Friday, April 9, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - George Segal Week

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies since 2011!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, we fondly remember some of George Segal's work after his recent passing.

In 1972's The Hot Rock, Segal got second billing to Robert Redford in the story of a diamond heist which keeps going south, showing that even the best-laid plans can always blow up in your face.  Take the making of this movie, for example.  The critics thought it was good, but not great.  The director, Peter Yates, said that despite an interesting story and a wonderful cast, the butts just didn’t get into the seats.  Go figure.

As a tribute to the movie, punk rockers Sleater-Kinney named one of their albums after it, although I feel "Afghanistan banana stand" would have been a better name.  At least it would have been more memorable.

For The Hot Rock, let's pair 19 Crimes wine with the film, since it seems like the band of criminals needed 19 chances to pull off their heist.  SoCal imbibers should note that the wine company has debuted a line of Snoop wines, Cali Red and Cali Rosé.  The latter looks a lot like gin and juice.

Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf was the most decorated film of 1966, nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning five of the statues.  Wikipedia notes that it was the first time a film's entire credited cast was nominated for Oscars.  Alas, Segal didn't take one home for Best Supporting Actor.

Billed as an evening of fun and games at George and Martha's, the fun was booze and the games were psychological Russian roulette.  Segal's Nick has some drunken bedtime with Elizabeth Taylor's Martha, but probably ends up wishing he hadn't.  Martha was not impressed.

Virginia Woolf herself didn’t like wine, saying it has "a drastic, an astringent taste. I cannot help wincing as I drink."  The Virginia Woolf Cocktail - gin and lemonade - sounds completely insubstantial.  Leave out the kid stuff and grab the strongest gin you can find for Virginia Woolf.  The Swedish Strane Uncut clocks in at 76% alcohol - not proof, percentage - making it reportedly the one gin in the world with the most powerful kick.  Rubbing alcohol for you, Martha?  Never mix, never worry.

The 1967 retelling of The St. Valentine's Day Massacre put Segal co-starring with Jason Robards.  It was a Roger Corman film, with Corman getting a bigger budget to work with than he ever had with the horror pictures that made him.  Corman promised the public the most accurate gangster film ever, and delivered it in docudrama fashion with the great Paul Frees doing the narration.  Segal plays one of Bugs Moran's goons and is one of the "seven against the wall" who don’t make it to the end credits.  

America's shameful prohibition of alcohol was still in its 13-year run when the massacre took place, so a speakeasy cocktail might be in order to pair with this film.  Just shake up some scotch, rum and sparkling wine with a dab of jelly - and keep an eye out for the coppers.  Or, you can shop for some Big House Prohibition Red.  Who cares which grapes are in it?  The Al Capone imagery on the bottle - or box - is reason enough to pair it with Massacre.


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Thursday, April 8, 2021

If It's Northern Italy, Make It A White Wine

Friuli is in the northeastern tip of Italy, bordered by Austria to the north, Slovenia to the east and the Adriatic Sea to the south.  It is home to the magnificent Dolomite Mountains, and to Tenuta Luisa.  The Dolomites are part of the Southern Limestone Alps, and when it comes to white wine, limestone is the magic word.

The estate got its start in 1907 with Francesco Luisa.  His son, Delciso followed, as did his son Eddi, who still works alongside his wife, Nella.  Now, brothers Davide and Michele are the fourth generation to handle the vineyards and the winery, with generation five waiting in the wings.  

The crown on the label, says Michele, stands for the coat of arms of their hamlet in the village of Mariano del Friuli and represents the Collio hills that "crown" the area.  Their vineyards are in the Friuli Isonzo DOC, containing the name of the river flowing through the eastern part of the Friuli Venezia Giulia wine region.  Their I Ferretti wines get their name from the iron-rich soil in which the grapes grow.

The 2018 Tenuta Luisa Friuli Isonzo Friulano I Ferretti, made with 100% Friulano grapes, is fermented 30% in oak and 70% in steel.  It was awarded the highest status of Tre Bicchieri by Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso.  Alcohol rests at 13.5% abv and the retail price is about $20.

I am not a huge fan of white wines with a floral nose, but in this one it plays very well.  The flowers are subtle, with an overriding minerality coming forward.  That's where I like my white wines to live.  Aromas of tangerine and lemon zest are abetted by the smell of wet rocks and a trace of what smells to me like oregano.  The palate is all about those minerals, with a subdued citrus flavor along for the ride.  The acidity is great, perfect for something from the ocean.  I paired the I Ferretti with a seafood risotto for dinner, and wished that it was on the table at lunch when I had polpo, a grilled octopus salad.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A White Italian Wine From The Shadow Of Mt. Etna

The Cusumano winery - now Under the Terlato umbrella - was started in 2001, when brothers Alberto and Diego Cusumano took over for their father, Francesco.  Winemaker Mario Ronco makes the Cusumano wines entirely from estate grown grapes, from five different territories throughout Sicily, including Alta Mora from Mount Etna.  Diego is the winery's export manager, who spoke for the business during a recent virtual event put on by the Italian wine guide, Gambero Rosso International.

The folks at Cusumano say the 2019 Cusumano Etna Bianco Alta Mora uses the best Carricante grapes grown in the districts of Pietramarina and Verzella, in Castiglione di Sicilia and in Arrigo in Linguaglossa.  The volcanic terroir makes the wine what it is - a complex, character-driven wine.  Alcohol checks in at 12% abv and the wine generally sells for about $53.

