Monday, September 28, 2020

Israeli Wine: Marselan

This week, we are looking into two worthwhile wines made in Israel.  Both are kosher, both are imported by Royal Wine, and both are very well made and tasty.

Tabor Marselan Revadim Vineyard 2016 is made from a grape with which you may not be familiar. - Marselan.  Marselan is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, first bred in France in 1961.  This example from Tabor is a single-vineyard selection, grown in the Judean Hills along the peaks of the Judean Mountains at around 900 feet in elevation.  Alcohol hits 13% abv and it sells for less than $20.

Red fruit dominates the nose - cherries and raspberries, mostly - and it is quite earthy.  The palate is fresh with acidity and bursting with fruit flavor.  There is a touch of oak, but it is not overplayed and it fits well into the wine’s profile.  


Friday, September 25, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - African Kings And Queens

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌  ‌We're pairing wines with films about African kings and queens this week, a royally pleasurable pandemic diversion.

Zulu Dawn was the 1979 prequel to 1964's ZuluZulu Dawn is about the 1879 Battle of Isandlwana, in which some 20,000 Zulu warriors decimated the British military in South Africa.  Incredibly, Zulu was about the Battle of Rorke's Drift, later that same day, in which the British repelled a somewhat smaller attacking force.  That's what you call getting the most from your source material.

Michael Caine appeared in the 1964 film, which was narrated by Richard Burton.  Fifteen years later, the stars came out for Zulu Dawn, with the likes of Peter O'Toole, Burt Lancaster and John Mills starring.  Trouble is, people didn't seem to like the latter movie as much as the earlier one.

A South African wine is what we want to pair with Zulu Dawn, and Zulu,  for that matter.  The nation's notable grape, Pinotage, makes an earthy wine that's blood-red.  Pinotage has taken a lot of criticism through the years for smelling of paint and tasting like rusty nails.  Let's call it an acquired taste.  Spier Pinotage is described in notes befitting a Merlot or Shiraz, and costs 75 South African Rand - about five bucks.

If you'd like to sample some of South Africa's lovely white wines for Zulu, try Man Family Wines Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc, probably around $10 each.

The African Queen features Hollywood royalty - Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, namely.  The 1951 classic won Bogie his only Oscar.  The film is set in German East Africa, in 1914, as Germany and Britain enter into WWI.  Bogart's boat - The African Queen - turns into an action-packed river cruise, charged with getting him and Hepburn in position to attack a German gunboat.  

Hepburn's character dumps Bogart's supply of gin overboard at one point, and we have to dock her for that grievous error.  It is noted that Bogart and director John Huston were the only two cast members who didn't get sick with dysentery.  That's because they reportedly lived on Scotch whisky during the shooting schedule.  L'Chaim.

I'd like to suggest pairing Hendrick's Gin with The African Queen, not merely because the striking apothecary bottle makes it look like medicine.  Hepburn's character is named Rose, and the cucumber and rose notes in Hendrick's are as delicate as Hepburn was tough.


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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Value Bubbles From The Loire Valley

You've heard the phrase Champagne taste for the price of a beer?  What that refers to is a good quality French sparkling wine at a lower-than-Champagne cost.  When sparkling wine is made in the Champagne region, it's called Champagne.  Made elsewhere in France, it's called crèment, and it is where you find bubbly value.

The non-vintage Bouvet Rosé Excellence is a sparkling wine from Bouvet-Ladubay, a Loire Valley producer.  The wine is made completely from Cabernet Franc grapes, keeps alcohol reasonable at 12.5% abv and sells for around $17.  Fermented in steel, this wine gets its second fermentation by the traditional method, in the bottle.  It is imported in the U.S. by the reliable Kobrand Wines.

This salmon-pink Loire crèment is a bottle of pure pleasure.  It has a great fruity nose, with a bit of toast in it.  The palate offers a fabulous swath of cherries, strawberries and a hint of raspberries.  The fruit is all on the ripe side, and the acidity is nothing short of a razor line.  Great sipping, great pairing with just about anything.



