Monday, November 28, 2022

Make Priorat A Priority

Priorat is a small wine region in northeastern Spain, less than two hours south of Barcelona. Monks brought winemaking to the area and did that handiwork for around 700 years. Then, in the mid-1830s, the government began overseeing the situation. However, tragedy struck before the end of the 19th century. Phylloxera wreaked havoc on the vines, ruined the wine industry and caused general economic hardship. The area wouldn't be important for wine again until the 1950s, when Priorat's DO status was established.

The terroir of Priorat is unlike any other, with soil of black slate and small shiny bits of mica known as llicorella. Vines have to grow their roots very deep in the poor soil to reach water and other nutrients. These conditions result in low yields, which makes for a concentrated flavor profile.

Hammeken Cellars has Tosalet under their umbrella. The land features 100-year-old Carignan vines which give up the grapes for this selection. It is 92% Carignan and eight percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was aged for 18 months in new French oak barrels, has alcohol at a lofty 15.5% abv and sells for $89.

The 2013 Tosalet Carignan Vinyes Velles Priorat is an inky wine which smells like black berries and plums, with a delightful lacing of minty herbaceousness. Clove, vanilla, tobacco and an array of spices join in for the olfactory party. The mouthfeel is very full, and the palate is laden with black fruit and earthy minerals. It is a bold sip, but the tannins have begun to soften. They can still tame a ribeye, however. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Auteurs In Action

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 trio of arthouse favorites, with suggestions on what to drink with them.

I don't know about his cred as an auteur, but 1974's Sunday in the Country was directed by Canadian-born John Trent. He lived for less than a decade after he made this film. He was killed in a car crash by a police cruiser that was driving on the wrong side of the road. That's the sort of tale that might have been spun by my father, who told me, at a very early age, that his father was run over by an ambulance. That was my dad's dry wit. Too bad he didn't realize that sarcasm and irony didn't play all that well to a kindergarten audience. I believed the story well into my adult years.

The movie, by the way, was also known as Blood for Blood, but details about it are hard to come by under either title. Thanks to the movie poster, we know that Ernest Borgnine starred in it, as a nice old man with a double-barreled shotgun who liked to torture bank robbers. Get your kicks while you can, Ernie. The one-sheet also tells us that those kicks come at a high price.

On a tangent - and you know how I love to go off on those - John Trent also directed one of Red Skelton's last television appearances, Red Skelton's Christmas Dinner, from 1981. That show - no doubt spawned by Skelton's Freddie the Freeloader holiday segment from a couple of decades earlier - also featured Vincent Price in the cast as Freddie's friend. 

Was I just talking out loud? Man, I really have to try and focus on the task at hand. Let's do a wine pairing for whatever the hell the name of that movie was. 

Just about every winery has done an event or promotion that involved the words "Sunday" and "Country" somewhere in the name. Let's go down the country path for Arrington Vineyards. This Tennessee winery was partly founded by Kix Brooks, of the country duo Brooks and Dunn, giving additional emphasis to the phrase "wine country." Their Antebellum White was aged in whiskey barrels - Tennessee whiskey, no doubt.

The director of The 400 Blows needs no introduction, but he's going to get one anyway. This was the first film made by François Truffaut, unless he did some Super 8 reels at family pique niques, which have not seen the light of day. He directed and wrote the movie, which launched him as a high-level auteur.

This 1959 classic is something you may remember from a college film class, or from actual real life if you did not form an aversion to subtitles in college film class. It is a coming-of-age story, complete with juvenile trouble, some psychological brain-picking and a day at the beach.

The movie's title is a bad translation of a French idiomatic expression which has more to do with hell-raising and sowing wild oats than with… well, than with blowing. There is now nowhere to go but straight to the wine pairing.

For a French film about a youthful, spirited firebrand, how about a youthful, spirited Gamay from Beaujolais? Beaujolais Nouveau is here - le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé, as they say en Francais - since it is rushed out the winery door on the third Thursday of November each year. The one you'll see at nearly every checkout aisle for the next few weeks is from Georges Duboeuf, the king of Beaujolais Nouveau.

Eyes Without a Face is a 1960 French horror film directed by Georges Franju, who also co-wrote it. If the script doesn't chill you to the bone, maybe the subtitles will, again, if you had a hard time in college film class. 

A plastic surgeon - ooh, it's getting creepy already - tries to alter his daughter's disfigurement after a car crash by performing a face transplant. Was he successful? Would there be a movie if he were? Let's just say she probably wished dad had stopped with a little liposuction.

The movie was probably the first French horror film, although Franju called it an "anguish" film rather than "horror." However you parse the translation, the script had to run a gauntlet of censors in three countries, each of which had problems with different aspects of it. 

