Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Dank And Sticky IPA

San Diego County's The Hop Concept puts the sensation of their brews right on the label, right in the name.  Their beers all utilize hops in inventive ways to offer a variety of tastes and aromas.  Names like "Citrus and Piney" and "Tropical and Juicy" advertise themselves truthfully in their names.

I had their inaugural beer, the "Dank and Sticky" IPA.  They describe it on the can as boasting "aromas of dank, resinous pine" which give way to "a malty backbone and a drying hop bitterness on the finish."  Alcohol is 8.5% abv and a four-pack of 16-ounce cans ran me about $15 at my neighborhood specialty market.

The hops are right out front, as they should be with an IPA.  Seven varieties of hops were used in this brew: Columbus, Chinook, Centennial, Exp. 05256, Simcoe, Mosaic, and Comet.  It was a great addition to the time I spent grilling a steak on the patio. 

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Monday, July 26, 2021

Steve Austin's Broken Skull IPA

Steve Austin's Broken Skull IPA comes from Los Angeles County's own El Segundo Brewing Company.  You may be familiar with their popular Mayberry IPA.  I saw the Broken Skull IPA in the case at Whole Foods Market and figured I would try it on for size.

First of all, the can beams wrestler Steve Austin's name, without the usual mention of "Stone Cold" before it.  I wonder if a trademark issue arose with Stone Brewing in San Diego County?  Maybe he has just moved on from his wrestling name since he is now a broader-based entertainer.  The brewery calls it a "bad-ass" bottling and credits Steve Austin with helping to design it.  

In a continuing series of "brushes with fame" that seem to happen to me, a number of years back a friend of mine who knows Austin enlisted me to help select a Texas wine club to give him as a Christmas gift.  Neither my friend nor I reported a broken skull, so I guess he liked it.

Broken Skull IPA produces a nice head - a couple of fingers of white foam - but it does not last too long.  The color of the pour is almost orange.  The nose is quite full of citrus and pine, but the first sip is a shocker.  This IPA brings the bitter.  I mean that in a good way, of course.  I simply did not expect the bitterness to be quite so heightened and was surprised by it.  All told, it's a good sipper on a hot day and goes fairly easy on the alcohol, at only 6.7 abv.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Drawing A Bead

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 draw a bead on drinks to be paired with movies about humans used for target practice.  Put that in your 2nd Amendment argument and shoot it.

The Sniper is a film noir from 1952.  Directed by Edward DmytrykThe Sniper was one of his first films after a tough stretch in which he was blacklisted, jailed for contempt of Congress, exiled and eventually brought back before the House Unamerican Activities Committee to name names.  And you thought you had a tough week.  Stanley Kramer helped get Dmytryk’s career back on its feet with a series of low-budget films.

The movie centers on a misogynist who kills women from a distance with an M1 rifle.  He is aware that he is "not right in the head" and he adopts a "stop me before I kill again" attitude.  The authorities do stop him - but not before he kills again.  For me, the climax of The Sniper is about as satisfying as the end of a car chase in which the driver just flops out of the vehicle onto the pavement.

There is a creamy cocktail called The Sniper, so how do we not?  It features Butterscotch Schnapps, whisky cream, Creme de Cacao and cream.  Hence the "creamy" descriptor.

1968's Targets has a something-old-something-new element to it.  Roger Corman produced, while Peter Bogdonavich got his start as a director.  Boris Karloff plays a retiring horror actor while Tim O’Kelly serves as the sniper.  Karloff's character is quitting the monster movie business because he feels the actual news events of the day are much more horrific than anything he could ever act out on celluloid.  The movie became a lot more topical by the time it was released, shortly after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.  

Fans of L.A. location shooting will want to see the finale, filmed at a Reseda drive-in movie.  Spoiler alert:  The climax is terrific, when Karloff's character disarms the sniper by hitting him with his cane.  So much for the scary sniper - defeated by an old man with a walking stick.

For a wine pairing with Targets, I'll try to resist the temptation to recommend a box of wine from Target, although the temptation is strong.  There is a gun club in North Carolina which sports a "Shoot Then Sip" night for ladies.  Let's hope they keep things in the proper order.  For Californians, Sonoma's Wing and Barrel Ranch brings gunplay and drinking together.  The ranch offers both shooting and hunting, so you can opt for clay pigeons or, I guess, real pigeons.  Turley Cellars is one of their vintner partners, so get one of Turley's great Zinfandels and shoot out the cork.

Turkey Shoot, in 1982, was an Australian humans-as-prey movie.  It was directed by TFH guru Brian Trenchard-Smith, and set in a futuristic concentration camp.  The action centers around a yearly event in which a few of the higher-ups among the guards choose a handful of prisoners to hunt down in the wild.  Trenchard-Smith has called Turkey Shoot "1984 meets The Camp on Blood Island where they play The Most Dangerous Game," and that's an apt description.

The hunters are considerably better equipped for the game than the hunted.  Their weaponry ranges from guns to artillery to bombs to napalm airstrikes.  And still, two of the prisoners get through the ordeal alive.  That's just bad shooting.

