Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Pairing Sherry With Halloween Candy

It may, or may not, surprise you to learn that Halloween candy isn't just for Halloween - and it isn't just for kids, either.  Hershey reports that nearly half of Halloween candy sales are made by people buying treats for themselves.  

Since I write more about wine than candy, I'll explore some pairing ideas for various types of Halloween candy with sherry.  With trick-or-treating presumably at a minimum this year due to the pandemic, just break open the candy bags for you and the kids and pop the cork on a sherry for yourself.  Safer at home.

Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso  -- SRP $25

Nick Africano, Founder of En Rama LLC New York, says he finds one candy-and-sherry pairing to be a no-brainer.  "Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are a classic American candy," he says.  "Now try them alongside a sip of another classic: Oloroso Sherry."  Africano believes that Oloroso is sherry's "gateway to the American palate."   "The Alfonso Oloroso from the iconic Gonzalez Byass family with its dark notes of toasted pecan, old wood, and burnt orange is not only a harmonious match for the nutty, chocolatey, Reese's cups, but simultaneously serves as a poignant introduction to one of the world's best beverages: Sherry!"

Peanuts also play a role in the pairing for Washington DC-based Chantal Tseng, Founder of Custom Cocktails for the End of Times and US Sherry Week Ambassador.  She recommends Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso and PayDay Bars, a salted peanut bar held together with nougat-caramel.

Gonzalez Byass Nectar PX -- SRP $25

A more adventurous pairing comes from Cheryl Wakerhauser, Owner, Executive Chef and Wine Director of Pix Patisserie and Bar Vivant, in Portland, Oregon.  "The full-bodied opulence of the Pedro Ximénez is calling for something to contrast it with, such as the crunchy outer shell of a Good & Plenty," she says.  "The licorice flavor of the candy brings forward the hint of savory, black olive notes in the wine."

Harveys Bristol Cream -- SRP $20

"So, you want to feel responsible with your candy cravings?" remarks Kat Thomas, Wine Goddess LV from Las Vegas. "I've got the perfect treat (no tricks here). Unwrap a Chunky Bar and let yourself find the flow in a nutty, sweet, and responsibly balanced bite. Dried fruit and sweet chocolate find their safe place nestled in this Sherry's 'legs'... and if you can't do peanuts, feed the flow with Raisinettes."  Pair the goodies with Harveys Bristol Cream.

Hopefully your Halloween will be a safe one, a happy one, and one full of candy - and sherry.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, October 26, 2020

Winning Hand From Spain

A trusted importer is a great place to look for exceptional wines.  Ace Kicker Big Bet Blend is brought to us from Spain by Gonzalez Byass.  The wine is a six-grape mix designated as Vino de la Tierra, from Castilla.  The grapes are 34% Cabernet Franc, 27% Syrah, 15% Petit Verdot, 12% Tempranillo, 7% Graciano and 5% Garnacha.  The wine was aged for eight months in French and American oak barrels.  Alcohol hits 14% abv and the retail price is $15.

The importer says the wine was "born in Spain and raised in a casino," and that it pairs well with steaks and winning hands.

The quality level of Vino de la Tierra is a notch below the typical D.O. designation for Spanish wine.

This Spanish red blend is medium dark and has a nose that is loaded with red fruit, peppery herbs and smoke.  The fruit forward palate has eight months of oak showing and a firm set of tannins.  The flavors are deep and quite juicy.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, October 23, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - A Hitch Not A Glitch

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  What better trio of films to receive a wine pairing than a handful of Hitchcocks.

If you're a fan of Alfred Hitchcock's films - and you'd better be - you know there's going to be some drinking going on.  Nearly all his dozens of movies have his characters using booze to brace themselves, lighten themselves or heal themselves.  Hitchcock was a fine wine connoisseur, he loved the juice of the grape so much that he bought an estate in the Santa Cruz mountains.  It's now a winery, by the way.

Notorious, from 1946, started out as a David O. Selznick project.  He sold the movie to RKO after trying unsuccessfully to get a hit song included in the soundtrack.  One of his song ideas was reportedly "Don't Give Any More Beer to My Father," which is a hit I think the world really missed out on.

This is one of several high-water marks of drinking in Hitchcock films.  Ingrid Bergman's character says to a party guest who claims to have "had enough," "The important drinking hasn't started yet."  She is also seen drinking a fizzy hangover cure in the morning, after some of that "important drinking," no doubt.