This wine is tinted lightly yellow and carries a hefty bit of salinity on the nose.  There is also the scent of lemons, almonds and a wet sidewalk.  The palate shows terrific minerality, a nutty backbeat and a citrus finish that lingers.  I would like a little more acidity, but this is fresh enough.


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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Two From Tuscany IGT

Tenuta Monteti Toscana IGT 2016

Tenuta Monteti was founded in 1998 by Gemma and Paolo Baratta in the southern Maremma area of Tuscany.  The couple returned to wine after having been in the business in their youth.  The estate was named for the Monteti hill, which protects it from the strong Mediterranean winds.  

They built from the ground up, starting from scratch with vines of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Alicante Bouschet grapes.  The IGT Toscana classification allows them the freedom to choose the grapes they want to grow.  Consulting oenologist Carlo Ferrini has been with them from the beginning, and now their daughter Eva is in her second decade of running the show with her husband Javier Pedrazzini.  The vineyards are managed in sustainable fashion, and they have the government certificate to prove it.

Monteti, their flagship wine, is a blend of 40 to 55% Petit Verdot, 25 to 30% Cabernet Franc and 15 to 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The percentages varying from vintage to vintage.  The wine is aged for 18 months in medium-toasted French oak barriques, 70% of which are new, followed by another two years in the bottle.  They say the Petit Verdot is the personality of the wine, "the rebel horse," while the Cabernet Sauvignon brings structure and longevity.  The Cabernet Franc provides an elegance which softens both.  Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and the Monteti has averaged through the years at a price of $36.

This wine carries a dark ruby color and a nose of dark fruit, blueberries and blackberries mostly.  There are also aromas of mocha, white pepper and oak spice to be found.  The palate displays the blueberry flavor, and a lip-smacking acidity which really feels refreshing.  It feels a touch light in the mouth, despite having spent a year and a half in oak.  The tannins are firm but not overwhelming - there is plenty there to work on a steak, a rack of lamb or a pasta dish with meat sauce - or a mushroom risotto, for that matter.

Caiarossa Aria di Caiarossa 2016

The Caiarossa company logo is an Etruscan clay head of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus, dating from the fourth century B.C.  The winery's story dates back only as far as 1998.  In 2004 the estate was bought by Eric Albada Jelgersma, who brought with him the experience of creating wines in two Grand Cru vineyards in the Margaux neck of the Bordeaux woods, Château Giscours and Château du Tertre.

Caiarossa is located near the Tuscany coast, in the southern part of the Province of Pisa.  The vineyards are biodynamic and certified organic, and winemaker Lorenzo Pasquini is charged not only with making the juice, but also with cask selection.

The 2016 Aria di Caiarossa is an IGT Toscano Rosso wine made from the noble grapes Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine was fermented in concrete tanks, then aged for 14 months in 15% new wood barriques and tonneaux, then back into the concrete for six months before being bottled.  Alcohol is 14% abv and the average cost of a bottle is about $30.

This dark wine has fruit aromas to match - blackberries, currant, black cherry - and I love the way those smells power past the oak effect.  The oak has indeed left its mark, with vanilla, cedar, tobacco and a hint of tar on the nose.  The palate shows vibrant fruit and earthy notes, with a healthy dose of tannic strength and a racy acidity.  I'm having it with chicken Dijonnaise, but thinking of a pork chop to pair with it.


Monday, April 5, 2021

Two Sardinian Vermentino Wines

A recent series of virtual wine tasting experiences took a host of wine writers on a trip through Italy, thanks to Gambero Rosso International.  The wine guide provided wines for the tasting to which they awarded the status of Tre Bicchieri, or three glasses, their highest honor.  Today, two fabulous Vermentino wines from the Italian isle of Sardinia.

Pala Vermentino di Sardegna Stellato 2019

The Sardinia Pala wine estate was founded in 1950.  Mario Pala is the third generation of the family to tend the vines, with the help of his wife Rita and the fourth generation of the family: Massimiliano, Elisabetta and Mariantonietta.

The Vermentino grapes for this wine were grown in a single 60-year-old vineyard.  The wine was fermented in steel and aged there for five months on the lees, the spent yeast cells.  This gives additional heft to the wine and a fuller mouthfeel.  Alcohol gets up to 14% abv and the wine sells for and average price of $18.

This Vermentino delivers what I love about the grape, especially those from Sardinia.  It is a smell that is more than simple salinity, it is the ocean.  With flowers floating on it.  The palate brings a savory smattering of citrus, along with a gentle acidity that lets us know that it is there without ripping a gash in our tongues.  Seafood time.


Surrau Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Sciala
2019

Vigna Surrau is also located on the Italian island of Sardinia - Sardegna, if you prefer.  The isle is mainly mountainous, and the winery says there is plenty of unspoiled wilderness and forests of oak and cork trees.  

Their 2019 Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Sciala comes from Sardinia's jagged coastline, the part in the island's northeast corner, called Costa Smeralda - the Emerald Coast.  Gallura - which means "stony area" - is the first and only Sardinian DOCG.  The 100% Vermentino grapes were grown in that region's granitic soil.  Alcohol tips 14% abv and the average price for a bottle is $24.

This wine has a floral nose, but that does not shortchange the minerality.  There is a good bit of lemon and salinity in the mix, too.  The palate shows the citrus and minerals strongest, with a very nice bit of acidity.  Extremely nice, actually.  I should have had some seafood with it, but it was cream of mushroom soup day at the house, with some rice on the side.  It paired quite well.


