Monday, April 6, 2020

Monopole: Rioja Blanca Wine

Spanish wine is a thing unto itself, but I suppose one could say that about French wine, German wine, Portuguese wine, Israeli wine, and on and on.  But it seems especially true for Spanish wine.  It was the wine of Spain that originally got me interested in vino - in fact, Viura was one of the grapes that initially caught my attention.

The 2019 Monopole is produced by the big Spanish wine company CVNE, which stands for Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España.  The outfit was founded in 1879 in the Rioja town of Haro by two brothers and is still run by their descendants.  The Monopole name harkens back to a wine they used to make some 40 years ago, one that featured Manzanilla sherry blended with the white Viura grapes and aged in oak casks. 

This wine is not so complex - made fully from Viura grapes, in stainless steel tanks.  The grapes were harvested from mid-September through mid-October, on the heels of a terrible drought.  The region got ample rain over the winter and spring of this vintage.  The packaging is a little unusual for the Rioja region - a tall, slender Rhine-style bottle is used.  Alcohol tips 13% abv and it sells for under $15.

The nose is full of citrus - lemon, lime and bit of orange, a splash of grapefruit - with some excellent minerality and salinity on the other side of the scales.  The palate follows suit, with an acidity level that is nice, but not quite as racy as I expected.  Minerals linger on a finish that serves as a lovely reminder of a beautiful sip of white wine.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Blood Of The Vines: Crooks And Lawyers

Crooks and lawyers this week on Trailers From Hell.  What's the difference, you may ask?  Lawyers drink better wine.  Let’s see if we can find a good match for this week's featured flicks.

2007's Michael Clayton was nominated for seven Oscars, and it would have been eight had there been a category for Worst Title.  Lawyer Clayton cleans up his clients' messes, referring to himself as a janitor.  He is played by George Clooney, who looks like he knows his way around a wine list but does not look anything like a janitor.  In the wine biz, a lawyer would handle permits, labels, sales and acquisitions - not exactly the stuff of cinematic legend.

Since it takes so much scratch to buy a winery, mostly lawyers and doctors retire to vineyards.  Let's drink to Law Estate Winery of Paso Robles, owned by Don and Susie Law.  Their $77 Audacious Grenache-Cab-Carignan-Syrah blend sounds good for a lawyer.  For the crook, the Rhône rosé.  However, at $33 he might need to have his lawyer buy it for him.

Pierrepoint - The Last Hangman has its own niche.  Neither a lawyer nor a crook, Albert Pierrepoint was Britain's "last hangman" of the title.  It is reported that he actually was not the last to hold that grim job, but why let facts get in the way of a good story?   He no doubt saw plenty of crooks during his decades as executioner.  I wonder how many of them ordered wine with their last meal?
Keplinger Hangman's Syrah comes from a Carneros vineyard located next to an old hangman's tree.  Workers there had better keep busy, lest they find themselves just hangin' around.

Let Him Have It is a 1991 Britfilm about a couple of young goofs who try to look tough and end up killing a cop.  Well, that's one way to look tough.  The older of the pair tries to prove his innocence, such as it is, to avoid Ol' Sparky.  Can we hear Bessie Smith doing a few verses of "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair?"

Christopher Blake Electric Chair wine is 90% Petit Verdot and 10% who cares when the rest is PV.  This wine did solitary in an oak barrel for nearly two years before being imprisoned in 750 ml bottles, only to be set free when uncorked for a screening of this movie.

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Rias Baixas Albariño

Realizing that many people are stuck in self-isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, publicist Gregory+Vine made it possible for wine writers and wine lovers to participate in a virtual happy hour, online with all the social and physical distancing we need.  The event was led by Spanish Wine Scholar Kat Thomas and Rick Fisher, who is also known on Twitter as @thespanishwineguy.  A bottle of Terras Gauda Albariño blend was provided to me so I could take part in the fun.

This wine I tried is from Spain's Rias Baixas region, where Albariño lives.  Specifically, the grapes hail from the O Rosal region within Rias Baixas, spitting distance from the Atlantic Ocean, just north of the Miño River which separates Spain from Portugal.  The 2018 Terras Gauda is a blend of 70% Albariño, 10% Loureira and 20% Caiño Blanco.

Fisher said during the event that the wine regions in the northern part of Spain are called "green Spain" - as opposed, I guess, to "brown Spain."  The land is lush and green up north owing to the large amount of rainfall the area receives.  Thomas chipped in with the info that Rias Baixas and its subregions may be known for Albariño but they also allow red wine grapes, largely Mencia.

O Rosal’s 2018 vintage featured a rainy spring and a hot summer.  The arid conditions dehydrated some of the grapes, making the aromas and flavors inside them more concentrated.  The grapes were taken from the vines in staggered fashion over the month of September.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, where it rested on the lees for three months before being bottled.  Winemaker Emilio Rodríguez crafted a wine which offers both striking acidity and full ripeness.  Alcohol clocks in at a restrained 12.5% abv  and it retails for $26.