Appolo Vineyards in New Hampshire has a Sauvignon Blanc wine which they call Blue Eyes - and the label has an eerie resemblance to the masked woman in the movie. By the way, in case spell-check wants to change the winery to Apollo for the fortieth time, vintner Mike Appolo would appreciate that someone, somewhere could spell his name correctly. 

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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Gods Speak Through Spanish Grapes

The Hammeken Cellars winemaking team is on the cutting edge. Of the seven winemakers and quality control folks, four are women. That is more common than it was not too long ago in a male-dominated business, especially in Europe. Progress is a beautiful thing.

Hammeken makes the wine known as Oráculo. Their website describes Oráculo as a storyteller, but one who speaks the words of the gods. This oracle sends the heavenly message of Tempranillo grapevines which are between 80 and 120 years old. The grape is known in the Ribera del Duero region as Tinta del Pais and they were grown in and around Peñaranda del Duero.

The wine was aged for 24 months in new French oak barrels. Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and it retails for about $37. 

This is an extremely dark wine, one which allows no light to pass through it. It is a complex wine, with a nose that delivers a powerful blast of red fruit along with a dense layer of spices, tobacco and a floral perfume. The palate has cherry, cassis, licorice, cinnamon, and earthy notes all vying for attention. The tannins are mellowing, but they are still capable enough to handle your favorite steak right off the grill. The acidity is refreshing and the finish is long and luxurious. 

Monday, November 21, 2022

A Spanish Red Wine For The Holiday Table

Bodegas Beronia is known for its Rioja Alta vineyards.  The winery was formed by several Basque friends who wanted to have just the right wine to go with their culinary get-togethers.  Now that's a bunch of choosy wine drinkers.  The beautiful state of the art revamp on the winery is only a couple of years old.  Winemaker Matías Calleja puts his signature on the label of each bottle, as does importer González Byass.

The 2018 Beronia Crianza is nearly a full-blooded Tempranillo, with just splashes of Garnacha and Mazuelo in the blend. The wine aged for one year in barrels that were made from American oak staves and French oak tops, then for three months in the bottle. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the retail price is around $15.

This wine has a dark red color of medium-dark intensity. The nose has red fruit up front - cherry, plum and raspberry aromas - with an assortment of herbs and spices that seem to go right along with holiday cooking. There is thyme and a hint of sage along with the smell of cinnamon. The palate brings the fruit forward with sweet oak spice and a full, but refreshing, mouthfeel. The tannins are serviceable, but not harsh. Those herbs and spices find their way back on the medium length finish. 

Friday, November 18, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Revisionist Westerns

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 westerns that turned the genre around to view it from a different angle. We also have wine pairings for the films, even though a shot of redeye might be more appropriate.

1970's Little Big Man is an early version of a revisionist western. 1970 was a time when a lot of cultural shifts started to churn, and this film was a western while also serving as a satire and an anti-war statement. And a pretty damned good one, too.

Was Little Big Man the first western to side with Native Americans and line up against the U.S. Cavalry? Maybe. Dustin Hoffman stars as the title figure, who, as an old man, tells the story of his life - a series of unbelievable events and coincidences. Do we believe that this old man was really a student of Wild Bill Hickock, an advisor to General George Armstrong Custer, the only white survivor of Little Big Horn? Sure, why not. It's really more fun to believe an outlandish tale than not.

Big Little Wines produces small batch vino from Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula. If it surprises you to learn that Michigan is a good wine state, try this on for size - they now have a completely blue state legislature! Will wonders never cease? Their bigLITTLE Underdog is 100% Gamay Noir, and they ship to 17 states of which California is one.

Django Unchained is a fairly recent entry for these pages, 2012. Director Quentin Tarantino calls his film a "Southern" rather than a "western." It sets American slavery against a tapestry of violence and cruelty in the style of a Spaghetti Western. 

Jamie Foxx stars as the slave-turned-bounty-hunter Django, a role which he paints as meticulously as Eastwood painted the Man with No Name. Foxx plays his character as a man with a fistful of revenge. Audiences seem to love the grisly ways this angry black man exacts his vengeance - the grislier, the better. Gun? Easy. Dynamite? Cool. 

There was a ton of blowback to this movie due mainly to the extreme violence within it and its perceived disrespect towards African-Americans. Spike Lee won't have anything to do with it, saying it dishonors his ancestors. After a mantle full of awards for Django, Tarantino can no doubt rest easy.

Bounty Hunter's Cabernet Sauvignon The Vigilante is available from Napa's Benchmark Wines, which has expensive wines for serious collectors. It's $141 for the 2012 vintage, and the prices go up from there.

Ulzana's Raid gets us back to the weird old '70s - 1972 to be precise. Robert Aldrich directed it and Burt Lancaster starred as the army scout sent to bring the Apache renegade Ulzana in for justice. He has led a brutal Native American attack on white settlers in 1880s Arizona, and he is number one with a bullet on the army's most-wanted list.