A fancy French wine is used as a hiding place for some Nazi uranium ore in Notorious.  When Cary Grant drops that bottle of 1934 Volnay Caillerets Bouchard, my heart skips a beat every time I see it. "Not the premier cru!"  The black dust gets swept under the wine rack without so much as a rubber glove for protection.

So, the wine pairing for Notorious is all spelled out for us.  You can find a recent vintage of Volnay Caillerets Bouchard for $50 to $60, but for the 1934 vintage you'll have to go to auction, so expect to spend a lot more.  Louis Jadot has a Pommard which sells for around $40, and that appears to be the bottom end for that appellation. 

1972's Frenzy is about a London serial killer who strangles his victims with his own tie.  Before you jump to the conclusion that such an idiot move means he was drunk at the time, consider that he wore a tie pin which had his name on it.  "Oh, so he was high, too?"  

Tying himself to the crimes even tighter, the criminal uses a trunkful of circumstantial evidence to try and frame his friend for the killings.  Well, what are friends for, anyway?  The television series The Fugitive was only a five-year-old memory at the time.  So, Frenzy's framee becomes a fugitive trying to prove his innocence, while the framer is left making sure he still has both arms.

Look to New Zealand for this wine pairing - Marlborough's Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc.  The Kiwi acidity is refreshing enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, even if the film fails to do so.

The 1964 thriller Marnie may be one of Hitchcock's most misunderstood efforts.  Knocked by a lot of critics at the time, it was well-received at the box office and has maintained a so-so ranking among movie buffs over time.  Much criticism was given to the two relative unknowns Hitch cast in the lead roles - Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery.  He gave Hedren the role while The Birds was still in production.  Suffice it to say the actors didn't remain unknown for long.

Viewers often balk at the characters - Hedren as an embezzler and Connery as a businessman who hires her, even though he knows about her past.  Of course, she robs him, too.  Of course they marry.  Of course, it’s complicated.  You can say that about any honeymoon involving a rape and a suicide attempt, I suppose.  The rape scene was apparently what Hitchcock liked best about the script, which gives us a view of the master through the "creepy misogynist" filter.

Let's get a wine pairing from Hitch's very own California land.  His former Santa Cruz Mountains home is now called Heart O’ the Mountain Estate.  Today, they make Pinot Noir wines that sell for around $50 and a Chardonnay that goes for a little less.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Savory Rias Baixas Albariño

Spain's Rias Baixas region is the home of the Albariño grape, the sometimes floral, always fruity white wine grape which thrives in the country's northwest corner.  Albariño is not only a delicious white wine on its own, but it is one of the more food-friendly grapes you’ll find.  In fact, Albariño seems to crave a food pairing so it can show its best.  

The 2018 Eidosela Albariño was made from grapes grown in the Condado do Tea sub-region.  The destemmed fruit is crushed, pressed, decanted, filtered, fermented, racked and cold stabilized at the winery, then filtered again.  Alcohol content is Albariño's usual 13% abv, while the wine sells for less than $20.

This Spanish wine has a medium-pale golden hue in the glass.  The nose is more fruity than floral, with apricots and citrus in the forefront.  A salinity hovers over the fruit, giving the aromas a nice savory angle.  That savory side shows up for real on the palate, with a racy acidity to go along with it.  Pair this with shellfish and enjoy.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, October 19, 2020

Sweet Piedmont Mosketto Wines

There is a big market these days for sweet wines.  Sweet in the sense that they are not dry, but not exactly dessert style.  These three Mosketto wines - from Bronco Wines - should appeal to those looking for low-alcohol beverages in the White Claw vein.  I was not bowled over by complexity in these wines, but for sweet, fizzy fun, they fit perfectly.  All three were made with grapes from Italy's Piedmont region, Moscato and Brachetto.  All three also hit only 5% abv for alcohol content and they all sell for $12.  Don’t pair them with dessert, by the way - they go better with salty snacks.

Mosketto Frizzante Bianco

This one is all Moscato.  The wine is actually a partially fermented grape juice.  Sweet on the nose, sweet on the palate - with a bit of fizz thrown in to make it feel more like a party.  This is a wine for gulping by the pool, not a wine for ruminating upon.  

Mosketto Frizzante Rosato

Combining Moscato and Brachetto grapes, this one is a little more tart on the nose, but with the same sweet palate.

Mosketto Frizzante Rosso

All Brachetto here.  The wine is much earthier than the previous selections, and actually quite tasty.

The Mosketto wines are imported by Mack and Schuhle of Miami.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Crime Spree

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  Crime is a hot topic in the movies, but be careful - you don't always know who the criminals are.