Is anyone surprised by pairing Turkey Shoot with Wild Turkey Kentucky Bourbon?  There is also an Australian winery, Turkey Flat, which offers a Butchers Block Shiraz that may offer enough firepower for you.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Cask and Kettle Hot Cocktails

The advent of the Keurig coffee system changed the way we think of convenience in coffee.  It used to be no problem to load up a filter for Mr. Coffee and brew a pot, but now… c'mon, man, we don’t have that kind of time!

Just as the K-cup boiled down coffee making to the flip of a wrist, it is now providing boozy hot drinks in the same simple manner.

Cask & Kettle is billed as the only hard coffee cocktail on the market.  Everything needed for the cocktail is in the K-cup, including the alcohol.  All you have to do is pop a single serve cup into your brewing system.  You can also open up the K-cup and add hot water, but … c'mon, man, we don't have that kind of time!  The product is decaf, gluten-free and fully recyclable.

Flavors include Irish Coffee, Mint Patty, Mexican Coffee, Hot Blonde Coffee and Spiked Dry Cider.  They are hot cocktails, perfect for cooler months, but they can also work as iced coffee drinks for warmer weather.

The publicity team tells me that Cask & Kettle - based in Temperance, Michigan - is owned and operated by women, and is certified by the Women's Business Enterprise.

Irish Coffee 

This smells awesome while it is making. No coffee needed, no booze - it's all in the K-cup, all except the whipped cream.  Tastes just like the Irish coffees I used to have at Tom Bergin's on Fairfax.  Cooling it off for a drink that's enjoyable in the summer is a workable idea, too.  I added some of my wife's refrigerated coffee creamer to mine.  The pod is 38% abv.

Mexican Coffee

Tequila, vodka and dark coffee notes join with a hint of Mexican chocolate to provide a sweet drink with a south-of-the-border flair.  The pod is 30% abv. 

Hot Blonde Coffee

The vodka is barely noticeable behind the coffee and vanilla.  There is a great mocha note as well.  The pod is 37% abv.

Mint Patty Coffee

This one is vodka-based, too.  It tastes like a boozy thin mint laced with dark chocolate.  Put some whipped cream on this one.  The pod is 37% abv.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Oregon Pinot Noir, Mostly Willamette Valley

Wine importers Mack & Schühle have made a name for themselves, searching out wines from across the world and bringing them to U.S. wine lovers.  One of their latest discoveries did not require much travel.  United Ink has three wines from Washington's Columbia Valley and an Oregon Pinot Noir, which we delve into today.

United Ink Pinot Noir 2019

This United Ink Pinot Noir comes from the Oregon appellation, which is quite large, however most of the grapes were grown in the Willamette Valley.  It is a 100% Pinot Noir varietal wine, made by winemaker Joe Dobbes in Dundee, OR.

The winery says all the fruit "was destemmed and processed without crushing the grape berries, which results in longer fermentations, more complexity and softer tannins."  All lots underwent full malolactic fermentation, and 30% of the wine was barrel aged in neutral French oak, with the remainder getting stainless steel.  All the aging took place on the lees, the yeast cells which were spent during fermentation.  The wine's alcohol content reaches only 13% abv and the retail price is $22.

This Pinot has a medium ruby tint and carries aromas of raspberry, minerals, cola, black tea, clove and a touch of cinnamon.  The palate is equally complex, with fruit that wavers between sweet and tart, a savory earthiness and an acidity that refreshes.  The tannins were forceful at first, but they calmed themselves after a bit of air.  It may be a tad too rowdy to be called elegant, but it is a close call - and a tasty one.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Working Girls

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 pair drinks with movies about - how shall we put this delicately - working girls.  Y’know, hookers.

 The 1990 rom-com Pretty Woman has Richard Gere hooking up with Julia Roberts. The meet-cute happens after his girlfriend breaks up with him, leaving him dateless for a business soirée.  How dare she!  No girlfriend?  Just call a hooker to take her place.  Maybe it was that sort of behavior that caused her to leave him.

Of course, the business bastard is reformed through his relationship with the whore-with-a-heart-of-gold.  In the end, he gets the girl and she gets the white knight about whom she has always dreamed.  Not bad for a film that started out as a dark story about L.A. prostitution and drugs.  The studio wanted a more "feel good" approach.

Word has it that both starring roles were turned down by every A-list actor and actress in Hollywood before Gere and Roberts finally agreed to do the film.  The movie turned out to be a money machine.  Would it have been so popular with, say, Al Pacino and Meg Ryan?  Your guess is as good as mine, but my guess is "no."

There was a Napa Valley Cab from Edward Lewis Cellars called Pretty Woman a few years back, but it seems to be MIA these days.  Edward Lewis was Gere's character in Pretty Woman, and the winery still offers other bottlings.  Washington's Olympic Cellars has a line of Working Girl wines.  However, they refer to girls more along the lines of Rosie the Riveter, not a high-priced Beverly Hills call girl.  Aah, let's pop the cork anyway and celebrate wines made by women.

