This is what we were drinking last week…

David Flaherty: Vale d' Algare (60% Merlot, 40% Touriga Nacional), Ribetejano, Portugal, 2007

Vale d' AlgareI could go on and on about the magic of Portugal; so much so you'd have to smack me across the face to get me to stop blathering. The misty look passes across my eyes as I go back to the three weeks I spent there when I was an exchange student. (It's too bad I didn't care about wine at the time because I certainly would have planned a completely different trip).

Most people associate Portugal with the incredible, fortified Port wines but there's been a huge groundswell in the last couple of decades and today you can find some stunningly unique, richly flavored dry wines coming from there.

Medium purple in color, the Vale d' Algare gives off an aroma of dark plum jam with hints of vanilla (they use a bit of French Oak in the aging process). It is what I've come to associate with the wines of Portugal: spicy on the palate, rich in flavor and with a fair amount of cleansing acidity. Notes of cured meats swirl with dark cherry, with medium tannins. It was screaming for food.

If you can go to Portugal, go! But if you're looking for a new wine exploration, check out the dry wines from there. And if you want to read up a little more on why I'm so transfixed by the region, click here for a longer piece I wrote about their wines earlier this year: "Portugal: the Land that Time Forgot."

Julia Burke: Southern Tier PumKing

Pumpking For starters, I had Election Day off. There was a time when I would spend the weeks leading up to Election Day encouraging young people to vote and protesting a cause or two; when I knew the ins and outs of every Green, Democratic and Libertarian candidate; when I would sit up late watching Congressional election results shouting at the TV and texting my friends who cared as much as I did about "the issues." That was back in college.

This year, I rolled out of bed at nine, realized I had to move my car due to the city phenomenon known as "alternate parking," and realized further and with much chagrin that because of my recent change of address my polling place was half an hour away. Remember the beer at the beginning of this post? Good, because the fact that it was on tap at the beer store close to my polling place was SOLELY responsible for my invocation of civic duty this year. I threw on my John Belushi-tribute COLLEGE hoodie, drove 20 miles to the suburbs, voted, and came home not with a badass purple index finger but with a growler of Southern Tier PumKing - the beer that has so claimed my heart as the king of all fall beers that I simply won't review it for fear of emotional bias.

What's it smell like? Entering Grandma's kitchen to find that her world-famous pumpkin pie is almost-but-not-quite out of the oven. What's it taste like? Sweet, malty, chewy, spicy, and hoppy, all in equal amounts. I simply cannot get through a fall season without this beer. My candidates are all far too liberal to ever win major races, but with a growler of this supremely pumpkin-y beer at my side and a bowl of popcorn to match, all seems right with the world.

  Lenn Thompson: Blue Point Brewing Company Brown Beaver Pilsner

Brownbeaver1When it comes to beer, pilsners really aren't my thing. I'll drink them and can appreciate well-made renditions, but it's simply not my preferred style. Sometimes the story behind a beverage is too good to miss out on though.

Anyone who is into drinking local should try beers like this one — which originated as the winner of last year’s 13th Annual B.E.E.R. Brew-Off. (B.E.E.R. being the Brewers East End Revival, a local homebrew club.) The brewers Jim Brown, Lloyd Kent, Bill Thorne and Bobby Gormley have been brewing for years in Fort Salonga as Brown Beaver Brewers & Company, thus the name.

This was a one-off, special run brew — which I guess means they won't make it again — so this has that going for it as well.

How's the beer? It's a well-made pilsner — cistrusy and a little creamy on the mid-palate with nice hop bitterness at the end.

I'm friendly with a lot of local homebrewers and I think it'd be outstanding to see more of their brews end up as one-time runs at commercial breweries.