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. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Screwballs

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 find some wines that pair well with screwball comedies - wines that taste good going down as well as coming out our noses when we laugh.

This nation needed a laugh in the 1930s, and Hollywood provided. The year 1936 was brightened by Theodora Goes Wild, a pairing of Melvyn Douglas and Irene Dunne. This was the movie, in fact, which spun Dunne's career from dramatic roles to comedic ones. 

Dunne plays a small-town Sunday school teacher who has secretly written a bestselling book, full of scandalously sexy scenes. Her nom de plume keeps her secret, but in a screwball comedy, someone always overhears. What will the ladies of the town think? Don’t worry, Theodora - everybody loves a celebrity.

Let's get the obvious pairing out of the way quickly - Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, gluten-free and available at your local Target. More on point, the Austrian winery Oggau makes a white wine called Theodora, a blend of Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling grapes.

My Man Godfrey was also released in 1936, a great year for the screwball comedy. William Powell plays alongside Carole Lombard - interesting in that the pair had been married for a couple of years earlier in the '30s. She's a wealthy socialite, which is what we called "one-percenters" in the FDR years. He's a "forgotten man," which is what we called bums in the FDR years. She ropes him into a scavenger hunt, then falls for him and hires him to be her family's butler. Screwball comedy ensues.

During the Great Depression, laughs didn't come cheap. However, a lot of people plunked down their hard-earned money for tickets to Godfrey, hoping for smiles that had grown too few and far between in the hard times. The film delivered. The critics liked it quite a bit, too.

Godfrey Winery makes a nice Shiraz in South Australia's Barossa Valley, so why not? Name-dropping is not only permitted, it is expected.

Skipping along about six decades, 1998's There's Something About Mary is called a romantic comedy by some, screwball comedy by others. The Farrelly brothers' film certainly has elements of the balle de screw in it, so let's call it what it seems to be. 

Cameron Diaz stars as Mary, who contends with four guys all vying for her love. There is a boatload of childish and silly humor, but we laugh all the way anyway. The laughs are a little more needed today than they were in the late '90s, so let your inner junior high school student fly freely for a couple of hours.

Searching for Mary Wine yields a raft of romance novels featuring bare chested studs on the covers, so keep digging. Hale Mary Wine gets you to the Russian River Valley, where I hear they make some pretty tasty Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Mary, by the way, is one of the winemakers. She is said to be hale and hearty, and also a part-time rock and jazz drummer.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Texas Wine - Pet Nat Sparkler

Spicewood Vineyards is named for its home, Spicewood, Texas, a little northwest of Austin. Owner Ron Yates and winemaker Todd Crowell are both native Texans, and both traveled other wine regions before realizing that their destiny was Texas wine. Their estate vineyard is one of the largest in the Texas Hill Country.

The 2021 Spicewood Vineyards Grenache Rosé was made with grapes from the Texas High Plains AVA, not their estate vineyard. Alcohol tips 14.3% abv.

This pink wine is quite rich in color. Its hue is a cross between salmon orange and copper, looking very much like roses. The nose is a blast of strawberries, green parts and all, with an earthy herbal streak and a line of black pepper. On the palate, the brash rosé comes on like a red wine, with tons of flavor and a refreshing acidity. This wine's pairing ability can reach from salads'n'seafood territory into pork chops, burgers and cheese plates. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Wine Country Texas - 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, but I got the chance to taste a really wonderful - and a bit unusual - sparkling rosé.

Pedernales Cellars Kyla Texas Hill Country Sparkling Wine is actually a Petillant Naturel - carbonated during primary fermentation - which opens up quite fizzy from under its bottle cap closure. The folks at Pedernales say Kyla is pronounced "shoola" by their Swedish relatives. It means "chill," and it offers the perfect opportunity to do so this summer. "Pedernales," by the way, was pronounced "Perdnales" by Lady Bird Johnson, so there are some linguistic tricks to learn in order to appreciate this Hill Country wine from Stonewall, Texas. It has an alcohol mark at a very reasonable 11.5% abv and it retails for $35.