This is a great Rias Baixas wine.  It is complex, with a nose going light on the flowers and heavy on the fruit - lemon and orange mainly.  There is also a touch of lanolin and a hint of apricot.  On the palate, it's fruit up front, with some serious salinity and a very nice acidity that’s as fresh as springtime.

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Monday, March 30, 2020

Wine Country Alaska

When I tell people that wine is made in every US state, the number one response I get is, "Oh, yeah? What about Alaska?"  Yes, Virginia, wine is made in Alaska.

The Now And Zin Wine Country series is creeping ever closer to the goal of tasting wine from all 50 U.S. states.  Wine from Alaska arrived recently to brighten my self-isolated existence.  That makes 46 states now sampled, with only Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming remaining elusive.  I understand that OK is on the way.  Fingers crossed.

Alaska's wine production is so limited, the state doesn't even get its own line on the list.  It is lumped in with eight other states as "others" which collectively produce some 0.039% of the wine made in America.

The website says Glacier Bear Winery was founded in 2015 as a companion to the already existing Bear Creek Winery.  Glacier Bear makes wine only from Alaska-grown fruit, like red raspberries, yellow raspberries, blueberries, black currants, strawberries, gooseberries, apples, low bush cranberries, and rhubarb.  They do use Chardonnay grapes in a blend with Rhubarb.  Winemaker Louis Maurer named some of his berry wines after the grapes he set out to emulate - Blu Zin and Mirlo.

The wineries are located in Homer, Alaska, overlooking Kachemak Bay.  It's a 40 mile long arm of Cook Inlet, on the southwest side of the Kenai Peninsula southwest of Anchorage.  Lodging is available on-site, overlooking the bay.  Maurer tells me he knows of only one other winery in Alaska, so I feel incredibly lucky to have received the wines. 

Glacier Bear Winery Black Currant Wine 2016

This medium-hued berry wine brings natural fruit to the table.  It smells of black currant but gets a little more complex with a smokey overlay on the nose.  The palate is basically cassis, only not so dense and sweet, and with less alcohol - only 12.5% abv.  I am thinking of this as the Pinot Noir of berry wines, owing to its light mouthfeel and hint of tartness.  It's fruity, fun and tasty for sure, but many wine drinkers may find $27 a bit steep for those qualities.  I would love to pair this with pork, or even with glazed wild salmon.

Glacier Bear Winery Blueberry Wine 2018 

I had wine made from Florida blueberries once, and it smelled and tasted like full-on blueberry juice, the kind you would have for breakfast.  This one, made from Alaska blueberries, is definitely wine.  It's dry, like the Black Currant, and features a nose that is deep and dark enough, earthy and herbal enough to make a wine lover take notice.  The palate shows fruit, stems and all, not suitable for serving with Eggos in the morning.  I'm thinking this would pair well with game, despite its medium-light weight.  Alcohol tips only 11.5% abv and the wine retails for $25.

Bear Creek Alaskan Port 

This Port-style wine is made from 100% Muscadine grapes, but Maurer says they were not Alaska-grown.  The wholesaler which provided the juice to him could not pinpoint where they were grown.  The Muscadine grape is fairly popular in the humid southeastern states.  This wine hits an alcohol level of 17% abv and sells for $27.

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Blood Of The Vines: Frails, Floozies And Dames

It's time to pair wine with movies again, in conjunction with the movie-mad Trailers From Hell

Wife vs. Secretary is a comedy-drama from the 1930s, before they started calling such things "dramedies," and well before people started saying, "they forgot the funny."  I'd say the wife and the secretary are both dames, certainly not frails and probably not floozies.  The salacious trailer asks, tantalizingly, whether Clark Gable would choose wife Myrna Loy or secretary Jean Harlow.  Gable had already done films with Harlow four times and Loy three. "Which one would he choose"... to work with again?  I can safely say that I'VE never had any trouble telling a wife from a secretary.   Of course, I've never had a secretary. 

It's not a case of mistaken identity here, that Gable simply kept his eyes closed and couldn't tell the two apart.  The situation is actually quite a bit tamer than advertised, but when isn't that true? 

This movie can best pair with a wine called The Secretary Bird, from South Africa's Western Cape.  The Merlot is good, unless you've ever heard your secretary - or wife - scream, "I'm not drinking any #$@&%* Merlot!."  In that case, opt for the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or rosé.  They're all cheap, but they're no floozies, either. 

Sexless movies?  What do you think, there's a Production Code or something?  That 1934 document put the nix on overt sexuality, like married couples sleeping in the same bed.  While it stifled artsy little semi-nude shots, it did force more emphasis to be placed on double entendres, giving Cary Grant a career.  Baby Face is a pre-Code movie - in fact it is one of the handful of films credited with prompting the Code to be written in the first place.  Starring Barbara Stanwyck - aah, you can stop right there.  A dame's dame, a dude's dame, certainly no frail.  In this film, she's a dame who doesn't mind using what she's got to get what she wants.  In other words, she's a floozie.  With just the turn of a phrase - "Can't we talk this over?"  she floozes her way to the top.  If you're going to flooze, flooze big, I always say.