Friday, April 2, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Epic Spectacles

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 look back at a few Epic Spectacles and find a suitable beverage to consume with each.

1959's Ben-Hur was directed by William Wyler, who won Oscars three times for directing movies which also grabbed the statue for Best Picture.  Ben-Hur was the final piece of the hat trick, joining Mrs. Miniver and The Best Years of Our Lives on Wyler's mantel.

I don't know if it still holds true, but for people of my generation, Ben-Hur - and The Ten Commandments, see below -  define the phrase "epic spectacle."  Ben-Hur may have featured hundreds of camels, thousands of horses and 10,000 extras - but there is only one Charlton Heston.  And he liked it that way, dammit.  Heston signed on to do the movie for a quarter of a million dollars, which back then was a lot of money.  Nowadays, big stars hit the Lotto every time they do a film - which is payback for those years of waiting tables.

In the film, Hur got water from Jesus when he was thirsty, and tried to return the favor as Jesus struggled to his crucifixion.  Damn Roman soldiers, anyway.  We're going to have something a little more satisfying to drink.  Hur and his mortal enemy/bosom buddy Messala may well have locked arms and imbibed a wine resembling a modern day Tannat.  That grape has a skin so thick it could survive a chariot mishap.  Tablas Creek in Paso Robles makes a Tannat which sells for $40 and should age well, long past the end of the movie.

The 1960 Italian film, Revolt of the Slaves, starred Rhonda Fleming, who passed away not six months ago at 97 years old.  On the one-sheet for the movie - "The Revels… The Ravages… The Revolt of the Ages!" - she seems to be wielding a bullwhip while wearing a little rag of a dress.  That's how the slaves rolled in the fourth century when they shed their shackles.

Pairing a wine with a movie about slaves in the Roman Empire was easier than I expected it to be, thanks to Italian winemaker Elena Walch.  Her Schiava - it's a grape, and a word meaning "slave" in Italian - comes from the Alto Adige region in northern Italy.  That's where you want to look for a great Italian white wine.

Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 epic, The Ten Commandments, saw Charlton Heston in sandals as Moses, maybe the greatest slave-freer of all time.  Lincoln freed four million slaves, but DeMille made his look like more, and threw in some miracles for extra measure.

Besides Heston, the all-star cast included faves like Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Yvonne De Carlo, Vincent Price and Edward G. Robinson.  "Look, Moses, we're slaves, see?  You gotta get us outta here, see?  We need an exodus, see?  Gotta part the Red Sea, see?"

Now, another wine for a movie about the stone tablet ages.  There are a number of great kosher wines, one being Covenant Viognier, produced in Israel after getting started in Southern California's Herzog Cellars.  It's a little bit of Galilee in a bottle.  


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Thursday, April 1, 2021

Brunello Di Montalcino

The Tenuta di Sesta vineyards are in the southern part of Montalcino, where the warm Tuscan breezes keep the cold north winds off the grapes.  The winery has been managed since 1995 by Giovanni Ciacci, who has now brought his children into the business the way his father and grandfather did.

The 2015 Tenuta di Sesta Brunello di Montalcino DOCG is made from Sangiovese grapes known locally as Sangiovese Grosso, Brunello di Montalcino - or simply, Brunello.  The wine is fermented in steel tanks, then transferred to oak barrels for aging that takes 30 months.  Traditional aging occurs in Slavonian oak barrels, which is thought to be better wood for lengthy aging as the aromas are imparted more slowly.  The wine ages another twelve months in the bottle.  Alcohol tips the scale at 14.5% abv and the average price for a bottle is about $40.

The wine shows a medium ruby tint in the glass.  The nose gives off aromas of black cherry and licorice, plum and tobacco.  It is as complex as one might imagine for a wine which spent two and a half years in oak.  On the palate, there is red fruit along with some savory notes of earth and oak spice.  The tannins are supple and the acidity is refreshing.  This is a wine to pair with a special steak or game dish.


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Mandurian Candidate - Primitivo

Manduria is a town in the region of Apulia, the heel of Italy's "boot."  The warm climate brings the best out of the Primitivo grape, known in the province of Taranta as Primitivo di Manduria.  In the U.S., particularly California, the grape grows under the name of Zinfandel.  In Manduria, they like to think of the Puglia Primitivos as a pyramid, with the Primitivo di Manchuria DOC at the top.
  

Mottura Vini Primitivo di Manduria Stilio 2019

This wine was made from grapes that were partially dried, reducing the water content by a quarter or so and leaving a much more concentrated flavor.  Winemaker Teodosio D’Apolito works the magic with the fruit from the Mottura family vineyards.  Aging took place over six months in French oak barrels, with another three months in the bottle.  Alcohol hits 14.5% abv

This medium-dark wine has a nose of smoke, earth and pepper, on top of brambly red fruit.  The palate is savory and supple, with red currant, coffee notes and a raspberry tartness.  There is also a mocha sense which comes through after a bit of time in the glass.  The finish is quite lengthy, and quite a joy to savor.  


Tenuta Giustini Primitivo di Manduria Acinorè
2019

The vineyards of 50-year-old bush vines were passed down through generations, and in 2006 the Giustini family started making wine from their grapes.  That's an extremely short duration, especially by European standards, but their decision to make wine has shown to be a good one.  The winemaking is done by Giuseppe and Salvatore Papadopoli.  Aging happened over six months time in small French oak barrels with another couple of months in the bottle.  Alcohol is quite high, normal for the wines of the region, at 15% abv.  

