Wednesday, November 30, 2011

BLOOD OF THE VINES: FORBIDDEN PLANET


Blood Of The Vines

Wine Goes To The Movies 
With Now And Zin and Trailers From Hell

If you want to see where everybody got the ideas for their science fiction films of the past half century, watch "Forbidden Planet."  This movie is out of this world.  In fact, it was the first film to be set entirely on a planet other than Earth.  It's not unusual in Tinseltown to find folks operating on a plane of their own, but a planet of their own was simply unheard of in 1956.

The special effects - groundbreaking stuff that became an industry standard - were nominated for an Academy Award.  The Oscar was won by The Ten Commandments that year.  Another 1956 space flick was nominated for the short subject Oscar - "Gerald McBoing-Boing On Planet Moo" - but it didn't win either.  It was beaten out by "Mister Magoo's Puddle Jumper."  Aah, the scales of justice can tilt harshly.

The eerie electronic score was so far ahead of its time, it wasn't even recognized as music by the Academy, so a nomination wasn't even considered.  I'm sure the committee members saying, "That's not music" sounded much like parents in 1956 commenting on Little Richard.

"Forbidden Planet" had a robot as a supporting character - the first non-living supporting actor?  There might not have been another one until Kevin Costner played the corpse in "The Big Chill," one of his most wooden performances. 

Robert Kinoshita designed Robby the Robot, as well as the robot used in the television series "Lost In Space."  That TV robot was a precursor to a Clint Eastwood character, in that it was a Robot With No Name.

The monster in "Forbidden Planet" turns out to be an invisible trick of the mind, but it is brought into view through the use of some new-fangled 1950s technology like energy beams and force fields.  The monster appears as a big, red, flaming vision of evil, just the sort of thing you'd expect to find while vacationing in deep space.

What would a trip to another planet be without a hot blonde who likes to skinny dip?  Anne Francis does the honors while Leslie Nielsen tries not to look.

Let's try two wines for this sci-fi.  You won't need force fields to see the Big Red Monster.  This other-worldly California blend of Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah shows the kind of flavor this planet is famous for.

In honor of Anne Francis, let's look to the same company for the Blonde Bombshell, a Riesling which should help temper things after the flaming red evil appears.  It may not cool things down after the swimming pool scene, though.

Other forbidden wines:

Forbidden Fruit Winery - A Canadian winery using all sorts of fruit for their organic wines.

Robot Wine Rack - In case you're worried that watching old movies and sniffing wine isn't nerdy enough, the Robot Wine Rack is for you.  It's no Robbie, but it does come with an optional moustache. - $45

Wine Tasting Robot - This is a real creation, from NEC System Technologies.  The cyber-sommelier can actually tell the difference between different types of wine and make a recommendation.  It probably can't write very eloquently about it, though.  I hope.




Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ANNIVERSARY CHEESE PLATE WITH PINK WINE


Borsao Rosado

Part of the celebration for our 13th wedding anniversary included a nice lunch break at Morel's Steakhouse at the Los Angeles shopping mecca known as The Grove.  The 13th anniversary is the cheese plate anniversary, right?  Fourteen is the guacamole anniversary, and I'm already looking forward to that!

Morel's is restaurant I have mixed emotions about.  We love their cheese selections, but the wine list often seems like an afterthought.  I liked the look of a rosé from Spain's La Mancha region and I ordered it.  Glancing at Denise's menu, I saw there was a different rosé offering, so I asked the waiter which one I was served.  As it turned out, neither.  I was shown a bottle Borsao rosado.  I have nothing against a cheap wine - in fact, Borsao makes some really good wine that sells for $10 or less.  I would have liked to have known that was what I was ordering, however.  I decided not to send it back.

The Borsao Campo de Borja rosado is made from 100% Garnacha grapes, and it sells at Morel's for $7 by the glass.  It's a pretty pink wine with an earthy strawberry nose showing funky herbal notes.  On the palate, earthy berries and a bit of greenness shows here, too.  The acidity is nice, if not great.  It might be a nice choice on which to stock up for pairing with those post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches.


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Monday, November 28, 2011

ART AND WINE IN BEVERLY HILLS


wine and art

The Beverly Hills Art Show - which occurs twice yearly - usually finds Denise and I wandering around, checking out the artists' works in the warm sunshine.  It often rains on the Saturday Affaire In The Gardens, so Sunday is when we generally make our rounds.  This time, Saturday was a warm autumn day in Beverly Hills, which means it was like summer.