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Monday, September 21, 2020

Paso Cab Makes Be-Leafers

Herzog Wine Cellars is a nine-generation display of passion in the wine industry, starting in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and stretching across an ocean and a continent to California's vineyards.  The family's belief in their Jewish identity and their passion for making quality kosher wines came together in a new land, where everything was possible.

Herzog Variations Be-Leaf Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2019 is kosher for Passover, made with organically grown grapes grown in the "sunny, warm, rolling hills of Paso Robles," late-harvested for optimal ripeness.  There are no added sulfites in the wine, which has a restrained alcohol content at only 12.5% abv and a retail price of $26.

This kosher Cabernet Sauvignon shows aromas of blackberry, blueberry and boysenberry leading the way, with a light touch of oak and a dollop of that Paso earthiness.  The palate is chalky and fruity, the tannins are toothy and the acidity is racy.  Allow plenty of time for this wine to open up before pouring it - you’ll be glad you did.


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Friday, September 18, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Diana Rigg


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 are mourning the loss of Diana Rigg, sexy Emma Peel of The Avengers on TV and a part of these three films on the big screen.

1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service was the sixth installment in the James Bond series, and the first without Sean Connery in the role of 007.  George Lazenby vaulted instantly from starring in TV advertisements for chocolates to being "Bond. James Bond."  Life is good that way to some folks.  

Life was good to Diana Rigg, at least the professional side of it.  She played the Bond girl here.  The character was an Italian countess who became, in the film, Bond's wife - however briefly.  Rigg had reportedly said that she always wanted to appear in an "epic film," and OHMSS was that.  Rigg may have had a somewhat charmed acting life, but she suffered some great personal heartbreak along the way.

I am of the age that Diana Rigg as Emma Peel had a great "M. Appeal" - male appeal - for me as a pre-teen boy.  We won't get into embarrassing specifics here, except to say that I was left with a lifelong search for a woman who could do a little judo hip-flip on me while entering a room.

Rigg reportedly had it in her contract for the BBC series Victoria that she would be served a cold bottle of prosecco as each day’s shooting wrapped.  You can go that way if you like - a $10 bottle of Italian bubbles - or you can lean into the Bond lifestyle and order an expensive Champagne.  While you're leaning, extract a few Benjamins from your wallet.  Bond was no slouch when it came to booze.

The Hospital, from 1971, has Rigg playing opposite George C. Scott as the love interest of a New York doctor at the center of his unraveling world.  She serves as a brightness in the good doctor's otherwise dark existence.  That, despite the lack of cute little judo hip-flips in Paddy Chayefsky's Oscar-winning script.

Bogle Vineyards, in the northern California town of Clarksburg, has made news recently by announcing that they are feeding a thousand medical workers, using local restaurants to do so.  That sounds like as good a reason as any to pair their Old Vine Zinfandel with The Hospital.  The Bogle wines are good, affordable and usually fairly easy to find, even at the supermarket.

In Theater of Blood - or Theatre of Blood in the U.K. - Rigg joined forces with Vincent Price in a 1973 horror film with laughs.  That description somehow sounds better than "a comedy with a lot of murders in it."  Price plays an actor who got shafted by the critics - who thought up that crazy idea? - and Rigg plays his daughter.  People think the actor did a deadly dive into the Thames, and so when the critics start dropping like flies, Rigg's character is the prime suspect.

Theater of Blood was Price's favorite movie, he said, because it gave him the opportunity to do some Shakespeare.  Rigg called it her fave, too, saying it contained some of her best work.

One of the luckless critics in the movie is drowned in a barrel of wine, mimicking a murder from Richard III.  The wine was a malmsey, I do believe.  The Rare Wine Company makes a line of Madeira wines which are astoundingly good, if a little pricey.  Their New York Malmsey is as good a choice as any.


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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A Declarative Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

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

Declaration, their 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, was blended in St. Helena from "Napa Valley vineyards and surrounding hillsides," although the company does not publish much more 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 14.5% abv and the retail price is $80.

