Friday, July 19, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - The Velvet Touch

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌This week, we have wine pairings for three films which either invite you, command you, or discourage you from drinking. Which is which? You tell me.

One of the better things about 2021 was the Todd Haynes documentary, The Velvet Underground. The movie shows the unbelievably quick rise and fall of the rock group of the same name. 

The group formed in 1964, around the nucleus of Lou Reed and John Cale. With Andy Warhol as their one-time manager, they enjoyed much 1960s notoriety for their songs, which were written to rub middle America the wrong way. As a result, they enjoyed no Top 40 hits, but became mainstays on the burgeoning album rock format on FM radio.

"Sweet Jane," "Rock and Roll," "I'm Waiting for the Man," "Heroin" and "Venus in Furs" were not hummable hits. Well, maybe "Sweet Jane" was. And "Rock and Roll." And, OK, I have found myself humming "I'm Waiting for the Man" many times. "Heroin," not so much. Same for "Venus in Furs." It all depends on how you want to hum.

By the time 1970's Loaded came out, the band had pretty much run its course. One of the lesser members tried to carry on the name, but without Lou Reed it was just another band. Loaded would have been a fantastic swan song. It's one of the finest albums of the rock era, said Rolling Stone, back when they wrote about, you know, music.

What better wine pairing for The Velvet Underground could we find than The Velvet Underground? The Sonoma bourbon barrel red blend is full of intense flavor, like the band. Its lushness takes it out of the lo-fi realm, but at 17% alcohol and the whiskey-laced flavor, it probably would go well with both "Rock and Roll" and "Sweet Jane." It's a $25 bottle. 

Todd Haynes was no stranger to rock and roll, as the previous film demonstrates. Before that, in 1998, he wrote and directed Velvet Goldmine, a musical drama about a glam rocker who was loosely based on David Bowie. It was maybe not so loosely based, as touchstones like Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Slade, Bowie's first wife Angie, and even a fictional band called Venus in Furs populate the script. All it needs are some tunes from Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars to be full-blown glam. 

However, Bowie did not cooperate, refusing to make his songs available to Haynes. He didn't like Haynes' request, and he didn't much like the movie, either. One of our TFH team members has pointed out to me that Haynes saved the day by finding some "faux-glam" songs which work well in the film.

Wisconsin's Spurgeon Vineyards gets close to a namesake wine with Velvet Gold. It is a sweet, white grape wine described as having a "grapey" taste. That's low praise, but it only costs a little more than a dozen dollars, plus whatever goldmine you have to put forth for shipping.

The talk of 1986 was, at least in movies, David Lynch's magnum opus of weirdness, Blue Velvet. My close friend Tom took his girlfriend to see it during its opening weekend. He called me on Monday, advising me to see it, while warning me not to take a date. "Don't let the title fool you," he said. "It's not a date movie."

It is a disturbing film, but after seeing Lynch's Eraserhead, I expected nothing less. Many critics panned Blue Velvet, citing its extreme violence, brutal sexuality, and dreamlike quality. Their views have largely mellowed over the years. Now the film is hailed as a masterpiece. Maybe the critics were inhaling whatever Frank Booth was having. 

Dennis Hopper's Frank Booth is the most unhinged and deranged character of the Hopper pantheon. His psychotic violence and reliance on some sort of gas, which he huffs from an oxygen mask, are both horrifying and spellbinding. If you think to yourself, "Hey, I once knew a guy like that," you are lucky to still be alive. 

Swiss wine may be harder to find than the true owner of a Swiss bank account. I didn't know they grew grapes there, I thought money was their cash crop. Switzerland's Mythopia Wines makes a Pinot Noir named Blue Velvet, which, for my money, is a good place to stop and spend $100 bucks or so. You won't find it on the wine list at This Is It, but you won't find a wine list there, either. Just order a Pabst! Blue! Ribbon!

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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Another Splurge - CV Studium From Paso Robles

A special wine is a real treat. Not an everyday wine, but a splurge wine, one that you buy to reward yourself. Broken Earth Winery of Paso Robles says their CV Wines are named after the legendary 50-year-old Continental Vineyard, which is part of their estate. I have always found Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignons to be of high quality, a bit rustic and completely underrated. I was overjoyed when samples were offered to me. 

Broken Earth's CV line are club wines, so a twice-a-year membership is required to purchase them. If you aren't overextended on wine club shipments, this would be an excellent opportunity to grab some limited-production BDX grapes, from Paso Robles. 

Winemaker Chris Cameron says the 2020 CV Studium Red Blend is estate grown in Paso, as are the other two CVs. They also have a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cabernet Franc on offer. The Studium was first aged in neutral French oak barrels for a year, then transferred to second-use French oak. The varietal makeup is inexplicably absent from the promotional materials, but I'm guessing that it is some mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, since that is what is grown on the estate. It has alcohol at 15.4% abv and retails for $80.