Clay Pigeon didn't exactly set 1971 on fire, but if it had, it would have been liable for more serious crimes than artistic ones.  Plus, in the pairing-wine-with-movies biz, it's always touch-and-go when dealing with a film involving substance abuse.  The laughs don't exactly fall out of the balcony.  

This movie starred Tom Stern, who also co-directed with Lane Slate.  You may know Stern as the one-time husband of Samantha Eggar, or he may be on your radar for being what IMDb calls the "Orson Welles of '60s biker movies."  Citizen Knucklehead, anyone?

In Clay Pigeon, Stern was a Vietnam vet who wanted to kick hard drugs.  An admirable pursuit, and one that would be hard enough without CIA goon Telly Savalas leaning on him to help take down drug kingpin Robert Vaughn.  A lot of actors in Clay Pigeon had to master the art of looking like a dead body - a time honored Hollywood skill set.

Savalas was very proud of his Greek heritage, so a Greek wine might be a nice pairing with Clay Pigeon.  Skip the Retsina - that beverage you might sample at a Greek church festival.  It tastes like a pine tree, and not in a good way, if there is a good way to taste like a pine tree.  Try a bottle of Nu Greek Wine of Sonoma.  It is made in Greece and shipped to Sonoma where it is bottled.

1988's The Dead Pool was the fifth and final movie to feature Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry character.  Harry Callahan gets to assert his dislike of criminals and the media in more or less equal measure.  The story centers on a friendly wager over premature celebrity deaths.  The bet becomes an issue for Harry when he becomes one of the celebrities and murder becomes a way to fix the betting line.

Eastwood was once the mayor of Carmel, California, so a Monterey wine would be an appropriate match.  He told interviewers that he preferred to drink Chardonnay, so let's grab one from Bernardus, which has several good Chards in the 30 to 50 dollar range.

Prime Cut was a dark 1972 glimpse of the underbelly of the underworld in the American Midwest.  Director Michael Ritchie - before Bad News Bears - manages to juxtapose the sex trade with slaughterhouses, and it doesn't seem like that much of a reach.  Anyhow, it stars Lee Marvin as mob muscle and Gene Hackman as a miscreant meatpacker.  You had me at Lee Marvin.  And Gene Hackman.

For some reason, the scene that stuck in my seventeen-year-old mind was Marvin looking over Hackman as he tore through a hideous looking plate of food.  "You eat guts," says Marvin.  Hackman replies, with a mouthful of food, "Yeah. I like ‘em."  Then Marvin blocks the plate and says "Talk now, eat later."  The scene leaves me with mixed feelings about sausage.

We will want a wine for Prime Cut which pairs nicely with midwestern beef.  You may opt for a Napa Cab - nothing wrong with that choice if you are afraid to branch out.  I'll go out on a limb for Zinfandel without any prompting.  Beekeeper Zinfandel hails from Sonoma County and will face off against any Cab, anytime.  And, people who wear labcoats to work say red wine is not only good with guts, but also good for your gut health.  Cheers.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Going For Broke - Zinfandel-Heavy Red Blend

Paydirt winery's Going For Broke red blend embraces the notion that "risking it all brings about the greatest reward."  This is a Zinfandel-heavy mix with six other grapes involved.  The breakdown looks like this: 81% Zinfandel, 6% Grenache, 4% Petite Sirah, 3% Syrah, 2% Mourvedre, 2% Barbera and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon.

The fruit came largely from Paso Robles' Westside Hills, but contributions were also made by Napa Valley, Alexander Valley, Sonoma Valley, Amador, Lodi and Marin County.  Specific vineyard sites include Gravity Hills, Dusi Vineyard, Hastings Ranch, Paso Ono Vineyard, Terra Bella, Clevenger Ranch, Shadow Canyon, and Alta Colina. 

The interesting label art wraps around the bottle and depicts what seems to be a variety of "going for broke" facial expressions in what is likely a coastal California Gold Rush scene.

Winemaker McPrice Myers says the de-stemmed grapes were fermented in stainless steel and small open-top bins with 20 days of skin contact.  Aging took place over 12 months in mostly neutral French oak barrels.  Alcohol is up there - 15.2% abv - and the retail price is $25.