1933's Baby Face stars Barbara Stanwyck as a woman who "had it, and made it pay," according to the film's tagline.  It's nice how they left it to your imagination.  It was a pre-Hays code picture, and is widely credited with helping bring the Motion Picture Production Code into the business.

Who else but Stanwyck could have played this role after she showed how it was done?  Her character got what she wanted from men by offering up what they wanted.  It.  The line, "Can’t we talk this over?" never held so much sexual energy.

There is sex, seduction, scandal and suicide in the story - which was ultimately whitewashed for general release.  The moguls decided Americans were depressed enough in the Great Depression.  The unedited version was lost for more than 70 years before being found and restored.

Napa Valley's O'Brien Estate has a wine called Seduction, and it looks as tempting as it should for a pairing with Stanwyck.

Bus Stop, in 1956, starred Marilyn Monroe as a singer in a small-town diner.  What I wouldn't give for a Denny's with Marilyn Monroe serenading me while I enjoyed the Moon Over My-Hammy, with a senior discount to boot.

Monroe's character has a shady past, but it is merely hinted at, when a hick rodeo rider falls off the horse for her.  She explains that she has had a lot of "boyfriends," which was the Hays Code way of saying "I’ve been a floozie."  In the end, the cowboy rides off into the sunset - in a bus, not on a horse - with his second love at his side.  His first love was, no doubt, a bucking bronco.

Since Bus Stop is set in Arizona, let's pair a wine from Arizona Stronghold winery.  Their Dala Chardonnay is as blonde as the movie's star, and a bit more direct.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Washington State Riesling

Wine importers Mack & Schühle have made a name for themselves, searching out wines from across the world and bringing them to U.S. wine lovers.  One of their latest discoveries did not require much travel.  United Ink has three wines from Washington's Columbia Valley and an Oregon Pinot Noir.  Today, the Columbia Valley Riesling.

United Ink Riesling 2020

The 2020 United Ink Riesling is all Columbia Valley Riesling grapes, made dry by winemaker David Forsyth.  The winery says, "the majority of the 2020 Dry Riesling comes from skirted vineyards across a hill line surrounding the Yakima Valley."  The region is known for its semi-arid conditions.  Alcohol tips only 12% abv and the wine retails at a super-low $12.

This Riesling is yellow-green in the glass and offers a very attractive nose dominated by citrus and minerals.  The palate keeps it going, with the flavor of Meyer lemon dancing along with minerals and a bit of peach.  Acidity is good and fresh, but it won't take taste buds off of your tongue.  The winery recommends this one as a pairing with salmon, but anything from the sea will do.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Washington State Red Grapes By United Ink

Wine importers Mack & Schühle have made a name for themselves, searching out wines from across the world and bringing them to U.S. wine lovers.  One of their latest discoveries did not require much travel.  United Ink has three wines from Washington's Columbia Valley and an Oregon Pinot Noir.  Today, the Washington reds.

United Ink Red Blend 2019

The Red Blend is made from Columbia Valley grapes, out of Washington state.  The blend is 60% Merlot, 20% Syrah and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, masterfully crafted by winemaker David Forsyth.

The winery says "the majority of the 2019 Red Blend grapes come from vineyards in the middle of the state near the famed Indian Wells and Cold Creek Vineyards, while a smaller portion hails from a vineyard across a plateau overlooking the Columbia River in the southeast region of the Horse Heaven Hills."  They point out that the 2019 vintage was the coldest in Washington's history.

The wine was aged for 14 months in French and American oak, has alcohol at 14.1% abv and a price tag of $18.

This wine is medium dark in the glass and smells like dark fruit, somewhat jammy and somewhat oaky, but not in a bad way.  The vanilla and clove notes have a trace of smoke and sage peeking through.  The palate shows black and blue berries mainly, with a minty herbal edge on the side.  The tannins are firm and the finish is medium long.  I'll pair this with something off the grill, although I may want to try a chill on it if I have it outside.  

United Ink Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Columbia Valley grapes make up the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from United Ink.  Winemaker Forsyth combines 90% Cabernet Sauvignon with 5% each of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. 

The winery explains that "the majority of the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a vineyard across a plateau overlooking the Columbia River in the southeast region of the Horse Heaven Hills."  

The wine was aged for 14 month French and American oak, alcohol tips 14.1% abv and it retails for $18.

This Washington Cab sits medium dark in the glass and has a fairly closed nose at first.  It opens up to black fruit and savory oak - not sweet - after some time.  The mouthfeel seems rather thin to me, with gentle tannins.  Overall, it comes on more like a Pinot Noir than a Cabernet, but there is enough blackberry and plum to convince me that its' real.  Unexpected, but not completely out in left field. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Feeling Peckish

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, a trio of film classics starring the great Gregory Peck.