This wine is extremely dark. It has a nose which reflects both the Cabs, Sauvignon and Franc. Dark fruit on the nose, along with a peppery and herbaceous note. The tannins ease up a bit after the wine opens up, but they are something else right after the pour. Flavors of plums, blackberries, cherries and a hint of licorice make for a delightful palate. Studium combines the best of the two grapes. I think I like it better than either varietal wine. 

Monday, July 15, 2024

Splurgeworthy Cabernet Franc From Paso Robles

A special wine is a real treat. Not an everyday wine, but a splurge wine, one that you buy to reward yourself. Broken Earth Winery of Paso Robles says their CV Wines are named after the legendary 50-year-old Continental Vineyard, which is part of their estate. I have always found Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignons to be of high quality, a bit rustic and completely underrated. I was overjoyed when samples were offered to me. 

Broken Earth's CV line are club wines, so a twice-a-year membership is required to purchase them. If you aren't overextended on wine club shipments, this would be an excellent opportunity to grab some limited-production BDX grapes, from Paso Robles. 

Winemaker Chris Cameron says the 2019 CV Cabernet Franc Reserve is 100% Cabernet Franc, grown on the Paso estate, as are the other two CVs. They also have a Cabernet Sauvignon and a red blend on offer. The Cab Franc was aged for 23 months in new oak barrels, has alcohol at 15.2% abv and retails for $80.

This wine's color is medium dark purple. The nose offers aromas of plums, cherries, blackberries, pepper and an herbaceous note. The palate shows dark fruit, as well. The tannins are quite toothy, so be sure to decant before pouring. The wine should pair exceedingly well with any sort of red meat, or pork, for that matter. 

Friday, July 12, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Robert Towne Week

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌This week, we look at three films from Robert Towne's Selectric. Stop taking our icons, already!

Robert Towne died last week, at the ripe old age of 89. He is a legend in Hollywood, the author of so many great films you have to wonder how he ever had time to go shopping, or take out the garbage. He was so proud of his work that if he didn't like the way the movie turned out, he would take his name off of it. He may have done that as many times as not. Once again, we have to lift our glasses to a great one who has gone to the big screening room in the sky.

They say you can't win them all, and Towne proved that by grabbing three Oscar noms in his career, but taking home hardware only once. That was for Chinatown in 1974. It wasn't just a great script, it is used in textbooks designed to teach people how to write great scripts. Do they work? Well, I read one of those books, then read the script for Chinatown, but there is nothing on IMDB to show that anything came from that. 

The movie centers on the way Los Angeles became a big city, by taking water from the Owens Valley via the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Before that happened, L.A. was a big wine producing area. When the water started flowing in, so did urbanization. All the grape vines that once grew from Malibu to the Inland Empire were ripped out to make way for urban sprawl. That's progress, I guess.

The only L.A. winery from those days that is still here is San Antonio Winery. It is still located in downtown Los Angeles thanks to Catholicism. They survived Prohibition because they made sacramental wines for the church, the stuff that pairs well with a wafer. The Riboli family no longer uses SoCal grapes for their wines, but they make some good stuff, sourced from Paso Robles, Monterey County, Napa Valley, even Italy. Their Opaque line is made from Paso fruit. The Petit Verdot and Tannat wines sell for $30.

Shampoo, from 1975, was co-written by Towne and the film's star, Warren Beatty. He plays a hair stylist who got into the business for the women. Well, why does any man get into any business? You have to have a going concern if you want the ladies to dig you. Well, unless you're Warren Beatty. That's enough right there. But, give a woman a great haircut and doors will open. Play a good guitar, it's a magnet. Earn a ton of money, the world is your oyster. Make great wine… well, that may be a bit of a reach. 

I notice online there are shampoos and conditioners made with red wine. That seems like an awful waste of red wine to me. I use Suave, and the compliments never end. In fact, when I was younger, a lady admired my hair and asked me what shampoo I used. When I told her it was Suave, she hurled a rather rude rejoinder my way. She spent way more on her shampoo, and her hair wasn't all that great. 

Champoux Vineyard (yes, it's pronounced "shampoo") is an acclaimed plot of land in Washington state, in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Andrew Will makes a Merlot-heavy Bordeaux blend that sells for $81. Don't try washing your hair with it. Suave is way cheaper. 

Towne got his start by writing for Roger Corman. 1964's The Tomb of Ligeia was adapted from a story by Edgar Allan Poe. It tells of a woman who marries a man who's dead wife is buried under the house. Was he a hairdresser? Only the executor knows for sure. 

If you find that your new spouse has something buried under the house, it's probably not going to be good news. I mean, money, maybe. Anything else falls into the category of "Why wasn't I informed of this?" The body under the bathroom isn't the worst of it, though. The ex's spirit still pads around those cold stone floors as a cat. As if cats weren't already problematic enough.

In "The Cask of Amontillado," another Poe story, the killer vanquishes his victim by entombing him in a wine cellar. Are there worse ways to go? Maybe. Let me think on it. While I'm thinking, I'll have Lustau's Los Arcos Amontillado sherry. It is bone dry and even more complex than Poe’s villain. 

