Friday, August 19, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Auteur 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 select a few wines to put alongside films of auteur directors, filmmakers whose visions for the scripts were so strong that we credit them almost entirely for what appears on the screen.

A number of auteurs have become household names for fine artistes. Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa are among those cited whenever the topic of auteurs comes up. Any of them is worth a wine pairing, in my humble opinion.

Army of Shadows is a 1969 film about the French Resistance in World War II. Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, the script was adapted from a book by a real Resistance fighter, Joseph Kessel. The movie was not received well by French critics, who thought Melville kissed up to Charles de Gaulle a bit too much for their liking. It wasn't released in the U.S. until 37 years later, when it was hailed as a masterpiece.

The film does not sugarcoat the Resistance, presenting instead a stark and haunting view of the danger those men and women faced as they fought to free their country from the Nazis. It's a testimony to them that the word resistance came into popular usage during the Trump administration.

During WWII, many French winemakers acted bravely to hide Jews in their wine cellars and prevent the country's premier wines from being looted by the Germans. Bernard de Nonancourt, the head of the Laurent-Perrier Champagne house, was a member of the Resistance. Let's blow the cork on any of their fine Champagnes to pair with Army of Shadows. You can find some of them for as little as $40.

1972's Aguirre, the Wrath of God was written and directed by Werner Herzog. The movie fictionalizes the search for the gold of El Dorado. It was shot in what must have been a hellish five weeks on the Amazon River. 

Klaus Kinski, who stars as the Spanish conquistador Aguirre, reportedly ranted and raved like a madman at Herzog over their differences in how Aguirre should be played. Kinski wanted the ranting and raving madman approach, while Herzog opted for something a little more low key. Herzog got his way, and some say Kinski acted at gunpoint, although Herzog denied the story. If it's even remotely true, that would be one ballsy auteur. Herzog and Kinski worked together again on four more films, so there must have been an attraction that rose above the threat of violence.

It would be easy to select a wine from the El Dorado AVA in California's Sierra Foothills for Aguirre and be done with it. I even found wines called Conquistador from Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Chile. However, a Spanish conquistador deserves a Spanish wine, one that may have been on board the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria. Lustau's Don Nuño Oloroso sherry is dry, dark brown and rich, and available for around $25.

From 1974, Celine and Julie Go Boating is a French fantasy from director Jacques Rivette. There is a bit of Alice in Wonderland in it, along with other literary inspirations, and it has a title that probably loses something in the translation. For most of the movie, you’re wondering, "Where's the damn boat?" A lot of people like it, though, and it is quite highly regarded by critics, too. 

There is a fanciful friendship which becomes fueled by eating mysterious candies and taking trips to a house in another time. The young ladies attempt to unravel a mystery at the house and find that time follows them back home and lets them become auteurs themselves, rewriting the mystery. It is a trippy film, and fully deserving of a trippy wine pairing.

Shroom Wines claims to sell non-alcoholic wine made from the grapes you know and love with a bit of magic mushroom mixed in with them. I don't know if the laws governing psilocybin have been relaxed - or tossed aside - but the last time I had magic mushrooms, there was definitely an air of illegality about the whole affair. Well, trippy is trippy, and if you’ve got some Shroom wine on hand, or just some shrooms, schlagers!


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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

What Bubbles The Future Holds

This California sparkling wine is named after a card from the tarot deck, the one symbolizing harmony, joy and contentment - perfect for a nice bottle of bubbly. Banshee Wines makes an assortment of wines in Healdsburg, where they can be nearer to the Sonoma County vineyards where they source the fruit.

This non-vintage brut was made in the Méthode Champenoise, with secondary fermentation happening in the bottle. It was aged on the yeast for two years or more.  The grapes involved are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, with alcohol sitting at 12.5% abv and a retail price of $30. 

This wine presents a thick, white froth upon pouring - and the fine bubbles stick around awhile. On the nose, green apples, pears and white flowers abound, with a healthy dose of minerals along for the sniffing. The palate also shows off a ton of the aforementioned fruit and some citrus minerality as well. The wonderful acidity will make this a sparkler that can do more than host a toast. You may want oysters or lobster with it. 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Bending Branch Anniversary Blend

Bending Branch Winery is as close as it gets to being a beloved Texas institution - and Texans don't toss about their institutions lightly. The winery is so loaded down with awards and accolades that work should be underway for a new trophy room. Perennial favorites in newspaper and online reader polls, Bending Branch makes their wine in the aptly-named town of Comfort, along Interstate 10, between the rustic, laid back, hick chic of Kerrville and the Latino-flavored urban sprawl of San Antonio.  The town sprung up in the mid-1800s, a product of the influx of German immigrants into the central part of Texas.  