This 2020 Tempranillo sparkler shows a beautiful salmon orange color, along with a nose of strawberries, an herbal quality and tangerine peel. The palate lays out red cherry flavors laced with citrus minerality and a razor-sharp acidity which really refreshes. It is bold and even brawny, in a way - unusual for a sparkling rosé but entirely welcome.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Tortured Artists

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, pour up wine pairings for three movies concerning the lives of fine artistes who had it rough.

Isadora is the 1968 biopic of dancer Isadora Duncan. She gained worldwide fame as a dancer, someone who created beauty yet suffered unimaginable pain during her life and died tragically at only 50 years old.

We all know what happens to free-spirited artists who seem to have things going along too nicely. That's right, torture. This film covers Duncan's too-short life in all the detail that fits in nearly three hours. Over the years the running time has been trimmed - even the director's cut is 24 minutes shorter - and the current feature spans just over two hours. So you miss a few highlights, save your tears for the right times. And do not cut any of Vanessa Redgrave's lines!

Duncan lost her two children when the car they were in drove into the Seine river. An automobile figures prominently in her own death, too. She took a ride in someone’s Bugatti convertible in Nice. Her long scarf - flapping in the breeze behind her - got tangled in the car's wheel and strangled her. I must admit, that is a bit more tortured than I want my own demise to play out.

The Wine Collective, out of Baltimore, has a rosé named after Isadora Duncan. Isadora is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Manseng and Merlot grapes that were grown in Virginia. Having had good experiences with Virginia wines, I can venture that sipping this one will be no torture.

1973's Payday features Rip Torn as a country music singer who is living life just a little too large. You can actually stop right there - you had me at Rip Torn. He has a certain amount of fame which he keeps in his Cadillac, right next to the Wild Turkey he uses to bribe deejays. He also uses the Caddy as a rolling motel room in which he beds women, usually to no great pleasure for either party. Touring, too many angry women, a knife fight gone wrong - this guy's torture is all self-inflicted. The car plays a role in his own inevitable end, by the way, even though he is not wearing a scarf at the time. 

Here's a site which pairs wine with candy bars. Really. They recommend a Ruby Port with the candy bar called Payday, so let's do that, if your local deejay has run out of Wild Turkey.

The Music Lovers hails from 1970. That was a great year for a lot of things - pop music, TV, bell-bottom pants - but it was not a good year for Ken Russell's movie about Tchaikovsky. This film was so abused by the critics you'd have thought they were all relatives of the composer. "Tedious," "grotesque," “perverse” and "wretched excesses" were just a few of the epithets hurled at Russell's film, and those were from the critics who liked it.

Tchaikovsky's torture started at an early age, when he watched his mother die a violent and painful death. His marriage to a bizarre woman - described variously as a "crazed half-wit" and a nymphomaniac - didn't last long. That could have been because Tchaikovsy preferred men, but the topic apparently never came up between him and his bride-to-be. Oops! Eventually he drinks poisoned water and dies of cholera, the same illness that plagued his mother. The film sees it as a suicide, and who could blame him? 

For a complicated guy like Tchaikovsky, who made some pretty complicated music - how about a nice, complicated Pinot Noir? Melville's Estate Pinot comes from the Sta. Rita Hills part of Santa Barbara County. It is a rich, complex and elegant Pinot which will pair perfectly with Tchaikovsky's music - and hopefully with Russell's vision of it.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Wine Country Texas - Bending Branch

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.

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. He says that Bending Branch introduced Texas to the Picpoul (PEEK-pool) grape in 2009, and made their first estate Picpoul two years later.

The Bending Branch Winery Picpoul Blanc is their signature white wine - their flagship red is Tannat - and the 2021 Picpoul carries with it the quality that is ever elusive for white wines - complexity.

This Picpoul was fermented in stainless steel and aged in those tanks for seven months, so there is no influence of oak to be found. The Picpoul grape has a naturally high acidity, making it a versatile wine for food pairing. This one was made from grapes taken from the Texas High Plains AVA. Alcohol hits a reasonable 13.1% abv and the wine retails for $26.

