The IWSC is one of the longest running and most prestigious wine and spirits competitions in the world. The competition’s judges are considered some of the most experienced and well respected within the industry. Of the nearly 3,500 wines that received medals at this year’s IWSC Northern Hemisphere judging, only 148 were awarded highly coveted gold medals from the organization’s judges. A vast majority of the fortified wines judged at the competition hailed from Portugal and Spain.

Quady Winery has a long history of specialization in fortified winemaking. While Andrew Quady (founder, owner, and CEO) started Quady Winery making port style wines, his Essensia Orange Muscat and Elysium Black Muscat dessert wines were two of his most distinguished early creations. Essensia and Elysium were first released in 1980 and 1983 respectively and were considered innovative at the time of their introduction, influencing the way dessert wines were made, enjoyed, and respected in the United States.

Essensia and Elysium are made from high quality Orange and Black Muscat grapes grown in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The name Essensia refers to capturing the essence of the Orange Muscat grape. Elysium, made from Black Muscat, has a rose like character and aroma which ties it to the Greek concept of Elysium as a state of ideal or eternal bliss. Each of these varieties are rare in the United States and thrive in the San Joaquin Valley’s warm weather and unique soils. Unlike most Muscats, Quady’s are fermented on their skins. This process preserves the richness found in the grapes and is part of the secret to Essensia and Elysium’s robust flavors and aromas, which are then balanced with fruit acidity. Balancing ensures the wines are sweet, full-bodied, and never cloying. Fermentation is arrested with the addition of a neutral grape spirit before barrel aging the wine for a brief period of three months.

Quady’s Essensia and Elysium are enjoyed today as traditional dessert pairings, on their own, and in cocktails. Essensia’s prominent orange marmalade, honey and apricot flavors make it the ideal complement to almond, peach, apricot, apple and cheesecake desserts. Elysium’s rich dark berry, cherry and rose petal character make it a favorite with chocolate and berry confections, puddings and creamy desserts. Essensia and Elysium are also successful mixers behind the bar in traditional and modern cocktails. Mixologists and home bartenders alike find that these wines add aroma, flavor, and complexity in their favorite drinks and can be used as low ABV alternatives in place of liqueurs.

Quady Winery is known for its sweet and aperitif wines from varieties and in styles hard to find anywhere else. Their wines are the products of over 40 years of expertise in Muscat winemaking and a partnership with expert Muscat grape growers in California’s Central Valley. Quady wines are full of character: spicy and floral, fresh, fruity, and well balanced. In addition to Essensia and Elysium, Quady Winery makes fast-growing premium Moscato brand, Electra, award-winning premium vermouth, Vya, and highlyrated Port-style wine, Starboard.

As of late, we’ve been having fun exploring wine cocktails with our fortified dessert wine, Essensia Orange Muscat and Elysium Black Muscat. Their robust flavors and aromas offer qualities to be desired from traditional fruit forward liqueurs like Cointreau and Chambord. As fine wines good enough to be savored on their own, it only makes sense that Essensia and Elysium would stand out well as ingredients in cocktails too. We recently tested that with a number of traditional and popular cocktails like the sidecar, french martini and more. You can find those recipes HERE and HERE.

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