The outfit is headed up by winemaker Robert W. Young, MD, MPH. That last set of letters means he has a masters in public health. The good doctor, on a recent Zoom get-together, said that he is making an ice wine, probably the first and only ice wine produced in the state of Texas. He explained that a grower called him - quite some time after harvest - and told him that he had some Cabernet grapes still on the vines but it was freezing cold up in the High Plains. Dr. Young had the grower put the fruit on dry ice and send it to him. He pressed and vinified it just as they do up in Canada. 

The 2019 Anniversary Blend is a Texas High Plains wine which celebrates the 10th vintage for  Bending Branch. The grapes are one-quarter each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot. Aging took place over 19 months in a 50/50 mix of French oak and neutral barrels.  Alcohol clicks only 13.9% abv and the wine retails for $75.

This inky wine has aromas of black fruit - berries and plums - laced with notes of oak. The clove, cedar, leather and earth that come through on the nose are almost overwhelming, but not quite. The palate shows off that dark fruit with a rich backing of mocha, coffee and black pepper. The tannins are quite firm and ready to tackle anything that's coming off the grill. The finish lasts a long time and leaves a fruity memory behind. 

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Friday, August 12, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Happy Birthday Dustin Hoffman

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 wines with birthday cake for a trio of movies starring Dustin Hoffman.

Dustin Hoffman is now 85 years old. What birthday present do you give someone who has two Oscars and a large duffel bag full of other awards? A bigger duffel bag? We have all evoked Hoffman's roles at one time or another, anytime we have said, "I'm walkin’ heah!," "Are you trying to seduce me Mrs. Robinson?," "Ten minutes to Wopner" or "No, it's dangerous, it's very dangerous." More Novocaine, please.

It's a shame that none of those quotes come from the movies we're viewing this week, but I don't choose 'em, I just pair wine with 'em. If I did get to choose, Ishtar would be in the lineup.

In 1971's Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? Hoffman plays a songwriter, although a successful one rather than the hard-luck boob of Ishtar

Kellerman is one of those movies with an incredibly long title - like Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension or Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. Hey, they can't all be Ishtar.

The critics' opinions ranged from one end to the other. Hoffman didn't get the credit when they liked it, but he also didn't get the blame when they hated it, so it all evened out in the end - which is more than can be said about the film.

Shel Silverstein appears, along with Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, and it was apparently a good pairing. They collaborated on a couple of unusual albums in ensuing years, before Hook turned to disco pop.

For a movie with a long title, let's find a wine with a long name. Nobody does long names better than the Germans, like the Dr. Hermann Erdener Prälat Riesling Alte Reben Lange Goldkapsel Magnum. What style of Riesling is it? Glad you asked. Trockenbeerenauslese.

Straw Dogs, also from 1971, pairs Hoffman with director Sam Peckinpah, so you know what you're getting into here. It is a hard film to watch, if you ask me. Two scenes in particular have drawn a lot of criticism and while you like seeing bad guys get their comeuppance, you hate to see a mild-mannered guy turned into a killing machine. Or, maybe you don't hate it. The movie is generally considered to be Peckinpah at his best, or worst, depending on your point of view. Hoffman's role shows a side of him that was unexpected at the time, even though '71 was the year that movie violence got turned up a notch.

We can pair a wine that comes in a straw basket with Straw Dogs. It's been years since I have seen Chianti packaged that way, but Banfi's Bell'agio brand still does it. Ten bucks! And there's a case discount, heh heh heh.

Lenny, from 1974, sees Hoffman turn in a stellar performance as troubled comedian Lenny Bruce. Hoffman gets a lot of praise for the way he portrayed Bruce. The critics who didn't like Lenny probably didn't like Bruce, either. Or simply didn't get him - which invalidates their opinions in my book. 

Hoffman obviously put in a lot of work in mastering the comic's nervous stage presence. So did Luke Kirby, who plays Bruce in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and one might wonder if he's copying Bruce or Hoffman.

There is a Dom Perignon named Lenny, but that's for Lenny Kravitz, a rockstar of a different era. In Oregon's Willamette Valley, you can get a Pinot Noir from the Lenné Estate, which may be as close as we can get to Lenny, unless you know of a Riunite laced with morphine. I don't. 