This wine's nose is a perfumed dream, all dark red fruit with a gorgeous layer of spice and herbs.  After being open for awhile, smoke really takes over.  The palate brings black cherry to the forefront on a wave of sage and a refreshing acidity.  Pair it with some meatballs, now.  


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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A Trio Of Chianti Classico

Here are three fine examples of Chianti Classico wine from Italy's Tuscany region.  They were tasted and talked about during a recent virtual masterclass staged by wine guide Gambero Rosso International.  

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Badia A Coltibuono has been making wine since 1051, which is a long time to be open for business.  It makes waiting a year for a wine to age seem like not such an inconvenience.  The 970 years since the building housed a monastery have crawled by like snails in the morning dew.

This 2018 Chianti Classico is mainly Sangiovese, with a small amount of other supporting grapes in the blend.  Roberto Stucchi Prinetti says that he feels "Sangiovese needs a gentle hand" in the cellar, and he feels the nature of the grape is better displayed with lightly colored wines, which look more elegant.  This wine was aged 12 months in French and Austrian oak casks.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv.

This Chianti Classico is rather lightly tinted for a red wine, and if I had tasted it blind I might have been tempted to guess it was a rosé.  The nose has a basketful of fresh cherries in it, with a floral angle and just a hint of mocha and tobacco.  The sip reveals more luscious red fruit, leaning just off center into tartness, assisted by a bit of limestone chalkiness.  It sneaks along a little lighter than I expect a Sangiovese to sneak, and ends up making me think of the elegance of Pinot Noir crossed with the rusticity of warm-climate Syrah.  The acidity is fresh and the tannins firm.  Pair it with your favorite Tuscan dish.

Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2017

The Ricasoli winery has been guided since 1993 by Baron Francesco Ricasoli, who says he always keeps an eye on the ways of founder Baron Bettino Ricasoli, known as The Iron Baron.  He was a Prime Minister of the newly unified Italy in the 19th century.  For some 600 years the Ricasoli nobles defended Florence at Brolio Castle.  Times are a little easier now, so winemaking takes its proper place among priorities.  

The 2017 Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione was made from Sangiovese grapes which were grown in the rocky, limestone rich soil of the Colledilà vineyard.  Fermentation happened in open steel tanks before the wine was aged for 18 months in 500-litre Tonneaux, 30% of which were made from new wood while the rest were second-use.  Alcohol tips 14% and its average price is reported to be nearly $75.

The wine is colored a medium-dark ruby red and features a rich nose of black cherry, cedar, mocha, vanilla and tobacco.  The palate is hefty and dark - beefier than the Badia A Coltibuono - with flavors of cherry and currant joined by a dollop of licorice and some savory oak notes.  The tannins are fine and the acidity is refreshing.  There is a lingering sense of savory cherry on the lengthy finish.  I paired this wine with a roasted tomato and parmesan focaccia bread, although it probably would have been better suited to accompany the marinara meatballs I had for lunch.

Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva 2017

Tenuta di Arceno is located near the medieval village of San Gusme in what was the heart of the Etruscan civilization.  Grapes have been turned into wine here since the 16th century.  In the 1990s, Jess Jackson bought the property, which had changed hands only a few times in a millenium.  It was the first non-California property purchased by the late vintner.  

The estate runs from an elevation of a thousand feet to more than 1,700.  Most of the vineyards face the southwest, making for a warm climate in which the grapes can ripen.  Founding winemaker Pierre Seillan and American-born resident winemaker Lawrence Cronin have worked together at the estate for nearly two decades

The winery produces three Sangiovese wines under the Chianti Classico DOCG heading and three others under IGT Toscana, made from international grape varieties.  The 2017 Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva is composed of 90% Sangiovese grapes and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine aged for two years total, ten of those months in French oak barrels.  It has an alcohol level of 14.5% abv and retails for $30.

This wine has a medium-dark garnet hue and offers a nose of black cherry, anise, vanilla and cedar.  On the palate, we find red fruit, a bit of tart cherry and savory notes from the ten months of oak aging.  The tannins are a little toothy, but will do a nice job on a steak. 


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Monday, March 29, 2021

Trebbiano Wine Under Another Name

Virtual wine tasting events are no stranger to me, especially in the era of COVID-19.  Get the box, open the box, log on and taste from home.  No social distancing to strain the process, no mask needed.  I was invited to take part in another online gathering of wine writers recently, to taste wines which have achieved the Tre Bicchieri - three glasses - status of Gambero Rosso International, the wine guide's highest accolade.

Perla Del Garda features on its website the words of the late Italian gastronome, Luigi Veronelli: "Wine is the song of the earth towards the sky."  Their 2017 Madonna Della Scoperta was made from the Turbiana grape - Trebbiano di Lugana - in the Lugana Superiore DOP.  Their vineyards are just south of Garda Lake, between Desenzano and Sirmione.  Alcohol rests at 13% abv and the retail price averages out to $21.

This wine has what I love about Italian whites - uncompromising minerality and salinity.  That's the nose in a nutshell, with a light touch of white flowers and a waxy feel.  The palate sports a nice lemon mineral note, with slightly racy acidity and a barely bitter finish.  I paired it with pierogies and minestrone.  Happy.


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Friday, March 26, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - RIP Yaphet Kotto

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, we remember Yaphet Kotto - Bond villain, space alien fighter, homicide detective, along with many other memorable roles.  Rest in peace, Mr. Big.