The medium-dark wine smells of ripe, red fruit dotted with peppery, herbal notes.  There are whiffs of vanilla, cedar and cigars as well.  The palate shows the red berries plainly, along with a tongue-tingling acidity and toothy tannins.  A lengthy decant is useful, if not required, before enjoying.  Pair the wine with the red meat of your choice.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, October 12, 2020

Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Brings Sense Of Place

Eight winemakers from different parts of the world recently got together, virtually, to show the diversity of flavor and style that come from unique places, landscapes and, micro-climates. 

The debut webinar, "Unique Regions of the World," featured wines from France's Loire Valley, Germany, Sardinia, Chile, Australia, Portugal and two California regions, Napa Valley and Paso Robles.

The 2017 Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon, from Napa Valley's Oak Knoll District, represents its area quite well.  The winery stands on the grounds of the former Silverado Horseman's Center, hence the equine branding.  

Director of Winemaking Ralf Holdenried says, "winemaking begins in the vineyard.  Location, climate, soils, picking decisions are all important factors that determine the quality of our wine."  This wine brings an alcohol level of 15% abv and has a retail price of $60.

This Napa Cab sits dark in the glass, emitting aromas of black cherry, cassis, anise, vanilla and some pencil lead.  It's a remarkably fresh wine, with a racy acidity and very firm tannins.  Dark red fruit on the palate is layered with a savory backbeat which lingers on the lengthy finish.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Speed Crazy

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  And watch your speed, unless you want to be breaking news.

2019's Ford v Ferrari is a gearhead's movie.  A speed freak's movie.  A Ford man's movie.  Keep your Chevys in the garage and your Found-On-Road-Dead jokes to yourself while the Shelby Ford GT40 screams down the straightaway like a rocket.  The film is based on the effort of designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles to rudely knock Ferrari off its throne at Le Mans.  Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca made it a grudge match to embarrass Enzo Ferrari after he flipped them off in a failed buyout.

The film stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale, which means it was halfway to success from the green flag.  It got quite a lot of attention in the awards season and is a good film for those who like their movies with the sound of pistons and the smell of exhaust, should there be any streaming devices featuring smells as part of the monthly plan.  The racing scenes at Le Mans are thrilling, and you'll be glad you have a nice beverage at your side as your feet instinctively try to work the brakes and gas.

We'll opt here for a wine from Lodi-based Gravelly Ford.  Their red blend features Petite Sirah, Ruby Cabernet and Syrah.  And, for me at least, it conjures up a vision of a hot car throwing up gravel behind it, rear wheels spinning like lathes.

Pit Stop, from 1969, is a little-known but well-admired film about figure-eight racing.  In that sport, the track has an intersection at the center, where a multitude of crashes are promised to the paying customers as the racers cross paths.  The title was the third choice, after The Winner and Winning.  Turns out, by the way, there is no pit stop featured in the movie.

The one-sheet for the film tried to make a lot more hay from a pit stop than there actually was.  "Crash-O-Rama,"  "Raw Guts for Glory," "Flesh Against Steel" - they sound like attempts to whip up some manufactured excitement.  It would hardly seem necessary, in a race where there is a dedicated crash site right in the middle of the track.

It's amazing how many liquor stores are called The Pit Stop, or some variation.  Is there no tip of the hat to the avoidance of drinking and driving?  "I'll just pick up a flask for the high-speed chase that is sure to result on the way home."   Everyone wants to be breaking news anymore.

Adobe Road Winery has a line called The Racing Series.  Owner Kevin Buckler married his passion for racing to his love of wine.  The wines - Redline, Shift, The 24 and Apex - are California-grown.

1975's White Line Fever is not so much speed crazy, just plain crazy.  The film was reportedly green-lighted after the success of the blaxploitation film, Truck Turner.  The studio exec apparently thought Truck Turner was about trucks.  Look, you have access to a screening room - use it.

White Line Fever mixes big rigs with organized crime and throws in a driver who wants to blow the lid off the whole thing.  Sort of a modern-day shoot-em-up western on wheels - big wheels - 18 of 'em.

There is a crazy story from earlier this year about a guy in Turlock, California who flagged down a tanker truck hauling wine, then opened a valve and started guzzling.  That's what I call getting hard up for a drink.  He must have had red wine fever.

For pairing with White Line Fever, let’s look at a wine brand which has a big rig connection.  Mack Trucks makes a big deal about how they haul Bronco Wines from California's Central Valley to a supermarket bottom shelf near you.  They may even drive right through Turlock, California.  Even though the hero in White Line Fever named his truck the Blue Mule, we'll pair the film with Red Truck Pinot Grigio.  Please wipe off the valve after you're done guzzling.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Two Incredible German Riesling Wines

Two wonderful Riesling wines have come my way as part of an online virtual tasting event, each of which demonstrate what there is to love about the different styles of Riesling wine.

