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California as a wine producing region has grown in size and importance considerably over the past couple of centuries, and today is the proud producer of more than ninety percent of the United States' wines. Indeed, if California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with a vast range of vineyards covering almost half a million acres. The secret to California's success as a wine region has a lot to do with the high quality of its soils, and the fact that it has an extensive Pacific coastline which perfectly tempers the blazing sunshine it experiences all year round. The winds coming off the ocean cool the vines, and the natural valleys and mountainsides which make up most of the state's wine regions make for ideal areas in which to cultivate a variety of high quality grapes.
Marsala is a well known fortified wine from Italy’s largest island, Sicily. A largely misunderstood and undervalued fortified wine, it is most commonly associated with its sweet variety - usually used as a cooking wine - although the finest dry Masalas are able to stand up to more revered, similar wines such as Sherry and Madeira. Marsala has been made in Sicily since the mid 18th century, and it grew wildly popular around Europe as sailors introduced it to port towns across the continent. Marsala wine has a beautiful set of flavors, most typically including apricot, tamarind, vanilla and tobacco, making it a delightfully intense treat when served as a sipping wine.
Marsala wine comes in several different varieties, and most of them are a world away from the sweet wines used in sauces and chicken dishes. Amber, golden and ruby versions of Masala are produced, from a range of different native grape varietals, and many of the finest are aged for over ten years to achieve a fascinating set of complex flavors and a remarkably smooth finish. It is usually made from the Grillo, Inzolia, Damaschino and Catarratto white grapes, although the ruby Masala wines uses typical Sicilian red varietals such as Nero d’Avola and Calabrese, among others.