TFH guru Larry Cohen wrote and directed 1972's Bone, with Kotto playing the title role.  Cohen has remarked that Bone "cuts to the heart of racial prejudice...where the white man has a fear of the black man's sexuality."  Yeah, especially when the man is named "Bone," I would imagine.  Would you fear violence from a man named "Killer?"  Would you fear bad hair from a man named "Butch?"  Would you fear terrible political decisions from a man named "Kanye?"  I’m guessing you would.

Boneshaker Zinfandel is produced by the Hahn Family from a vineyard in Lodi, California.  It is intense, much like many of Kotto's roles, Bone included.  You can probably find it for less than $15 and have it with a T-bone steak.

The 1978 crime drama Blue Collar has some laughs in it, provided by Richard Pryor.  Kotto gives the film a load of pathos in his role as Smokey James.  They and a third man all have their reasons for wanting to rip off the auto workers union.  The safe is bare, however, so it looks like someone beat them to it.  An exposé unfolds, with Kotto getting an early exit from the movie.  Did someone make off with the union’s health care funds?  Tune in and find out.  It's cheap to rent.  

While looking for a "blue collar" wine to pair with Blue Collar, it occurred to me that a so-called "blue collar" imbiber might not look for the same things in a wine that a wine writer does.  I poked around and found choices like having a Cab with a couple of ice cubes thrown in, a Chardonnay mixed with a Sprite and (gasp) making a white Zinfandel by blending Zin with Pinot Grigio.  McPrice Myers saves the day, though, with what he calls the Blue Collar Line, Paso Robles wines like High on the Hog or Bull By the Horns.  A twenty buck wine might be on a higher shelf than preferred by some blue collar workers, but hey - it's Paso Robles juice at a steal.

Truck Turner came out in 1974, amid the blaxploitation phase of American film.  Yaphet Kotto AND Isaac Hayes, in the same movie?  A gift from the drive-in gods.  Hayes is in the title role of a bounty hunter who goes after a skipped pimp named Gator.  Well, I'm sold.  Turn it on!  Kotto plays a revenge-minded pimp who tries to wipe out Truck, but finds, alas, the table turns on him.  It's hard out there for a pimp.

Bounty Hunter Wines has a full line of expensive bottles dedicated to various forms of justice - Blind Justice, Frontier Justice, Poetic Justice - all Napa Valley juice.  For the glittery pimp wine glass, you're on your own.


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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Two "Cru" Proseccos From Valdobbiadene

Virtual wine tasting events are no stranger to me, especially in the era of COVID-19.  Get the box, open the box, log on and taste from home.  No social distancing to strain the process, no mask needed.  I was invited to take part in a Zoom gathering recently along with two dozen other wine writers.  

Most of the wines in the virtual events have achieved the Tre Bicchieri - three glasses - status of Gambero Rosso International, the wine guide’s highest accolade.  The interactive event was hosted by Lorenzo Ruggeri, the wine guide's international editor, with comments along the two-hour journey from each winery’s representative.  Ruggeri spoke from Rome at sunset, which was mid-morning in Los Angeles.

Biancavigna Conegliano Valdobbiadene Rive di Soligo Extra Brut 2019

The Rive di Soligo estate vineyard sits at an elevation of more than 1200 feet, in the hills of Conegliano, Valdobbiaddene, in San Gallo near Soligo.  Indigenous Selections says the "rive" refers to the steepness of the land, some at a 70% slope.  They call it, unofficially, a Cru Prosecco, with the Glera grapes grown on 25-year-old vines planted in the rocky, clay soil.  

BiancaVigna is owned by Elena Moschetta, with winemaking duties handled by her brother Enrico Moschetta.  Elena, who spoke in the virtual event, hadn't intended to make a career of wine, but she eventually answered the door when her destiny knocked on it.  Alcohol for the wine comes in at an easy 11.5% abv, with an average retail price of $14.

The wine has a pale yellow color and smells of apples and citrus.  The bubbles are frothy and reconstitute nicely with a swirl of the glass.  The palate brings a healthy dose of lemon and lime, with green apples also appearing in the mix.  The acidity is wonderful, adding to the pleasure of the sip and allowing for a variety of pairing options.


Borgoluce Valdobbiadene Rive di Collalto Extra Brut
2019

The Borgoluce winery was founded in 938.  Today's Proprietors are quite distant from the era of three-digit years.  They are a mother and her daughters - Trinidad, Giuliana, Ninni & Caterina Collalto.  Winemaker Elisa Confortin rounds out the female team to create this 2019 Rive di Collalto Extra Brut Prosecco Superiore, made from Glera grapes grown on the steepest slopes of the Collalto family's 160 acres of vineyards.  The wine was made sparkling through the Charmat method.  Ninni Collalto Facchinetti spoke during the event and represented her winery in a most excellent way.

2019 is the first vintage of Rive "Extra Brut;" which kicks in at an alcohol level of 11.5% abv.  The winery says their vineyard's soils are clay with a high concentration of calcium carbonate, on the steepest part of hill, at the southern edge of Valdobbiadene near the Piave river.  The wine was aged on the lees - the spent yeast cells - for five months.  The retail price is about $24.

The Borgoluce people say this Prosecco takes time in the glass to give up its full expression, but I like the citrusy, yeasty nose right away.  Lemon and minerals dominate the nose, while the acidity provides a ton of refreshment.  It paired well with a vegetable korma as well as an avocado and pepper sandwich.