The 2015 Declaration has a gorgeous nose featuring blackberry, cherry, lavender, graphite, vanilla and sweet oak spices.  The palate is a delightful playground of dark berries and that Napa dirt, which doesn't seem all that dirty, really.  It drinks fruity and young, but has firm tannins and plenty of aging potential for the coming years.


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Monday, September 14, 2020

Chilean Carmenere Wine

A virtual wine tasting event happened online in September 2020, and featured Chile's TerraNoble Wines.  The Zoom get-together featured TerraNoble winemaker Marcelo Garcia and showcased the different styles the winery makes from the Carménère grape.  Wines grown in the Colchagua & Maule Valleys describe the differences between coastal and mountain Carmenere.

Through a translator, Garcia explained that  after 25 years, TerraNoble Carménère has progressed from wines that were typified by green notes, to overripe, to toasted notes, to today's fresh fruit forward style with juicy acidity.  He credited the winery's constant learning about Carménère as having brought the wines to where they are today.

Started in the Maule Valley, the San Clemente estate vineyard was planted in 1994.  Now the vineyards are sustainable and vegan certified.  First up in the tasting were two examples of Carménère grown in the Colchagua Valley, in the warm foothills of the Andes Mountains.


CA 1 Andes Colchagua Valley Carménère
2016

This one was aged for 14 months in 85% used barrels and 15% untoasted foudres.  Alcohol tips 14% abv and the wine retails for $25.

This dark wine offers a nose of black fruit and cassis, painted with cedar, clove and cinnamon.  The very expressive aromas put me in mind of the holidays.  The palate is alive with the dark berry notes and oak spice, and a monstrous set of tannins that need some decant time to soften.  Don’t worry, the wine will still handle any steak you put in front of it.


CA 1 Andes Colchagua Valley Carménère
2017

Aged for 14 months in 80% used barrels and 20% untoasted foudres, this wine touches 14.1% abv and sells for $25.

The notes on the 2016 CA 1 apply here as well.  This is a wild wine, full of aromas and flavors, brimming with tannins, ready to rumble.  


CA 2 Carménère Costa
2017

Grown in the coastal mountain range of Chile's Colchagua Valley, this CA 2 wine demonstrates the coastal version of Carménère.  It was aged for 14 months in 80% used barrels and 20% untoasted foudres.  Alcohol noses up to 14.3% abv and the retail price is $25.

The nose on this version of TerraNoble’s Carménère hits more bright red and blue notes than the two I tried previously.  The palate is a lot calmer, too, although the tannins hold their own.  It's a more user-friendly Carménère, and more fun to drink on its own.


TerraNoble Gran Reserva Carménère
 2017

Aging for 12 months in 75% used French oak barrels and 25% untoasted foudres, this wine has alcohol at 14% abv and it sells for $19.

This Carménère shows a world of difference from the others in the TerraNoble line I’ve been trying.  There is a boatload of dark fruit, to be sure, with black cherry getting into the act.  The tannins are more reserved upon pouring while the acidity remains bright and juicy.  It's an excellent example of Chilean Carménère.


TerraNoble Gran Reserva Carignan
2018

This Carignan was made from an old vineyard - planted in 1958 - in a hotter climate, yet still close to the ocean in the Maule Valley.

Aged for 10-12 months, half in concrete eggs called Dolia, half in untoasted foudres, alcohol hits only 13.8% abv and retail is $19.

This inky wine has a slightly medicinal nose, with blackberry and tar notes.  The tannins are forceful to a fault upon opening.  Let it sit awhile and allow them to be less inflamed.  The fruit is fairly forefront, possibly due to the aging of half the wine in concrete eggs.  The savory finish is quite long and satisfying. 



Friday, September 11, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Streets Of Hollywood

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  Pull up your mask - up over your nose - and we'll hit the streets of Hollywood for this week's diversion.  And stop making people tell you how to wear a mask!

Fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you, if you keep a flamethrower in your pool house.  Quentin Tarantino's 2019 instant classic, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, takes late '60s Tinseltown and spins a happy ending for one of the saddest stories of the era.