We like the woodcut prints of Igor Koutsenko, the pop art of Nelson De La Niezand the West Virginia coal mine images of Thomas Elmo Williams.

In addition to the art, there is a beer garden and a wine garden.  I was in the mood for a beer in the summery weather, but the wine garden beckoned and I answered.  Fortunately, they had a nice beverage for a warm day, too.

The Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc 2009 caught my eye because I have enjoyed a couple of their red wines before.  The white didn't disappoint.  It was a windy day, so I had a bit of trouble getting the aromas.  The flavors of peaches and grapefruit were not shy, though.  The wine has a great finish and a very refreshing acidity.

The wine comes from Lake County, California.  It hits an alcohol number of 13.5% abv and retails for about $10 per bottle.  While I liked Line 39's Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon better, the Sauvignon Blanc was a great choice for the day.


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Sunday, November 27, 2011

MORE RESTAURANTS SERVING WINE FROM KEGS


Wine News

It's becoming increasingly more likely that when you order a glass of wine in a restaurant, it will come from the tap on a keg.  A recent Wine Spectator article cites a growing trend in restaurant wine service to pour by-the glass options from a keg rather than from a bottle.

This trend is underway all across America, but is particularly noticeable in California and New York dining spots.  Kegs aren't just for the bargain brands, either.  There are quite a few top-shelf wineries delivering their wine to restaurants in kegs.  Wine Spectator notes that customer reaction has been positive, with many diners expressing surprise at how good the wine tastes from the tap.

From a restaurant's view, there are many benefits to serving keg wine.  The wine stays fresher, longer than it does in bottles.  The kegs can be reused, so the cost of the bottling is eliminated.  Less storage space is required for kegs than for an equal amount of wine in bottles.  Shipping costs are less and there's no worry about broken bottles.  Also, a customer will never have to send a wine back due to cork taint.

The environment catches a break, too, since the reusable kegs mean that no bottles have to be recycled or thrown out with the trash.

It's thought that millennials are driving the popularity of keg wine.  The younger segment of the wine crowd seems to like trying new things and they are more green-conscious than their elders.

Wineries do need to purchase the equipment which will allow them to sanitize the used kegs, and distributors need to make sure the restaurant is set up with the right kind of delivery apparatus.  Once those elements are in place, roll out the barrels.


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Thursday, November 24, 2011

WINE COUNTRY MASSACHUSETTS - WESTPORT RIVERS VINEYARD AND WINERY

The Massachusetts wine industry is a relative newcomer to the national wine scene - the state's first winery of the modern era opened in 1971.  

Massachusetts boasts only about 30 wineries, but they are making a name for themselves.  Several folks who know a lot more about Massachusetts wine than I do have told me it's high time that wine from the Bay State got its due.

The grapes you'll find growing in Massachusetts are likely to be Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris.  They are also growing some American hybrids like Vidal Blanc and Cayuga.  Wine made from fruit other than grapes is also in the picture, and mead - wine made from honey - figures in to the winescape.

Wine Country has already visited Massachusetts - Cape Cod Winery - which gave us a chance to try a wine made from hybrid grapes.  This time, we taste some more traditional winemaking grapes.

Westport Rivers is a small, family-owned farm in Westport, Massachusetts which has been growing grapes and making wine for 25 years.  Over that time they have racked up a lot of gold medals and good press, but they are most proud of the fact that their wine has been served in the White House under two administrations.

Their website sings the praises of their "dark, rich, New England loam on well drained gravel."  The cool New England weather is tempered by the Gulf Stream, which warms the South Coast of Massachusetts.  Westport Rivers is situated in the Southeastern 
New England AVA, where most of the Massachusetts wineries are located.  They are also a member of the Coastal Wine Trail of Southeastern New England.

The folks at Westport Rivers also sing the praises of their wines.  They point out that their wines are literally tailor-made to go with the seafood and cheeses of their region.  Westport Rivers was kind enough to provide six of their wines for the Now And Zin 
Wine Country series.

Westport Rivers Pinot GrisWestport Rivers Pinot Gris 2009 - After harvest they let the grapes sit in the press for a few hours before pressing, to give the wine some color and aromatics from the skins.  It works!  The wine has a great golden tint and the nose is bouquet of flowers - a big bouquet.  There's also a touch of minerality in the aromas which comes across more like a gentle earthiness.  The palate plays peaches against melons with a lovely herbal quality rising along with some acidity to keep things food friendly. 

