Get Cooking With Local Wines

Sunday, April 30, 2006 | 7:00pm

NASHVILLE, Tennessee -“What’s the best wine to buy?”

“The wine you like is the wine you should buy,” says Tammy Algood, “and the best way to find out what you like is to make a little trip to a local winery and try what’s available.” Algood is a food expert and spokesperson for the statewide “Pick Tennessee Products” promotion.

“There’s really no topping the educational and practical benefit of going straight to a winery to learn about wines and about your own sense of taste,” says Algood. “At a winery, you buy because you just tasted it and it pleased you, and you may have even just talked to the vintner about ways to serve and use it.

“That will never be your experience when you wander into a liquor store. There, you’ll have to buy based on the look of the label, the price, or the recommendation of somebody else—perhaps a store clerk who hasn’t even tried the wine you’re considering.

“Lucky for us, Tennessee has more than 20 wineries in locations all across the state.”

“Pick Tennessee Products” is the promotional campaign developed by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Market Development Division to help consumers identify and choose food products grown or processed in Tennessee. Algood creates recipes featuring food products grown or processed in Tennessee. Her recipes are featured on the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Web site at www.picktnproducts.org.

According to Algood, Concord grapes are the most commonly grown grape in Tennessee, “but don’t look for that name on a bottle, because it’s usually part of a blend. The indigenous grape names you’re more likely to see on bottles of Tennessee wines are Lantana, Cynthiana and Muscadine.”

Algood offers two recipes to get Tennesseans cooking with local wines: Sun-Dried Tomato Spread, which uses red wine, and Herbed Cream cheese, which calls for white. Both have a lot of flavor. “You don’t need much on your bread or cracker to make a big impact in your mouth,” says Algood, “so these recipes go a long way.”

Her Herbed Cream Cheese recipe is tangy, light and fluffy; the Sun Dried Tomato spread, bold. For an alternative version of the red wine recipe, Algood suggests substituting 4 roasted red bell peppers for the tomatoes and reducing the amount of cream cheese to only 3 ounces.

Both recipes are simple and sensational introductions to using wine, but Algood cautions about trying to take a shortcut by purchasing “cooking wine” in the grocery store while doing the rest of your food shopping.

“Grocery store cooking wine has salt added to it so that it’s not drinkable,” says Algood. “That’s why our food stores are allowed to sell it. All that salt will throw off every recipe you try. If I could take something off every grocery store shelf in America, that would be it. Any wine you like can be used in recipes calling for cooking wine.”

“What’s great about walking into a winery is that you have a friend there— an expert— whose whole purpose is to educate you about their products,” says the food expert. “There are no stupid questions. Take advantage of the tasting rooms at Tennessee wineries, because that’s your chance to experience varieties side by side and truly discern which wines appeal to you most.”

Visit www.picktnproducts.org to find local wineries, farmers markets, more recipes and more information about other Tennessee farm products.

Agriculture