The wine has a nice golden hue and a nose which sports apricots, Meyer lemons, wet-sidewalk minerality, salinity and a touch of lanolin. The palate is just as wonderful, with stone fruit, minerals, spices and herbs. The acidity is as great as advertised. This wine should pair well with seafood, salads or sandwiches - I had mine with a salami and cheese creation on rosemary sourdough and it was fabulous.

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Friday, June 10, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - George Sanders, A Cad's Cad

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, three movies which show in stark detail how to be a cad, courtesy of George Sanders. We have wine pairings for each, of course.

Cads don't really come much caddier than in the 1956 film, Death of a Scoundrel. The story was based on the life of financial criminal Serge Rubinstein - who was killed in 1955. One glance at the list of his transgressions and it's a wonder someone didn't knock him off sooner.  Stock manipulation and embezzlement are the least caddiest parts of his personality. His dalliances with women were just as shady.

Death of a Scoundrel was one of a pair of films in which Sanders got to work with his real-life brother Tom Conway, who was a dead ringer in the familial resemblance department. He also got to work with Yvonne De Carlo and Zsa Zsa Gabor, with whom he shares no lookalike qualities. He was, however, divorced in real life from Zsa Zsa just a couple years before.

Bell Wine Cellars of Yountville, California offers a wine which seems tailor-made for this film - The Scoundrel. It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, with splashes of Cab Franc and Merlot. There is no explanation on why the name was chosen, but there it is on the label, in a wine-colored script font. The company says they cannot ship to Louisiana. Maybe they figure they have enough scoundrels there.

Green Hell was set in the jungle, at least it was Universal's idea of a jungle in 1940. They built it on a sound stage at great expense, then used it again in The Mummy's Hand. Sanders plays alongside a great cast - Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Vincent Price, Joan Bennett, Alan Hale and others. Many of those in the cast couldn't talk about Green Hell in later years without laughing. Price said it was five bad movies rolled into one.

A band of treasure hunters are joined in the jungle by a beautiful woman. How'd she get there? She took a left at Albakoyky. It turns out that her husband was in the group of explorers, but he was killed by angry natives just before she got there. She becomes the new treasure, as it were, sort of. 

If there were a wine named Jungle Jungle, it would be perfect for this film. There is. It comes from the wilds of South Australia, a multi-national blend of Dolcetto and Nero d'Avola from Clare Valley and Touriga Nacional grapes from Langhorne Creek. The wine should take the edge off of the movie's shortcomings.

1960's Village of the Damned issued posters warning theater patrons to "beware the stare," and woe came to those who didn’t heed that advice. A town full of kids are all born on the same day, telepathic kids with evil eyes, after the whole town falls asleep and the women wake up pregnant. Sanders is one of the lucky fathers, although how the women all got pregnant is a mystery. He is left with one of the hardest decisions a dad has to make - whether to raise your demon spawn as your own or set off a homicidal and suicidal bomb to destroy him and all his so-called friends.

Damned Mountain wine hails from New Zealand's Marlborough region, one of the great places for Sauvignon Blanc. Will it protect you from "the stare?" Probably not, but it's worth a try. 

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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Two Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnays

The folks at Sonoma-Cutrer are celebrating 40 years of passion, imagination and pride in 2022.  They say their approach to winemaking "marries Burgundian traditions and California ingenuity."  Head winemaker Mick Schroeter puts his signature on the label, showing the pride that leads to the boast that their Chardonnay is one of America's favorites. They are even putting it in cans, all the better for summertime sipping on the go.

Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2020

The 2020 vintage brought with it all the usual challenges that winemakers find - drought, hot weather, wildfires - plus the additional problem of COVID to work around. They did work around it and managed to produce a wine which is another in a long line of California classics. This wine was split between oak and tank aging - 85% oak for eight months. Alcohol sits at a moderate 13.9% abv and the bottle retails for $23.

The nose is bursting with the aroma of apricots and peaches, lemons, vanilla and butter. The palate is as rich as Chardonnay gets, with sweet stone fruit flavors and a zippy acidity. You will be able to pair this wine not only with salads'n'seafood, but chicken and pork as well. The finish leaves a buttery reminder of the wine's opulence.