Westport Rivers Pinot NoirWestport Rivers Pinot Noir 2010 - At 13.2% abv, this is much more old world than new.  Medium ruby in color, the nose on this Pinot Noir shows muted raspberry and a strong herbal aroma that smacks of greenness. It's nothing like a whiff of high octane Cali Pinot, that's for sure. The palate shows that same herbal edge, reminiscent of Cabernet Franc, and it weighs in nearly equally with the red plum and sour cherry flavors. The minerality is strong, the acidity lip smacking. It's herbaceousness and acidity show that the winemakers were thinking of the state's seafood bounty when they crafted this one.  It's a light, even delicate, framework for a wine that's more about feel than flavor. 

Westport Rivers ChardonnayWestport Rivers Chardonnay 2009 - 100% estate-grown Chardonnay, this wine is 80% aged in French oak, sur-lie.  Letting wine rest on the dead yeast during fermentation imparts a richer, fuller feeling.  That does not come at the expense of acidity, though - there’s plenty of acid to tingle the taste buds.  Big tropical aromas and spices dominate the nose, while the palate also gets the palm-tree treatment - there are traces of pineapple, guava, banana and even a little coconut in the flavor profile. There's also a trace of lemon peel and even a ginger-like quality that flirts on the palate.  That earthy minerality shows up here, too, as it did in in Pinot Gris.  It's quite a complex little Chardonnay, and - once again - not very California.  A 12.2% abv number makes for a very drinkable wine.

Westport Rivers BrutWestport Brut RJR 2006 - A traditional method sparkler comprised of 65% Pinot Noir grapes and 35% Chardonnay, the Brut has a light golden hue.  The frothy head dissipates quickly.  Its nose reminds me of earthy peaches, very ripe.  I swear I smell mayhaw jelly.  On the palate there's a distinct banana flavor and a toastiness with that earthy quality.  A light mouthfeel and a lingering sense of banana candy give me plenty to ponder while sipping. This is a singular sparkler in my tasting experience.  It's fascinating.  By the way, RJR stands for Robert James Russell, Westport Rivers' winemaker. 

Westport Rivers Blanc de BlancsBlanc de Blancs Ultra Brut 2000- This yellow-gold sparkler offers one of the most pungent noses I've ever experienced in a sparkling wine. The tropical aromas I found in the Chardonnay are here, along with a heaping helping of toasty earthiness. The Blanc de Blancs is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes and is aged over seven years before finishing.  The palate is rich and citrusy, with plenty of bubbles and a bracing acidity.  There's a very intense nutty quality i find fascinating  It does wonders for a handful of peanuts!  The winery recommends you pair it with oysters, and that would seem to be an even better choice. 

Westport Rivers GraceGrace Chardonnay NV - This is their aperitif Chardonnay, one of those gold medal winners they like to brag about. Westport Rivers blends their eau de vie of Chardonnay with fresh pressed Chardonnay juice, then they age it in French oak.  Repeat for seven 
vintages and you've got Grace.  It has an alcohol content of 17.5% abv, so you'll want to go easy on it before operating heavy machinery. This wine looks terrific in the glass.  It's a rich shade tending towards amber, almost like bourbon.  Gorgeous aromas of caramel and honey just about knock me off my feet. The palate is awash with flavors of lemon peel drenched in dark honey.  After regaining consciousness, I realize what great acidity this wine has - feel free to bring on the fattiest cheese and pâté for it.

The one thing that keeps appearing in the wines of Westport Rivers is the amazing terroir, the sense of earth that permeates each of the wines I tried.  It marks each wine as a distinctive representative of Wine Country Massachusetts.




GIFTS FOR WINE LOVERS


Gifts For Wine Lovers

If there are wine lovers on your holiday gift list, you could do a lot worse than simply buy them some wine.  That sentence makes for a pretty short article, however, so let me elaborate on a few items your oenophile might enjoy finding under the Christmas tree.

The wine thing isn't all that bad an idea, as long as you have some idea what to steer towards and what to steer away from.  Nobody wants to get a card bearing the note, "Thanks for the wine. That was my ex-wife's favorite Cab."  Use your best judgement there.

This list should get you started on the twelve days of Christmas, and if you are celebrating the eight nights of Hanukkah, you'll have a few goodies left over for yourself.