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Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Too Oaky? At Least This Wine Is Cheap

Here is another one of those inexpensive wines from the shelves of Trader Joe's. The 2022 Panilonco Merlot Malbec Reserva comes from the Marchigüe appellation of Chile's Colchagua Valley. The Merlot grapes are sourced from the Santa Marta vineyard while the Malbec is from the La Quebrada vineyard.

Most people who mention this wine online have some comments about the oak. I sense a lot of oak in it, although the winery says it was aged in French oak barrels for a mere six months. Alcohol is restrained, at just 13.5% abv and the cost is only $7. 

This wine has a medium-dark ruby color. The first thing I notice is the oak. It seems very oaky, despite only six months in wood. The nose offers a smokey note, which I always like to find. There are aromas of ripe cherries, berries and plums. Those fruits also appear on the palate, where oak again dominates. The tannins are firm, but not overpowering. The mouthfeel is rich and full. I had mine with a brisket sandwich and it paired very well. 

Monday, July 8, 2024

Splurge On This Paso Cab

A special wine is a real treat. Not an everyday wine, but a splurge wine, one that you buy to reward yourself. Broken Earth Winery of Paso Robles says their CV Wines are named after the legendary 50-year-old Continental Vineyard, which is part of their estate on Paso's east side. I have always found Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignons to be of high quality, a bit rustic and completely underrated. I was overjoyed when samples were offered to me. 

Broken Earth's CV line are club wines, so a twice-a-year membership is required to purchase them. If you aren't overextended on wine club shipments, this would be an excellent opportunity to grab some limited-production BDX-style grapes, from Paso Robles. 

Winemaker Chris Cameron says the 2019 CV Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is estate grown in Paso, as are the other two CVs. They also have a Cabernet Franc and a red blend on offer. The Cab was aged for nearly two years in new oak barrels, has alcohol at 14.7% abv and retails for $80.

This wine is dark in color. It smells like it has been perfumed, with ripe red berries, plums and cherries on the nose. The fruit is layered over an herbal note, but nothing like bell pepper or peas. It smells like cedar trees. The nose of a Paso Cab always grabs me, and this one does it to the fullest. The palate is simply beautiful. Whenever I start thinking I could get along with fifteen dollar wines, along comes a wine like this one to show me the folly of that thought. The fruit flavors tend toward the dark side, while sweet oak provides a beautiful lift. The tannins are silky smooth, even upon opening the bottle. The winery says you'd better have some seared lamb to pair with it. 

Friday, July 5, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Pix That Rock

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌This week, we turn it up to eleven for a trio of films heavily laced with both rock and roll.

At the age of five, I slept with a big stuffed dog named Bebe. Resting against this huge toy was the door to my future, a transistor radio, one with two speakers and a wire handle. It played "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" and songs with even loftier lyrical content. I learned about chain gangs from Sam Cooke, love gone wrong from Roy Orbison and The Everly Brothers. I heard about walking to New Orleans from Fats Domino. Anything Elvis was selling, I was buying. Who knew they'd be making movies about rock'n'roll?

Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked) came out in 2009, and it told the story of how rock radio evolved in Great Britain. It evolved by getting outside of Great Britain. As an American, it has always seemed weird to me that the British Broadcasting Company only devoted an hour a day in the mid 1960s to pop music. Rock'n'roll finds a way to seep through the cracks, so adventurous deejay types took to the seas. They broadcast pop to the people from international waters on boats fixed with antennae. They were pirate radio stations.

Radio Caroline was the most famous pirate station, and you can google airchecks of it if you are a radio nerd. If you are reading this, you are probably already a movie nerd, maybe even a wine nerd. It might be wise to limit your nerd exposure.

Pirate Radio is not a British movie, but it has a British feel, owing to the fact that it features Bill Nighy and two guys named Rhys.

For Pirate Radio, say "Aaargh" for a La Sirena Pirate TreasuRed 2019. It's a pirate's booty blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Grenache, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Petite Sirah. Rhône, Bordeaux, Bordeaux, Rhône, pirates don't really care what they are raiding if it's from the Napa Valley. $65 a bottle. 

In 1982 Pink Floyd: The Wall was unleashed on an unsuspecting populace. Or, maybe they were expecting it. After all, it had been three years since the release of Pink Floyd's album of the same name. 

Critics have had a great time writing about this film. "One of the most horrifying musicals of all time," "unrelentingly downbeat and at times repulsive," "unremitting in its onslaught upon the senses." That last one, by the way, was from Roger Waters… of Pink Floyd. One critic offered faint praise, saying it was not unwatchable, then added that if directed by Ken Russell it probably would have been. Just a touch of bad blood there, I'm guessing.

The songs, largely based on Waters' childhood, are the focal point of the movie, besides a pretty good performance from Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats. I wonder if he had it written in his contract that he got Mondays off?

It's not The Wall, but would a vineyard called The Walls hit the spot? Their Curiosita Tempranillo sports a label depicting a guy peeking over a wall, a la Kilroy. That counts, right? From Washington's Red Mountain AVA, it's $80 for a bottle, you crazy diamond. Oh, and they have a Grenache Rosé, if you want to keep it pink. 