Plenty of Hollywood's streets are featured in the film, with a soundtrack provided by Boss Radio KHJ, pouring forth from car radio speakers.  El Cielo Drive serves as a constant point of reference throughout the movie, and as the natural setting for its climax.

There are plenty of cocktail options included in Once Upon a Time..., if you'd like to drink along at home.  A Bloody Mary at Musso and Frank, margaritas at El Coyote and Casa Vega and homemade whiskey sours are all fine pairings for your screening.

A wine from the Hollywood Hills would be a natural for this film.  Hollywood Classic Vineyard is a tiny plot of Bordeaux grape varieties growing within cork-popping distance of the Hollywood sign.  The wines are not plentiful, and they are rather hard to access anyway, lending some all-important SoCal mystique to the juice.  Speaking of mystique, the owner has gotten plenty of blowback from nearby residents alleging that his development plans make him a bad neighbor.

In 1950's Sunset Boulevard, William Holden's Joe Gillis - and the pool he always wanted - introduce us to a side of Hollywood often hidden from view.  Sheltered and living in delusions of past greatness, Norma Desmond has an employee who keeps her from finding out that her car is more in demand than she.  Gillis takes a ride on the gravy train and ends up a floater.  One of my favorite sideshows here is Jack Webb as a guy at a social gathering.  I'm a longtime admirer of Webb, but it's hard to imagine Joe Friday as a party boy.

Let's get the party started for Sunset Boulevard with a wine from just north of Sunset.  Moraga Bel Air occupies some very pricey Los Angeles real estate, which is reflected in the price of the wine.  Get ready to shell out a couple or three Benjamins for a bottle of the good stuff.  They are ready for their close-up, Mr. DeVille.

And now for something completely Hollywood.  Hollywood Boulevard was made in 1976 on a bet that it would be the cheapest New World Pictures Film ever.  A lot of stock footage was abetted by live action ladies in various states of undress.  Well, that no doubt saved money on wardrobe.  The movie was geared for the drive-in crowd, and maybe it will make a comeback now that the pandemic has somewhat resurrected that arcane platform.

Hollywood Boulevard is a breezy exploitation movie that rocks along toward a climactic scene well above the namesake street, at the Hollywood sign.  You won't need to hit the ATM to find a wine that suits it.

What we are looking for here is cheap, but fun.  Pacific Peak makes a three-dollar Merlot that people swear up and down is just as good as a hundred dollar bottle.  Who am I to argue?  However, I feel that when a Cab costs the same as a Pinot Grigio, there is a little red flag being hoisted.  And lots of stock footage on the way.


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Chilean Carménère Wine - Coastal and Mountain

A virtual wine tasting event is planned for this week (September, 10, 2020) featuring Chile's TerraNoble Wines.  The Zoom get-together promises to feature TerraNoble winemaker Marcelo Garcia and showcase the different styles the winery makes from the Carménère grape.  Wines grown in the Colchagua & Maule valleys will describe the differences between coastal and mountain Carmenere.

I took the opportunity to get the jump on the event by cracking open a couple of the wines a bit early.  Both are examples of Carménère grown in the Colchagua Valley, in the warm foothills of the Andes Mountains.  Both of these wines sit at 14% alcohol by volume, and both sell for about $25. 

CA 1 Andes Colchagua Valley Carménère 2016

This dark wine offers a nose of black fruit and cassis, painted with cedar, clove and cinnamon.  The very expressive aromas put me in mind of the holidays.  The palate is alive with the dark berry notes and oak spice, and a monstrous set of tannins that need some decant time to soften.  Don't worry, the wine will still handle any steak you put in front of it.


CA 1 Andes Colchagua Valley Carménère
2017

The notes on the 2016 CA 1 apply here as well.  This is a wild wine, full of aromas and flavors, brimming with tannins, ready to rumble.  


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Monday, September 7, 2020

A Beautiful Rias Baixas Albariño


The Terra Gaudas wineries were established in 1989, in the Rias Baixas region of O Rosal, in northwest Spain.  They bill themselves as a premium boutique winery, although their output is around a million and a half bottles a year.  They also have winemaking facilities in D.O. Bierzo and in Portugal's Douro area.