I have always thought - hoped - that Gregory Peck took his Hollywood name after looking up while standing on the Beverly Hills street corner of Gregory Way and Peck Drive.  I feel that a lot of inspiration has come from street intersections which have a good ring to them when spoken out loud.  Hollywood and Vine, Pico and Sepulveda, 3rd and Fairfax.  Of course, it is hard to imagine a celebrity by the name of Hollywood Vine or Pico Sepulveda or 3rd Fairfax.  In Peck's case, that is not the case.  He was born in San Diego as Eldred Gregory Peck, and he simply lost the nerdy first name for show business.

Yellow Sky is a 1948 western directed by William A. Wellman, starring Peck, Richard Widmark and Anne Baxter.  Yes, Peck alone would make us watch, but the deal is sweetened considerably with the addition of Widmark and Baxter.  If only Harry Morgan would appear… Oh, there he is, playing a guy named Half-Pint.

A group of bank robbers on the run through the desert run out of water.  That's a tough break, because then you have nothing for your scotch.  They come upon a ghost town - well actually a town of population two - and decide to recharge themselves there.  A woman is involved, and a gold strike, so things get crazy like they do when money and sex are involved.  

That's a genuine desert you see there, by the way, which is possibly why you get thirsty watching Yellow Sky.  Some of the filming happened at the Death Valley National Monument.  Spoiler alert: At the end, the bad guys give the money back to the bank.  *cocks head*  "Huh?"  The tellers must have been confused, since they get very few bands of outlaws making deposits.

For Yellow Sky, how about a yellow wine?  The French call it Vin Jaune in Jura, where it is made somewhat like sherry and tastes like it, too.  Benoit Badoz is the tenth generation of his family to make wine, and he makes the Vin Jaune as prescribed, from the Savignin grape.

In the 1976 horror flick, The Omen, Peck hides the death of his newborn son from his wife by secretly adopting another child.  Hey, they all look alike at that age, anyway.  However, they aren't all the Antichrist.  You win some, you lose some.  Just don't let that nanny from Hell get him a dog..

The kid - Damien, in case you haven't heard - wields a lot of power behind that cute little smile.  In most homes, Rottweilers would be considered a threat to a small child, not a minion.  The Omen features some truly horrifying death scenes.  You won’t un-see the impaling or the decapitation anytime soon.

Speaking of that nanny from Hell, two breweries had a beer named Mrs. Baylock, but they are sadly out of production.  I hate it when a good wine-and-movie pairing goes away!  So, let's go back to France for a pairing with The OmenDomaine Saint Damien produces a blood-red Gigondas wine from old vines.  Don't let your Rottweiler anywhere near the bottle.  Or your nanny.

Moby Dick, in 1956, cast Peck as the officer with a one-track mind, Captain Ahab.  John Huston directed and co-wrote the script with Ray Bradbury.  

Ahab's obsessive search for the elusive white whale is a character study like no other.  Everyone has their own obsessions, to one point or another.  The only thing I have in my life that compares to Ahab's fixation is my futile search for the original version of the 45 rpm record "Nyquil Blues," by Alvin Crow and his Pleasant Valley Boys.  That's my white whale.  Ye damned record!

Newport Vineyards had a blended wine known as White Whale, but the label has been dropped from the menu.  Too bad, that would have tied up this pairing with a bow.  Gray Whale Gin?  Off-color, but at least you can get it.  Let's go for a beer, from Massachusetts' Moby Dick Brewing Company.  I like the Ishm-Ale, but you can pick anything you like.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Never Better DIPA - San Diego Strikes Again

When I drink beer, it is usually an IPA, or India Pale Ale.  When I'm twice as thirsty, I make it a Double IPA.  Here's one I like a lot, which I ran across at my local Whole Foods Market.

Never Better DIPA hails from San Diego County, which is an area that has yet to disappoint me when it comes to brewing.  The Coronado Brewing Company is a family owned concern on San Diego's Coronado Island.  They have a tasting room and some sort of food service there, too, as I understand it.

This double IPA was made with four varieties of hops: Citra, Mosaic, Vic Secret and Simcoe.  Alcohol hits a lofty 8.1% abv.

The Never Better DIPA shows a beautiful golden-copper color in the glass and a rather hazy appearance.  The suds disappear quickly.  A nose of flowers, pine and citrus is quite inviting, and the palate brings the herbal angle home, along with malt and a slight bitterness, which lingers on the finish.  It's a smooth drinker, too, so the DIPA aspect and the comparatively high alcohol content does nothing to ruin the sipping experience.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Movies That Aren't Really Movies

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, a "very special" Blood of the Vines for the celebration of the USA's birthday.  The special that's not really special concerns movies that aren't really movies.  Pass the popcorn.

The 1974 film, Pardon My Blooper, presents the same sort of broadcast "misteaks" compiled by Kermit Schafer in his record albums of years previous.  Schafer probably popularized the word "blooper" - a flub or mistake by an announcer or actor - all by himself.  I had the "Pardon My Blooper" record in my teens, and was often amused by the entertaining cover art depicting a TV camera holding its lens, as if it had been punched in the face, and a radio microphone plugging its ears.  Well, I was easily amused in my teens.  I don't think that even then, the film version of Blooper would have held my interest for ten minutes.  It is amusing, though, to watch the staged segments in this movie.  The bad lighting is the same in all of them, and I think it's even the same actress in about half of them.