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Doing Backflips For Pink Wine

With the heat of summer digging in across much of the U.S., this is a great time to look for a cool, refreshing rosé wine. It's a great time to drink pink. And here we have a rosé over which you'll likely flip.

Made under the Foley umbrella, a California wine outfit, Acrobat uses grapes from Oregon to make their wines. This rosé combines Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grapes, partially whole cluster pressed and partially pressed in the saignée method. The wine was vinified then aged for two months in stainless steel tanks. Alcohol rests comfortably at 13% abv and the retail sticker reads $15.

This pale pink wine has a nose of strawberries, green parts and all. It is a fresh and lively aroma, one that invites the sip deliciously. The palate shows more strawberries, along with some stone fruit and a hint of salinity. The acidity is refreshing and will make for good food pairings across a wide range of dishes.

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Monday, August 8, 2022

Cabernet From Alexander Valley

Sebastiani has been in the winemaking game for more than a century, and they haven't lasted that long by shrugging their shoulders and saying, "It's good enough." Vintner Bill Foley and Winemaker Mark Beaman work together to bring honor to the Sebastiani legacy with single-vineyard and sub-appellation wines that live up to expectations. 

The 2019 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is composed of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 6% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot and 2% Petite Sirah, all grown in the warm Alexander Valley AVA. The wine aged for 16 months in 15% new French and Hungarian oak barrels, with the remaining wine aging in neutral oak barrels. Alcohol is lofty, at 14.9% abv, and the retail price is $45.

This wine is inky looking and carries a wonderfully demonstrative package of aromas. The nose has classic notes of graphite, but also features black tea, sage, oregano and a healthy lump of earth - that good, Sonoma dirt. On the palate are bright cherries, tea, herbs and minerals. The tannins are firm without being overbearing and the acidity is quite refreshing. You could chill this wine and open it next to the grill this summer - or you could have in cooler weather with a beef stew. 

Friday, August 5, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Scorsese On 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 we pair wines with a look - and listen - to three Martin Scorsese films about music. 

Who uses music to better effect in movies than Martin Scorsese? Put your hands down - that was a rhetorical question. Scorsese, however, has not only used music in his films, he has examined it - thoroughly.

No Direction Home is the 2005 documentary on Bob Dylan as he appeared in the early to mid 1960s. Dylan's manager got the ball rolling by conducting scores of interviews with people who knew The Enigmatic One back in the day. When it came time to put all that video, plus the hundreds of hours of footage culled from historical sources together, Scorsese's name came up.

The film debuted on PBS as a mixture of Dylan in performance and commentary from those with something to say about him. And everyone has something to say about Bob Dylan. Just ask anybody. 

It has been a few years, but Italian winemaker Antonio Terni of Le Terrazze used to bottle a tribute to Dylan. Visions of J is probably sold out now, and Planet Waves may be, too, but Dylan did lend his signature to stand alongside Terni's on those labels. It's worth a shot to see if there are any left on the shelf.

2008's Shine a Light spotlights The Rolling Stones, with concert footage shot by Scorsese two years earlier at New York City's Beacon Theatre. Archival footage is mixed in as well. Scorsese has used Stones songs so extensively in his films over the years that Mick Jagger reportedly quipped Shine a Light may be the only Scorsese movie that does not have Gimme Shelter in it.

From the Napa Valley, California wine's tribute to ostentatiousness, comes Stones Wine. Owner Lawrence Fairchild is a winemaker who dresses like a rock star - a very rich one, with a predilection for vintage haute couture. His preferences in fashion, art, cuisine and wine sound more like bragging than explaining, but we get that a lot from Napa Valley. You have to get on a list to buy the wines - Cabernet Sauvignon, what else? - and you can expect to pay through the nose. 

The Last Waltz was Scorsese's coverage of The Band's 1976 goodbye concert filmed at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom, where the group had their first gig about 16 years previous. The scene of the crime, so to speak. Robbie Robertson was quick to point out in the film how long 16 years is. And don't forget - those are rock'n'roll years, which are way longer than normal human years.

Superstars, the music of a generation, drug-fueled mania behind the scenes - this movie stands as one of the great concert films ever made, with an all-star lineup, killer songs, wonderful camera work and the slow realization that we are witnessing, truly, the end of an era. 

Waltz Winery, in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, offers Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Moscato, to name a few grapes - all of which will pair well with rock'n'roll. And when you've polished off all but one bottle - that's the last Waltz.