Sonoma-Cutrer Les Pierres Chardonnay 2019

The Les Pierres estate vineyard features volcanic soil, loaded with minerality, baked in sunshine and cooled by the Pacific Ocean. Only six percent of their Sonoma Coast Chardonnay came from Les Pierres. 

The winemaker says the 2019 vintage was one for the ages - double the amount of rain that usually averages all year. Other than that, it was perfect California weather all season long. The wine was fermented in oak and aged there, too, for a full year with another six months in the bottle. Full malolactic fermentation was reached, lending a full and creamy mouthfeel to the sip. Alcohol clocks in at 14.2% abv and the wine retails for $46.

The wine is quite pale, mostly a very faint yellow with a hint of green at times. Its nose offers up more citrus than stone fruit, but both are well-represented. The fruit steals the show on the palate, too, although the acidity is quite racy and makes a case for itself as the lead. There are wonderful spice notes that come through in aromas and flavors. Oak is handled tastefully and the finish is long and supple.

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Monday, June 6, 2022

Chianti Comes To Los Angeles

The Chianti Lovers U.S. Tour 2022 hit SoCal in May, setting up shop for the afternoon at The London West Hollywood. The presentation was an immersive exploration of the Chianti wine region of Tuscany, with a sit-down guided tasting of wines and a walk-around tasting which left the trade and media types bumping from table to table, glasses in hands. Here are a few favorites from a handful of producers, most of which are seeking representation in America.

Cantina Sorelli

Their 2021 Chianti D.O.C.G. has a beautiful nose full of roses, lavender and red fruit. Amazing.

Chianti Trambusti 

Their 2019 Toscana Rosso "Sentimento" has lovely, savory notes of cherry and herbs.


Their 2019 Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. is heavy on the Sangiovese, light on the Merlot. Savory red fruit and 12 months in Slovenian oak.

The 2016 Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. Gran Selezione "Pasquino" is all Sangiovese, aged in terra cotta vessels. So fresh still, six years later.


Their 2019 I.G.T. Toscana Bianco is half Chardonnay and half Malvasia. Savory, seashore.

The 2020 Vino Spumante Rosato Brut "Vivendi" is the only sparkling wine in the world made from the Mammolo grape, I am told. It's a very nice step up from Prosecco.

The 2016 I.G.T. Toscana Rosso was the star of the show. It's an extremely savory red wine, while the 2015 Chianti D.O.C.G. Riserva "Cosmus" ran a close second.

Tentuta di Sticciano

Their 2021 I.G.T. Tosacono Rosato "Canto Delle Rose" shows fabulous strawberry and a wonderful salinity, in addition to some great acidity.

The 2018 I.G.T. Toscana Rosso "Indomito" has roses on the nose and a palate that's fruity and savory at once.

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Friday, June 3, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Ray Liotta R.I.P.

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, we tip our hats to the recently passed actor Ray Liotta with wine pairings for three of his films.

In 1990's Goodfellas, Liotta turned in a career performance as mobster-turned-witness Henry Hill. From a fresh-faced recruit to a coke-crazed veteran of the neighborhood wars, we follow him through crime, punishment and humiliation as he careens through his criminal life. He lived his life with every comfort he could steal. In the end, he was just a schnook who couldn't even get a decent marinara sauce.

Martin Scorsese directed the film to six Oscar nominations, but the Academy gave the supporting actor nod to Joe Pesci, which he won. Liotta’s narration, for me, makes the movie. His description of how to make a sauce while watching federal helicopters hover above him defines the crazy cool feeling of living on the edge with no safe place to fall.

There’s a liquor store in Brooklyn called Goodfellas, where presumably anything you purchase would pair well with the movie. It might even help them pay their weekly tribute to whoever lets them stay open. But for a classic movie serving up heaping helpings of pasta and sauce, make it a Chianti Classico, straight from the heart of Tuscany.

Something Wild came from 1986, a few years prior to Liotta's big role as a gangster. He's a tough guy in this one, too, an angry husband with parole problems who is not amused by his wife taking up with a banker. It's a freewheeling comedy, the one that brought Liotta to Scorsese’s attention. "Note to self: hire this guy for that wise guy movie."