Wouldn't you know, there's a wine that pairs perfectly with the subject matter.  The Floozie, from Australia's Hugh Hamilton, is a Sangiovese-based rosé.  Sangiovese means you can drink it while watching The Godfather, if you dare to drink a rosé while watching The Godfather.  It's sweet, but not too cheap.

Only women grace the screen in The Women, even though it's "all about men" - so says the one-sheet.  Frails, floozies and dames abound.  There's even a lesbian, maybe, possibly, at least it is hinted at as strongly as the damned Production Code would allow.  Which is not very.

I'm told by a close associate that the one-sheet got it all wrong.  It's not all about men, it's all about the women.  And that's from the greatest dame I know, my wife.  The Women is one of her favorite movies, and if you disparage it she can claw your eyes out with her Jungle Red fingernails.

As long as the sisters are doin' it for themselves, let's get a wine from a state with a girl's name, Georgia.  The Three Sisters Vineyard.  And since we're going all-in on the female thing, how about their Cynthiana wine?  That's also known as the Norton grape, all-American and tasty as hell, killed by Prohibition.  Georgia is not letting it rest in peace.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Beer From San Diego County

Much as I am amazed at how many great wines come out of Lodi, I find the same fascination with beers from San Diego County.  They're all good.  Some are pretty damn good, like the Mosaic Double IPA from Belching Beaver Brewery in Oceanside. 

I snagged this off the shelf at Whole Foods, almost without looking, after waiting in a short line to enter the store.  I knew others were waiting for me to leave, so I played the good neighbor and forfeited my treasured ten minutes scanning the beer cooler.  I grabbed a colorful label, so sue me.

Mosaic is made with 100% Mosaic hops, which are complex enough to generate many descriptors from tasters.  They definitely give this India Pale Ale a different angle than most IPAs.  Alcohol tips in at 8.8% abv.

The nose on this brew is hoppy, for sure.  It is more floral/herbal than citrus, though.  On the palate, the hops turn in some grapefruit flavors and there's a bit more maltiness than I usually find in an India Pale Ale.  It's a complex enough package that it could be considered a "sipper" rather than a "gulper."  You will want to savor this one, not merely quench your thirst with it.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Beer From Alaska

I am still waiting to find a wine from Alaska for the Now And Zin Wine Country series - one should be on the way - but in the meantime, a beer from the 49th state has appeared.  The sample was provided to me by the brewery.

Alaskan Brewing Company is unveiling a new limited release series of beers.  Their Hazy Bay Juicy IPA should be in stores in 25 states now, if they haven't been snapped up along with all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer.  The brewery describes their new creation as "a citrusy and tropical fruit explosion of hops and drinkability based on the New England Hazy IPA beer style."  They say the Limited Release series allows them to experiment with new styles and ingredients.

Hazy Bay Juicy IPA is brewed with hops such as Mosaic, Citra and Simcoe and Sultana, which all have juicy, citrus flavors.  The hops are heavily used in the dry-hopped stage with two dry-hopping additions during fermentation.  Alaskan-grown white wheat from the VanderWeele Farms in Palmer, Alaska gets credit for the soft mouthfeel.  Hazy Bay IPA is made from glacier-fed water and features Pale, Victory, Munich, and C-30 malts, brumalt, unmalted oats.  Alcohol tips 6% abv.

The Hazy Bay Juicy IPA pours up amber-orange and - as promised - hazy.  The hops are all there on the nose, piney and citrusy.  The palate is rich and smooth, with a touch of bitterness on the apricot flavor.  The aftertaste is golden and malty.  This is a great beer to keep in mind when the warm months roll in.  It'll go just fine with yard work. 

ABC says they are looking at midsummer 2020 for the release of the new Fireweed Blonde, the next beer in their Limited Release series.  That one will be a little lighter in alcohol.  Another IPA is planned for autumn, Stratasphere, a Strata-hopped IPA.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Blood Of The Vines: Low Budget Slashers

Aah, low-budget slashers this week on Trailers From Hell.  There is nothing like pairing wine with a film that drips with Burgundy-red blood.  Are those Bordeaux stains on your smock?  Tell Chuckie to go to hell, and take his trailer with him.  Leave the bottle.

Alice, Sweet Alice got the director not only charged with obscenity but excommunicated, both in the state of New Jersey.  Who knew Jersians would be so upset over a little blood?  Brooke Shields debuts here, before gliding into a career in film’n’fashion, where the wine, bubbles and sometimes tequila flow like a fire hydrant.  Brooke now says she has a glass of water for every drink.  I knew a guy who claimed to "run a mile for every one of these," as he held up a Rob Roy.  I always imagined him running a marathon before work each day.  This film had several different titles - which is the hallmark of quality - one of which was Communion.  Is Alice, Sweet Alice an indictment of the church, child abuse, the death of the family or psychiatry?  Have fun guessing, while I focus on the wine. 

Fat Bastard's Bloody Red is a French GSM that’s really marketed for Halloween, but it works here as well.  The Spanish Alice Crianza has a slasher-style font on the label and pours up just as red.