Yes, Virginia, the bloopers are phony.  Although Blooper is billed in the credits as a documentary, many of the gaffes were recreated in the studio, with limited casting and awful lighting.  Oh, the humanity.  

Celebrate the 4th of July with many clips of a guy who sounds like a newscaster saying "take a leak," instead of "take a look."  Spoonerisms, transposed words and saying "shitty" instead of "city."  That's blooper comedy, my friend.

You'll need booze to get through this one.  Fortunately, one of the more famous bloopers from early YouTube days concerned Georgia's Château Élan winery.  You can see it by Googling - or Binging, if you prefer - Grape Lady Epic Fail.  The TV reporter was trying to foot-stomp some grapes and took a tumble while doing so.  Try a Chambourcin, since that's what she stomping on when she slipped and fell.

Columbo Meets Scotland Yard was actually just a long TV show.  It aired in 1972 as the Columbo episode, "Dagger of the Mind," as one of the movie-length shows from the series.  This one has the disheveled detective in London, helping to investigate a murder.  What, not enough action in L.A. to suit Columbo?  At least his raincoat finally comes in handy.

Have a Scotch with Columbo, if only because of the meme showing a Columbo lookalike holding a Chivas Regal, under the words "so good if you have something to forget."  Of course, Columbo always remembered, if at the last minute.

Now, more television, as The Meanest Men in the West is actually two episodes of  "The Virginian" from the early '60s, TV's Western Era.  The trailer boasts that "Lee Marvin is mean, Charles Bronson is meaner."  What no mention of Chuck Norris?  The Mean Academy will have something to say about that. 

Is it just me, or was "The Virginian" the only TV series without any hooks at all?  (No offense to Lee J. Cobb fans).  I don't recall any Virginian catch phrases, running jokes, theme song or special episodes, even these two.  On a high note, one of the episodes was written and directed by Samuel Fuller and Charles Grodin appears in the other one.  Well, the series drew some great talent, so someone must have been watching it.

Gotta have a Virginia wine for the mean guys.  Stinson Vineyards makes a tough-guy rosé, from the brawny Tannat grape.  Rosé for The Meanest Men in the West?  That's why they started calling it Brosé, bro. 

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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Wildly Wonderful California Sauvignon Blanc

Crescere Vineyards is a Santa Rosa-based boutique winery.  Joe Reynoso says that they started out as farmers, then decided to make wine from their grapes which they had been selling to others.  Winemaker - and Bordeaux native - Philippe Melka has been there since Crescere's beginning.  The Crescere estate vineyard overlooks the Alexander Valley, up north of Geyserville, but this wine comes from land located a bit south of there.

The 2018 Crescere Sauvignon Blanc is made entirely from grapes grown in Kent Ritchie's vineyard in the Russian River Valley.  It's a very small plot - only five acres, planted among Chardonnay vines.  The Sauvignon Blanc vines are reportedly several decades old, producing concentrated fruit.  Crescere is the only winery making a single-vineyard SauvBlanc from the Ritchie Vineyard.

The label art was created by London-based artist Yehrin Tong.  It is made up of Fibonacci spirals, a fractal geometry design which is thought to embody the innate beauty of nature.

The wine is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes, which were whole-cluster pressed at the winery.  About two-thirds of the wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, but the rest was vinified in new French oak barrels.  Alcohol tips 14.4% abv and the wine retails for $60.

It is lightly tinted yellow-gold in the glass.  Its nose offers sweet stone fruit, tropical notes, citrus and a very faint grassy or herbal sense - just barely a hint.  The oak shows rather strongly on the palate, with a razor-sharp acidity, and both those elements seem to play off of one another.  Pineapple candy comes back on the finish.  This is an expensive Sauvignon Blanc, but it has a lot to offer.

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Monday, June 28, 2021

Hazy Little Thing Called Beer

The Hazy Little Thing IPA is made by the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company which is, according to the message on the can, "Family owned, operated and argued over."  The company is based in Chico, CA and has an operation in Mills River, NC.  It is becoming more common to find that West Coast breweries open up a shop in the east, presumably to cut down on shipping costs and deliver a fresher beer to their customers.  

Sierra Nevada says the Hazy Little Thing IPA is "aggressively dry-hopped and less filtered."  Why make it hazy?  They say the haze is where the flavor is.  Alcohol sits at 6.7% abv.

The nose of this beer is floral, citrusy and hoppy, as one would expect of a West Coast IPA.  The palate is so tart it's almost sour.  The citrus comes through plainly, while a malty aftertaste sneaks in after the sip is gone. It is quite a refreshing beer, one that would be great outside after doing some heavy lifting in the lawn and garden.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Nuclear Blowout

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 three films which deal with the atomic age, in one way or another.