The film is called revisionist due not to its view of the Native American war party - depicted as ruthless killers - but because of its view of American involvement in Vietnam. The cavalry cluelessly chasing an enemy is seen as a direct swipe at the U.S. Army's pursuit of the Viet Cong. 

D.A. Ranch in Cornville, Arizona has a variety of tasty wines produced from their estate-grown grapes. It looks like the D.A. Stands for Dancing Apache, which is the name of the road where the vineyard and winery is found. Does Ulzana dance well enough to escape the raid? Watch and find out, with a bottle and a glass on the coffee table. 

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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Wine From Everyone's Favorite Neighbor

My Favorite Neighbor is a winery run by Eric Jensen, owner of Booker Vineyard in Paso Robles. He and some of his Paso neighbors collaborate on a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay, which they make to exacting standards. Jensen puts the concept on the label - grapes which are "thoughtfully farmed with careful consideration for the land."

Jensen's Booker Vineyard is certified organic. The MFN grapes come from a variety of special vineyards. The name comes from one of his grape-growing neighbors, who would always identify himself on the phone as "your favorite neighbor." It's nice to know we are not limited to just one favorite neighbor.

MFN Blanc 2021 is full-throated Chardonnay, grown in San Luis Obispo County. The wine was aged for eight months in equal parts new and experienced oak barrels. Alcohol sits at 14.1% abv and the retail price is $50.

This wine sits golden in the glass and offers a beautiful nose of apricot, Meyer lemon and oak spice, with a nice dollop of salinity in the mix. That savory note explodes on the palate and brings all that lovely fruit along with it. The acidity is right on the mark - food friendly while maintaining the creamy mouthfeel. The oak treatment is noticeable, but not at all overdone, and it leaves a nearly buttery sensation on the lengthy finish. 

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Monday, November 14, 2022

A Great Fall Wine From Italy's Ankle

The Caldora winery is in the community of Ortona, in Italy's Abruzzo region, just above the "ankle" on the back of the "boot."  Abruzzo is described as an endless vineyard, from the mountains to the Adriatic Sea. The winery has a special arrangement with the many small growers in the two coastal provinces of Teramo to the north and Chieti to the south.  They say they don't actually buy grapes from these growers, but rather rent the vineyards and use the fruit for their wines.

The 100% Montepulciano d'Abruzzo grapes for the 2020 Caldora wine were grown in Chieti, harvested by hand, destemmed and gently crushed for vinification. Alcohol hits only 13% abv and the wine sells for around $16. It is imported by González Byass USA.

This medium dark red wine offers a nose of red fruit aromas, joined by some cigar box, earth and baking spices. The great smell gives way to a great taste, with flavors of cherry, raspberry and a savory serving of salinity. The wine seems much more open and complex than it did a coupla years back when I tried it. Very nice finish, medium in length and somewhat savory.  

Friday, November 11, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Lights! Action! Music!

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week it’s all about the music. Oh, and the wine. 

Celebration at Big Sur is the film version of the 1969 Big Sur Folk Festival, although the movie was not released until 1971. You get a heavy dose of Joan Baez, not nearly enough of Joni Mitchell and just about the right amount of CSN&Y. It would have been nice had the filmmakers included a complete version of "Cowgirl In the Sand," but I get it - ten minutes can be a long time to wait for a Neil Young song to end. 

Miniscule in comparison to Woodstock, which had happened just a month earlier, the Big Sur event drew barely more than 10,000 people. Many of them listened to the two-day folk fest for free, from the shoulder of Highway 1. It’s not the best way to hear a concert, but it is the cheapest. 

I enjoyed a Bob Dylan concert once in San Diego, when he played the Embarcadero Amphitheater. As I walked toward the venue, planning to buy a ticket, I realized that I could hear just fine from the steps of the Convention Center, so I sat down. There was no $20 beer to be had there, but I did save the cost of a ticket and didn't mind being able to leave whenever I felt like it.

For a movie about a music festival in Big Sur, it is only fitting that we open a bottle of Big Sur Red from Big Sur Vineyards. This wine is a blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes grown in Monterey County, the home of Big Sur. Pretend you're at the festival and drink it straight from the bottle. 

From 1975, That's the Way of the World showcases the music of Earth, Wind and Fire, who basically play themselves as a fictional band. Harvey Keitel is in it, which is usually enough to draw me into the theater. He's a record producer with a "golden ear" who works with the group. Personally, I prefer him as a hit man, but a hit record producer will do in a pinch. If he had only insisted on "more cowbell."

You may have listened endlessly to the soundtrack album to That's the Way of the World without realizing that it was a soundtrack album. Rolling Stone called the EW&F record "makeout music of the gods," which is at least one thing they got right.