Monday, March 22, 2021

This Prosecco Brings More To Table Than Fun

Virtual wine tasting events are no stranger to me, especially in the era of COVID-19.  Get the box, open the box, log on and taste from home.  No social distancing to strain the process, no mask needed.  I am invited to take part in another online gathering of wine writers.  The series of events are staged by Gambero Rosso International.  All the wines to be tasted have achieved the Tre Bicchieri - three glasses - status, the wine guide's highest accolade.

Here is a sneak peek of today's first wine - the 2019 Bortolomiol Valdobbiadene Brut Ius Naturae Prosecco Superiore DOCG.

The Ius Naturae Prosecco Superiore features Glera grapes grown organically in the heart of Valdobbiadene, in the Parco della Filandetta area of northern Italy.  It is a Millesimato wine, meaning that the grapes all came from the same vintage.  The wine is made in the Martinotti-Charmat method for sparkling wine, in which the secondary fermentation occurs in tanks.  The alcohol content sits at 11.5% abv and the wine sells for around $14.

This bubbly is fun, as Prosecco is supposed to be.  It carries a pale golden color in the glass and gives up a nose that reminds me of lemon drops.  After a bit, green apples and apricots poke through the citrus extravaganza.  The bubbles are nice, but they don't last long.  On the palate, that promise of green apple shines through, and the acidity is as sharp as a tack.  Pair it with anything.  I chose pecan sugar cookies, butter crackers and hummus, and it worked every time.


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Friday, March 19, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Support Your Local Movie Star

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week the TFH gurus spotlight a trio of films starring everyone's favorite movie star.  Get vaccinated - then watch James Garner

Burt Kennedy - a guy who had a way with westerns - directed 1971's Support Your Local Gunfighter.  Borrowing the story outline from Yojimbo, the film gets along with a lead actor who was better looking than Toshiro Mifune, spoke English and knew how to work a punchline.  Also, he didn't bring a sword to a gunfight, although he did ride a donkey to one.

James Garner stars as an amiable con man who turns up in the mining town of Purgatory, Colorado, joining both sides in a bitter business feud and playing one off the other.  His gambling addiction makes him go bust, but in the end it helps him find a fistful of dollars and a seat next to Suzanne Pleshette on the slow train to Denver.  Warning: tattoo removal by dynamite is something the kids shouldn't try at home.

Garner once owned a vineyard estate in the Santa Ynez Valley and reportedly bottled a Chardonnay, which he dubbed Chateau Jimbeaux.  He sold the property a couple of decades ago, so good luck finding any remaining bottles for sale.  California's Three Finger Wine Company makes a Mumbo Jumbo Chardonnay, which at least is still available.  Garner, however, chose marijuana as his drug of choice, not alcohol.  So you might pair a nice fatty - or a choice gummy - with any film starring Garner.

Also from 1971, Skin Game stars Garner alongside Lou Gossett in another western played for laughs.  The movie also plays slavery for laughs, which may not move the meters today like it did 40 years ago.  Garner even commented upon the "jokes about slavery" aspect of the film.  Then again, who ever thought anyone could make a comedy out of a Nazi prisoner of war camp?  Seriously, there's the guy who wrote the pitch for Hogan's Heroes and the guy at CBS who green-lighted the project.  Beyond that, I want to see a show of hands.

The team of Garner and Gossett took the confidence game to a new level, one in which the color of the game was indeed only skin deep.   In wine, it's the grape's skin which gives the juice its color.  Today's wine industry is being scrutinized in several areas of the globe for allegedly engaging in forms of slavery to get the grapes grown and picked. 

Valentina Passalacqua makes wine in Italy's Puglia region, and is called a rising star in the natural wine world. Her Calcarius brand was selling like crazy last year, until news broke that her father was said to be engaged in exploiting his migrant vineyard workers.  Is she complicit in crimes against society, or a victim of overreaching political correctness?  The jury is out, but her distributors mostly bailed on her last summer.

The Americanization of Emily probably had more slash marks in its description than any other movie in 1964.  A comedy/drama/romance/antiwar effort penned by Paddy Chayefsky, Emily viewed the American military through a Dr. Strangelove filter aimed at D-Day rather than doomsday. 

An unhinged officer wants the first casualty at Normandy to be a sailor, thereby beefing up the Navy's image.  In steps Garner, who serves in that role by being shot while trying to get the hell off of Omaha Beach.  He and his love interest, Julie Andrews, both said they felt Emily was the best of all the movies they had done.  It's hard to argue with them, but it's also hard to look away from Victor/Victoria, which co-starred the pair and offers another slash to the game.

To honor the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion in 2019, the Boisset Collection released 6.6.44.  The red wine is a blend of numerous grape varieties from all over France and California.


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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

White Italian Wine From Lombardy

Ottella is located in the town of Peschiera del Garda, in a region called Lugana.  Lugana straddles two wine regions, mostly Lombardy with a bit sticking into Veneto.  Over the past decade or so, the acreage under vine in Lugana has tripled, while the quality of the wines have increased as well.

The Turbiana grape was known as Trebbiano di Lugano until scientists discovered that it was actually Verdicchio.  The grapes for the 2018 Lugana DOC Riserva Molceo were grown in the white clay vineyards of San Benedetto di Lugana.

The mostly whole bunch grapes are gently pressed, vinified, then aged for 16 months, mainly on the lees in steel tanks, with some more aging in wood.  The wine is contained in what looks like an oversized Port bottle, a bit taller, though.  Alcohol resides at 13.5% abv and the retail price is about $25.