1987's Hail! Hail! Rock & Roll is Taylor Hackford’s documentary that covers a pair of Chuck Berry concerts. The running time of HHRR is two hours, which leads me to believe there is a lot of interview footage included. I saw Berry in Beaumont, Texas in or around '87, and he ran through every one of his hits in record time. The show didn't last a half hour. Couldn't wait to get paid, I suppose. 

In the film, at least, Berry has an all-star band backing him. Keith Richards and Eric Clapton tip their hats, no doubt in recognition of all the riffs they stole from him. Johnnie Johnson was used to his role as Chuck's keyboard player, while Etta James and Linda Ronstadt contributed some vocalizing. 

This movie screams to be turned up to eleven. That makes the wine pairing easy. Andrew Murray Vineyards of Los Olivos has an extensive line of E11even wines, but the one we want here is Remix, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah. It's a $40 wine with nearly two years of oak behind it. Stand aside, it's coming through. 

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Wednesday, July 3, 2024

A Dry White Wine From France's Loire Valley

In one of my several visits to Baltimore I have enjoyed meals at the Thames Street Oyster House in the Fell's Point neighborhood. My wife was particularly infatuated with the place. We sat at the bar once and she ordered lobster claw after lobster claw from the iced display there. I enjoyed Muscadet wine with my seafood, and it was my introduction to the wonderful style. I owe eternal thanks to the bartender for the recommendation.

The Vignobles Lacheteau Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2022 is a dry white wine from France's Loire Valley. Muscadet Sèvre at Maine is the appellation from which the wine comes. It is south of Nantes and is marked by two rivers, the Sèvre Nantaise and the Maine. 

The wine is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape and is created sur lie, meaning on the lees. The lees are the yeast cells that are spent during vinification. Contact with the lees gives a wine more weight and complexity. Alcohol comes in at 12% abv and the price is quite reasonable, just $7 at Trader Joe’s.

This wine has almost no coloring. Its nose is more herb-driven than mineral-driven, but there is a touch of wet sidewalk in the aromas. The palate is dry and rather flat, with only a hint of acidity. As with the smells, the flavors lean into the herbal side of the spectrum with enough minerals to make it a decent pair with shellfish. It is a pleasant enough wine, and for $7 I will not complain beyond this paragraph. I will, however, keep it in mind for when I need a dry white wine for cooking. 

Monday, July 1, 2024

This Cloudy Sake Sparkles

Dassai Blue Sake is produced and bottled by Dassai USA in Hyde Park, New York.  Dassai takes their name from a Japanese proverb, which translates to "Although blue dye comes from the indigo plant, it is bluer than indigo." In other words, the child outshines the parent. 

The nigori style of sake - rice wine - is cloudy due to being filtered with a wider mesh. The style was actually outlawed in Japan for a time, to make brewers adhere to the style which offers more clarity. Now, it's no longer illegal to make a cloudy sake. 

The Dassai Blue Nigori Sparkling Sake is made from Yamada Nishiki rice which is milled down until only half the grain remains. This sake has alcohol at 14% abv and costs about $20 for the 360 ml bottle. The bottle, by the way, has an interesting pull-tab opener on the cap. The wine is lightly fizzy and doesn't make a showy spray when opened.

This sake is quite cloudy. It has a bit of frizzante when poured, but it forms no froth. The nose is a display of massive salinity and lychee. The palate has minerals and a lanolin quality, with a fizzy mouthfeel and bright acidity. 

Friday, June 28, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Donald Sutherland Week

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌This week, we look at a few films from a great actor who shuffled off this mortal coil last week. 

Donald Sutherland has passed away, a loss for the movie industry that is immeasurable. He was a big part of my formative years, with his roles in Kelly's Heroes, M*A*S*H and, of course, Animal House. I suppose I was already pretty well formed by 1978, but Animal House had a big effect on me anyway. In fact, many of my best friends just after college were fat, drunk and stupid. 

Alex in Wonderland is a 1970 movie about making movies. Specifically, the story follows a director, Sutherland, who finds himself stumped about how to follow up his first film, a big, boffo, box office smash. Director Paul Mazursky may have drawn from his own life. He chose this film as a follow up to Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice

I love movies about making movies, and if you’re reading this, you probably do, too. Films like The Player, State and Main, Day for Night, Swimming With Sharks, Blake Edwards' S.O.B., Boogie Nights - heh heh, just had to throw that one in there to see if you're paying attention. Alex in Wonderland fits right in on that list.

Sutherland's Sgt. Oddball character from Kelly's Heroes took a break while waiting on some tank repair. "I'm drinking wine, eating cheese and catching some rays." Good idea. Let's use a nice white wine for this purpose. You can get one for about $20, but since this is a special occasion, let’s spring for Pascal Jolivet, a $40 bottle in most places. Get a nice goat cheese and a chaise lounge in the sun to go with it. 

In the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Sutherland plays his lead role, as Variety puts it, "all warm and menschy good vibes." That's what makes the ending so hard to take. We don't want to see the nice guy become a replicant who looks like a normal person, but has no human emotion. We have Republican senators for that.