Wine Club Membership - Every winery and most wine stores have one.  Prices vary.  Make sure you're not going to be on the hook for renewal every year, unless you are just that kind of gift giver.  In which case, is it too late for us to get on each other's list?

Gift Cards - What wine lover doesn't like to pick our their own vino?  Your local wine shops can no doubt accommodate you.  A Visa gift card will work, too, but that may seem a bit crass for some.

Themed Wine Samplers - TastingRoom.com offers a variety of samplers made up of six 187ml servings, so the tasting room can be sent right to your wine lover.  Those little bottles go awfully fast, though.  187ml is not even a good pour at my house.

Vinturi Wine Aerator - Vinturi has a variety of gadgets designed to aerate wine in seconds, staring at $40.

Wine Totes - Reusable canvas tote bags for wine bottles from Towne 9 of Seattle are cool looking and useful. - $14

Jet Bag - These bags are lined with a diaper, so even if your wine bottle breaks in your checked luggage, your white shirt won't come out Burgundy.  They start at about $5 each, in three-packs, 10-packs and 25-packs for those who travel with only wine, no clothes.

Engraved Wine Tool Set - The package from Gift Tree includes a fancy corkscrew, stainless steel drip ring and a bottle stopper. - $35

Wine stoppers made from real grapevines - The Vine of the Wine website is geared more toward wholesale, but they list some Paso Robles wineries who carry their creations.  $42 in Pismo Beach, California.

Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally - Alice Feiring's first-person study of the natural wine movement has been praised by nearly everyone who drinks wine while reading.

A Toast To Bargain Wines - George M. Taber’s book written to help wine lovers sip good wine without having to do so in the poorhouse.

Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest For The World’s Best Bargain Wines - Sommelier Natalie MacLean also seeks the best quality wine at the lowest possible price.




Wednesday, November 23, 2011

BLOOD OF THE VINES - BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE


Blood Of The Vines

Wine Goes To The Movies 

Kim Novak and James Stewart may have been feeling a bit dizzy from "Vertigo" when they teamed up again less than a year later for "Bell, Book and Candle."  This romantic comedy is set in Manhattan, during the Christmas season.  The story revolves around 
a subculture of witches there.  Despite the beautiful cinematography, the backdrop of real-life witchcraft has always made me feel that New York City is a much weirder place than people are letting on.  See "Rosemary's Baby" for more on that angle.  "Bell, Book and Candle" is, however, a beautifully shot movie and makes a great way to kick off the holiday season.

That is, if you don't concentrate too much on the meaning of the title.  A bell, book and candle are used in excommunication rites, so linking that imagery with the Christmas season may seem a bit Grinchly.  If you just focus on the scenery and the love story, 
you should be ready to go out and nail up those decorations afterward.

Because of the feline costar of "Bell, Book and Candle," Pyewacket became a popular name for cats.  Apparently, cats are closely bonded to witches - chalk up one more reason to be a dog person.  I've never known any cats named Pyewacket, but I have known a few I thought may have been possessed.

On a bewitching musical note, Jack Lemmon lending bongo accompaniment to a jazz band's rendetion of "Stormy Weather" in the Greenwich Village club where all the witches hang out is not to be missed.  There are some pretty snappy dressers in that crowd - 
I guess the beatniks turned out for the late show.  

There are no beatniks at Carlsbad, California's Witch Creek Winery, but they are loaded for bear in the cat department.  Le Chat Blanc would seem to be the white witch, while Screaming Kitty, their 2008 Proprietary Red blend, features Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Primitivo.  Their Chateau Neuf Du Cat screams sour cherry and a puff of smoke.  Let us know if a witch appears when you open the bottle.  It sells for $23 and is available only through the winery.


Witch Other Wines?

Black Cat Vineyard - A Napa Valley producer with no critter labels or funny names on their wines.

Bonny Doon Ca' del Solo Muscat 2009 - Monterey Moscato Giallo grapes in this bewitching white.  $16

Wine Witch - This website can help you locate good bargain wines without casting a spell.

Witch Wine Bottle Holder - This witch looks nothing like Kim Novak, but she comes with a black cat stopper.  Bottle not included.  $34

Wine Witch T-Shirt - $35 for a T-shirt?  You'd have to cast a pretty good spell to move this.

Wine Witch Bottle Topper Set - Do people really buy this stuff?  The magic must have worn off - it's on sale for $6.





Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A NICE WINE STOP FOR AFTER THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE TAPING


Cotes-du-Rhone at L'Epicerie

L'Epicerie Cafe and Market is a good stop for a bite and a sip anytime you find yourself in the vicinity of Culver City, California.  It's right across Culver Boulevard from the Sony studios, which makes it convenient to a taping of Wheel Of Fortune or Jeopardy.

A friend of ours became the announcer for Wheel Of Fortune recently, and he finagled us a couple of VIP admissions.  He joined us afterward and we got to catch up a bit.  I've known Jim for around 20 years, but most of the contact we've had has been over a telephone or a two-way radio, so a little face time with the voice guy was welcome.  Denise gets to see him pretty regularly across the console at the Los Angeles news powerhouse, KNX 1070.

We ordered some oysters, some mushrooms, a pork belly confit, a savory crepe and maybe some other stuff, too.  It was all delicious.  So was the wine.

I opened with a Big Vine Pinot Noir 2009, a Central Coast effort combining grapes from the Arroyo Grande Valley and the Sta. Rita Hills.  Bacon on the nose mixes with dark, earthy fruit and the palate is a riot of cola, meat and cassis.  It is $10 by the glass and went very well with the garlicky mushrooms.

The oysters were nicely abetted by the Côtes-du-Rhône Maison Arnoux Vieux Clocher.  This blend of Grenache Blanc and Viognier offers floral and citrus aromas and a rather full mouthfeel with a decent level of acidity.  At $11 by the glass, it actually favored the pork belly better than it did the oysters.


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Monday, November 21, 2011

WINES THAT ROCK: THE GRATEFUL DEAD


Grateful Dead Wine

Wine and rock music have blended together for a number of interesting - and some perplexing - results. One outfit that seems to have the idea boiled down to its essence is Wines That Rock, a Ukiah, California wine company which specializes in marketing its wines directly to fans of rock music.

Wines That Rock already has vintages called Forty Licks Merlot (for Rolling Stones fans), Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon (Pink Floyd), Synchronicity (The Police) and Woodstock Chardonnay.  Now they have added some Deadhead red to the lineup.

The Grateful Dead Red Wine Blend 2009 is said to "capture the essence of the live energy of the Grateful Dead."  The wine is a heady blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Grenache, all taken from California's Mendocino County.  The winemaker promises flavors of "black cherry and peppered bacon with a velvety vanilla and caramel finish."  To properly emulate the Grateful Dead's live shows, one would imagine that finish to be quite lengthy.

The environmental notes show sustainable farming, 100% green power, eco-friendly packaging and carbon neutrality.  All should be a hit with the target audience.

It can be argued - reasonably well - that this type of wine relies less on taste than on the iconic imagery on its label.  Think of it as "critter labels" for stoners.  I have yet to taste one of the Wines That Rock, but at least their description and winemaking notes seem to take the wine more seriously than the labels may indicate.


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Sunday, November 20, 2011

STAYING YOUNG BY DRINKING WINE - NOT SO FAST


Wine News

Resveratrol - a chemical found in grape skins and other fruit - has been linked to all sorts of health benefits in a number of studies over the past decade.  A Wine Spectator article now suggests that while resveratrol may well have an impact against cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementia, the recent idea that it may help increase lifespan is getting a suspicious eye from researchers.

Studies showed that resveratrol activated proteins called sirtuins - which regulate cell metabolism.  Those studies are being discounted after more studies showed that the increased longevity brought on by sirtuin activation is possibly due not to
resveratrol, but to a different mutation which occured during the experiments.

This is bad news for the pharmaceutical companies that have poured millions upon millions of dollars into resveratrol as a "fountain of youth" drug.

David Gems, a geneticist at University Collge London, says, "We found that sirtuins don't actually increase lifespan in the animals that we looked at, the nematode worms and fruit flies.  This suggests that even a drug that did activate sirtuins would not slow aging."

Resveratrol is still seen as a viable agent against some diseases, so drinking red wine in moderation is still considered a healthy thing to do.  The notion that wine contains a "silver bullet" to combat aging, however, is no longer widely held in the scientific community.


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Thursday, November 17, 2011

STARS OF CABERNET RECAP


Stars of Cabernet

The Stars of Cabernet tasting event had me expecting lots of ripe-to-bursting fruit and a pencil factory's worth of graphite.  I was surprised, but not disappointed.