Terras Gauda Abadía de San Campio Albariño 2019

The Albariño grapes which make up Abadía de San Campio were selected from vineyards in Goián, a bit east of O Rosal.  They say the Albariño grown in their highest-altitude, less humid, cooler vineyards ripen slower, allowing for "a fresher Albariño of great aromatic intensity, a greater degree of acidity and smoothness on the palate."

Winemaker Emilio Rodríguez Canas did a wonderful job with this wine, which was fermented in steel tanks to an alcohol level of 12.5% abv.  It retails for $24.

This Albariño smells of honeysuckle, Meyer lemon and a hint of apricot.  On the palate, a zippy acidity arises, yet the wine is creamy in the mouth, with wonderful weight.  Citrus and stone fruit flavors are in the forefront, with a nice orange zest note behind.  It is a beautiful Albariño wine, and one of the more pleasant whites wines in my recent memory.



Friday, September 4, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Island Hopping


Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  A trio of island-related movies are on the card this week to help you escape the pandemic virtually, if you're not ready to brave an airline flight just yet.

Paradise Lagoon is the name used in the U.S. for the release of the 1957 British-American film, The Admirable Crichton.  The screenplay was based on a play written in the early 20th century by J.M. Barrie, the guy behind Peter Pan.  The main character in the movie is a butler.  He lacks Peter Pan's ability to fly, but he has the added advantage of being able to serve drinks.

The story of Paradise Lagoon centers on a group of upper-crust castaways who try to escape scandal on a yacht and end up shipwrecked.  It's sort of like Gilligan's Island, except all the castaways are like Thurston Howell III and Lovie.  Crichton the butler is the Professor of the bunch, the one who keeps everyone alive.

Cast Away Cellars of Couer d'Alene, Idaho could be a fun place to fish for a wine pairing.  They have a bottle called Ripple Red Cuvée, made from Columbia Valley grapes, for $25.  I hope the "ripple" is a reference to a fish hook hitting the water and not a recall of Gallo's Ripple wine of the 1970s and '80s.  In case you still have a craving for that dollar-a-hollah jug wine, any unopened bottles that are still available are reportedly selling for upwards of $200 each.

In the 1980 Canadian-American film, Tanya's Island, Denise Matthews starred as a woman faced with choosing between her abusive boyfriend and an ape man on an imaginary island.  Not a hard choice - the ape man took out the garbage.  Matthews was credited in this movie as D.D. Winters, but you may remember her better as Vanity, of pop's Vanity 6, and even better from Purple Rain.  She was taken away terribly young when her kidneys gave out about four years ago at the age of 57.

For a wine to pair with this bizarre love triangle, let's look to Western Australia's Snake and Herring for Bizarre Love Triangle, a blend of Pinot Gris, Gewûrztraminer and Riesling.  They also have a Chardonnay named Tough Love and a rosé named Tainted Love, to form a damaged goods trilogy.

Ah, 1941.  Now we're talking.  Horror Island features, among other actors, Leo Carrillo, who has a California state park near Malibu named after him.  What an agent he must have had!  The movie centers on a treasure map with an "X" marking the spot of Morgan's Island, off the Florida coastline.  The gullible guy who bought the rock, and the map, takes some hopeful treasure hunters out there on a cruise.  The excursion is beset by bombs, crossbows, a rogue suit of armor, a phantom, a torture chamber and… shudder… a government agent.  I can't watch.

The critics lightly panned the movie in its initial release for not being scary enough, funny enough or mysterious enough for an adult audience, passing it off as kid stuff.  But let's keep the adults in the room long enough to have a drink with Horror Island.

Calistoga's La Sirena has a Napa Valley blend of seven big red grapes in their Pirate TreasuRed.  They've been making it for ten years now, so people must be finding the buried treasure within it.