Many consumers have a difficult time buying Riesling wines, in part because of the labeling of German wines.  American Riesling producers often put a "sweetness meter" on the label, to help show the wine buyer what's in the bottle.  That is a seldom-seen help on German bottlings.

Schloss Johannisberg bills themselves on the label and the website as "the first Riesling wine estate of the world," born from "1200 years of wine culture."  During the 18th century, the grapes were brought back from harvest to the winery late, infected with noble rot.  Surprise … they liked it that way.  They liked it so much, they put up a statue of the tardy grape carrier.  This wine has an extremely low alcohol content of 8% abv.  It retails for $60.

The 2016 Schloss Johannisberg Rheingau Grünlack Spätlese Riesling wine is made from late-harvested grapes, so it is sweet (spätlese.)  However, it is sweet in a different way than a dessert wine is sweet.  There is no layered sugar, no raisiny note.  I get the sweetness of the grapes, but also the minerals which accompany them.  Stone fruit is apparent, as is the smell of a wet driveway, a whiff of ozone and the faint petrol notes that begin to show in Rieslings over time.  This may be one of the best sweet examples of the grape that I have had. 

The 2018 Schloss Johannisberg Silberlack Trocken is Rheingau Riesling done in the dry style (trocken.)  The wine has a higher, but still quite reasonable alcohol content of 12.5% abv.  It retails for $90.

This wine is dry.  Its nose gives minerals, apricot, a bit of lemon and some slate.  On the palate, acidity is fresh and the minerality is up front.  It is a great Riesling to pair with oysters or crab cakes.  

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, October 5, 2020

Red Blend From Sardinia

Today's wine comes from the Italian isle of Sardinia.  The 2015 Barrua Isola Dei Nuraghi  is made mainly from the Carignano grape (85%) with splashes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot thrown into the mix.  The grapes were grown on Sardinia's southwest corner, in the Sulcis and Iglesiente regions, the Barrua and Narcao vineyards.  Alcohol is a lofty 15% abv and the wine sells in the $40 range.  It is imported in the U.S. by Kobrand.

Carignano, is known in its native Spain as Carignane, a grape which the winery identifies as being known for its elegant and velvety tannins.  The 2015 vintage was reportedly a good season - there were only a few days of rain in late September which had no effect on the grapes. 

This Sardinian wine is extremely dark and smells of tart, red fruit and a strong herbal accent.  It really has a wonderful nose.  The palate comes on a bit riper, but not much.  The acidity is quite fresh and racy, while the tannins are firm enough, but do not get in the way.  Pair this wine with salami.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Michael Chapman Week

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  This week we mourn the loss of cinematographer Michael Chapman, who passed away recently at his Los Angeles home.

If you like the way 1976's Taxi Driver or 1980's Raging Bull looks on the big screen - or on the handheld device you are likely using during the pandemic - you may want to credit Michael Chapman as much as Martin Scorsese for that appearance.  Chapman gave a singular look and feel to those films through his cinematography.  

In Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle's cab becomes an urban spaceship, creeping through the hell of the Big Apple's dark, mean streets.  With its ultra-violence, vigilantism and child prostitution, this was not a good "date night" movie.  In Raging Bull, the stark black-and-white images leap from the screen as if we are thumbing through Life magazine in the 1940s.  Bull was the antidote to what Scorsese felt was the career poison of New York, New York.

I don’t imagine Bickle being a wine drinker, unless Betsy was having one.  He would probably order wine only by color, anyway - red or white.  You talkin' to me, barkeep?  Let's pair the booze with his haircut.  The Mohawk Spirits Distillery of upstate New York makes liqueurs that run the alcohol up to 30%.  That could be enough to warm someone up to a first-date porn film.

For Raging Bull, try Bigardo's Experimental Red Wine.  It not only hails from Spain's Toro region, it has the hand gesture for bull horns on its label.

Chapman also worked with Scorsese on the last hurrah for The Band.  The filming of the 1976 Thanksgiving concert called The Last Waltz was a technical achievement for its day.  The star-studded concert was captured by nine cameras running simultaneously.  Just babysitting them was enough of a job - not to mention making sure they all had film in them.  

There is no wine for The Band in the massive lineup offered by Wines That Rock, but you’ll be in good company for a once-in-a-lifetime rock experience.  Try the Grateful Dead wine, even though Robbie Robertson and his crew were not known as jammers.  