The event was held November 16, 2011 at the Peninsula Hotelin Beverly Hills, staged by Ian Blackburn's Learn About Wine.  Instead of the usual Napa Valley supects - not that that's a bad thing - the room was populated by mostly small producers and a number of family-operated vineyards.

I wasn't the only one struck by how many "lean and mean" wines were poured.  Instead of the usual aromas and flavors that normally dominate a Cabernet Sauvignon event, there were quite a few wines showing a green, herbal quality which I found most attractive.  Old-world styles seem to pop up regularly.  Big, ripe fruit was certainly represented, too, and the tannins were uniformly firm.  I found myself remarking on the minerality and acidity at a number of tables.

Many of the wines were of the 2008 vintage, which was affected by a scarcity of rain and lots of late frost in Napa Valley, resulting in lower yields and smaller berries.  The quality was very high, though, and it showed in many of the wines poured at this event.

The quality of the wines was so uniformly high, it would be a disservice to leave out any that I tasted simply to save space.  I have plenty of space, so here's what I tasted:

This Napa producer poured their rich and elegant Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, the old-world Right Bank and Eloge, a Cabernet Franc blend.

Lede's wines from the Stags Leap District have garnered high praise.  His Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 2008 - 75% Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec - has a beautiful, dark feel and the Poetry 2008 - same varieties with 78% Cabernet Sauvignon - shows dark fruit and great acidity.

The name means "the moment when lightning strikes," a moment you'd like to keep forever.  It's a beautiful description of a Napa Valley wine that fits the bill.  Their 2009 Cuvée blend is 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, and it has a great herbal note on the currant fruit flavor.

Napa Cab with a splash of Cab Franc makes up their Bon Passe Vineyard 2008.  It has a beautiful blueberry flavor and is smooth with firm tannins.  The Linda's Hillside 2007 shows cassis and even firmer tannins.  $25 of each bottle sold goes to the Ovarian Cancer Research fund in memory of Linda Bump, who lost a fight with that disease in 2007.

The Decoy 2009 Napa Valley Cab includes 18% Merlot and offers smoke on the nose with good structure.  The Duckhorn 2008 Napa Valley Cab blends in Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and shows blackberry and earth.  The 2008 Monitor Ledge Vineyard Cab is augmented with a splash of Petit Verdot and shows an invigorating minerality.  The 2008 Howell Mountain Cab steps that feeling up a notch.

The 2008 Napa Cab has Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc in the mix.  It's dark and rich with great tannic structure.  The 2009 Rutherford Reserve Cab adds a touch of graphite to the black cherry flavor.

Gentleman Farmer
The 2009 Cab has a peppery touch to the dark fruit, with great tannins.  The 2009 Napa Valley Red Wine is a Right Bank blend of 51% Cab, 46% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc.  The Cab Franc really shines in this one, with great red fruit displaying smoke and spice.

Located in the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara County, the Grassini's sustainably-farmed vineyards are near Dierberg Vineyards in the warm eastern part of the Santa Ynez Valley.  Their Estate Cab 2008 was one of the more intriguing wines of the event.   Terroir-driven, bright red fruit has a minty edge and superlative acidity.  It's no doubt a versatile wine for a complex holiday meal.  (That's Mandy Grassini in the image)

The 2007 Napa Valley Cab is rich and dense, while the 2006 Yountville Cab is beautiful, showing plenty of dark fruit and notes of coffee.

Transformation, Jaffe's 2008 blend of 60% Cab and 40% Merlot from St. Helena, is opulent.  Spices adorn smoke and candy.  The 2007 Metamorphosis St. Helena Cab goes deeper and darker, with an 85%/15% angle to the grapes.

One of the few non-Napa producers at this event, Kathryn Kennedy Winery is in the Santa Cruz Mountains, on the inland side.  The Small Lot Cab 2007 is produced utilizing sourced grapes from the AVA and shows a lovely herbal quality.  I also tried the 2002 Estate Cab, also displaying some herbal notes - mint and anise.

From Knights Valley, in the Mayacamas Mountains, comes the most delicious wine I tasted at this event.  The Knights Valley Cab 2008 is loaded with fruit, has a touch of graphite and is smooth as silk.  $110.

Lail's Blueprint Napa Valley Cab 2009 is elegant and strong at once, with great dark fruit and tannic structure.  Their J. Daniel Cuvée Napa Cab 2008 shows a minty, herbal note.