A lot of people say that this is their favorite Donald Sutherland movie, that he helps lift it from being just another tepid remake. As his son said, his dad was "never daunted by a role, good, bad or ugly.

While searching for a wine suitable for a pod, I came across pea pod wine, presumably a British delicacy. They say the pea flavor goes away during fermentation and leaves a wine that is much like a Sauternes. I'll bet it does. And, since we do not want calves brains in red wine, and we do not have any secrets from the Department of Health, why don’t we just have the red wine? Bellingham, from South Africa, has a Pod Red Blend which is mostly Pinotage. If that doesn’t make you yearn for the pea flavor that was vinified out of pea pod wine, check the price: 1,860 rands. I had to use Google, but a rand is worth about a nickel, which still leaves us with a hundred dollar wine. For a Pinotage? That's a hard pass. Calimaia's Vino Nobile is mostly Sangiovese and sells for about $25 a pod, er bottle. Can we move on now?

From 1973, Don't Look Now features Sutherland and Julie Christie grieving over the drowning of their daughter. The film is edited so that it's hard to tell what's from the past, what's in the future and what's happening right now. If you get confused, there's always the steamy sex scene to allow you to hit the reset button.

Long ago, I lived in an apartment next door to a guy I had yet to meet. He had just moved in, and one evening I heard him watching television. I could tell that he was watching a videotape (this was back in the VHS days) and that he kept watching the same segment over and over. I could tell because of the cheesy music. I began to wonder what he was watching, especially since the music in the scene was so very cheesy. Then it dawned on me. He's watching porn, and he's found a favorite passage. If you want to revisit the sex scene in Don't Look Back a few times, I won't think any less of you. Just know that it could be awkward when you meet your next-door neighbor. 

If you're making a cocktail for this one, make it a Death in Venice. We're here for the wine, so let's open up a Veneto Amarone by Masi. This Valpolicella classico runs about $80 and will pair well with the red theme that runs through Don't Look Now

Whether you go with my pairings or choose to *gasp* decide for yourself what you'd like to drink, please raise a glass to an actor who wore his emotions on his incredible face. From intense pain to giddy happiness to lost confusion to buzzy inebriation. Donald Sutherland made all those roles his own. And nothing changes that, not even death. 

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Wednesday, June 26, 2024

A Favorite Rosé From Year To Year

It's springtime - that means it's time for new vintages of our favorite rosé wines to enjoy. One that I look forward to each year is the Rosé of Pinot Noir from Sonoma-Cutrer. The grapes were grown in the Russian River Valley, maybe the prime spot in California for raising Pinot Noir. I found the 2023 vintage to be just as satisfying as I found the 2022 edition.

The wine was produced by Sonoma-Cutrer's Pinot Noir winemaker, Zidanelia Arcidiacono. She says, "As with prior rosé vintages, fruit was specifically grown and harvested to make this wine. Grapes were harvested in August from Sonoma-Cutrer's Vine Hill and Owsley Vineyards. Clusters were destemmed and pressed leaving the juice in direct contact with the skins for a short period of time to achieve the perfect pale pink color. Immediately afterward, grapes were gently pressed to obtain the juice."

"Each batch of rosé was fermented separately in stainless steel tanks at low temperatures." she continues, "to protect the delicate aromas and flavors. After fermentation, the rosé batches were blended together and prepared for bottling in early December." The alcohol tips only 11.9% abv and the retail price is $20.

This wine has a pale pink hue as it sits in the glass. Its nose is very pretty, full of ripe cherries and strawberries and showing hints of honeydew and tangerine. The palate plays a little more to the tart side, with a lovely savory streak to offset the fruit. The acidity is quite lively and fresh. The wine is as elegant as we might expect a rosé of Pinot Noir to be. 

Monday, June 24, 2024

A Bargain In Chardonnay

When we talk about bargain wine, the inescapable fact is that if the wine is bad, it doesn't matter how little it costs. A bargain is no bargain if it's not something you can appreciate. I write a lot, as do many other wine writers, about good wines that don't cost an arm and a leg. Quite often, they come from a store called Trader Joe's.

The 2022 Révélation Chardonnay is made by the French winery Badet, Clément & Co. It is a Pays d'Oc IGP wine, which basically means it is from the Languedoc region. The wine is imported by Latitude Wines. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the bottle cost me only $7 at TJ's. 

This wine has a lovely golden tint. Aromas of apricot, apple, pear and a very light citrus note appear in the nose. The flavors are fairly remarkable, especially for a $7 wine. Tropical notes, peach, pear and lemon-lime come forward, along with a hint of sweet oak. The acidity is zippy enough to carry a salad, seafood dish or light pasta meal. The wine finishes long and full. It is definitely a bargain wine, one reminiscent of old-line Chardonnay. 

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Friday, June 21, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Writer's Block

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌This week, we struggle to come up with the words, but the wines come easily. Pairings for these three films about writers will flow from my brain right into the keyboard. At least I hope they will. Can someone please tell those kids in the courtyard to shut up? I'm trying to think here. 