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Monday, August 1, 2022

Vermentino Wine - Herbs, Minerals, Salinity

The Frescobaldi history stretches back to the Middle Ages, but winemaking in the region was already old hat by then. If you have been doing something for more than 700 years, you must be doing it right. 

Today, the Tuscan landscape is studded with properties which reside under the Frescobaldi umbrella. The Ammiraglia Estate is in southern Tuscany, Maremma, near the ocean. The warm climate is cooled by the breezes coming in from the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The 2018 vintage featured a lot of precipitation, even snow early on. All that water helped out a lot when the hot summer season arrived and rainfall dried up.

The Massovivo 2018 wine is all Vermentino grapes, aged for four months in the stainless steel tanks where it was vinified, on the lees, and another month in the bottle. Alcohol rests at 12.5% abv and the retail price is $24.

This Italian white has a most interesting presence in the glass. The pale yellow liquid has a nose which is quite herbaceous, showing notes of sage, anise and oregano. The palate brings forth some citrus fruit - Meyer lemon - and a boatload of minerals and salinity. There is quite a racy acidity, too. Like a good Vermentino should, the wine leaves a sense of the seashore on the finish. 

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Friday, July 29, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Killers On The Loose

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week is a killer. Three killers, to be precise, and a wine pairing for each.

Back when I was a music director for a radio station, I would get a call every week from a record promoter who told me the same thing each time - "This record is deadly, Randy. Deadly. You gotta add it right away." I usually told him that we had few enough listeners as it was - I didn't need to be killing off any of them with a "deadly" record. Most of those records would probably only bore you to death, anyway. Our three movies this week all have a killer on the loose - and he's deadly. 

The 1956 film noir, The Killer is Loose, features Joseph Cotten, Rhonda Fleming and Wendell Corey. Cotten is a cop while Corey is a banker who is the inside man in a robbery of the institution where he works. Fleming is the cop's wife, who becomes the target of revenge after the bank teller escapes from the prison term he was serving for the heist.

The cop was no fool, except maybe for shooting the banker's wife dead by accident. The banker vowed revenge, killed a guard to break free and hightailed it to the cop's neighborhood. At this point, the cop was possibly a fool for leaving his desk job when the force asked him to help find the killer. He put his wife in hiding, to which she somehow took exception (fool) and came out into the open, acting as beautiful bait to lead the criminal to John Law.

The film was viewed rather favorably by critics of the day, and who can argue about the casting? I'll watch anything with Joseph Cotten in it, not to mention Fleming and Corey.

I ran across a photo from the '90s, showing Cotten and his real-life wife tasting sparkling wine at Henkell in Weisbaden. Today, the outfit is known as Henkell Freixenet, maker of German bubbles (sekt) as well as Spanish (cava) and Italian (Prosecco). These international sparklers are less expensive than Champagne, but just as much fun, if you ask me. Be careful where you aim that cork, killer.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, from 1976, was written and directed by John Cassavetes, so you know you're getting a work that is a little bit off the wall. Ben Gazzara stars as the owner of a Sunset Strip nightclub. Gazzara says the character has a deep appreciation for the art of his establishment, while the customers are mainly there for the naked ladies. He says the character has a lot of Cassavetes in him.

Gazzara’s Cosmo falls into a big debt while playing poker with the wrong crowd. The mobster to whom he owes the money assigns him to perform the task of the title, a job he's not supposed to survive. He does survive, however, although he takes a bullet for his trouble. Back at the club, he is inspired to give his troupe a pep talk, urging them to live their roles while giving the patrons a means of escape from their own troubles. Bullet or no bullet, the show must go on.

You may want to stop into Gil Turner's liquor store for a wine to pair with Bookie. Turner was once known as Mr. Sunset Strip, so the ad blurb says. The store stocks a ton of cult wines that would be welcome at the Riot House, many of which can be had for less than a hundy. 

1964's The Killers is a remake of the 1946 film noir classic of the same name. It was made for TV, but TV didn't want it. NBC deemed it too violent to air, so it was sent to movie theaters. What a cast: Lee Marvin, Clu Gulager, Angie Dickinson, Ronald Reagan, John Cassavetes, Claude Akins, Norman Fell - it's easy to see why people still like it, despite the violence. Or maybe it's because of the violence.

The story revolves around a robbery, a handful of killings, a double-cross, some brutal mistreatment of Dickinson's character and a suitcase full of missing money. If you can stomach it, it's a killer film.

Killer Drop wine owes more to surfing and snowboarding than actual killing, but let's pop a cork. The northern California Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah blend sounds like a killer combination. 