Everyone has different hot-button phobias - clowns, spiders, Mr. Peanut.  For me it's mannequins.  Mannequins are creepy.  So are people who trespass in a room filled with mannequins.  So are people who go skinny dipping when their car breaks down after their friend was killed by mannequins.  Tourist Trap has enough "Don't go in there" moments to fuel a spoof.  Maybe there should be someone yelling that phrase outside the theater.  Forget about pairing a wine.  Just gimme a drink.  Orin Swift makes a Chardonnay called Mannequin, which comes complete with a label depicting a multitude of showroom dummies.  Creepy.

Spider Baby ups the ante on creepiness.  It reminds me that children eating spiders is one of my hot-button phobias.  The movie stars Lon Chaney, Jr., and to quote Warren Zevon, "his hair was perfect."  Not so perfect was his decision to leave a houseful of mentally defective creatures alone for a bit.  When he warns them to "behave" while he's gone, you can see the good ship U.S.S. Trouble steaming into port.  A guy in Bristol, UK had the perfect pairing when he bought a bottle of plonk that had a spider in it.  You really can't depend on getting a bug in your wine these days, so let's look for one on the label.  Australia's Spitting Spider Shiraz works for me.  Just don't have me look up any wines for clowns.  Or Mr. Peanut.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Sweet Wine From Bordeaux

Sauternes is a city in France's Bordeaux region. It is also an appellation exclusive to sweet, golden dessert wines made largely from Sémillon grapes.  Sweet white wine is not everyone's cup, but anyone who likes a good dessert and a good glass of wine should not object to having them in the same serving.  However, sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert.  Start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses.  Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.

Chateau La Rame Sainte-Croix du Mont 2015

 The sweet wine of Chateau La Rame comes from the vineyard in Sainte-Croix du Mont.  The vines average 50 years of age and the Sémillon grapes are hand harvested with successive pass-through.   The soil contains fossilized oyster beds which seem to impart a distinct minerality to the wine.  It's aged mainly in stainless steel tanks, with a little less than a third aged in French oak barrels.  The wine retails for $20.

This rich, golden, sweet wine smells like honey and dried apricots. There's a layer of earthy minerals, a chalkiness, that beautifully counterpoints the sweetness.  On the palate, a viscous mouthfeel carries marmalade-like fruit flavors along on a subtle wave of acidity.  This is dessert on its own, but why limit such a wonderful wine?  Have it with hard cheese, almonds or a lobster roll.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

1849: The Wine's As Good As The Label

The 1849 Wine Company puts as much into their labels as their wine.  I am actually rather turned off by eye-catching labels, my knee-jerk reaction when I am hit with marketing techniques.  I must admit, though, that their 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 found, after tearing my eyes away from the label and sampling the juice, that they have met their goal.

Declaration, their 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, was blended in St. Helena from "Napa Valley vineyards," although the company does not publish much 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 lofty 15% abv and the retail price is up there as well, at $80.

This dark wine has a gorgeous nose - blackberry, cherry, lavender, graphite, vanilla and sweet oak spices laid out with great care.  The palate is a delightful playground of dark berries and that Napa dirt, which doesn't seem all that dirty, really.  It still drinks fairly fruity and young, but has plenty of aging potential for the coming years.  After it sits awhile, you'll get a nice waft of smoke as you inhale on the sip.

1849 also makes a Sonoma County red blend.  The 2017 Triumph also has artwork by Saber and also hits 15% abv.  This one is a little easier on the wallet at $45.  It is a Bordeaux-style blend, presumably of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot.  There may be some Malbec and Cab Franc in there, but I couldn't say for sure.  The winery isn't very good at putting together a tech sheet.

Triumph's nose has some mild funk on it, with touches of campfire and earth.  The palate is youthful and fruity with a firm set of tannins and a fresh acidity.  The flavor profile does open up after a few minutes in the glass, revealing notes of beef jerky, black olives and forest floor.  It's an interesting wine which becomes more complex as it gets air.

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Friday, March 13, 2020

Blood Of The Vines: More Movies You Never Heard Of

Trailers From Hell is featuring more movies you never heard of this week, so my wine selections should be easy pairings - more wines you never heard of.  Wine aficionados and movie buffs say those are the best ones, anyway.  Everybody likes to think they are a cult of one.  In my younger days, music at my place was like "stump the band."  If you had ever heard it anywhere else, it wouldn't find my turntable.  My fondness for Bruce Springsteen's music knew no limits in those years, but diminished with each of my friends who signed on as believers.  Oh, I still liked him as a superstar, it just wasn't the same with everyone else on board. 

Admiral is a 2014 South Korean film, one of the many which did not receive an Academy Award for Best Picture.  The South Korean director who did win mentioned that he would proceed to drink until dawn.  That is something, I am told, directors are sometimes given to do - whether they win an Oscar or not.