South Australia’s Wild and Wilder Wines has a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro which is named The Unforgettable, a good enough nickname for Something Wild as well as for Liotta.

1997's Cop Land has Liotta on the other side of the badge, although as a dirty officer. The incredibly convoluted story ends up, as in Goodfellas, with his character copping a plea to keep his ass out of a crack.

Liotta lends support to the lead actors, Sylvester Stallone and Harvey Keitel, and gets to work again with Goodfellas cohort Robert De Niro. For a guy who worked as much as Liotta did - and who was as memorable in his roles - it's sad that he toiled for more than thirty years after Goodfellas in films that were nowhere near that mountaintop.

For Cop Land, let's look to a Paso Robles winery that was co-founded by a retired police officer - Thin Blue Wine Cellars. Even if he tries to get dirty, his ex-Marine wife is there to keep him on the straight and narrow.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Three Terrific White Wines From Campania

Irpinia is the historical name of the province of Avellino, inland in the Campania Apennines. That is the place that the Feudi di San Gregorio winery calls home. They are quick to note that they identify with Irpinia, not Campania. The winery was established by two families in 1986.

At Feudi di San Gregorio, they believe that a bottle of wine and a work of art arrive through the same creative process. They try to show the artistic side of the wine biz, with their labels all designed by Massimo Vignelli and a winery design from Hikaru Mori.

The 2020 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina carries the Sannio appellation and is made from 100% Falanghina grapes, aged in stainless steel tanks for five months, on the lees. Alcohol is quite restrained at only 13% abv and wine sells for around $23.

Despite the inland origin of the grapes, this wine smells like the seashore, with some nectarines, apricots and citrus thrown into the mix. The palate offers a showcase of minerality, with Meyer lemon and stone fruit trailing behind. Acidity is fresh and racy, perfect for pairing with a seafood dish, oysters in particular.

The 2020 Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo comes, naturally, from the Greco di Tufo appellation. The grapes are 100% Greco variety and the wine clocks in at 12.5% abv.  It retails for $28.

This beautiful white wine also carries with it a whiff of the sea, much like its cousin, Feudi di San Gregorio's Falanghina. The stone fruit comes across a little stronger on the nose, but the minerality and salinity fall right in line. This wine shows a less sharp acidity and would seem to be better suited to salad than seafood. It is, however, a delicious sipper.

The 2019 Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino carries the Fiano di Avellino appellation. It is made from 100% Fiano grapes and has alcohol at 13% abv. Retail is $28.

The straw yellow wine shows stone fruit and salinity on the nose. The palate is savory, with a ton of minerals and a hint of apricot and lemon. The acidity is racy and the long finish is all minerality.

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Monday, May 30, 2022

A Côtes du Rhône Villages Cheapie

This Côtes du Rhône Villages 2019 red blend is labeled as a Grand Vin from the southern Rhône Valley. The grapes are Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, making this a GSM, if you switch a couple of the words around. While researching the wine online, I found that a large number of America's supermarket chains carry it, so I feel justified in calling it a grocery store wine. I mean no disrespect by that, as I make a lot of my wine purchases at the market. Alcohol tips in at 14.5% abv and it sells for less than $15. Mine cost $10 on sale.

This medium dark wine shows plum and blackberry on the nose, with hints of black pepper and herbs. The palate brings those dark flavors amid a somewhat watery mouthfeel with medium-firm tannins. On the medium-long finish, those savory spice and herb notes come forward. I bought this for cooking, for which it was fine. It was decent as a sipper, but a little disappointing in aromas and flavors. 

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Friday, May 27, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Shaken Not Stirred

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 find some wines to pair with a trio of Bond films - James Bond films.

One of my favorite moments in the TV series, The West Wing, is when the topic of James Bond arises and the president complains that Bond likes his martini "shaken, not stirred."  He points out that the act of shaking the cocktail chips the ice and creates a drink that is watered down.  The character opines that Bond is "ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it."

In 1967’' You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery as Bond is offered a martini the other way around, "stirred, not shaken," by mistake.  He courteously accepts the offer rather than point out the error.  He also courteously accepts the offer of a tricked-out car, a bunch of cool gadgets and the chance to bed several beautiful women in the film.  Courteous guy, that Bond.