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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Barceló Has Me Drinking Dominican Rum Again

With no real end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic, I understand that people are settling in to lifestyle patterns that help them cope with the isolation, inconvenience and lack of activity brought on by the stringent requirements that keep us all safer.  One of those patterns is a less rigorous adherence to cocktail hour - what time it starts and how long it lasts.

It is true that at any given moment it is 5:00 somewhere, and with no Zoom meeting to log onto and appear sober for, that sentiment can be taken fully to heart.

The folks who rep Barceló Dominican Rum are touting the product as a fun and tasty addition to a day of worry about the coronavirus.  The line contains Barcelo Imperial Premium Blend 30 Aniversario, Barcelo Imperial Onyx, Barcelo Imperial, Barcelo Gran Añejo and Barcelo Añejo rums.  The firm provided me with a bottle of the Imperial Onyx to sample.

Barceló Imperial Onyx is a blend of different rums which are aged for ten years in former bourbon barrels with a heavy char grade.  Barceló says that other premium rums are aged in barrels graded at medium-light char.  The rum is filtered through onyx stones, which is believed to impart mysticism.  Barceló is made from the fermented juice of sugar cane, while other Dominican brands favor using molasses. The result, says Barceló, is a smoother and more well-rounded taste that showcases the true characteristics of the cane.  I don't know about the mysticism, but the taste is fabulous.  I see Onyx selling online for just north of $40.

Onyx has a rich nose which is dominated by brown sugar and oak spices, most notably vanilla.  The sip is smooth, indeed, with gorgeous honey notes and a persistent bourbon accent.  I like mine on ice - it is a wonderful sipper - but the recipes below are also worth a try, particularly the negroni.

Ron Barcelo is the third generation of the family business in the Dominican Republic.  Today, Ron Barcelo is the number one exported dark rum in the world, available in more than 70 countries worldwide.  

Cocktails

You can use the following recipes to create home cocktails, like Barcelo's Quarantini, Aged Negroni or the 1930 spritz.

BARCELO’S QUARANTINI

Ingredients:

1.5 oz Ron Barceló Dark Series

1 oz Aloe Vera Juice

½ oz fresh cucumber water

4 slices muddled cucumber

Preparation:

Muddle cucumbers.

Add all ingredients and shake well.

Garnish with cucumber slices or peel.


AGED NEGRONI

Ingredients: 

1 oz Ron Barcelo Imperial 

1 oz Antica Formula 

1 oz Campari 

Preparation: 

Pour all ingredients over ice, stir and garnish with orange peel.


1930 SPRITZ 

1 oz Ron Barcelo Platinum

2 oz Prosecco or sparkling wine

1 oz Pomegranate juice 

Preparation: 

Seve all ingredients in a champagne flute.


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Monday, August 31, 2020

Four Chilean Wines That Play Rough


The Viña Ventisquero Grey line of wines is the expression of a single block of vines from different growing areas in Chile.  Ventisquero has vineyards in the Coastal Maipo, Casablanca, Colchagua, Leyda and Huasco valleys.  Head winemaker Felipe Tosso takes his craft seriously, comparing the creation of a wine to the raising of a child.  He says, "it's just like being a father. You give birth to a son, you raise and mold him so he can follow his destiny."

In addition to the wine samples, I was given tips on which Chilean music to pair with the various wines.  I have included Spotify links to the suggested Ventisquero selections.


Ventisquero Grey GCM
2017

The Ventisquero Grey GCM wine is a traditional blend of 62% Garnacha, 19% Cariñena and 19% Mataro grapes from the Valle de Colchagua's Apalta area, the terraced, hillside Roblería Vineyard.  You may know Mataro better as Monastrell or Mourvedre.  The soil is poor - good for grapevines - made up of clay and lots of stones.  2017 was a hot year, so the grapes ripened  earlier than usual.  The wine was aged for six months in neutral French oak barrels, stands at 14% abv and retails for $23.  The winery says the Grey GCM wine is "complex, like the music of Chilean artist Nano Stern, which stands at the crossroads of various influences and genres such as rock, folk, fusion and trova."