Admiral Yi Sun-sin has just 13 battleships against a 300-ship Japanese fleet in the Battle of Myeongryang.  So this is a movie you've never heard of, as well as a movie the details of which you cannot pronounce.  Perhaps it pairs with a Scotch whisky, most of which no one can pronounce, either, like Bunnahabhain.  Or an ornery beer, like Westvleteren 12.  Let's get sweet with a German Riesling classified as Trockenbeerenauslese. 

From 2004, 800 Bullets is a Spanish film by director Álex de la Iglesias.  He is listed further down in the Iglesias Google search than Enrique, Julio and Gabriel combined.  Much further.  A film which is a tip of the Pale Rider hat to Spaghetti westerns should be an easy Italian choice, but hold on, amico.  Those films were shot in Almería, Spain, as was 800 Bullets, just across the Alboran Sea from Morocco.  A wine from the southern reaches of the Iberian peninsula? Sherry, perhaps!  Not unless granny was a stunt double.  Those daredevils deserve a strong, spicy, peppery red wine that lives it up and ages fast.  Break out a cheap Garnacha from anywhere in Spain.  Screwcap!  Action!

Documentaries often appear on lists of movies you haven't seen, and that goes double for non-narrative documentaries like 1992's Baraka.  Maybe you also didn't see the 2012 sequel, Samsara.  Filmed in 23 different countries, Baraka shows image after image after striking image, without many words.  As a wine writer, I am always looking for words to describe what I taste.  Pictures are for marketers, so they can grab your attention on a crowded wine store shelf with kittens and kangaroos and such. 

If you are adventurous enough to watch Baraka, you are probably adventurous enough to seek out the namesake Croatian wine, produced across the Adriatic Sea from Italy.  The Baraka Prisbus Riserva is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend that's been in the cellar for three years and sports a very conservative label, sans critters.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Tanqueray Rangpur Gin

From time to time this wine site veers into other areas of interest for imbibers, like beer and gin.  I'm a big fan of a well-made gin, and Tanqueray always delivers.  Just ask Johnnie Johnson.  Tanqueray Rangpur is their latest creation - debuting about 14 years ago. 

This aromatic gin is made with Rangpur limes, which the distillery says are actually a hybrid between lemons and mandarin oranges, looking something like tangerines.  Tanqueray distills this citrus fruit with other botanicals "including bay leaf, ginger, and a fair amount of juniper."  The Rangpur lime itself is named after the Rangpur region in northern Bangladesh. 

Tanqueray is made by Cameronbridge Distillery, owned by Diageo.  They claim it is "arguably the oldest continually operating distillery in Scotland, and could be the oldest grain distillery in the world."  Tanqueray Rangpur clocks in at 41% abv and sold for $20 at a local grocery, where it was on sale at about $12 off the list.

Tanqueray Rangpur offers the zestiness of lime and juiciness of mandarin orange, just as promised by the distillery.  The extremely aromatic nose suggests that no lime is needed for a gin and tonic.  It’s a smooth gin, you can have it on the rocks.  It also fits well with tonic or club soda.  I tried a splash of sweet vermouth in it and was pleasantly surprised.

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Monday, March 9, 2020

Now And Zin Wine Country Series Stands At 45 States

What started as an idle thought - "can I taste wines from all 50 U.S. states?" - has become a personal mission.  Now And Zin's Wine Country series debuted nearly a decade ago, and we have now tasted wine from 45 states.  Just five to go - Alaska, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

Now And Zin's Wine Country started with a series about wines made from America's Norton grape, in which I sampled wine from Missouri, Virginia and Georgia for the first time.  I was surprised by the quality and fascinated by the notion of wine tasting across America.

If you can make good wine in California, that's expected - not that it's easy, but it seems that's what you're supposed to do with great soil and perfect weather.  Making good wine in areas of the country where nature isn't quite as accommodating is a real achievement.

I've heard from American winemakers about Indiana limestone, Cornell grape creations and moderating winds from - of all places - Lake Erie.  I've heard winemakers cry in anguish, "I want to make dry wines, but all my customers want is sweet!"

I've sampled mead from Montana and Maine, Muscadine from Alabama and Kentucky Cabernet Franc.  I've had a Super Tuscan-style blend from Arizona, mile-high wine from Colorado, amazing bubbles from Massachusetts, Michigan and Illinois, Zinfandel from Nevada and New Mexico, New York Riesling, New Jersey Merlot and North Carolina Chardonnay.

I've tried wine made from Vermont apples, Florida blueberries, North Dakota rhubarb, West Virginia blackberries and Hawaiian Maui pineapples.

There have been plenty of unexpected grapes, like Petit Manseng from Georgia, Carménère from Idaho, Traminette from Indiana, Eidelweiss from Iowa, Marquette from Minnesota and Catawba from Pennsylvania.

Two Nebraska wines are named after pelicans; a South Dakota winemaker uses Petite Sirah to take the acidic edge off the Frontenac.  There's Touriga Nacional growing in Tennessee.

Most of the wines for this series have been supplied by the winemakers for the purpose of the article, while some have been sent by friends of mine who had travel plans to a state I had yet to taste.  To all who have sent wine for this project, I offer my heartfelt thanks.