The movie is set in Japan as Bond tries to keep World War III from breaking out in space.  Besides getting to see Bond cavorting in a new, exotic setting, we also get to meet Blofeld.  Donald Pleasence plays the villain who is trying to turn the Cold War hot.  We were this close to getting Toshiro Mifune as Tiger Tanaka, but he was already contracted to do another film.  Too bad.

Bond courteously accepts a bottle of Dom Perignon 1959 - "Well, if you insist" - a wine that shows up repeatedly over the course of the spy series, although he also had an affinity for Bollinger bubbly.  The latter can be had for around $50, the former for a couple hundred.  For a vintage that would impress Bond - you couldn't actually be thinking of a non-vintage bottle - the price escalates quite a bit.

From Russia With Love was the second Bond film, from 1963, following the big success of Dr. No.  Connery gets more fantastic locales - Istanbul and Venice - more great chase scenes and a suitcase full of those fancy specialty items from Q.  

Dr. No's success prompted the desire for a sequel, with double the budget.  Was it worth the money?  Well, if you insist.  Bond movies typically get lukewarm response from scribes, but the paying public always has Bond money burning a hole in their pockets on opening day.  Popcorn is an additional charge.

Russian wine?  In this political climate?  Nyet.  Let's go to Ukraine for some Angel Bomon Rosé sparkling wine.  It utilizes a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, so I'll let you tell me how it tastes. It might be easier to locate a Ukrainian vodka for your martini - but stir it, no matter what Bond says.  

Let's jump ahead to 1987 for The Living Daylights, the first of a pair with Timothy Dalton as Bond.  Pierce Brosnan almost took over for 12-time Bond Roger Moore, but he was involved with NBC's Remington Steele.  Ratings were flagging, so Brosnan was interested.  However, the Bond talk sort of resurrected the show and Brosnan's contract got in the way.  After the talk died down, Steele lost the hearts and minds of viewers and Brosnan got only a handful of additional episodes before the axe fell.  In Hollywood, as in the old USSR, it was "death to spies" time.

Dalton certainly has his fans, but "favorite Bond?"  Connery and Moore make for tough competition.  Dalton probably gets a run for his money from the '80s pop band A-ha, the Norwegian group who did the synth-drenched theme song for The Living Daylights.  It takes all kinds, so I'm sure there are those who think Dalton is the best Bond and A-ha's take is the best Bond theme.  I'm just as sure, however, that if that entire fan club got together all at once they could hold the meeting in a phone booth, assuming they could still find a phone booth.  Make me choose, I'm taking Dalton's Bond over A-ha's Bond theme every day.

In this film, Bond gives a defecting KGB general a bottle of Bollinger’s RD, which stands for recently disgorged in English.  It means that the removal of the yeast collected in the bottle's neck after the secondary fermentation happens late in the aging process.  It is said to preserve the freshness of the wine.  At several hundred dollars per bottle, it had better be fresh.  As Steve Martin said in The Jerk, "No more of this old stuff."  They must not know who they're dealing with.

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Monday, May 23, 2022

White Wine From Bordeaux

Dry white wines are in their prime spot now that spring is here and summer is upon us.  Places like Spain's Rias Baixas region or France's Rhône Valley come to mind immediately.  However, the Bordeaux region is also becoming as known for its white wines as for its reds.

There are 12 AOCs for dry whites in BDX, with eight main grape varieties in use.  Two recently approved varieties - Alvarinho and Liliorila - coming into play thanks to climate change.  The Portuguese Alvarinho grape is known in northwestern Spain as Albarino, while Liliorila is a cross of Baroque and Chardonnay.  Both have strong aromatics, which is an area that suffers as the climate warms.

Château Moulin de Launay produces a great white wine at a very reasonable price.  It is from the Entre-Deux-Mers area of Bordeaux, situated between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers.  Red wines are made here, too, but only the whites carry the Entre-Deux-Mers AOC.  

Moulin de Launay's Entre-Deux-Mers Les Ailes d'Or is made from five different grapes - 35% Sémillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Muscadelle, 20% Sauvignon Gris and 5% Ugni Blanc.  Alcohol tips in at 12.5% abv and a bottle can be had in most places for around $15.