This Lombardian white wine opens with a floral nose, which is quickly joined by the scent of apricots and grapefruit.  There is an overriding sense of salinity, with a touch of lanolin as well.  On the palate, that salinity comes bursting forth in a nutty, mineral-driven flavor.  The acidity is racy enough for shellfish but not sharp enough to hurt the taste buds. If you'd like a wine which comes on like an Albariño and then behaves like a Roussanne before becoming a Sauvignon Blanc, this wine should make you happy.  It made me ecstatic.


Monday, March 15, 2021

From Finland To Paso Robles - Kukkula Wine

Paso Robles' Adelaida District is home to a winery estate with its roots in Finland.  

Kevin and Paula Jussila are on a wine odyssey which began nearly two decades ago in a small backyard vineyard in Southern California.  The Paso chapter of their story started in 2004 with the beginnings of kukkula wine - KOO-kuh-luh - the lack of capitalization is their choice.  Their name means "the high place" in Finnish.

Kevin's father was from Finland and the man left a lasting impression on his son, who reveres his dad, his birthplace and all things Finnish.  Paula says she is kukkula's co-owner and the winemaker's wife, but thinks of herself more as an enabler… enabling Kevin's dreams.  


Kevin began making wine in the 1990s, using grapes grown in his tiny Topanga vineyard.  Today, his wines have unusual names: Pas De Deux, Lothario and In The Red.  There are also names that reflect Kevin's Finnish heritage, like Aatto, Kaamos and Vaalea. The latter is kukkula's only white wine, a blend of Grenache blanc, Rous­sanne, and Viognier.  Some of the names look daunting, but the labels feature pronouncers to help the non-Scandinavian among us.

The kukkula estate is organic and dry farmed, which the Jussilas feel will allow them to "cre­ate wines of intense aro­mat­ics, fla­vors, and col­or, that are a true expres­sion of place, and the essence of their terroir."  They grow olives, too, and make olive oil and a delicious wine jelly in addition to their wines.  They have no distribution in the United States - their sales are mostly club-driven.  They are distributed in Finland, however, where the brand is highly respected.

The 2017 kukkula Aatto is made from the estate's specialty - Rhône grape varieties.  It contains 45% Counoise, 35% Mourvèdre and 20% Grenache grapes.  Counoise, in France, is typically used more sparingly as a minor component in a blend.  Its lead role in Aatto gives the wine a stylish, highly perfumed presence.  Aatto sports alcohol at 15.4% abv and it retails for $55.

The 2017 Aatto has a medium-dark garnet color with a slight brownish tint.  It pours up looking older than its four years.  The nose carries a strongly perfumed floral note as its banner - lilacs and oleanders come to mind.  Beneath that, dark fruit - currant, blackberry, plum - rise above the flowerbed.  Sweet spice - vanilla and cinnamon - play a minor role.  On the palate, it is a youthful show of the fruit that demands attention.  Tannins are firm and finely honed, and the acidity provides a lip-smacking delight.  This is a wine I would like to have with a pork chop or rosemary ham, but it could also handle beefy dishes.


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Friday, March 12, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Pulchritude On The Prairie

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week's topic is Pulchritude on the Prairie, beauty in the backwater, good looks on the grassy plain.  The TFH topic picker bravely fought off a case of Zoom fatigue to come up with three films featuring women at their core.

The 1951 Western, Westward the Women, is about a sort of mail order bride service in the old West, an Uber-wife by Conestoga wagons.  140 women are taken from Missouri to California in what was apparently not a "gold rush" but a… well, some other kind of rush.  It's worth noting that the gals were on the wagon train by their own choice, not in a mass kidnapping designed to get 140 men hitched.  

There are perils, of course, along the way.  Director William A. Wellman navigates the group through breakdowns, crimes, punishments and assorted other hardships which plague them.  It's rather like Planes, Trains and Automobiles before there were planes, trains and automobiles.  Finally, they arrive at their destination, worse for wear and a few members light.

Also from Missouri, like these westward women, comes Stone Hill Winery's great bottling made from the Norton grape.  It was at one time America's heritage wine grape.  When my wife sniffed it, she said it smelled like history.  Westward the Women kinda does, too.  America's wine industry moved west as well.

The "revisionist western," 1954's Johnny Guitar, strayed from your standard western themes.  It prompted pundits to point out its veiled observations on McCarthyism and mob mentality.  Francois Truffaut called it a "phony western," although he admired it.  Maybe "phony" means something else in French.

The Arizona setting looks authentic enough, although a lot of the shooting was on soundstages.  They say Joan Crawford wouldn't allow any closeups to be shot unless it was in the studio, where the lighting could be better controlled.  Sterling Hayden said that during shooting he was battling Crawford on the set during the day, and his second wife at night, which explains his lack of smiles in the movie. He couldn't sing or play a note of guitar - in fact they altered that axe he lugs around so it wouldn't make any noise.

Purple Cowboy Wines makes wine from grapes grown in the revisionist cowboy town of Paso Robles, California.  Their Boss Lady, Terry Wheatley, is a cancer survivor and an all-around champion entrepreneur.  Her Trail Boss Cabernet Sauvignon and Tough Enough to Wear Pink wines may be too good for the saloon, but they're perfect for Johnny Guitar's boss lady.

1957 gave us 40 Guns, a widescreen B&W film starring one of my favorite boss ladies of the old West, Barbara Stanwyck.  She is predictably tough as nails, and rides herd over her hired guns, referred to in the title.  

