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Madeira: the wine of our forefathers

Photo care of: up for a terrific Fourth of July holiday? Already know which grill wines you'll be pouring? Great! Because this year we've got something a little different for you to add to that case of wine you're taking away with you.... Hop on over to Wicked Local today to find out how our Forefather's toasted the signing of the Declaration of Independence - and the wine you've likely been missing out on!

Have you ever tried Madeira? What about with each course of your meal??

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Drinking red after Memorial Day

Lambrusco at Pour Favor's March Wine & Style eventFolks have been coming by the shop with great gusto for warmer temps;  and they have been seeking out red wines for the occasion! No, we're not just talking about "BBQ wines". We're talking about wines to sip and enjoy with or without a meal while you sit on your porch watching the sun go down. Today I'm going to share some lesser known varietals or unique regional offerings (hybrids or blends) perfect for just such an occasion. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is taking this list (or a modified version, as you see fit) to your local shop to see which offerings they have on offer. These are some cool wines to keep your summer fresh - but they aren't necessarily available at every shop. They are, no less, worth seeking out.

Zweigelt. Austrian fruity goodness. Some earth. Often a touch tart. Lively. A hybrid of  St.-Laurent and Blaufrankish.

Dole. A Swiss wine, which blends Pinot Noir and Gamay. Fresh, ripe redberry fruits and cherries. Distinct in its own right, it has a unique identity I think many palates will embrace.

Dornfelder. Some argue this is the new "hottness" out of Germany. Another red berry-fruited wonder, but with a great spice. Terrifically light on its feet - without ever leaving planet Earth.

Gamay. Low tannin, light style red. Very fruity and THE grape in Beaujolais red wines. Seek out Beaujolais Villages offerings to get a bit more depth in your glass (aka a dash of Burgundian earthiness).

Lambrusco. An Italian, frizzante style wine. Vinified sweet and dry - so ask to accommodate your taste or intentions. A lovely spectrum of depth and redberry fruit flavors on the market.

Some of these may be familiar to you as we've bantered about several in the past. But I've been known to get stuck in traditional ruts when on a mission for an aperitif or a lighter style red to accompany a meal on a hot day. So, go on! It's a big bad world of refreshing RED wine out there.  Remember these options and... experiment!

What other reds do you like on a hot day? There are several more out there... please chime in!



a could-be conundrum: cooking with wine

I realized it was time to get back in the Entertaining Saddle as soon as the Red Sox lost the ALCS. Football is great, don't get me wrong, but we're only talking about 2 days of Go Time each week. And with my favorite cooking magazine, Eating Well,  bursting with fall/harvest/pre-holiday recipes for easy entertaining, the only thing left for me to do was call up some friends. Saturday night I laid out a feast. My guests were delighted with the Aged Mahon cheese (drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with thyme), sliced, marinated salami and mixed olives I set out to wet their appetites; they were equally intrigued by and happy with the Lambrusco I paired accordingly (sweet and salty are always a safe bet!). Meanwhile, I was putting the final touches on the main course in the kitchen - pork loin with roasted grape sauce. I'm not one of those entertainer types who has to know a recipe before I introduce it to my guests. I just give it a shot and see how it goes, pairing the wine I think best. Fortunately my friends are of a similar mind and so happy 'guinea pigs'.

But when it comes to cooking with wine, sometimes recipes can be difficult to discern. The recipe for the grape sauce called for either Madeira or dry, white wine. Madeira is a fortified wine, with varying levels of sweetness and nutty characteristics. Dry, white wine is the exact opposite. Since I wasn't exactly sure what the grape sauce would turn out like - a lighter but flavorful sauce or a rich gravy - making the decision was that much harder. I consulted with my fellow wine buyer. And he made a brilliant recommendation: use an old, dry white wine. Because old white wines develop a kind of richer, nuttier almost dessert-like quality due to excessive oxidation, I would essentially split the difference of the wine recommendations in the recipe. I unearthed a bottle of 2002 Sauvignon Blanc from a case of wine that had gotten lost in the bowels of the shop. And it was perfect!

While I extrapolated from the recipe to find a good answer, I still stand by the most important rule of thumb when it comes to cooking with wine. ONLY cook with wine you would be happy to drink, too. (In fact, I have a fabulous Birthday card on my fridge that reiterates the point perfectly. It says "I love cooking with wine...sometimes I even put it in the food!". ) Did I taste the wine before I poured it into my sauce? Absolutely. Old wine won't hurt you. And in the case of white wine, it just tastes sweet as it ages. Could I have had a glass? Sure! It was reminiscent of creme brulee, in fact. But we had my homemade apple crumble pie on hand for dessert so I passed this time....

What wine cooking conundrums have you encountered? How have you solved them?