Youngblood Hawke, from 1964, had a cast which included James Franciscus, Suzanne Pleshette, Eva Gabor, Edward Andrews, Hayden Rourke and Werner Klemperer. With names like that, a few years later it could have been a TV series. The film was directed, written and produced by Delmer Daves, who had been busy making, among other things, Troy Donahue movies. Hey, it was a living. 

The lead role was first offered to an almost unknown Warren Beatty. But Beatty demanded 200 grand and approval of script and cast. Who did he think he was, Troy Donahue? Daves must have already had Franciscus' phone number on speed dial. 

The movie was loosely based on the life of Thomas Wolfe, who rose from the murky depths of a backward southern state to write good. Real good. This is the "Look Homeward, Angel" Thomas Wolfe we're talking about here, not the "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" Tom Wolfe, although he could write good, too. 

Wolfe was only 37 when tuberculosis claimed him in Baltimore, which puts him in some rarified company. Also running out of years in Charm City were Edgar Allan Poe, Representative Elijah Cummings, Brooks Robinson and John Wilkes Booth. Why did I run down this morbid rabbit hole? I'll blame it on writer's block.

Hawkes Wines come from Sonoma County, the Alexander Valley specifically. The Hawkes family was there when prunes were the county's cash crop. They transitioned to grapes and now sell their Pyramid Cabernet Sauvignon for just under a Benjamin. Can't do that with prunes.

1945's The Lost Weekend is about an alcoholic writer. Some might say I'm repeating myself there, or even saying the same thing twice, but if it helps pad the word count I'm all in. One of the movie review sites, one which is not TFH, gives The Lost Weekend a 97% approval rating. You have to wonder what it takes to get that other three percent going. Talk about a tough audience. When they die, they'll be saying, "Yeah, Heaven's alright … I guess."

This film is anything but a slice of heaven. Ray Milland is the drunk writer, the kind of boozer who hides bottles all over the place. He hocks things to afford more bottles, he steals to cover his bar tab. And he ends up in the drunk ward of a hospital, which I suppose is better than the drunk tank at the county jail. But not by much. Jane Wyman plays the girlfriend who deserves so much more. 

It is always difficult to pair a wine with a movie that truly needs a lemonade. But here goes. From Beauregard Vineyards comes, wait for it, Lost Weekend Zinfandel. Have they seen the movie? Have they read the alcohol disclaimer on their own website? Oh, wait, it says here the wine is named after the Lost Weekend Saloon, their registered historic landmark tasting room. I guess that makes it all better. The Zin grapes were planted nearly 150 years ago in the Santa Cruz Mountains and the bottle costs $30. Don't pawn anything important to buy it.

Paris When It Sizzles takes us back to 1964 with William Holden and Audrey Hepburn in Gay Paree. He is the writer who can't, she is the secretary who can. Will they be able to write a script before Bastille Day arrives? Will they find inspiration in each other's eyes before Beaujolais Nouveau day arrives? Will they actually care what brand of Beaujolais Nouveau they are drinking? Some of these questions are answered in the film, so pay attention. 

It's not a recommendation, but I would be hard pressed not to mention Paris Winery, of Cookeville, Tennessee. Some of their wine bottles are in the shape of the Eiffel Tower. How good is the juice inside, I don't know, but the damned bottles look like they're about a yard tall. 

We should note here that Robert Mitchum has a direct link to the wine world through a song he released as a single in 1967, "Little Old Wine Drinker Me." It’s about a guy who tries to drink away his woman troubles, something that happens in this film. 

Did I lose my train of thought? What was I doing here? Oh, right, a wine pairing for Paris When It Sizzles. This writer's block thing is real, I tell ya. Anyway, it's been awhile since we highlighted a Champagne in this space, so let's do it. It's a Champagne house that is just about an hour away from Paris (France, that is) sizzling or not. Veuve Clicquot is the bubbly, and you can have it for as little as $40 if you’re on a budget. 

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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

An Italian Red Wine For The BBQ

Frescobaldi's Calimaia Vina Nobile 2019 is a Tuscan wine, made with Sangiovese grapes grown in the Montepulciano region. The Frescobaldi folks say that the Calimaia vineyards are nestled between two beautiful locations, Val di Chiana and Val d'Orcia. They also say that the wine fits well into the summer barbecue season, since the wine's flavors pair well with beef, pork and barbecue sauce, especially the sweet variety. 

The makeup is 90% Sangiovese grapes, known locally as Prignolo Gentile. The remainder of the wine is described as "complementary red grapes." The wine was vinified in steel tanks before spending two full years in oak barrels. Alcohol rests at 14% abv and the sticker on the bottle reads $25.

This wine is a medium-dark ruby red color in the glass. The nose is quite aromatic, loaded with ripe red fruit and spicy oak notes. Cherry and clove lead the way, with sage, mocha and anise also making appearances. The palate is juicy and fruity. The tannins are firm, yet smooth as the sip goes down. A hint of mocha makes me want it with barbecue. 