Lodi's Jessie's Grove Winery puts out a nice red wine which they call Earth Zin and Fire. The Zinfandel clocks in at more than 15% alcohol, routine for the fine farms of Lodi. It will def put a person in the mood for making out. 

1973's Wattstax is 103 minutes of pure soul. The film shows the concert put on by Stax Records in 1972 to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the Watts riots. There is more than the concert in the film - many artists who couldn't appear during the show were asked to film separate pieces elsewhere to be included. Isaac Hayes, in fact, recorded some songs that were different from those he did in concert because MGM wouldn't let them use "Theme From Shaft" in the movie. That restriction fell by the wayside in 1978. When the movie was restored in 2003, Shaft was put back in as part of the film's finale. "Right on."

There was skepticism that a little record label - Stax - could team up with a little neighborhood - Watts - for a successful show at the Los Angeles Coliseum with tickets that sold for a buck apiece. It happened. It happened big time. As Isaac Hayes said, "You’re damn right."

Watts Winery isn't in Watts, it's in Lodi, farmed for four generations by the Watts family. But hey, how about an actual musician vintner? Earl Stevens - you might know him as rapper E-40 - makes California wines that look to be on the sweet side and are priced on the affordable side. Enjoy a chilled Mangoscato with Wattstax.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Bold Chilean Pinot Noir Could Get To Be A Habit

Chilean Pinot Noir is quite often a different breed than wines of the same grape from another terroir. These wines, I have found, offer a darker, bolder experience that Pinots from, say, Oregon or Santa Barbara County or Burgundy. The Ritual estate is located in the east end of Chile's Casablanca Valley, but on the west side of the mountain range, a little less than 20 miles from the cooling Pacific Ocean. 

The wine -  Ritual's 2019 Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir - is composed of 100% Pinot Noir, organically farmed, cool-climate grapes which were grown near Chile's coast on the Pacific Ocean. The soil is mainly decomposed granite, which is well-drained. Aging took place in French oak barrels, 20% of which were new. Winemaker Sofia Araya also produces Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for Ritual, an arm of Vinedos Veramonte.

Alcohol for this wine sits at 14% abv and the retail price is $21. It was imported to the U.S. by Gonzalez Byass USA.

The wine’s tint is medium dark. Its nose is even darker, with an earthiness to it that comes off as a bit brawny. There is the red fruit you expect, but aromas of cassis, plum, cola and strong black tea also come forward without a trace of shyness. The palate is also dark, with black and blue fruit joined by savory notes of tar, forest floor, tobacco and a sense of roasted meat. The tannins are tamer than expected in a package like that, but there is still plenty to match up against a thick, juicy steak. This wine is robust, to say the least. 

Monday, November 7, 2022

A Sonoma Chardonnay From Sun And Wind

Located in Sonoma County's Carneros region, Anaba Wines boasts that they are "powered by the sun, sustained by the wind." It should come as no surprise that the winery draws extensively on solar and wind power to make their wines.

Just so you don't let it slip past you, they have named their flagship line "Turbine," after  the 45-foot Skystream windmill which powers their facility. I have been supplied with a Chardonnay from this line, and I am eagerly looking forward to their Picpoul, Rosé, Pinot Noir and carbonic Grenache, as well as a red and a white blend of Rhône varieties. The wines come packaged in lighter-weight glass and without a foil capsule over the cork.

The 2021 Anaba Turbine White, as the Chardonnay is known, is sourced from coastal Sonoma vineyards. Winemaker Katy Wilson ferments and ages the wine entirely in stainless steel. She says that allows the fruit flavors and natural acidity to shine. The wine's alcohol level clocks in at 12.3% abv and it sells for $34. Only 233 cases were produced.

This is one of those wines which show us why people like Chardonnay so much. It sits light yellow in the glass. It gives a very nice package of aromas - peaches, apricots, citrus, tropical fruit - which goes to demonstrate the all-steel vinification it went through. Those fruit flavors are abundant on the palate, and the acidity is fresh and zippy. The finish is fairly long and leans into the stone fruit notes after the sip. 

Friday, November 4, 2022

A Beautiful Red Wine From Italy's Bootheel

The Torrevento estate in Apulia dates back to 1400, but it wasn't a winery then.  It was a Benedictine monastery. Winemaking took root in 1948, when Francesco Liantonio bought Torrevento and its vineyards. The old monastery now houses the cellar and casks. The Torrevento winemaking philosophy concerns staying out of the way and letting the terroirs of the rugged Murgia and Salento regions speak for themselves. 

The Nero di Troia grape (or Uva di Troia) thrives on the calcareous and rocky soils of Torrevento's vineyards. They have made a full-varietal wine from this grape since 1992. The wine is aged in steel tanks for eight months, then for a year in oak. Alcohol hits 13.5% abv and the wine sells for about $25. 