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Monday, July 25, 2022

Rosé From - Where Else? - The South Of France

Chateau des Sarrins took its name from the Saracens, who ran this part of southern France in ancient times. A Saracen big shot is said to have died on what is now this estate. They say that somewhere on the property he is buried in his gold suit of armor. 

The 2021 Les Sarrins Rosé is made from grapes that were, maybe, grown right next to that burial site. It makes a nice backstory idea, at least. The grapes in this wine are 60% Grenache, 25% Cinsault, 10% Rolle (Vermentino) and 5% Mourvèdre. It is imported by Terlato Wines, hits 13% abv and retails for $25.

This product of Provence delivers as expected from the region. The light pink color gives way to a nose of strawberries and cherries with a hint of lemon peel also showing up. The palate shows all the ripe red fruit, citrus minerality and a damn fine acidity. Salads for sure, but get some oysters for this one. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Stooges, Three And Otherwise

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, we have wine pairings for stooge movies, two of which would be better served by a seltzer bottle.

I'll warn you ahead of time - this trio of movies is held together with the flimsiest thread - two films from the Three Stooges and one about The Stooges, the punk outfit from Michigan which blew the doors off of rock'n'roll in the late 1960s. I'm certain that somewhere, sometime, someone had to have written about these Stooges and the comedic threesome in the same article, maybe in Impossible Matches Monthly or Non Sequitur Weekly. We, however, have wine pairings to go along with them.

We'll start with the outlier, Gimme Danger, the 2016 Jim Jarmusch film about the musical Stooges. Jarmusch was Iggy Pop's choice as director if a film was made about the band, and I suppose that was all Jarmusch needed to hear. If you are a fan of punk rock, this movie pays tribute to the band who laid the groundwork for the genre. Conversely, if you hate punk rock, this film shows you who to blame. Something for everybody.

A punk rock type of movie calls for a punk rock type of winemaker. Booker WinesEric Jensen fits the bill - at least he curses a lot, which may be a habit he picked up as a concert promoter. His Ripper Grenache comes in a magnum bottle - the better for fighting with once it's empty - for close to $200. 

In 1962's The Three Stooges Meet Hercules, the Stooges - Moe Howard, Larry Fine and "Curly" Joe DeRita - the team appeared in their third and most successful full-length feature, following decades of short films. The plot has them employed at a drug store - why not? Someone should compile a list of jobs held by the Three Stooges over the years for which they were completely unsuitable. In this film, they help a neighbor build a time machine in their spare time - again, why not?

Stumbling through time, they find themselves in ancient Greece, where they somehow manage to overthrow the mean King Odius. The Three Stooges were no strangers to lending a hand to the unfortunate and unlucky, while finding a way to fix the wagon of the bad guy. The slapstick is rampant here. In fact, the slap stuck a bit harder than expected during filming when heavyweight DeRita fell on top of Fine, knocking him out cold.

Hercules is the name of a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Jason's Vineyard on New York's Long Island. Strong and brawny? Not exactly. It's sweet and relatively cheap. Kinda like Three Stooges movies.

The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze came along the following year, 1963, with the same post-fifties stooge lineup. This time around, they are servants of Phileas Fogg III, a descendant of the round-the-world traveler in the Jules Verne classic. There is danger at every turn, avoided by the bumbling of the comedy trio. They even escape a Communist brainwashing in Asia by not having a "brainee" to "washee." That line played a lot funnier before everybody got woke.

It's not really a spoiler alert to say that in the end the good guy wins, the bad guy loses and a perfectly good balloon gets wrecked.

If you want to take a trip to the Eiffel Tower and dine at Le Jules Verne, you'll have your pick of France's finest offerings - Grand Cru Champagne, Premier Cru Burgundy, Chablis and more. Or you can crack open whatever is left over from your Bastille Day celebration.

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Monday, July 18, 2022

Chinon Cabernet Franc Wine

Les Luthines Chinon 2019 is a 100% Cabernet Franc from the French region of Chinon, which is so closely associated with that grape. The grapes are grown in the clay and sandy soils of the vineyard near the Loire River. 

The destemmed grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks, and no sulfites are used. Alcohol is 13.5% abv and this bottle cost about $18 at my neighborhood Whole Foods Market. 

The wine has a dark purple color and a fruity nose laden with black currant and plums. There is a sense of roasted vegetables as well. On the palate, the fruit stands out and a thrilling brace of acidity and tannins makes the mouth water. The peppery finish is a delight. Give it a chill, especially if you're having it for outdoor sipping or a barbecue. It pairs great with chicken or pork and it lifted my pasta sauce to another level. 