It has taken nine years to sample wine from 45 states, so the end is in sight.  Shipping wine in the United States has proven to be a stumbling block on more than one occasion.

Contacts made in Utah and Oklahoma have dropped out of sight, while responses are hard to come by at all from Alaska, Wyoming and Mississippi.  I am sure for some of these states, I'll probably have to find someone who makes wine in their garage.  Any Mississippi garagistes out there?

While we are on the subject, if you know a winemaker in the states which haven't been covered in Wine Country yet - Alaska, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming - please pass this article along to them.  Even if they can't ship to me, I'd love to hear from them.

Also, one state which has been left blank is California.  Of course, I sample a lot of California wine, so finding it isn't the problem.  I want to determine one wine or winery which is representative of California for this series.  If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.  Comment here, email or contact me on Twitter.

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Friday, March 6, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Carquake!

This week's Trailers From Hell movies are about cars, in one fashion or another.  We do not recommend drinking and driving - of course - but, once you are home, unscrew the cap on something mechanical for your viewing pleasure.  You can take it out of the brown paper bag first, but don't bother with a glass.

1976's Car Wash was reportedly filmed at an actual car wash in L.A.'s Westlake neighborhood, at Rampart and 6th, a street corner now populated by strip malls, laundromats and a HoHo Chicken.  There's a 7-Eleven nearby, where you can probably find a suitable "bum wine" to go with the impoverished motif of the film.  However, if you are trying to steer clear of pop bottles, here's a wine for your dirty car.  Dirty and Rowdy Wines makes a Petite Sirah - a powerful grape which is strong enough to make a great bum wine, by the way, if it weren't so expensive.

The 1977 horror film, The Car, made a villain of a '71 Lincoln Continental - six years before Stephen King would do the same with a '58 Plymouth Fury.  The Car is a mean and murderous machine, but what really sets off the CHP is that it has no plates and the windows are tinted too dark.  The seemingly driverless car, for some reason, has it in for the little hick town that apparently makes dust for export to the rest of the world.  In the trailer, the car does more horn honking than the second person in line when the light turns green.  In the end, the car gets its comeuppance from a ruse that would make Wyle E. Coyote green with envy.  Continental Wines is a New York liquor store, and the many Lincoln wines are all midwestern bottles with a log cabin on the label.  To get the proper classic car connection for this film, Los Angeles car buff Peter Mullin makes wines from his family vineyard in Italy.  The bottles are adorned with vintage automobiles that look a lot less dangerous than the '71 Lincoln.

The star car in 1977's Grand Theft Auto is a Rolls Royce, which takes the sort of beating throughout the film that is usually reserved for a demolition derby.  Uh, spoiler alert … there is a demolition derby.  The Rolls carries a young couple as they elope to Las Vegas, where there will be plenty of time for wine.  There are now more Master Sommeliers in Sin City than in any other city in the world, so getting a recommendation shouldn't be a problem.  Ordering that wine in a restaurant, as someone who looks a lot like Opie, means you'd better have your ID with you.  For the Rolls Royce, only a Dom Perignon Champagne will do.  At least at first.  As the wear and tear on the vehicle mounts, you'll be looking for something cheap, in a box.  Nowadays people know GTA as a game, and in the recent edition, GTA V, there is a virtual wine called Costa Del Perro - coast of the dog - but you can only have that wine virtually, as a player in the game.  There is a Spanish Rueda wine called El Perro Verde - the green dog - but that seems like straying too far away.  A tip of the headset to the late L.A. legend The Real Don Steele, who has a role in the movie as - wait for it - a radio DJ.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Greek Wine - Santorini

The Greek island of Santorini was created by a volcanic eruption some 3500 years ago.  This gave the isle not only a breathtaking landscape but also volcanic soil, which shows itself in the region's wine and food.

A recent gathering of folks who share an interest in the wines of Santorini was held at the wonderful Los Angeles restaurant Republique.  Along with a smattering of publicists in attendance was Andreas Spyrou of the Greek consulate in L.A.  He made it clear that he stands firmly in favor of Greek wine and food, particularly the esteemed Assyrtiko grape and the tomatoes, fava and capers which grow in the volcanic soil of Santorini.  It is a Protected Destination of Origin, Santorini is, and the representatives of the PDO say that the agricultural products which grow there have very special qualities.  Santorini tomatoes, known as tomataki, are tiny, corrugated, thick skinned fruit with a sweet taste and more vitamin C than ordinary tomatoes.

The grapes - the lean Assyrtiko, the aromatic Athiri, the delicate Aidani - combine to make wines that are truly Greek and truly special.  The wines which were poured were made from dry-farmed grapes, grown basket style to protect them from the windy conditions on the island.  All five wines are available in the $20 range.

The Santo Sparkling Assyrtiko 2015 is almost clear, with a slightly greenish tint.  It's nose displays peach, citrus, minerals, yeast, green apple and a hint of lemon.  It has a nice acidity, but quickly dissipating bubbles.

The 2018 Santorini Assyrtiko, 100% Assyrtiko grapes, has a subdued nose of ocean spray and the palate displaying minerals and citrus with a nice acidity.