This wine is medium dark in color and in just about everything else.  Wonderfully dark.  The nose is black fruit, savory tar, a meaty kind of note and some light oak tones.  The palate allows the savory aspects a little more room to move.  There is a lip-smacking acidity; the tannins are firm.  I tried mine with smoked pork belly and some apple smoked Gouda, with great results.

Song pairing: Carnavalito del Ciempés by Nano Stern


Ventisquero Grey Cabernet Sauvignon
2014

This wine comes from Block 38 of Ventisquero’s Trinidad Vineyard in the coastal Maipo Valley.  The winery refers to this Cab as "non-traditional," and it does seem to me to be more rustic than elegant.  The 93% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are joined by 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc.  Growing in the 2014 vintage was marked by a typical summer featuring moderate temperatures and no rain.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aging took place over 18 months in French oak barrels, one-third new - and another eight months in the bottle.  Alcohol sits at a restrained 13.5% abv and the wine sells for around $20.

This wine is dark and savory.  The black fruit comes along with cedar, vanilla and a chalky earth tone.  It is nothing like Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, but more in line with Paso Robles.  Lots of South American minerals are having a bit of roughhouse here.

Ventisquero likes to pair their Grey Cab with Violeta Parra, one of the most iconic Chilean artists.  Like the wine, they say she is "classic yet surprising, elegant and inspiring."

Song pairing: Gracias a la Vida by Violeta Parra 


Ventisquero Grey Carménère
2017

This red wine is made of Carmenere grapes, grown in the Trinidad Vineyard in Chile's coastal Maipo Valley.  Chile reportedly has the largest vineyard area planted with Carmenere, the country's flagship grape.  Only half of the grapes were crushed for fermentation.  The wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels - one-third new and two-thirds second and third use - where malolactic fermentation took place.  Alcohol in just 13.5% abv and the retails price is $22.

This is a beautiful Carménère, all earthy and full of savory minerality.  The blackberry and black plum aromas creep through the smell of that dirt with tar, forest floor and tobacco all over them.  A hint of vanilla sweetens the sniff a bit.  On the palate, the dark fruit is draped in sweet oak spice, and you'll find a bucketful of tannins until the glass has been sitting for awhile.  This is a steak wine, intended for a big, juicy piece of beef.

Just as this grape is iconic to Chile, the winery says Cueca music is essential to Chilean culture as the country’s national dance and music.  

Song pairing: Yo Vendo Unos Ojos Negros by Los Huasos Quincheros 


Ventisquero Grey Pinot Noir
2017

The Grey Pinot Noir is a complex wine which the winery says is typical of the Leyda Valley, a growing area known for excellent acidity and mineral notes.  The Las Terrazas Vineyard's soil starts off with a bit of red granitic clay, and gets rockier the deeper the roots reach.  The fairly warm 2017 vintage prompted the pickers to collect the grapes a little earlier than usual.  Fermentation took place in steel tanks, while aging took a full year in French oak barrels, 15% of them were new, 30% second-use and 55% third-use.  

This Chilean Pinot Noir offers a nose that is heavy with cola, black tea and coffee grounds.  The savory aromas actually outweigh the fruit.  It is a medium-weight wine, not very deeply tinted, and it rides light on the palate.  The acidity is brisk and the tannins firm.  This is not a Burgundian take on the grape, for certain.  It is more playful than elegant, more rustic than beautiful.

Pair this delicate grape with Francisca Valenzuela's music, whose slow yet powerful songs are as vibrant as the Grey Pinot Noir. 

Song pairing: Ya No Se Trata de Ti by Francisca Valenzuela 


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Friday, August 28, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Sam's The Man

 

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  I awoke to news that some 70 million bottles of Italian wine are being turned into hand sanitizer.  This pandemic, before it's all over, may reduce me to pairing alcohol gel with movies.

 

This week’s offerings are three films by Samuel Fuller, with whom I share a last name.  There is no DNA trace here - about which I am aware - so I have no stories about ol' uncle Sammy misbehaving after downing too much Beaujolais Nouveau at Thanksgiving dinners.  We do, however, have a celluloid history of his penchant for making movies on topics many other filmmakers wouldn't touch.