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Friday, July 15, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Trippin' Out

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, trip out with some movies that might mess with your head, with wine pairings for each.

If you remember the TV series Then Came Bronson, you may also remember the Mad Magazine parody of it. Bronson is sitting astride his motorcycle at a traffic light when the driver of the car in the next lane asks, "Takin' a trip?" He replies, "No, this is a regular cigarette I'm smoking." With that in mind, and with no apologies to Dick Dale, let's go trippin'.

The 1978 horror film, Blue Sunshine, does for LSD what Reefer Madness did for pot - sensationalizes it, fictionalizes its effects and builds a weird story into a sort of cautionary tale. Past users of a brand of LSD known as Blue Sunshine suddenly start turning up with psychotic breaks from reality which sends them into a homicidal rage. 

As the body count mounts, one guy seems to find himself at the center of the killings and has to prove that he is innocent. How is that gonna sound down at headquarters? "So, like, it was years ago and a guy gave us all some Blue Sunshine and now we’re all going bald and killing dudes…" Your cell is right this way, sir.

The movie landed with a thud in the '70s but has become a bit of a cult item, with a legion of fans, including TFH head guru Joe Dante.

Skip the Blue Nun and pair a blue California sparkler with Blue Sunshine. Blanc de Bleu is really blue, and really sweet, so they say. There's a pic on the website which shows a group of youngstahs drinking the stuff out of blue Solo cups. Proceed with caution.

Any compilation of movies about hallucinogens has to include 1967's The Trip. Written by Jack Nicholson, directed by Roger Corman and featuring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, the movie delivers exactly what one might expect from that group, at that time. In addition to Corman's, er, trippy direction you get some nice 1960s views of L.A. locales like Laurel Canyon and the Sunset Strip.

Fonda plays a guy who drops acid for the first time after a divorce. What could go wrong? The trip turns a bit sour as he envisions hooded figures chasing him along the Pacific shore. I'll paraphrase Diner here and say, "I’ve been to Malibu a hundred times and never saw death walkin' a beach."

Australian producer St. John’s Road makes a Barossa blend called LSD. It does not stand for lysergic acid diethylamide, by the way. The letters are for the grapes - Lagrein, Shiraz and Durif. We call Durif Petite Sirah, but LSPS clearly does not have the same ring to it.

Nicholson was busy the following year with Psych-Out, a 1968 movie that had him billed with Dean Stockwell and Bruce Dern. The psychedelic cash-in was produced by Dick Clark, who, as the square-in-residence, insisted on the film's anti-drug message.

The story centers on a deaf runaway in San Francisco. The Haight-Ashbury setting perfectly captures the squalid nonchalance of the hippie lifestyle there. There is a search for a lost brother, helpful hippies, live music, a freak-out and a good trip turned bad - all the ingredients for late '60s psychedelia wrapped up in an 82-minute ball of celluloid.

For Psych-Out, let's try a Washington state wine, from Sleight of Hand Cellars. Psychedelic Syrah is such an alliterative delight it's a wonder no one had thought of it before. Critics like the wine, too.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Muscadet From France's Loire Valley

The Jardin d'Edouard winery is located in Château-Thébaud, France, a short drive south of Nantes. Their website explains that vines have been cultivated on the property for well over a century. They produce a full range of wines, but are known for their three styles of Muscadet, which are aged in glass-lined tanks for anywhere from seven to 72 months. 

The Melon de Bourgogne grapes for the 2017 La Roche Aux Loups were grown in the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine area, which lies in the Loire Valley between the Sèvre Nantaise and Maine rivers. The grape is sometimes known simply as Melon. My bottle shows 12% abv and cost $22 at the French market near my home.

This white wine is five years old now and is showing some wonderful signs of its age. The fruitiness of its youth is becoming more complex and savory. Aromas of wet sidewalk, citrus and salinity come forward on the nose, while the palate is driven by minerals and earth. Muscadet wines are universally thought to be good pairings with oysters, shellfish or any sort of seafood, and this is certainly no exception. 

Monday, July 11, 2022

Offbeat Champagne

The Monthuys Pére et Fils Rèserve Brut Champagne is an unusual blend of Champagne varieties - 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Meunier grapes - gives this sparkler a special nose and palate. Maybe this Marne Valley product isn't for everyone. My wife's judgment: "I hate it." Me, I like wine that is a bit offbeat, so it's right in my wheelhouse.