Monday, June 17, 2024

Not Sancerre, But Close To It

The 2023 Vignobles Lacheteau Touraine Sauvignon Blanc hails from France's Loire Valley, specifically the Touraine appellation. It is made wholly from Sauvignon Blanc grapes and imported by Plume Ridge of Claremont, CA. Alcohol hits only 11.5% abv and I bought mine for only $6 at one of my local Trader Joe's stores.

This wine has a faint yellow-green tint in the glass. The nose has abundant citrus fruit and a tad more grassiness than I expect in a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Minerals appear along with tropical notes. The palate offers a brisk acidity to go with the lemon, tangerine and green apple flavors. The finish is long and mineral driven. It will match a salad or serve as counterpoint to a rich, buttery seafood or pasta dish. 

Friday, June 14, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Get 'Em Up!

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌This week, we have wine pairings for three films that may prompt you to applaud, with your hands up in the air. 

The phrase "Get ‘em up" has been used so often in movies that it should win a lifetime achievement award. It is direct, authoritative and succinct. And it is so much more convincing than Peter Lorre's nice guy approach from The Maltese Falcon. "You will please clasp your hands together at the back of your neck" simply doesn’t move me to "get 'em up."

Dillinger is the 1945 film that tells the story of John Dillinger's rise and fall. The story goes, he learned his craft in prison and got a gig as a gangster when he got out. Top that, Indeed. And while you're at it, have your AI team write up a resume for a gangster job. 

The movie shows us that Dillinger's first robbery netted him a little more than seven bucks, the same amount he had in his pocket when he was shot after attending a movie. If he had bought an extra popcorn, that fascinating plot point would have gone down the tubes. If he had gotten 'em up, he might have lived to learn more tricks in prison. 

The spelling is a little off, but the taste is right on target with Dehlinger Wines. Located in the Russian River Valley, you know they have a handle on Pinot Noir ($60) and Chardonnay ($40).

1954's Dragnet was directed by and starred the one and only Jack Webb. It was adapted from the radio series, not television, as the case featured in the script was deemed too violent for the small screen. Yes, kids, there was a time when all TVs were small.

Webb is a favorite of mine. He's just all cop. Even playing a swinging young guy in Sunset Boulevard he came off like a narc. The dialog in Dragnet, whether big-, small- or no- screen, always sounds like your junior high school coach telling you to cut your hair. When Webb orders you to "get 'em up," you’d better do just that or suffer one of his withering verbal takedowns. The Joe Friday comeback, "I'll bet your mother had a loud bark," is one of my treasured memories from the Webb file. And as far as the radio version, has foley ever been as obvious as those footsteps? 

The spelling is a little off, again, but Dragonette Cellars in bucolic Buellton has a $100 Pinot Noir that is worth tracking down and arresting. They also do Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache and even a Santa Barbara County olive oil. They're all on the pricey side, but worth it. 

In the 1949 classic White Heat, James Cagney returns to gangster mode. He tried to move away from the tough guy roles, but his career faded a bit and he, uh, bit the bullet. This tough guy was really a mama's boy at heart, although a psychotic mama's boy. 

The trail of violence runs through a couple of prison sentences. After one of them, Cagney's character decides to get the band back together for some more robbing and killing and such. That was really all he knew how to do, even though he kept getting caught. His last opportunity to "get 'em up" goes by the wayside when he shoots the fuel tank on which he stands. Now, you can say that's a stupid move. But if you're a psycho gangster who wants to go out in a blaze of glory, that's probably your only move. "Made it, Ma! Top of the world!" 

A white heat wine could be mulled pinot grigio, if you have no Ripple in the house. But for a wine pairing that befits the top of the world claim, let’s look at Argentina's Bodega Fernando Dupont. His winery sits nearly 8,000 feet above sea level in the Andes, and it's in a valley. Oh, there's a tasting room there, too, and they say it has quite the view. The reds are blends of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. 

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Art Of Earth Riesling

Riesling is said to be the critics' darling of the wine world, the sommelier's best friend. The Riesling grape gives us wines in a wide variety of styles, from sweet to dry. They are generally laden with minerals, which leads them to be very friendly with food. 

The 2022 Art of Earth Riesling is a Qualitätswein of the Rheinhessen, Germany's largest wine region. It was made from organic grapes and brings a very reasonable alcohol level, 11.5% abv and sells for a reasonable $12. It was imported by Mack and Schühle of Miami.

This wine is a pale green-yellow color in the glass. The nose is rich in minerals and shows Meyer lemon, green apple aromas and a lanolin scent that displays as a very faint petrol note. The palate brings those minerals to the forefront and adds lemon zest and a healthy acidity. Riesling offers a wide variety of styles, and this one is bone dry.  

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Monday, June 10, 2024

A Bottled Bellini

Not too many years ago I attended a wine festival in Beverly Hills. That day? It was a hot day that day in Beverly Hills. I trudged several blocks under the scorching summer sun and finally reached the venue. What do you think was the first thing I saw upon entering the cool, air conditioned building? A Bellini stand. Respite for the weary wine writer! I wiped the sweat from my brow, unfortunately, on my wine tasting note paper. No matter. "Would you like a Bellini, sir?" Well, yes. Yes I would. Thank you.