This 2016 Torrevento Vigne Pedale Riserva Castel del Monte DOCG is tinted medium dark ruby. The nose is somewhat muted upon opening, but shows dark fruit - blackberry, plum - laced with an earthy minerality and a whiff of smoke. The palate has the dark fruit and cherries up front, and the sip is smooth. Spices and herbs liven up the taste, but it does not seem over-oaked. The tannins are well integrated and provide ample food-friendliness without getting in the way of the mouthfeel. The finish is medium-long and the minerals play through to the end.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2022

A Classy Chianti Classico

This wine, Castelli del Grevepesa's Clemente VII, was named after Giulio de' Medici, who became Pope Clemente VII in 1523.  He used to live in the region where this wine is produced, Chianti Classico. The Tuscan sub-region uses Sangiovese grapes in its red wine production, either as full varietal - like this one - or a blend with at least 80% of the grape.

The Chianti Classico area has as its emblem a black rooster, which dates back to the 14th century Republic of Florence. The rooster reportedly represented a political-military institution of the day.

This wine was aged 85% in Slavonian oak barrels for 12 months and 15% in barriques for 12 months. The wine rested for an additional three months after bottling. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and it sells online for less than $20. It was imported by Votto Wines of Hamden, Connecticut.

There is a strong sense of dark fruit on the nose, along with a beautifully smoky mocha note which appeared on the day after opening the bottle. Tar and spices come through as well. The palate is fruity, with a savory backbeat that balances very well. The tannic structure is firm without overpowering the sipping experience, and the finish is of medium length. 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Happy Halloween

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, the scares come fast and furious as we pair wine with three movies suitable for the spookiest night of the year.

Night Gallery was the 1969 pilot for the television program, hosted and partly written by Rod Serling. You may remember him - who am I kidding… of course you remember him - from The Twilight Zone, the 1960's series which was also hosted by Serling, sometimes with a lit cigarette firmly stuck between his fingers as he spoke. In Night Gallery, times had changed enough that he went without the ciggie.

The pilot - and the ensuing episodes - consisted of three segments, each of which was represented by an oil painting in the gallery. Serling delivered his introductions while standing before the paintings, like a macabre docent. One of the segments in this hour-and-a-half pilot film was the directorial debut of one Steven Spielberg. He went on to gain a bit of fame on his own.

While Serling's intros were delivered in much the same style as his oft-imitated Twilight Zone cadence, they seemed a bit threadbare in comparison. The tone of the show also had changed, from TZ's sci-fi slant to a more supernatural approach, either of which is okay for Halloween.

Let's find some really artsy wine labels for Night Gallery. Château Mouton Rothschild has commissioned genuine, real live, authentic painters to adorn some of their labels since 1945. Big names like Picasso, Dali and Hockney have splashed a little paint for the Rothschilds over the years. Unfortunately, you won't be able to pick up a bottle at Gil Turner's on the way home. They are sold at auction each year, for anywhere from four to 20 thousand dollars a case. I understand if you take a pass on this pairing suggestion - I know you have to budget for that expensive trick-or-treat candy.

1982's The Entity was directed by Sidney Furie and starred Barbara Hershey. The story - of a woman who is assaulted repeatedly by an invisible entity - was based on actual events. Sort of an Exorcist with clippings. There was a ton of backlash at the time, with women's groups railing against the depiction of the violence. Since then, it has attracted a cult following and is now seen as an allegory of the way women are victimized. It's not a pleasant movie to view, and it's hard to write something snarkily funny about it, so pardon this paragraph's lack of laughs. There simply aren't any there.

Thank goodness there is a wine called "Entity." I don’t think I could stand trying to come up with a sentence of lighthearted nonsense about this movie. Entity is an Australian Shiraz - that's what they call Syrah down under - from John Duval Wines. For $40, you get all the brawn that Barossa has to offer.

Now, if you'll please allow a little shameless brownnosing. Nightmare Cinema comes from 2018 and is a horror anthology featuring segments directed by, among others, TFH's very own chief guru Joe Dante. There are also works included by Alejandro Brugués, TFH associate guru Mick Garris, Ryūhei Kitamura, and David Slade.

Mickey Rourke plays the projectionist at a movie theater that shows films depicting the worst fears of the audience. Yeah, I know, you thought that was All The President's Men. Well, strap yourself in and get set for segments on slasher killers, sex demons and an alternate reality experienced while waiting for a doctor's appointment. Hey, wait, that's actually happened to me - and I don't think my insurance covered it.

Washington state winery The Walls has a Tempranillo they call a Wonderful Nightmare, Hemingway's description of the running of the bulls in Pamplona. I'll leave that sort of thing to other fools - a Nightmare Cinema sounds plenty dangerous for me. 