The Baron family owns the estate, relative newcomers in the Champagne biz. They've been at it for only a couple of decades, according to the website translator. Alcohol rests at 12.5% abv and the wine retails for less than $30.

This wine's golden hue owes something, no doubt, to the three years of bottle aging it underwent. Its nose is rather brash, probably owing to the Meunier-heavy blend. Apricot aromas dominate, with apple and toast following. Apple comes across strongest on the palate, with an earthy sensibility layered over it. The finish returns the apricot flavor. 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Americana

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, in lieu of fireworks leaping from these digital pages, we have wine pairings for three films which concern the good ol' U.S. of A.

Paul Newman stars in WUSA, along with Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins, Laurence Harvey, Cloris Leachman, Pat Hingle and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. That's a stellar cast, but the critics were not impressed - despite Newman saying it was his most significant film. Of course that was in 1970, well before Slapshot, which gets my vote.

The story revolves around a conservative radio station in New Orleans - we call them right-wing media, now - and its owner's plan to stage a white supremacist rally. There are, as you might expect, bitter personality clashes, gunfire from a catwalk, a change of heart for a cynical host and an antihero who leaves town after all is said and done. 

The movie appeared at a time long before the AM radio dial was co-opted by GOP talking points. One has to wonder, with all the good music on the radio in NOLA in 1970, who was wasting their time on talkers? 

Louisiana's Landry Vineyards has a wine called Bayoutage, but don't worry. It's not made from Louisiana grapes, it hails from Lodi, California. I suppose that's why it's available for shipping. Of course, it could be a right-wing conspiracy.

Coming along in 1975 was Nashville, just a year before the Bicentennial but equipped with enough red, white and blue to get the party started early. The Robert Altman spectacular ran nearly three hours, featured an hour or so of music, starred about half the actors who had a SAG card and spawned a hit record which took the Best Original Song Oscar that year.

Nashville took a satirical look at politics and the country music industry, two fixtures that lend themselves easily to satirical looks. The film got varied reactions from critics - from "superficial" to "brilliant" - and the public wasn't exactly beating a path to the box office, although the movie did rake in enough cash to rank it in the top 30 that year. 

Did Altman's take on politics and country music have enough gravitas to put Jimmy Carter in the White House the following year? Just wondering.

What better pairing could we find than a winery that's a half-hour south of Nashville and co-owned by a country music star? Arrington Vineyards has Kix Brooks on its corporate ledger and offers a nice rosé called Celebration, although the label goes easy on the stars and stripes.

Medium Cool, from 1969, centers its action in 1968 Chicago. With the Democratic National Convention and the associated riots as a backdrop, the film calls TV news on the carpet for dispassionately covering events without a contextual framework. Shot in documentary fashion, the movie originally got an X rating, for language and nudity, but director Haskell Wexler said it was "a political X." Later, the rating was changed to R.

The title of the movie comes from terminology coined by Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian philosopher. Canada's Jackson-Triggs Winery has an estate in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, and their Proprietors' Selection Shiraz is a great choice - unless you'd prefer an icewine for Medium Cool.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Bubbles, Italian Style

Valdo Winery is located in Italy's Valdobbiadene region, in Veneto, founded in 1926. The winery has long been a leader in Prosecco production, and now they catch consumers' eyes with special edition packaging which is backed up by the quality sparkling rosé inside the fancy bottle. 

The bottle art for the Valdo Floral Rosé Brut: Special Jungle Edition was commissioned from Italian designer Fabrizio Sclavi. This is the fourth special edition by Valdo, devoted to the world of flowers and the wild. The bottle is redesigned each year with an original illustration and a different theme. 

Inside the bottle: a blend of two native Italian grape varieties, Glera and Nerello Mascalese. The former is the white variety used in the production of Prosecco, while the latter is a red variety which thrives in the warm seashore climate of Sicily. The skillful blending of the two varieties creates a rosé with an intense fruity and floral bouquet, low alcohol, and exuberant bubbles. Alcohol sits at 11.5% abv and the wine retails for $19.

This lovely pink sparkler carries a nose of ripe strawberries and flowers, while the palate has loads of fresh acidity and flavors of red fruit. The bubbles are numerous, but enjoy them before they disappear. This is a festive bubbly, suitable for any occasion that calls for some fun. 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Yet More Movies You've Never Heard Of

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 once again delve into the bottomless pit of movies close to the hearts of the TFH gurus, but of which you may not be aware. This time around, I fear the gurus have struck out on their game of "stump the audience."