When I did a Google search for 2017's Atomic Blonde - just to make sure I already knew everything - Google showed me a few questions being asked by others about the movie.  One of them was, "Is Atomic Blonde worth watching?"

If you need to ask Google if a movie suits you, you have probably been reading too many Google ads in your email inbox.  How about you take a flyer on your own sensibilities and wildly risk the two hours it takes to actually find out if it's worth it?  Besides, Charlize Theron is in it, ya idiot!  Why wouldn’t you watch?

Theron plays a late-1980s spy who is one of a large handful of spies chasing down a list of double agent spies.  There is quite a bit of pretty solid action, most of it involving Theron.  It is a rather complicated bit of scripting, however.  "Oh, gee, does that mean it’s not worth it?"  No, it doesn't.

The super spy of Atomic Blonde does not go for the James Bond type of alcoholic beverage.  She likes Stoli vodka, on ice.  There is no "shaken, not stirred" mystique with her choice.  It's cold and direct: just bring the ice and leave the bottle.

1954's The Atomic Kid stars Mickey Rooney as a guy prospecting for uranium in what is presumably the Nevada desert.  It sounds like "Andy Hardy Goes to Area 51."  Rooney was 34 at the time, and still playing roles defined as "kid."  The kid finds himself at ground zero for a nuclear test blast.  Don't worry - he closed his eyes and plugged his ears, so he survived.  He did become radioactive, however.  Hilarity ensues.  The script came from a story by Blake Edwards, who managed to shoehorn a love angle into the proceedings.  That is a helluva meet-cute.

Scientists say there is a little radioactivity in everything, including the wine we drink.  Don't worry about it, though - it's not enough radiation to make us glow in the dark.  Wouldn't that be fun, though?  I was in a bar once when a street team came in and handed out glow sticks.  The patrons promptly bit the ends off of them, and soon everyone was speckled with the glowing contents of those sticks.  Pop open a cold can of Nuclear Wine to pair with The Atomic Kid, the wine which says "Yes we CAN."  If you are still worried about the radiation, cop a move from Rooney's character.  Close your eyes and hold your nose while you drink.

A Boy and His Dog is a 1975 vision of post-nuclear war America in 2024.  Well we're getting pretty close to that time, so I suspect we should start looking for our jetpacks any day now.  It's always quaint when the future time depicted in a movie actually clicks over on the calendar, instantly dating the film.  But who am I to suggest that a nuclear war won't start and finish in the next three years? 

If it does, let's hope this movie's depiction of survival is wrong.  A Boy and His Dog is a black comedy starring a young Don Johnson as Vic, who travels the land with his telepathic dog, who helps Vic find women with whom he can satisfy his insatiable sexual appetite.  Now that's a puppy who is earning his Snausages.  However, Vic's methods are tainted with rape.   Food and sex, the tentpoles of the misogynistic future.

Some of the food would have to be Nuclear Winter barleywine.  It's a French craft beer with the influence of oak cognac barrels.  At 16% alcohol, you might think it's a wine.  After a few bottles, you might even think your dog is telepathic.  Just don’t start doing whatever he says.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Arrogant Bastard Ale

The makers of Arrogant Bastard Ale do all that they can to live up to their marketing.  On the can: "Drink Fresh Numbskull," and on the website: "You’re not worthy."  There is an accompanying monologue which lambastes the makers of "fizzy yellow beer" and the numbskulls who drink it.

The can also reads: "True arrogant bastards refuse to be ignorant.  Know where your beer comes from!"  In the interest of being as arrogant as possible, this beer comes from Escondido, California.  I have yet to try a beer from San Diego County that I did not like, at least a little bit.  Most of them I like a lot.  Like this arrogant bastard.  

It is brewed and canned by Arrogant Consortia, Escondido, CA and Richmond, VA, so they are bicoastally arrogant.  It is actually a subset of Stone Brewing, which launched Arrogant Bastard in 1997, and for my money Stone is the best damn brewery around.  Arrogant alcohol tips 7.2% abv.

Arrogant Bastard Ale is a strong American ale, dark and malty and laced with a caramel note. It is dark enough to be getting close to porter territory.  The palate is slightly bitter and carries a nutty sensibility that is completely charming.  

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Monday, June 21, 2021

Two Wines From Sicily

This is the final installment in my virtual tour of Italy.  The wines I have covered - all 48 of them - were mostly Tre Bicchieri award winners from Gambero Rosso, the international Italian wine guide.  Tasting four dozen Italian wines over several Zoom meetings was exactly what I needed to spice up my socially distanced life back in March.  In fact, I'll do it again any time.  With pleasure.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso Archineri 2017 is made completely from the Sicilian grape Nerello Mascalese.  Some people feel it is a lot like Pinot Noir, but I find it a lot livelier, more muscular than a typical Pinot.  The vines from which these grapes came are 80 to 90 years old - prephylloxera - on the northern slopes of Mt. Etna.  

