Bob's Pick: Melillo Marsala, Fine, D.O.C., $9.99

This fortified wine has been a long time coming into our shop. At 17% ABV it was always 1% above what we could legally sell. Years ago however, under the prompting of a few of the state's larger wine wholesalers, the Legislature here in Idaho decided to lift that limit to include Ports, Sherries, and Madieras. Poor Marsala, from the red headed stepchild island of Sicily in Italy, it was the red headed stepchild fortified wine that wasn't even considered by the Legislature. Recently though, this Cinderella wine came out from her corner and was recognized by the bottomless wisdom of our representatives. Now we have it.

But Marsala traditionally was the favored quaf of only baking chickens: Chicken Marsala. No one here thought to just sip it as it has been done in Italy for hundreds of years, neat, or perhaps with a slight chill. Finally I did. You should too! Room temperature, neat in a snifter or just any old glass with a hole in the top, I found this Dry Marsala to be rich and viscous with a raft of flavors that include almonds, dates, dried Christmas oranges, caramel and vanilla. A port, or better yet, a sherry without any of the cloying sweetness. In the interest of due diligence, I tried it with ice and then neat, with a squeeze of orange. The ice made it too cold and diluted its flavors. The orange, as is citrus' wont, smoothed out the alcohol which sadly took away part of its richness. Dry Marsala is a wonderful aperitif (Italian tradition puts it between the second and third course), a pillow softening nightcap (again without port's sugars), or paired with a cigar and a porch chair. Really, you gotta try this, it isn't your Aunt Betty's back of the cupboard sweet sipping secret.