Santorini Aspa 2018 has 75% Assyrtiko, 15% Athiri and 10% Aidani grapes.  The wine was vinified in steel and served three months in oak barrels.  It has a little more color than the pale wines that preceded it at the tasting.  The nose has honey-layered lemon-lime aromas while the palate shows nice depth with a good touch of oak, great acidity and a long finish.

The 2017 Santorini Assyrtiko Grand Reserve was made from only Assyrtiko grapes, fermented in oak and aged 12 months in oak and 12 in the bottle.  There is huge depth on the nose, not at all over-oaked.  The wine has a nutty, savory, quite lovely oak effect.  The palate is gorgeous - salinity with tangerine peel, a very good acidity and a lengthy finish.  This wine shows that Assyrtiko rivals Roussanne as my favorite grape.

For dessert, Santorini Vinsanto is 85% Assyrtiko and 15% Aidani.  The grapes were spread out under the sun for a week or so before pressing, which brings the sweetness out.  Vinsanto was vinified in stainless steel tanks and aged for three years in oak.  It's a simply gorgeous wine,  with a nose of raisins, brown sugar and caramel.  The palate is sweet, sweet and more sweet, with spicy dried fruit in the lead role.

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Monday, March 2, 2020

Wine I'd Like To Have Everyday - Madeira

Madeira was the wine of choice for many of America's founding fathers.  John Hancock and the other representatives of the 13 colonies, it is said, toasted the signing of the Declaration of Independence with Madeira wine.  George Washington reportedly celebrated his inauguration as president of the young country with Madeira.  They say Thomas Jefferson toasted the Louisiana Purchase with the spirited wine.

Miles Madeira is part of the Blandy family's Madeira Wine Company, produced on the Portuguese island of Madeira since 1878, but before that, was known as Rutherford & Grant since 1814.  Madeira is made from the Tinta Negra grape, originally from Andalucia in the south of Spain and introduced to the island of Madeira during the 18th Century.  The Miles Madeiras are made in several different styles.

Miles 10 Year Old Dry Madeira

Vinified and fortified stainless steel tanks, this Madeira was aged in old American oak and naturally heated to mimic the process of shipboard transport.   Alcohol tips 19% abv and it sells for around $33.

The brownish-gold wine smells delightful, all raisiny and lemony and full of brown sugar.  The hearty palate shows the citrus beautifully and the acidity absolutely rips.  Pair with any kind of after-dinner eats, from chocolate to fruit to a cheese plate.  Or have it on its own, like the founding fathers did.

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Friday, February 28, 2020

Blood Of The Vines: Krazy Kidz

Kids have it tough.  Grouchy old mom and dad to deal with, school, endless soccer practice … all with no wine to help take off the edge.  They must find it terribly unfair that Mommy gets her medicine, but all they get is vaping and Tide Pods.

The Krazy Kidz in the movies featured this week on Trailers From Hell certainly didn't take any perceived injustices sitting down.  They, as the old expression goes, hit back hard.

The Children is a 1980 chiller which was caused critics to take their jobs at face value, criticizing nearly everything about the movie. From the writing to the acting to the special effects, scribes had a field day, using words like "nasty," "despicable" and "ugly" in their descriptions.  It was enough to drive a movie critic to drink. A yellow cloud of gas turns these Krazy Kidz into zombies for the new year, which might be where the idea for Dry February originated.  It's a whole different franchise, but some Walking Dead Red might make those zombies move a little quicker, to get to the bottle before it runs dry.

The poster for 1960's Village of the Damned states "Beware the stare that will paralyze the will of the world."  My only concern is that the stare will make Bronco wines even cheaper and more prolific than they already are.  By the way, the vomiting is supposed to happen AFTER you drink the Bronco wine.  These Krazy Kids use their glowing-eye superpowers to make other folks do horrible things - like stock up on white Zinfandel.

The Innocents made 1961 a little darker, with movie goers wondering if Deborah Kerr's character was scared, mental or just in need of a glass of wine or six.  One of the Krazy Kidz tells the governess early on, "Oh, we will have fun together, won't we?"  Not so fast, innocent breath.  Borrowing from another film, "Lady, you need a lot of drinks."  The lady worries that the estate is haunted by ghosts which have taken over the children.  That's right, she thinks they've been ghosted.

The easy pairing choice is for a ghost wine - a winery founded in the late 19th century and still operating in refurbished fashion.  And no, they do not operate with a skeleton crew.  That's reserved for Halloween.

Virginia's Gray Ghost Winery has a few white wines to uncork here, since faces are said to turn pale in the presence of ghosts.  Or after consuming a little too much wine.  The Innocents is an hour and a half long - pace yourself.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

A Nice Rosé From Hess

The grapes for the inaugural release of the Hess Select Rosé 2019 were specifically sourced and harvested to produce this debut wine.  The grapes were fermented in stainless steel, without oak influence in order to accentuate the crisp and expressive flavors.