A Bellini is one of nature's wonders, a pause that refreshes. Health and fun, blended together. Fruit and booze. Bring it on.

Importers Mack & Schühle do a fine job with the wines they select, so how could they miss with a Bellini? Their Artigiano Peach Bellini is as refreshing and peachy as you would like. They also bring Strawberry and Mango Bellinis to the heat stricken masses. Alcohol is mercifully light, only 6% abv, and it costs less than $15 for the 750ml bottle. 

A Bellini should have peach puree and Prosecco, if it is made by the book. The Artigiano Peach Bellini was identified merely as white wine and fruit puree. The only specific I could glean from an online search was that the beverage was made in Spain. The grape, I'm guessing, is Airén, and I guess that only because it is the most widely planted grape variety in Spain.

This Bellini is fizzy enough to make a spew when you open the screw cap, so don't go overboard with their advice, "Shake it to wake it."  It is playful on the palate and tasty on the tongue. And if you serve it cold, it could make you think twice about reaching for that IPA.

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Friday, June 7, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Brain Drain

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌This week, we have wine pairings for three movies concerning the one bodily organ that keeps us from being Trump supporters, the brain. 

Does drinking wine make us smarter, or does it just make us feel smarter? We have already seen how the resveratrol in wine means good things for our heart health, the battle against cancer and holding off Alzheimer's. Now, the National Institutes of Health have a report designed to scare the cocktail out of your hand. It says, "Alcohol interferes with the brain's communication pathways and can affect the way the brain looks and works." The way it looks? What do I care? The way it works? Hey, as long as I have enough juice to keep pumping out these articles on a weekly basis, make mine a Zinfandel. 

From 1957, a classic year for both cars and sci-fi, comes The Brain from Planet Arous. It's as big as a car, this brain, and about as scary as one. It's not scary, not even a little. In fact, this movie was a favorite for my friends back in college. When it was slated for an airing on Friday night's Fear Theater, we knew it was time to open a few and laugh out loud. The brains, there are two of them, are named Gor and Vol, if memory serves. Apparently brains on the Planet Arous favor one syllable names. Easier for a big brain to remember.

Domaine du Mortier offers a wine called Brain de Folie Chenin Blanc. In case you’re wondering, brain de folie is a French expression for hangover, that thing you'll have after a wine-soaked viewing of The Brain from Planet Arous

I failed to mention that the brains from Arous possess people. Well, one possesses a dog. Damn, now I've given it away. Here is another film featuring a brain that takes over. Donovan's Brain, from 1953, has a mad scientist type who is operating on a rich guy who was in a car crash. It looks like the guy isn’t going to pull through. "Hey, mind if I just take your brain?"

That was his first mistake. Never take a guy's brain unless you know how to use it. The brain from Mr. Donovan is a real troublemaker. You can't stop it, you can only hope to slow it down. But, actually, you can stop it. The film's climax owes something to Ben Franklin

Let's go to sunny southern Oregon for a wine to pair with Donovan's Brain. L. Donovan Wines has a Malbec that was grown in the Rogue Valley. Linda Donovan says it sports flavors of blackberry and chocolate. That sounds like perfect brain food to me.

I don't know about you, but all this talk of brains has me hungry. The Brain Eaters, from 1958, are parasites who eat brains. There, that was simple. They are carried about in glass containers, which get broken every now and then, darn the luck. These parasites are somehow aiming to create a happy, strife-free existence on earth. By eating our brains? I think I lost the thread on that concept. It would be a far happier, more strife-free existence if we ate their brains, I would imagine. Like they say in the land of the crawfish, suck de head, bite de tail.  By the way, that's one reason I let my honorary Cajun card lapse several decades ago. 

But as long as we're talking crustaceans, let's talk Albariño, a crisp white wine that is perfectly suited for pairing with bug-like sea creatures. Tangent has a fine Central Coast bottling for $17, but you can step up to their special Block 163 Albariño for $35. Enjoy with your favorite gray matter crudités. 

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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Cool Wine, Cool Bottle

I will admit, I purchased this wine simply because of the bottle. Who can resist a bocksbeutel? However, I have learned that when used for Portuguese rosés it is called cantil. Whatever the name, it's a cool bottle. Mateus Rosé used to come packaged in it, and maybe it still does.

Roseta Rosé is from Portugal, although I have been able to find out little else about it. It gets written up all over the place, no doubt due to the fact that it's cheap and it's actually pretty good. The wine is imported by Plume Ridge in Claremont, California, is light in alcohol at just 11% abv and was selling for $5 at Trader Joe's when I bought it.

This wine has a light salmon tint to it and it pours up with a slight frizzante. The nose features ripe, red strawberries and cherries. There is a floral note in the background. On the palate, the red fruit emerges first, while a more delicate citrus flavor comes in afterward. There is a slightly carbonated sense to the mouthfeel, which is refreshing. It is not a terribly complex wine, but it is quite enjoyable and should be a mainstay through summer, particularly at the price.