This white Bordeaux wine has a subdued nose, but traces of stone fruit and citrus do come through the mineral curtain.  The palate is also laced with minerals and citrus, with a nice touch of salinity to add to the waterside connotation of the region's name.  The acidity is fresh and zippy enough for a salad, some vegetables or a seafood dish.  

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Friday, May 20, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Future Shock

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 gaze backwards into our crystal balls to see what moviemakers of yesteryear thought the future would be like.

If you have yet to see it, we'll start with a spoiler: 1973's Soylent Green is people.  "It's people!"  This sci-fi touched on ecological issues while Earth Day was still wet behind the ears.  Pollution, global warming, dying oceans and overpopulation have turned the earth from a big blue marble into a living hell, where the lack of food has caused the Soylent Corporation to make plankton a taste treat.  But those dying oceans have stopped giving forth with the plankton, and that green food has to come from somewhere.

Charlton Heston plays a cop who, in the course of investigating a murder, discovers what the poor people are eating.  Soylent Green also features Edward G. Robinson's last credited appearance in a movie.

Some say Champagne pairs well with anything, but expecting it to elevate Soylent Green may be asking too much.  However, let's get a sparkler from a lower shelf to go with this film.  Portugal's Vinho Verde region produces what is called "green wine," but that’s a reference to its young age.  The effervescent white should go nicely with a plankton salad, especially if you’re a "people person."

Things to Come, from 1936, was written by H.G. Wells - who had a way with envisioning the future.  This vision looks at the span of time from 1940 - barely the future at that time - to 2036 - a century down the road.  In Wells' story, world war drags on for decades as civilization crumbles, only to find rebirth after guys in fantastic flying machines arrive to save humanity from itself.  There's even a moon shot, which almost doesn't happen when the Luddites decide to stand in the way of what they consider to be unnecessary progress.  Damned Luddites, anyway.

Nearly a dozen different cuts of Things To Come were made, of varying lengths, ranging from a little over an hour to two hours.  The movie did okay with critics and paying customers back in the '30s, but it has evolved into what is considered by many to be a masterpiece of science fiction.

Santa Barbara County's Future Perfect Wine certainly has the market cornered on optimism, especially with the experts saying that climate change presents a bleak future for California wine.  Future Perfect has a 2021 Sauvignon Blanc which they call a "breakfast wine."  That’s right - in the future we'll have wine for breakfast, in case you aren't already doing that.

Canada's 1983 entry into the world of body horror, Videodrome, is David Cronenberg's vision of a future of mind control by television.  The chief suit of a Toronto TV station happens upon snuff films on a satellite signal.  Being a broadcast executive, he naturally figures that this is the future wave of his medium and he begins to rebroadcast the shows.  The situation gets political pretty fast, as the suit delves deeper and deeper into a real-life battle for the minds of the viewers.  Videodrome is a trippy, creepy whiff of the future from 1983 - a future which, like things in a rear-view mirror, may be closer than they appear.

Certainly films that feature the torture and killing of human beings fall into the category of deadly sin.  So, let's grab a 7 Deadly Zins for Videodrome.  Lodi Zinfandel has not been associated with eternal damnation since the 1970s, but we'll make an exception for this Cronenberg cult classic.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Paso Robles Cab Challenges Napa Juice

You could call Paso Robles California's "forgotten" wine region - if it weren't for Temecula.  Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, for my money, gives Napa Valley a good deal of competition.  The limestone influence in the Paso dirt plays wonderfully in red wines, as well as white.  And, while Napa Cabs may be elegant, Paso offerings have a more rustic approach which I find compelling.

Paso Robles winemaker Daniel Daou has his latest Cab out, the 2019 Soul of a Lion, the crown jewel of DAOU Family Estates, named in honor of his father. 


Soul of a Lion puts Paso Robles on the map for world-class Cabernet Sauvignon.  It showcases Daou's vision to produce Bordeaux-style wines that combine elegance, freshness, and power.  The 2018 vintage has all the hallmarks of its cooler growing season, revealing both the power and finesse.