Owner Michele Faro spoke fondly of the volcanic soil during the Zoom gathering and he even brought some freshly fallen volcanic ash with him as show-and-tell.

The wine was aged 14 months in French oak tonneaux, has alcohol at 15% abv and sells for around $40.

This wine does a little Pinot Noir act, medium ruby in the glass with earthy red fruit on the nose.  The nose also offers notes of coffee, sage and eucalyptus.  The palate definitely shows the volcanic origin along with spice and pepper, plus a firm tannic structure and a ripping acidity.  The sip finishes clean and savory.  Very tasty.

Cottanera Etna Rosso Feudo di Mezzo

From Sicily again, 100% Nerello Mascalese which was aged 14 to 16 months in French oak casks, then 18 months in the bottle.  Alcohol is tamer in this one, 13.5% abv, and it averages around $26 on the cash register.

This wine is medium ruby in the glass and smells of raspberry, cherry, anise and an earthy note.  The palate is like a more savory take on Pinot Noir, with coffee, red fruit and spicy herbs.  The tannins are very firm and the acidity is fresh.  There is a long finish which carries the red fruit back.  If it's an outdoor occasion this summer, the Cottanera takes a chill well.

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Friday, June 18, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - R.I.P. Ned Beatty

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 remember three movies which featured Ned Beatty, who passed away recently.

One of the most successful films of 1972 was Deliverance, directed by John Boorman.  Ned Beatty played one of the less experienced of four thrill seekers who got tired of "walkin' 'round Atlanta in their alligator shoes" and decided to get out of their man caves and raft down a Georgia river.  Well, Ned's character got experienced real quick.  The infamous "squeal like a pig" scene is one that nobody seemed to like, but it's the one thing everybody remembers about the movie. 

The Georgia setting may have you wondering which was worse, the heat or the humidity, but the wine could save the day.  Georgia's Tiger Mountain Vineyards produces quite an array of really good wines, including bottlings of the Norton, Tannat and Petit Manseng grapes.

Robert Altman's Nashville caused quite a stir in 1975.  Critics praised it up and down as an insightful look at American politics through the lens of country music.  Then, complaints started rolling in about the film's cynicism.  Really?  How would one combine American politics with country music without a heapin' helpin' of cynicism?

Ned Beatty's redneck lawyer Delbert Reese is a role that was right up his alley.  If you're taking a cynical look at American politics and country music, you'd better have a lawyer handy - the smarmier the better.

Tennessee's Grinder's Switch Winery now has a tasting room in Nashville.  They seem fairly sincere - no cynicism on the menu - when they offer their grape wines mixed with the juice of other fruit, like blackberries and elderberries.

Network in 1976 brought cynicism to a higher status.  A man was killed because he got lousy ratings - how cynical can it get?  Beatty put a fine point on it as TV exec Arthur Jensen, who screams at Howard Beale - one angry man to another - that he won't stand for Beale meddling "with the primal forces of nature."  The role brought Beatty his only Oscar nomination.  When he rattled off a list of big American corporations as the new "nations of the world," I believed him.

It's been reported that theaters which show Network these days are sometimes throwing a party featuring a Mad As Hell cocktail - Bulleit Bourbon, Kings Ginger Liqueur, Cochi Americano vermouth and a dash of lemon juice and sugar.  As my neighborhood bartender used to say before he couldn't take it anymore, "schlagers!"

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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Chillable Red Wines For Summer

Summertime's warm weather and outside gatherings always leave people throwing a case of beer into a washtub of ice.  Red wines typically don't translate well to a backyard barbecue.  However, here are a pair of reds that take a chill very well.

They are made by Thacher Winery and Vineyard, a boutique producer in Paso Robles' west side.  Winemaker Sherman Thacher and Assistant Winemaker Daniel Callan are working with an admirable collection of grapes, from Chenin Blanc to Cinsault, from Négrette to Nebbiolo, from Viognier to Valdiguié.

The Thacher 2019 Cinsault was grown in the Glenrose Vineyard in Paso's Adelaida District.  Those Cinsault grapes came from a cutting taken off of a vine that was in an old UC Davis experimental station, a vineyard which had fallen from university ownership in the early 1900s yet was rediscovered in 1961 and found to be thriving.

The grapes were foot trodden and fermented whole cluster.  The wine was allowed to achieve malolactic fermentation in neutral oak barrels for four months, then racked into large concrete tanks where it aged for a year.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the wine retails for $36.

This wine has a medium garnet tint to it, but is full red, not rosato red.  The nose is amazing - there is a bit of raspberry, a touch of redwood and a hint of cinnamon.  I don't recall ever smelling a wine like it.  On the palate, again, amazing.  Red berries of some sort dominate - like the kind we would pick along the railroad tracks in East Texas - and there is a mild tartness and peppery quality.  The tannins are firm enough for those burgers from the grill and the acidity is refreshing.  Chill this for your backyard barbecues and everyone will want to know what it is, and where they can get some.