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Friday, October 28, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Halloween Haunts

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, the hellishness finds new heights - er, depths - as we prepare for the end of the month with a trio of Halloween Haunts.

Scary movies are a staple in my home - the wife loves 'em. Me? I can take them or leave them alone, mostly leave them alone. My idea of a good frightfest is All the President's Men. But here we are, staring at a huge bowl that needs to be filled with expensive fun sized candy. We're going to need to watch something after the cute little kids are tucked into bed and those older tweens - way too old for this kind of stuff - start coming around. Oh, and we're going to need some alcohol, too. For us, not the kiddies.

Wishmaster is a 1997 slasher film, the sort that crawls out from its temperature-controlled hiding place each October. Much death and cruelty is dealt out in the film's running time, and by various means - not just slashing. Robert Englund brings some slasher cred to the movie.

A djinn is released from his confines, and we all know where that sort of thing leads. Wishes will be granted. However, this evil genie has a separate agenda which does not involve serving the person who uncorked him. This genie really brings to life the warning that one should be careful about what one wishes for. 

I would wish for a nice, dry, Provençal rosé to go with this movie, preferably one which has the word "genie" on its label. Here we have just what we wished for. Coup de Genie makes this pinkie from Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grapes grown in the sunny south of France. At least when you uncork it, you know it won't uncork you.

1981's Dead and Buried deals with reanimated corpses - that's right, there is a town full of zombies. Every Halloween-y movie should have a coroner/mortician in the cast. Especially one who has interesting hobbies. If you are already a coroner or a mortician, and you want another occupation to slash onto, wouldn't it be better to have one that balances things out a bit? Coroner/barista? Mortician/landscaper? I mean, coroner/mortician just sounds a lot creepier than it needs to be. But, that's Halloween for you.

Anyhoo, these homemade zombies do a good job of passing for regular folks - dead ringers, you might say. The cute little tourist town is a dead ringer for Mendocino, by the way, which is where some scenes were filmed. That’s a cue for popping a cork if I ever heard one.

I don't know how good Zombie Zinfandel tastes, but it's ten bucks worth of fun for that one night a year when it is actually appropriate. It is claimed by Sonoma County's Chateau Diana, so they must be at least a little bit proud of it. 

House of Dark Shadows appeared in 1970, towards the end of the run for the television show that was so not-scary that it had to be shown in the afternoon, right after Merv Griffin and right before the Three Stooges. I suppose there were those who considered it scary at the time - children, slow learners, people with head injuries - but those are the same groups who might have mistaken the regular daily soap operas for legitimate entertainment. I'm sure Jonathan Frid was a great guy to have a beer with, but Barnabas Collins wasn't scaring anybody. My wife and I saw House of Dark Shadows at the New Bev. She elbowed me when my snoring got too loud.

In this feature-length TV show, Barnabas wants a relationship with a mortal woman, so he tries to be cured of his vampiric tendencies. Maybe he should have sought the help of an industrious coroner/mortician with an interesting hobby. Any time one is stabbed in the back so hard that it comes out one's chest, and one turns into a bat and flies away, one would have to consider it to be a pretty good day.

For Barnabus Collins, let’s pour St. Barnabus Commandaria - a dessert wine from Cyprus. It's nice and sweet - it will pair well with the Halloween candy you'll be sneaking from your kids' trick-or-treat bags after they've gone to sleep.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2022

An Everyday Red Wine From Abruzzo

Nestore Bosco has been making wines in Italy's Abruzzo region since 1897, and there is something to be said for being able to sustain a business for that long. The Bosco 2018 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is a full varietal wine which carries an alcohol level of 13.5% abv and retails for around $15. It was brought to the U.S. by Connecticut importer Votto Vines.

This dark-colored wine smells of dark fruit - blackberries, plums, currants - and tastes much the same. There is quite a bit of sweetness to the palate, and the tannins are very firm. Oak spice comes across as flavors of cinnamon, clove, tobacco and anise. The finish is savory and somewhat lengthy. 

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Monday, October 24, 2022

White Wine From Northern Italy - It's Just Right

The Venezia Giulia IGT region is in the far northeastern corner of Italy, sharing borders with Austria and Slovenia. Northern Italy is known for its white wines, and the Venezia Giulia IGT is no exception. The soil in the region is a mix of clay and stones and is pretty much the perfect dirt in which to grow white wine grapes.

The Bastianich Winery was founded in 1997 by the Bastianich family. They are the folks who have brought so many fine Italian restaurants to so many corners of the world, and who are the driving force behind Eataly in Los Angeles, which is where I had this wine with lunch, I brought a bottle home as well.

