You've heard the story: The martini ― where vermouth joins forces with gin (or vodka) ― was invented in Martinez, California. But did you know that vermouth, a fortified wine, was once a common product of the Western wine industry?
Alex Ryan, vice president at Duckhorn Vineyards, says those now-forgotten early vermouths had little to distinguish them. But Ryan, as well as Andy Quady of Quady Winery, has decided to give vermouths another chance, infusing fine fortified wine with herbs, spices, and botanicals.
To my taste, these domestic products are even better than European imports. Duckhorn's golden King Eider dry vermouth (750 ml.; about $20) is the most intensely flavored. Quady's pale gold Vya extra-dry vermouth (750 ml.; about $16) is gentler and very smooth, while the darker Vya sweet vermouth (750 ml.; about $16) is redolent of a myriad of spices. You'll find all three in well-stocked wine shops.
Both winemakers recommend their vermouths on ice, with a citrus twist. They're also intriguing with citrus juice. If Martinez provided an honorable handle for a vermouth cocktail, why can't a tangerine?