The 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers also had Chapman in the cinematographer's chair.  A remake of the 1956 horror classic, the movie centers on replicants who look like actual people but are without any human emotion.  Think Republican senators, if you need a reference point.  

The San Francisco setting means we can look to Bluxome Street Winery - an urban winery in SOMA which serves up a bit of local history in addition to its Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Israeli Wine: Chardonnay

This week, we are looking into two worthwhile wines made in Israel.  Both are kosher and both are very well made and tasty.

The Segal Wild Fermentation Chardonnay 2019 hails from Galilee, where native yeast was used to ferment it, which chief winemaker Ido Lewinsohn says brings forward "unique aromas and rich flavors."  Alcohol is quite restrained at 12% abv and the wine sells for around $20.  It is kosher.

This Galilee wine offers up some nice Chardonnay notes - Meyer lemon, orange peel, wet rocks, some French oak spice.  The palate follows suit.  The oak is not overdone, it is a welcome part of the flavor profile.  The acidity is fresh, but not zippy.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Israeli Wine: Marselan

This week, we are looking into two worthwhile wines made in Israel.  Both are kosher, both are imported by Royal Wine, and both are very well made and tasty.

Tabor Marselan Revadim Vineyard 2016 is made from a grape with which you may not be familiar. - Marselan.  Marselan is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, first bred in France in 1961.  This example from Tabor is a single-vineyard selection, grown in the Judean Hills along the peaks of the Judean Mountains at around 900 feet in elevation.  Alcohol hits 13% abv and it sells for less than $20.

Red fruit dominates the nose - cherries and raspberries, mostly - and it is quite earthy.  The palate is fresh with acidity and bursting with fruit flavor.  There is a touch of oak, but it is not overplayed and it fits well into the wine’s profile.  

Friday, September 25, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - African Kings And Queens

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌  ‌We're pairing wines with films about African kings and queens this week, a royally pleasurable pandemic diversion.

Zulu Dawn was the 1979 prequel to 1964's ZuluZulu Dawn is about the 1879 Battle of Isandlwana, in which some 20,000 Zulu warriors decimated the British military in South Africa.  Incredibly, Zulu was about the Battle of Rorke's Drift, later that same day, in which the British repelled a somewhat smaller attacking force.  That's what you call getting the most from your source material.

Michael Caine appeared in the 1964 film, which was narrated by Richard Burton.  Fifteen years later, the stars came out for Zulu Dawn, with the likes of Peter O'Toole, Burt Lancaster and John Mills starring.  Trouble is, people didn't seem to like the latter movie as much as the earlier one.

A South African wine is what we want to pair with Zulu Dawn, and Zulu,  for that matter.  The nation's notable grape, Pinotage, makes an earthy wine that's blood-red.  Pinotage has taken a lot of criticism through the years for smelling of paint and tasting like rusty nails.  Let's call it an acquired taste.  Spier Pinotage is described in notes befitting a Merlot or Shiraz, and costs 75 South African Rand - about five bucks.

If you'd like to sample some of South Africa's lovely white wines for Zulu, try Man Family Wines Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc, probably around $10 each.

The African Queen features Hollywood royalty - Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, namely.  The 1951 classic won Bogie his only Oscar.  The film is set in German East Africa, in 1914, as Germany and Britain enter into WWI.  Bogart's boat - The African Queen - turns into an action-packed river cruise, charged with getting him and Hepburn in position to attack a German gunboat.  

Hepburn's character dumps Bogart's supply of gin overboard at one point, and we have to dock her for that grievous error.  It is noted that Bogart and director John Huston were the only two cast members who didn't get sick with dysentery.  That's because they reportedly lived on Scotch whisky during the shooting schedule.  L'Chaim.

I'd like to suggest pairing Hendrick's Gin with The African Queen, not merely because the striking apothecary bottle makes it look like medicine.  Hepburn's character is named Rose, and the cucumber and rose notes in Hendrick's are as delicate as Hepburn was tough.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Value Bubbles From The Loire Valley

You've heard the phrase Champagne taste for the price of a beer?  What that refers to is a good quality French sparkling wine at a lower-than-Champagne cost.  When sparkling wine is made in the Champagne region, it's called Champagne.  Made elsewhere in France, it's called crèment, and it is where you find bubbly value.