Thacher’s 2020 Valdiguié Nouveau hails from the Paso Robles Highlands District, the Shell Creek Vineyard.  For a century, Valdiguié was thought to be a clone of the Gamay grape, grown in Beaujolais.  It was known as Napa Gamay.  Growers and winemakers love it, but most of the vines were ripped out when Cabernet Sauvignon became the grape of the day in California wine.  It is almost extinct today.

The grapes were fermented as in a Beaujolais Nouveau - carbonic fermentation in a tank, whole cluster, and spent seven weeks on the stems and skins.  The wine was then racked to neutral oak, where malolactic fermentation happened.  The wine stayed in oak for five months.  Alcohol is low, at 12% abv and it retails for $28.

This wine is medium dark red in the glass and has a nose of strawberry and cherry, with an earthy element added to it - sort of a Beaujolais feel.  The palate offers up brilliant cherry notes and a racy acidity, along with rather firm tannins.  The oak treatment - only five months neutral - make this a great choice for backyard cookouts this summer.  Don't be afraid to ice down this unusual grape.  Valdiguié is almost extinct, I'm told.  It was once called Napa Gamay.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Two Special Primitivo Wines From Puglia

Today we go back to Manduria, in Puglia, the heel of Italy's boot.  The Gambero Rosso virtual tasting event has already covered a number of Primitivo di Manduria wines, but these two are special.

Felline Primitivo di Manduria Zinfandel Sinfarosa Terra Nera 2017

Feline's Gregory Perrucci spoke during the online event about how Ridge is one of his favorite California producers of Zinfandel.  He said "now it can be told" that he visited the winery and brought back a cutting from the Geyserville vineyard.  He grafted it to one of his Primitivo di Manduria vines, and so he uses both the Italian and American names for the grape on the Sinfarosa label.

The Felline website refers to this particular grape as "Zinfandel Californiano," but it is properly identified on the label as Primitivo di Manduria.  even the label art recalls a poster from the old American west.  The label also bears the name of the production area, Terra Nera.  The Felline "hybrid" was aged for six months in French and American oak.  It carries a walloping 15% abv in alcohol and sells for less than $20.

This wine is medium-dark in the glass, and full-blown dark on the nose.  Aromas of black fruit leap out first, but the tar notes follow quickly.  It has a peppery smell to it and a healthy amount of chocolate and cigar box.  The palate is full and lush.  Blackberry notes, anise, mocha and bramble all join together with firm tannins and a lengthy finish.  I want a steak with this one, but a sausage and pasta dish would be nice, too.  You can also enjoy it by itself as it is quite sip-worthy.

Coppi Gioia del Colle Primitivo Senatore 2017

The Coppi Winery started in Puglia in 1882 and has passed through several hands over the years.  Antonio Coppi entered the cellar in the late 1960s, producing wines grown in the stony soil of the hills of the "Murgia dei Trulli."  The winery proudly declares that they are "in the cradle of the Primitivo DOC Gioia del Colle."  Coppi would go on to become a senator, with the Senatore wine named in honor of that achievement.  His daughters and son are involved in the business today.

The Coppi family still carries a chip on their shoulder about how Apulian wines have been "mistreated and snubbed" by the mainstream Italian wine industry.  It is the company's aim to restore "dignity and prestige" to the region through their wines.  In addition to Primitivo, the Coppi vineyards also hold grape varieties like Aleatico, Verdeca, Malvasia, Negroamaro, and Falanghina.

The 2017 Senatore was fermented in steel tanks, then aged for a year in Slavonian oak barrels.  Alcohol is restrained at 13.5% abv and the wine typically sells for around $25.

The wine is quite dark in the glass but is also very closed off on the nose.  There is some black plum and some tar, but it is surprisingly faint.  The palate isn't shy about showing its dark fruit with a layer of savory spice and anise over it.  The tannins are not forceful, so pairing with pasta is a cinch, or just sip it.  It is very tasty and smooth, and has a lengthy finish.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Italian Wine - Aglianico From Campagnia

Today we continue a virtual trip through Italy provided by wine guide Gambero Rosso, who staged the online tasting event recently.

The Donnachiara winery is located in Campagnia, home to Naples, Salerno, Mt. Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast.  The company is located in the province of Avellino, within the Irpinia appellation.  The business has a mostly female power structure, with owner Chiara Petitto delegating CEO duties to her daughter, Ilaria.  

Taurasi is one of the region's three DOCG wines, all of which are made by Donnachiara.  The 2016 Donnachiara Taurasi was made from 100% Aglianico grapes, harvested by hand and  fermented in steel tanks, then transferred to barriques, where malolactic fermentation took place.  The wine aged for a year in oak and a year inside the bottle.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the wine retails for around $36.

This wine is medium-dark in the glass and offers up a perfumed nose of red fruit, sweet oak spice, smoke and hint of spearmint.  The palate is just as delightful, with cherries, raspberries and red currant flavors joining together.  The tannins are sweet, while the finish is medium length and savory.  It was great with an Italian sub sandwich and also a hit with arancini and fennel-laced meatballs.