The 2018 Vespa Bianco is a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, grown in the hills of Premariacco and Cividale. The wine is fermented half in stainless steel tanks and half in oak casks. Aging in the bottle lasts a year before release. A good portion of the lees - the spent yeast cells - are left in the wine, which enhances and lends weight to the mouthfeel. Alcohol hits 14% abv and Vespa Bianco sells for around $27.

This beautiful wine carries a golden hue in the glass and has a nose which features salinity as well as fruit. The aromas range from pears to guava to beeswax to lanolin. On the palate, there is bountiful salinity and minerality to meet the tropical fruit flavors. Acidity is fresh and zingy, too, so food pairing is simple. 

Friday, October 21, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Angela Lansbury R.I.P.

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 salute the recently departed Angela Lansbury.

Something for Everyone is from 1970 and features Lansbury in what is billed as a black comedy, but the critics of the day would dare you to find the humor. Lansbury is a German matron who is a bit down on her luck, while Michael York co-stars as a castle-hungry young man who will stop at nothing to get his four walls and a moat. 

It's a bedroom farce with a plethora of untimely "accidents" engineered by York's character to further his desire for the Bavarian palace. 

Lansbury - always a pleasure to watch - got a Golden Globe nomination, but alas, no hardware to tote back to her castle. She did amass quite a collection of awards in her time, including a handful each of Golden Globes and Tonys, all well deserved.

For this film, get a wine made from the Silvaner grape, a fave near Bavaria. Most Silvaners from this area are labeled as "dry," but their wine laws leave a lot of leeway for that designation. Make sure it's one that comes in the unique bocksbeutel, the stubby, round wine bottle of the Franconia region. It won't taste different, but you'll feel more authentic for it.

All Fall Down hit the big screens in 1962, with Lansbury playing the sort of mother only a rotten son could love. She shares the billing with Eva Marie Saint, Warren Beatty and Karl Malden, with John Frankenheimer directing.  The movie ties together a bad mama, a drunk daddy, a femme fatale and fraternal rivalry with a big bow of tragedy and pathos. I'll have a double, bartender.

If you've never seen the grape-stomping lady fall down, it's a staple on YouTube. However you feel about foot-stomped wine - I Love Lucy notwithstanding - you have to love a Napa winery that invites people to try out the ancient art. By the way, Grgich Hills Winery uses the foot-stomped grapes as compost, not for winemaking. Treat yourself and try the Cab.

Also from 1962,  The Manchurian Candidate sported quite the cast - with Lansbury - a domineering mom again - abetted by Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh, and Frankenheimer once more at the helm, how could you go wrong?  The movie hinges on a Korean war veteran who was brainwashed by the commies.  You could tell he was brainwashed - he was the only person who didn't cheat at solitaire.  C'mon, admit it.  That’s why you don't like online solitaire - because it's too hard to cheat!  They're always watching.

We can easily pair a Chinese baijiu with The Manchurian Candidate, a white liquor distilled from sorghum or some type of grain.  However, people say that drinking it makes one look like the guy on the Jagermeister label.  A South Korean soju might be a better play.  Soju is made from rice, wheat, barley, sweet potatoes or whatever other starchy stuff you can find near the distillery.   

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Brawny Petite Packs A Wallop

Just off Highway 46, on Paso Robles’ east side, sits Vina Robles Winery. Their tasting room is there, too, as is their bistro, serving a seasonal menu which features locally grown food prepared on-site. Founder Hans Nef felt his Swiss heritage blended well with the opportunities that America offered him. The winery website tells us that Mr. Nef died in 2019 due to an accident while swimming off the Cape Verde islands. The winery is now in the hands of Nef's two daughters. 

Winemaker Kevin Willenborg takes the grapes from their six SIP certified sustainable estate vineyards and creates wines that promise to honor the past while looking into the future. He has a minimal intervention policy of staying out of the way and letting the grapes do their thing.

Besides sustainability, Vina Robles partners with One Tree Planted, an organization which tries to improve the world one tree at a time. A portion of the Vina Robles wine, The Arborist, goes to that charitable outfit. The wine was named The Arborist after an actual arborist saved the life of a 300-year-old oak tree that sits in one of their vineyards.

The Vina Robles 2019 Petite Sirah Paso Robles is all estate fruit, which was vinified and aged for 20 months in oak barrels. Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and it retails for $27.

The wine is inky purple and has a beautiful nose full of blackberries and oak spice - vanilla, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg - and even a whiff of smoke. The palate shows the big, brawny black fruit along with the spice rack and a tannic structure that is plenty firm enough for a steak but not too toothy for sipping. 

Monday, October 17, 2022

A Wine Dedicated To A Tree Doctor

Just off Highway 46, on Paso Robles’ east side, sits Vina Robles Winery. Their tasting room is there, too, as is their bistro, serving a seasonal menu which features locally grown food prepared on-site. Founder Hans Nef felt his Swiss heritage blended well with the opportunities that America offered him. The winery website tells us that Mr. Nef died in 2019 due to an accident while swimming off the Cape Verde islands. The winery is now in the hands of Nef's two daughters. 