The non-vintage Bouvet Rosé Excellence is a sparkling wine from Bouvet-Ladubay, a Loire Valley producer.  The wine is made completely from Cabernet Franc grapes, keeps alcohol reasonable at 12.5% abv and sells for around $17.  Fermented in steel, this wine gets its second fermentation by the traditional method, in the bottle.  It is imported in the U.S. by the reliable Kobrand Wines.

This salmon-pink Loire crèment is a bottle of pure pleasure.  It has a great fruity nose, with a bit of toast in it.  The palate offers a fabulous swath of cherries, strawberries and a hint of raspberries.  The fruit is all on the ripe side, and the acidity is nothing short of a razor line.  Great sipping, great pairing with just about anything.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, September 21, 2020

Paso Cab Makes Be-Leafers

Herzog Wine Cellars is a nine-generation display of passion in the wine industry, starting in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and stretching across an ocean and a continent to California's vineyards.  The family's belief in their Jewish identity and their passion for making quality kosher wines came together in a new land, where everything was possible.

Herzog Variations Be-Leaf Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2019 is kosher for Passover, made with organically grown grapes grown in the "sunny, warm, rolling hills of Paso Robles," late-harvested for optimal ripeness.  There are no added sulfites in the wine, which has a restrained alcohol content at only 12.5% abv and a retail price of $26.

This kosher Cabernet Sauvignon shows aromas of blackberry, blueberry and boysenberry leading the way, with a light touch of oak and a dollop of that Paso earthiness.  The palate is chalky and fruity, the tannins are toothy and the acidity is racy.  Allow plenty of time for this wine to open up before pouring it - you’ll be glad you did.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, September 18, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Diana Rigg

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 are mourning the loss of Diana Rigg, sexy Emma Peel of The Avengers on TV and a part of these three films on the big screen.

1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service was the sixth installment in the James Bond series, and the first without Sean Connery in the role of 007.  George Lazenby vaulted instantly from starring in TV advertisements for chocolates to being "Bond. James Bond."  Life is good that way to some folks.  

Life was good to Diana Rigg, at least the professional side of it.  She played the Bond girl here.  The character was an Italian countess who became, in the film, Bond's wife - however briefly.  Rigg had reportedly said that she always wanted to appear in an "epic film," and OHMSS was that.  Rigg may have had a somewhat charmed acting life, but she suffered some great personal heartbreak along the way.

I am of the age that Diana Rigg as Emma Peel had a great "M. Appeal" - male appeal - for me as a pre-teen boy.  We won't get into embarrassing specifics here, except to say that I was left with a lifelong search for a woman who could do a little judo hip-flip on me while entering a room.

Rigg reportedly had it in her contract for the BBC series Victoria that she would be served a cold bottle of prosecco as each day’s shooting wrapped.  You can go that way if you like - a $10 bottle of Italian bubbles - or you can lean into the Bond lifestyle and order an expensive Champagne.  While you're leaning, extract a few Benjamins from your wallet.  Bond was no slouch when it came to booze.

The Hospital, from 1971, has Rigg playing opposite George C. Scott as the love interest of a New York doctor at the center of his unraveling world.  She serves as a brightness in the good doctor's otherwise dark existence.  That, despite the lack of cute little judo hip-flips in Paddy Chayefsky's Oscar-winning script.

Bogle Vineyards, in the northern California town of Clarksburg, has made news recently by announcing that they are feeding a thousand medical workers, using local restaurants to do so.  That sounds like as good a reason as any to pair their Old Vine Zinfandel with The Hospital.  The Bogle wines are good, affordable and usually fairly easy to find, even at the supermarket.

In Theater of Blood - or Theatre of Blood in the U.K. - Rigg joined forces with Vincent Price in a 1973 horror film with laughs.  That description somehow sounds better than "a comedy with a lot of murders in it."  Price plays an actor who got shafted by the critics - who thought up that crazy idea? - and Rigg plays his daughter.  People think the actor did a deadly dive into the Thames, and so when the critics start dropping like flies, Rigg's character is the prime suspect.

Theater of Blood was Price's favorite movie, he said, because it gave him the opportunity to do some Shakespeare.  Rigg called it her fave, too, saying it contained some of her best work.

One of the luckless critics in the movie is drowned in a barrel of wine, mimicking a murder from Richard III.  The wine was a malmsey, I do believe.  The Rare Wine Company makes a line of Madeira wines which are astoundingly good, if a little pricey.  Their New York Malmsey is as good a choice as any.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A Declarative Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

The 1849 Wine Company puts as much into their labels as their wine.  Usually, I am turned off to eye-catching labels, my knee-jerk reaction when I am hit with heavy-handed marketing techniques.  I must admit, though, that the 1849 label art is striking.