Samuel Fuller directed the movie and included in the widescreen feature a three-minute tracking shot and plenty of opportunities for actors to say, "Mr. Fuller, I’m ready for my close-up."  Words to fantasize by.

40 Guns is set in Arizona, so let's get wine from the Grand Canyon State's Arizona Stronghold Vineyards.  Their Dala Merlot is spicy, full of bright fruit and ready for its close-up, too.


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Friday, March 5, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Viva Vivas

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 look at a couple of "Viva" films.

"Viva" comes from the word meaning "to live."  Its use in these movie titles indicates a preference that the subject matter not be forgotten.  Seriously, can you ever forget a daredevil's motorcycle leap… in Las Vegas?

Viva Knievel! is a sort of biopic, in that it is about - and stars - motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel.  The story is fictional, although it's a headscratcher why anyone thought Knievel's stunt career needed sweetening.  Beside a host of successful jumps, there were nearly 20 not-so-fun ones that resulted in injuries.  The guy spent more time in hospitals than a candy-striper.

Knievel has great support in the film, with Gene Kelly, Red Buttons, Leslie Nielsen and Dabney Coleman among the all-star cast.  A subplot of the movie shows a conniving promoter and Knievel as the victim, while in real life it was the other way around only a few months after the film's release.  Jump-boy went after a promoter with a baseball bat.  He got only a six-month work furlough sentence and never had to pay anything in the civil suit, claiming he was broke.  The movie got hurt as a result, crushed in a hail of bad PR during this time.

One of Knievel's more celebrated crashes happened at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.  It so happens that another heavily promoted performer, Elvis Presley, also had deep connections to that town.  Knievel may have even been inspired by the Elvis Jumpsuit in creating his own get-up.  His way of handling promoters could have used some polishing by Colonel Tom Parker.

Here is a pairing as natural as an ace and a king on the blackjack table - Evel Ale.  A Texas brewery is producing it, and Knievel's estate gives it their stamp of approval as the official beer of the late daredevil.  Since he is no longer around, you may feel free to enjoy a can or two.

1964 saw the Beatles taking America by storm, but Elvis was on the big screen, too.  Viva Las Vegas paired The King with Ann-Margaret in what fans and critics say was Elvis' best movie.  Admittedly, that bar was set rather low, but Viva Las Vegas did have its moments.  Whenever we drive into Las Vegas, the wife and I always look at each other and say, "Bright light city!"  Great songs, beautiful co-star, car race… Viva Las Vegas will keep your eyes busy while you power through that bowl of popcorn and a beverage of choice.  

Viva Las Vegas 17 was produced by Sort This Out Cellars of Santa Barbara County.  The wine was apparently bottled for an event several years back.  It's a mix of Rhône and Bordeaux grapes, grown in sunny Southern California, with a label full of Vegas imagery.


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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Another Fine Italian White Wine - Gavi

California wine négociant Cameron Hughes owns no vineyards and has no official winery.  He sniffs out good wine which has already been produced by established makers, then buys it on the down low with an agreement not to reveal the source.  He then sells the wine online through his wine club - he calls it a wineocracy - bringing top-shelf wines to lower-shelf wallets.  Hughes says he keeps prices low by removing the middleman, the distributor and retailer through which store-bought wines must pass.

Lot 752 is a Gavi wine from northern Italy's Piemonte region.  The area centers around the commune of Gavi, in the province of Alessandria, quite near the border with Liguria.  Hughes says "Chablis and Pinot Grigio drinkers will love" this wine, made from the Cortese grape, vinified to 12% abv and selling for $15.  He says the wine has been made the same way for nearly two and a half centuries.

This pale wine has an explosive nose which jumps up from the glass.  Aromas of minerals are here - lemon, orange peel, apricot, wet sidewalk, along with a floral aspect.  There is a pale, yellowish tint to it in the glass.  The palate shows citrus and salinity, with a mighty fine streak of acidity racing through it.  Pair it with shrimp, crab or any kind of seafood, really.  Delightful.


Monday, March 1, 2021

Rioja Red Now In Half-Bottle Size

Bodega Beronia was founded in Spain's Rioja region in 1973.  The winery explains that a group of friends from the Basque country wanted to make great wines to pair with the food in their Txoko - gastronomic get-togethers.  Those soirees were something more than just a meal, and they wanted something more than just a wine to serve with them.

I was given two bottles of the 2017 vintage of the Beronia Rioja Crianza, a 750ml and a 375ml size.  It is the first vintage in which Beronia has bottled in the little guy, which the winery says is pandemically perfect for "single serve meet-ups with friends at a distance."  The wine is 94% Tempranillo grapes, 5% Garnacha and 1% Mazuelo.

The 2017 vintage featured an April frost, a hot summer drought and August rainfall, resulting in high quality fruit which came in a low yield.  Aging took place over 12 months in barrels made from American oak staves and French oak ends, then three months in the bottle.  Alcohol tips the usual 14.5% abv and the wine retails for $15, $8 in the half-size bottle.  They are imported to the US by Gonzalez Byass.

This Beronia Crianza - the name signifies its oak treatment - shows a dark ruby color in the glass.  The nose displays black fruit and oak aromas like spices and vanilla.  The palate offers a true Tempranillo experience, with plum, blackberry and a smattering of licorice.  The tannins are firm and ready to take on a steak, but if you try the wine with ham or cheese you won’t be disappointed. 


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