Producing in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley, Clay Mauritson's pet project is a series of wines that show the different soil types available on the estate.  Each wine in the LOAM series bears the names of a soil type - just like the winemaker - and the '08 Suther, Positas and Clough ane a fascinating exploration of terroir when tasted side-by-side.  Rather than "single vineyard" wines, they are "single soil" efforts.

The 2008 Stagecoach Vineyards Cab is quite distinctive with a nice light touch, both possibly due to the inclusion of 8% Malbec.

Some exceptional Napa Cabs come from this family outfit. The Yountville Grigsby Vineyard 2008 has an herbal flair with very nice tannins, while the Collinetta Vineyard 2007 Cab is even more old-world with stunning acidity.

Their 2007 Estate Cab is made from 80% Cab, 12% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc from their vineyards east of Silverado Trail.  It bears a peppery, spicy flavor profile which put me in mind of the approaching holidays.  Their 2007 Padrone Napa Valley Cab has a little more Cab and a little less Merlot.  It's dense and dark with great tannins.

They are the only non-California winery I happed across at the event, located in Walla Walla, Washington.  Their 2008 Estate has Cab at 88% and also employs Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  A little challenged in the nose, it's great tasting, very smooth and has nice minerality.

Both ZD's '09 Napa valley Cab and their '08 Reserve are full, rich and smooth with spices and great tannic structure.



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

BLOOD OF THE VINES - THE BIG CLOCK


Blood Of The Vines - The Big Clock

Wine Goes To The Movies With 

One of the most exciting nail-biters in the film noir genre, "The Big Clock" will have you wound up tighter than a cheap analog watch.  No small digital numbers here.  Crimeways Magazine likes it larger than life.  

Of all the things to like about this movie, that huge timepiece in the art deco office buiding may be my favorite.  It's like the old scoreboards of classic baseball parks.  Inside, though, instead of a guy flipping over the runs and outs, it houses a guy about to flip because his time may be running out.  

In Kenneth Fearing's book, the murder weapon is a brandy decanter, which would have fit nicely in this piece.  In the film version, Janoth kills his mistress with a sundial.  That plays into the clock theme so well you have to wonder why Fearing didn't think of it.  Maybe he was up against a deadline.

Janoth is played by Charles Laughton, who was a bit of a wine collector in his lifetime.  The last bottle of his private collection was sold at a British auction in 2008.  It was a rare bottle of Chateau Lafite 1870 which brought 3,450 pounds at the gavel.  I don't 
have my money converter on me, but I think that figures out to somewhere between a hundred and a million dollars.  You lost me at a hundred.

It's cheaper to find that bar around the corner where Ray Milland made it his habit to sip a stinger with green crème de menthe in a classy little gimlet glass.  Then, sneak back in and find some time to watch "The Big Clock."  Be sure to synchronize watches for the opening of the wine to pair with it. 

Paso Robles' Alta Colina Vineyards 12 O'Clock High is named for the north-south alignment of the vines in their white grape block.  Estate Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc are blended together to form a wine that's refreshing enough to make film noir breezy and dense enough to fit with the kind of trouble in which Ray Milland finds himself.  

I met winemaker Bob Tillman's daughter Maggie when she poured her family's wines at a wine tasting event in Los Angeles.  The 12 O'Clock High really impressed me:

"I was most taken with the 2009 12 O'Clock High, a white blend of estate-grown Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc.  Stone fruit and tropical notes are met with honey and minerals and a racy acidity that plays big on the finish."

You'll enjoy it with the big finish of "The Big Clock." 


Head Trailers From Hell guru Joe Dante recently presented "The Big Clock" at the University of Wisconsin's Cinematheque series.  Read about it here.


Time for some more wine?

Mountain View Vintners Clockspring Zinfandel - From Amador County, this Sierra Foothills Zin from the Clockspring Vineyard will no doubt help you unwind at movie time.

Dandelion Vineyards Wishing Clock of the Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc - According to the Australian winery, a wishing clock is the "blow-away" part of a dandelion.  Make a wish.  Sip.  Repeat.

Hourglass Winery - Anything from this Napa Valley winery should be good if you're one of those for whom a clock seems just a little too newfangled.

Clock Labels - Arizona's Su Vino Winery will personalize whatever wine you choose for your Big Clock pairing.

Wine Clocks - You had to see this coming.  Here's a search result for "wine clocks" - you can find one to your liking before the big hand moves too much, I'm sure.