Three Into Two Won't Go is not a math problem from your kid's homework. It is a 1969 British film starring Rod Steiger, Claire Bloom and Judy Geeson. A younger woman enters a middle-aged couple's life as the old guy's lover. Oh, and she's pregnant. Sounds like it's a tougher problem than long division with a repeating decimal. 

As is expected in British domestic dramas of that era, there is a lot of turmoil and talking for an hour and a half or so, and nobody really ends up happy. That sounds a lot like watching the news lately, so I'll put this one on the back burner until I really need to have my mood blown to bits. Assuming, of course, that I am ever in that position.

Since we started with a division problem, the natural pairing would be Division Winemaking Company. Kate Norris and Thomas Monroe started the outfit in the Pacific northwest about twelve years ago. They are pictured on their website, sitting on a tailgate enjoying the fruit of their labor. They use grapes from Oregon and Washington to make wine in their Portland facility. Their juice will keep your spirits up while the movie tries to drag you down.

1977's A Special Day stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni and is set in 1938 Italy. She is a housewife and he is a gay man who is just waiting for the fascist cops to bust down his door and cart him off to jail. The two of them are neighbors, and they spend a day together - the day when Adolf Hitler visits Benito Mussolini.

Her family - being the good fascists that they are - trot out to take in the parade. The apartment dwellers stay home and gain a bit more insight and end up with a new view of fascism, the flavor of the day at that time. However, it's rather like continuing to work after winning the lottery. You're still on the job, but with a completely different attitude.

Mastroianni's character fears being deported to Sardinia for being gay. I can think of worse places to be exiled than a beautiful Mediterranean island full of wine, but I suppose the fascists had a way of spoiling even that sort of paradise. Sella & Mosca make a wonderful Vermentino, which is the go-to white wine from the isle. It's known for its sense of the sea in its aromas and flavors, and might make you stand up and holler, "Salinity now!"

Chocolate, from 2008, bears no resemblance to Chocolat from a few years earlier despite the similar titles. This one is a Thai martial arts movie. There are no snacks included in it, save for one severed toe which is sent as a message. The message is, "Don’t eat it just because it's bite-sized."

Not only is there a decided lack of chocolate in Chocolate, there are mother-daughter characters named Zin and Zen. That's going to play havoc with auto-correct when they text each other.

A wine to pair with chocolate? Really? Is there such a thing? Yes, it’s called "red wine." But opt for one from France's Rivesaltes region and you'll be glad you did. The sweet wines are made from Grenache grapes, which pair notoriously well with chocolates. You can pick your level of delight, as Rivesaltes wines run anywhere from 20 bucks to 200.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Wine Country Texas - Pedernales Cellars Grenache

We've been on an extended run of Texas wines lately, and here is another winner for some Texan cork-popping, from Pedernales Cellars.

Pedernales Cellars is run by a family of sixth-generation Texans who specialize in making wine from Spanish grapes varieties and those from the Rhône Valley. Tempranillo and Viognier are their red and white flagship wines, and they do a nice job with Grenache as well.

The 2020 Pedernales Texas High Plains Grenache carries alcohol at a lofty 15.3% abv, but the color is only medium-dark and the mouthfeel is surprisingly light. The nose brings strawberry, raspberry and blackberry aromas, while the palate is rich in red fruit. The tannins are firm, yet the wine has a silky feel in the mouth. Not exactly what I was expecting, but delightful nonetheless. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Wine Country Texas - Duchman Progression 3 Red Blend

Duchman Family Winery is in the central Texas town of Driftwood, just west of Austin. Stan and Lisa Duchman proudly display that their wines are made from 100% Texas grapes. Winemaker Dave Reilly dedicates his wines to staff and friends, who make and enjoy the fruit of his effort.

Duchman's Progression 3 is a red wine blend made with 100% Texas grapes, as are all the Duchman offerings. In keeping with the winery's fascination with Italian varieties, Progression 3 is a blend of Aglianico and Montepulciano grapes. The non-vintage wine was aged for more than 30 months in American, Hungarian and French oak barrels. Alcohol tips in at 14.5% abv and the wine retails for $48.

This is a dark wine, with a nose to match. Blackberry, black plum, black pepper, leather - it is a fairly brawny aroma package. The palate follows suit, with dark fruit and a savory angle to beat all savory angles. Tannins are quite firm and the wine could probably benefit from an hour or two to breathe. The finish is lengthy and savory.