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September 06, 2006|Robin Abcarian;Susan LaTempa

From out of the flames ...

If there is an award for turning lemons into lemonade, this year it should go to winemaker Julie Johnson of Tres Sabores winery in the Napa Valley town of Rutherford. Her entire wine library -- all vintages since the 1999 inception of Tres Sabores -- went up in flames last October when an arsonist torched a wine warehouse in Vallejo. Johnson, a Frog's Leap co-founder, was among nearly two dozen vintners who lost millions of dollars of inventory.

When Johnson realized that she'd have to pay more than $2,000 just to remove her 1,900 cases of smoke-damaged goods from the severely damaged facility, she wondered how she might recoup her losses. For years, she had made a wine-based marinade at her stove, using ingredients grown on her organic certified vineyard. Why not do it on a larger scale using the unsalable but drinkable fire wine?

Thus was born Porque No? A zesty blend with fruity notes from pomegranate, persimmon, dried cherries and Meyer lemon, it also has a tantalizing smokiness -- not just from the wine (there's about three-fourths of a bottle of Zin in each bottle of sauce), but from a Washington state sea salt that's been smoked over Chardonnay barrels.

Porque No? Fire Roasted Zinfandel Marinade and Grilling Sauce. Available online at www.tressabores.com, or by calling the winery, (707) 967-8027. $14 for a 16-ounce bottle.

-- Robin Abcarian

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Plant it on your letters

Celebrate your New Worldliness with 39-cent "Crops of the Americas," a set of recently issued "definitive stamps" from the U.S. Postal Service. Earthy, evocative paintings by artist Steve Buchanan depict chiles, beans, squash, sunflowers and corn -- foods that were first cultivated in the Americas, then carried by explorers and traders all over the world.

Crops of the Americas self-adhesive postage stamps. 39 cents each; $7.80 for a book of 20. Available at USPS outlets or by visiting www.usps.com.

-- Susan LaTempa

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