The winery credits DAOU Mountain's "remarkable geology, microclimate, a 2,200-foot elevation and steep slopes" for creating what they call "a jewel of ecological elements."  Alcohol tips in at 14.8% abv.

The wine is very dark, so inky that light does not pass through it.  The nose is fresh, riddled with black and blue berries, clove, cinnamon and cedar.  On the palate, the rich fruit is out front with a savory backbeat trailing behind.  The tannins are firm, while the finish is long and extremely tasty.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

Fun, Yet Serious Prosecco

Fantinel was founded in 1969 by restaurateur and hotelier Paron Mario Fantinel.  He started with vineyards in the Collio area of northern Friuli.  A third generation of Fantinels, Marco, Stefano, and Mariaelena, now help get the wines made.

The Glera grapes for this bubbly were grown in the Friuli, Venezia and Giulia regions.  The wine was made sparkling in the Charmat method through carbonation in steel tanks.  Alcohol is restrained at 11.5% abv and a bottle usually be found for less than $15. 

This wine makes pretty bubbles which don’t last too long, so enjoy them while they are here.  The very pale sparkler offers a nose which carries floral notes along with citrus and minerals.  The palate is very dry and loaded with minerality and lemon-lime fruit flavors.  It comes off more like a "serious" sparkling wine than a "fun" Prosecco, but there is plenty there to please both camps.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - The Dark Side Of Hollywood

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 delve into the less glamorous side of Tinseltown, that side which is inhabited by murderers, con men and people who are just trying to make a living at this crazy business.

Star 80 came out in 1983, just a few years after Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten was murdered by her husband, who then killed himself.  Television actually beat Hollywood to the punch in this true-life potboiler, as a made-for-TV version of the story was aired in 1981.  In Star 80, Mariel Hemingway plays Stratten, with Eric Roberts as the sleazy husband and Cliff Robertson as Hugh Hefner.  

Roberts required some arm-twisting from director Bob Fosse to play Paul Snider, as he considered the role to be as unpleasant as Snider no doubt was.  Roberts gained several nominations for best actor, but not one from the Academy.  It was film critic Roger Ebert who pointed out that "Hollywood will not nominate an actor for portraying a creep, no matter how good the performance is."  However, for a guy who has appeared in about a million movies, his roster is noticeably short on award nominations.

Not a pleasant movie, Star 80, but hopefully we can find a wine to make the experience less debilitating.  How about the Playboy California Red Wine?  It was made a few years back by Lot 18 in a partnership with the magazine, as a limited release.  It cost about $25 a bottle then, and you may have to seek it out on Ebay today, at what price only Hugh Hefner knows.  But you know how crazy some folks get over bunny ears and a bow tie.

1992's The Player stars Tim Robbins amid dozens of other Hollywood names, directed by Robert Altman.  The story pokes at the soft underbelly of the screenwriting world.  Robbins is a studio mogul who is being stalked by a screenwriter.  He meets up with the guy he thinks it is, and ends up killing him.  Who knew pitching a movie could be so dangerous?

The movie has plenty of lines you can incorporate into your everyday life, like "Ghost meets The Manchurian Candidate - but with heart," "One of us, one of us" and "Traffic was a bitch."

Blackstone Paddock has a $20 Shiraz from Australia's Barossa Valley and it's called, wait for it, The Player!  It seems to be available at the Aldi grocery chain, so hopefully there's one near you.

The 1975 British film, Inserts, concerns silent movie directors and actors who ran into trouble when movies suddenly came with sound.  Set in the 1930s, these relics who found themselves on the technological trash heap turned to making pornography as a means of making a living.  Hey, at least they didn't sign up to be parking enforcement officers.  You must draw the line somewhere.  

Besides the unsavory profession considered by these Hollywood rejects, Inserts also deals with drugs and an overdose death.  That should be enough darkness to make this movie a welcome addition to this week's theme.

For a movie about 1930's porn, which was rated X initially, by the way, we have a wine named If You See Kay.  They actually have a back story about who Kay is, as if that were necessary.  There's only one reason you have this wine, and that is the name on the bottle.  Enjoy.  As Kay might say, C U Next Thursday.

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