The wine company describes their fascination with the bottle as drawing "inspiration from the contemporary art movement of the 21st century."  The graphics are provided by Los Angeles street artist Saber, whose work is as political as it is attention-getting.

"But," you might ask, "what of the wine inside?"

I'm glad you asked.  The winery boasts that they pride themselves on "creating California wines of the highest quality and expression," while championing the artistic endeavor.  I have found, after tearing my eyes away from the label and sampling the juice, that they have met their goal.

Declaration, their 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, was blended in St. Helena from "Napa Valley vineyards and surrounding hillsides," although the company does not publish much more information about the wine.  Declaration was aged in barrels made from French, Hungarian and American oak, 30% of which was new while 70% was previously used.  Alcohol checks in at a 14.5% abv and the retail price is $80.

The 2015 Declaration has a gorgeous nose featuring blackberry, cherry, lavender, graphite, vanilla and sweet oak spices.  The palate is a delightful playground of dark berries and that Napa dirt, which doesn't seem all that dirty, really.  It drinks fruity and young, but has firm tannins and plenty of aging potential for the coming years.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, September 14, 2020

Chilean Carmenere Wine

A virtual wine tasting event happened online in September 2020, and featured Chile's TerraNoble Wines.  The Zoom get-together featured TerraNoble winemaker Marcelo Garcia and showcased the different styles the winery makes from the Carménère grape.  Wines grown in the Colchagua & Maule Valleys describe the differences between coastal and mountain Carmenere.

Through a translator, Garcia explained that  after 25 years, TerraNoble Carménère has progressed from wines that were typified by green notes, to overripe, to toasted notes, to today's fresh fruit forward style with juicy acidity.  He credited the winery's constant learning about Carménère as having brought the wines to where they are today.

Started in the Maule Valley, the San Clemente estate vineyard was planted in 1994.  Now the vineyards are sustainable and vegan certified.  First up in the tasting were two examples of Carménère grown in the Colchagua Valley, in the warm foothills of the Andes Mountains.

CA 1 Andes Colchagua Valley Carménère

This one was aged for 14 months in 85% used barrels and 15% untoasted foudres.  Alcohol tips 14% abv and the wine retails for $25.

This dark wine offers a nose of black fruit and cassis, painted with cedar, clove and cinnamon.  The very expressive aromas put me in mind of the holidays.  The palate is alive with the dark berry notes and oak spice, and a monstrous set of tannins that need some decant time to soften.  Don’t worry, the wine will still handle any steak you put in front of it.

CA 1 Andes Colchagua Valley Carménère

Aged for 14 months in 80% used barrels and 20% untoasted foudres, this wine touches 14.1% abv and sells for $25.

The notes on the 2016 CA 1 apply here as well.  This is a wild wine, full of aromas and flavors, brimming with tannins, ready to rumble.  

CA 2 Carménère Costa

Grown in the coastal mountain range of Chile's Colchagua Valley, this CA 2 wine demonstrates the coastal version of Carménère.  It was aged for 14 months in 80% used barrels and 20% untoasted foudres.  Alcohol noses up to 14.3% abv and the retail price is $25.

The nose on this version of TerraNoble’s Carménère hits more bright red and blue notes than the two I tried previously.  The palate is a lot calmer, too, although the tannins hold their own.  It's a more user-friendly Carménère, and more fun to drink on its own.

TerraNoble Gran Reserva Carménère

Aging for 12 months in 75% used French oak barrels and 25% untoasted foudres, this wine has alcohol at 14% abv and it sells for $19.

This Carménère shows a world of difference from the others in the TerraNoble line I’ve been trying.  There is a boatload of dark fruit, to be sure, with black cherry getting into the act.  The tannins are more reserved upon pouring while the acidity remains bright and juicy.  It's an excellent example of Chilean Carménère.

TerraNoble Gran Reserva Carignan

This Carignan was made from an old vineyard - planted in 1958 - in a hotter climate, yet still close to the ocean in the Maule Valley.

Aged for 10-12 months, half in concrete eggs called Dolia, half in untoasted foudres, alcohol hits only 13.8% abv and retail is $19.

This inky wine has a slightly medicinal nose, with blackberry and tar notes.  The tannins are forceful to a fault upon opening.  Let it sit awhile and allow them to be less inflamed.  The fruit is fairly forefront, possibly due to the aging of half the wine in concrete eggs.  The savory finish is quite long and satisfying.