Hess winemaker Dave Guffy says the pink wine goes best with food, and he recommends that you have yours with "sweet and salty combinations, like a prosciutto and melon salad."  The appellation appears on the label as "California," which doesn't tell us much about its origin.  Also, the winery seems tight-lipped about what grape varieties make up the wine, although I’m guessing it’s Pinot Noir.  The wine hits only 13.5% abv and sells for $12.

This salmon colored wine passes the "pretty test" - the first hurdle for any rosé - with no trouble.  The sniff test holds a bit of funky fruit.  Rather than simply ripe strawberries, there is a savory angle that is quite enticing.  The palate follows that path, but allows a bit more of the fruit to shine through.  It is a pleasant pinkie, with more than enough acidity for pairing with the usual suspects.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Hollywood's Musso And Frank Grill: Wine, Martini, Steak

In the heart of Hollywood, there is a restaurant which has remained a constant for more than 100 years.  Musso and Frank Grill hit the century mark in September 2019, while collecting an "Award of Excellence for a Hollywood Restaurant" from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

Musso and Frank has been a favorite watering hole for thousands of Hollywood stars, writers, directors, and studio executives, starting with the one and only Charlie Chaplin.  On a smaller celebrity scale, they also see my wife and I from time to time.

The celebration continues in 2020 with the unveiling of a new signature red wine now being served to diners, the 2018 Peake Ranch Syrah.  The new vintage was blended by Musso and Frank General Manager and Wine Director Andrea Scuto.

The restaurant reports that Musso's 2018 Peake Ranch vintage was marked by the Santa Ynez Valley's "cool temperatures in the late summer and early fall, which provided ideal weather to allow the fruit to have great concentration, with healthy acidity and a good depth of flavor."  The wine was vinified by star winemaker Kevin Law out of Challen Vineyard in Santa Maria.

The Peake Ranch Syrah has a powerful, if mostly fruity nose accented by cardamom and baking spices.  The palate is rich and robust and the tannins are more than able to handle one of Musso and Frank's famous steaks.

The new 2018 Musso and Frank Peake Ranch Syrah is available only at the restaurant, by the bottle ($70) or by the glass ($15) - as long as limited supplies last.  It's perfectly okay to have a glass of it in addition to their world-famous martinis.

Their martinis are possibly even more famous than their steaks.  I had one that was made with St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin.  It's an interesting and offbeat gin, made with a base spirit of unaged rye, then rested in oak barrels which had previously held Grenache, Syrah, and Tannat wines.  The lightly tinted gin comes off a little spicy, with a hint of peaches and a whiff of wine.  It would probably be more suitable for an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan, according to head distiller Dave Smith.  St. George started small - as in "one guy" - in the California Bay Area in 1982.  Founder Jörg Rupf was that "one guy" and has since retired.  Master distiller Lance Winters now oversees St. George and its production.

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Blood Of The Vines: Russ Meyer

The late Russ Meyer's films are the epitome of excess.  Pairing a wine with them seems unfair to the wine.  It couldn't possibly keep up.  Whiskey might be more appropriate, or a shot of tequila or three, or a bottle of Captain Morgan and a liter of Coke.  However, I am sure we will stumble across a wine that leans into life like Meyer did.

Russ Meyer's IMDB page nicknames him "The Fellini of the Sex Industry" and "King Leer."  The sultan of sexploitation liked big breasts better than anything else.  His stint as a Playboy centerfold photographer in the 1950s may have steered him in that direction.  Playboy wine, direct from their recently launched wine club?  Why not?  For starters, anyway.

Meyer rued the day he started working on The Seven Minutes.  He later called the film "boring and tedious" - like a life of nothing but Chardonnay.  He said, "What the public wants are big laughs and big tits and lots of 'em. Lucky for me that’s what I like, too."  And who are we to argue with a cinematic genius?  This movie is mainly a talky courtroom drama - think Perry Mason with references to women's orgasms thrown in.  Spicy Zinfandel is a good grape for a spicy director, so try this movie with The 7 Deadly Zins.

The one-sheet for Mudhoney describes it as "a film of ribaldry and violence made from the juice of life."  That’s great, but we're looking for the juice of grapes here.  Mudhoney is the second of Meyer's mid-'60s B&W quartet - a Depression-era tale of loners, wife beaters, whorehouses and an insane preacher man.  Isn't it ironic that America banned alcohol just when it needed it most?  Get Mudhoney going with a wine from L.A.'s own San Antonio Winery, which was able to remain open for business during Prohibition by making sacramental wine.  Peace be with you.

Let's say you want to make a movie about an all-girl rock band whose members go to Hollywood to make it big.  They sink into sex, drugs and decadence even before they catch the Uber out of LAX.  Hello?  Mr. Meyer?  Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was tailor made for Russ Meyer's special brand of sex kitten sadism.  As their album cover claims, they're "looking up at the bottom," so we want to pair a wine that makes us feel all rich and safe and WHERE THE HELL ARE MY PILLS??  No bum wine here, we've got to keep up appearances.  Maybe a Ménage à Trois, Decadence, would go well with the general vibe here.  Cabernet with a splash of Merlot.  Groovy, man.

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