Winemaker Kevin Willenborg takes the grapes from their six SIP certified sustainable estate vineyards and creates wines that promise to honor the past while looking into the future. He has a minimal intervention policy of staying out of the way and letting the grapes do their thing.

Besides sustainability, Vina Robles partners with One Tree Planted, an organization which tries to improve the world one tree at a time. A portion of the Vina Robles wine, The Arborist, goes to that charitable outfit. The wine was named The Arborist after an actual arborist saved the life of a 300-year-old oak tree that sits in one of their vineyards.

The 2020 Arborist Estate Red Blend is a blend of 40% Syrah grapes, 34% Petite Sirah, 20% Grenache and 6% Tannat. The wine was aged for 18 months in both small and large-format French, Hungarian and American oak barrels. Alcohol reaches 14.5% abv and sells for $20.

The nose on this dark wine shows lots of dark fruit - blackberry, plum, currant - and plenty of complexity thanks to notes of clove, tar and roasted meat drippings. The palate is rich and dark, and the tannins will not be ignored. You can pair this wine with a steak, no problem. 

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Friday, October 14, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - The Peerless Otto

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 examine a few flicks from the peerless Otto Preminger, with a wine pairing for each.

I should apologize for the title of the column this week. The Peerless Otto seems to be a bit of wordplay on the "Peerless auto," a British car company that went belly up after only a few years of production. The great director, who is the subject of our snark, was successful for quite a bit longer. 

Otto Preminger was one of a handful of celebrities who achieved the rarified air of being included in my impersonation repertoire as a kid. It wasn't very good, but it delighted the friends of my parents in southeast Texas, who sometimes commented that Jimmy and Mary's son "didn't have hardly no ayukcent at awul!"

The 1971 comedy-drama Such Good Friends is one of those movies we look back on as a touchstone for a decade. At least I do. It had that wonderful feel of being either funny about serious stuff or serious about funny stuff - it was hard to tell which. A lot of folks had trouble with that and panned the movie at the time of its release because of it. Some of them still feel that way and refuse to watch it when it comes on late-night TV. 

A woman finds that her husband - who is in a coma - was screwing all her so-called friends for years. See what I mean? Laugh or cry? With friends like that, who needs enemies? The sarcasm of the film's title is impossible to miss, unless you, too, are comatose.

George Wine Company has a label called Sonoma Coma, so let's not get cute by trying to do better than that. It's a Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley which appears to sell for about $60. I don't know what it tastes like, so make sure you really want that label in your home before you plunk down for a case.

Anatomy of a Murder is a 1959 courtroom drama, and it's considered one of the best of its kind. The cast includes Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O'Connell, Eve Arden and George C. Scott. Oh, and Duke Ellington appears briefly - taking a break, no doubt, from his work in creating the score for the film. 

The story was "ripped from the headlines," as it was based on a real-life murder trial in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where the movie was shot. A local lawyer beats a murder charge against his client with a twist on the insanity plea, but there are plenty more twists as the trial unfolds. The film got a bad mark from the Catholic League of Decency - or whatever they call themselves - for its frank handling of the subject of rape. Preminger did not shy away from the tough topics.

There was a murder case a while back in New Jersey in which a woman killed her wife with a wine chiller - an aluminum cylinder used to quickly cool a bottle of wine. I know, at first I, too had an image of someone crashing a wine refrigerator down on someone else's head. Now that scene lives rent-free in my head, like a bad song that popped up on SiriusXM and just won't go away.

Where was I? Oh, the wine pairing. We need a killer wine for Anatomy. Come and gitcha red hots, right here. Killer Merlot comes from Mendocino by way of Brutocao Vineyards. If it needs it, I'll be chilling mine in the fridge, thank you. 

Now, let's take a walk down a dark street - far enough down that you find the place Where the Sidewalk Ends.  This 1950 noir has nothing to do with Shel Silverstein's later poetry collection under the same title.  No, this story is not suitable for the youngsters in the crowd.  You won't find "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout" lurking in these frames.  Preminger directed Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in this violent cops-n-criminals yarn.  

Andrews is a cop who hates criminals so much he actually scares the other cops.  That takes some doing.  He is the sort of cop that other cops call "badge heavy." Wouldn't it be something if he ended up being the one wearing the handcuffs?  The story starts with a gangster's gambling game and runs through murder, misdirection and mayhem.  It's hard to tell the good guys from the bad without a scorecard.  Hey, it's film noir - put your money on "bad."

Footpath Winery uses organic grapes from the Temecula Valley to create some pretty nice Cab Franc, Barbera and Malbec.  Try one of those for your sidewalk-less viewing party.

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