In the 1959 noir classic The Crimson Kimono, Fuller takes on the relationship between race and romance.  Two L.A. cops both fall for the same girl in Little Tokyo, and she chooses the one who happens to be of Japanese descent.  That was Fuller's hallmark, the choice of material that made mainstream Hollywood - and mainstream America - uncomfortable.

The film's one-sheet leans into the titillation factor - "a beautiful American girl in the arms of a Japanese boy" - and wonders what his "strange appeal" is for American women.  The movie can only be seen in an anachronistic light now, possibly partly because of its impact.  The two cops are friends - roommates, even - but friction develops between them when the white cop doesn't like the idea of the girl going for the Asian guy.

Now, a wine pairing for The Crimson Kimono.  It's a shame that Open Kimono wines - a Washington Riesling and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc - appear to be unavailable now.  You can try a sake - basically Japanese rice wine, but it's brewed - or something with more of a Los Angeles connection.  For years, the Wilson building on Wilshire at La Brea had a huge ad sign on its roof for Asahi beer.  It is a very film-friendly brew.

1952's Park Row has been mentioned as a low-budget Citizen Kane due to its newspaper-based storyline.  While its scale wasn't as grand as that of the Welles classic, it was about two competing newspapers, and it was in black and white.

The volume of booze which could be put away by those known back in the day as "newspapermen" is the stuff of legends.  I knew of an ink-slinger who used to get his liquor store bill at the newspaper office each month.  On the envelope, the merchant had written, "Pay me, mother****er" for all to see.  Rather than shaming him, it was a sort of badge of courage for the colorful writer, whose reputation was built on such instances.

Those bills were no doubt for hard liquor, so any readily available bourbon would go nicely with a movie about the newspaper business.  There is also a British company which packages in a gift box a vintage Bordeaux alongside an old newspaper.  I'm not kidding about that.  However, if you're looking to make headlines, there's Headline Wines.  The line is aimed at a younger age group - the kind who may not have ever actually read a newspaper, but know that wine comes in cans and boxes now.

1959's Verboten! is in Fuller's wheelhouse.  It's a war movie, dubya dubya two.  It's about as subtle as a fist in the face, and that is for the best when telling a story of Nazi Germany.  The title came from the pages of the U.S. Army code of conduct, which forbade the fraternization of U.S. soldiers and German women.  The story revolves around a love triangle involving a G.I., a German woman and a former German soldier who didn't quite get the memo that the war was over.

"Verboten" means "forbidden" in German.  In Spanish it’s "prohibito," "interdit" in French and "zakazana" in Polish.  Someone, somewhere, probably translates the title as "oh no you don’t, not with her."  Paul Anka croons the theme song from the movie: "Verboten, verboten, our love is verboten…"  I don’t recall hearing that on American Bandstand.

Colorado's Verboten Brewing takes its name from the "forbidden" ingredients rejected by the German Purity Law for beer.  As for a wine pairing, make it a Riesling, the German export that Angela Merkel is heavily involved in pushing right now.  Doctor Heidemanns "Blitz" Riesling translates as "lightning," by the way.


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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Beaujolais Rosé

In the U.S folks may know very little about Beaujolais wines except that they see them stacked in their grocery store's wine aisle every Thanksgiving.  It is true that for many, Beaujolais Nouveau is a holiday tradition, but the Gamay grape is not just a one-trick pony.  They also go pink.

Beaujolais vineyards account for more than half of the world's Gamay grapevines, and most of them go into red wines, the youthful Nouveau as well as the more respected Beaujolais Cru wines.  Some of them, however, are used to make rosé wines, giving Beaujolais a usefulness in the spring and summer as well as the fall and winter.  Of course, good rosé goes great with leftover turkey and ham, too.  I was given the opportunity to sample a handful of Beaujolais rosé wines.

Château Cambon Beaujolais Rosé 2018

Château Cambon is a small parcel of Beaujolais vineyard land between Morgon and Brouilly.  They make their pink wine from whole cluster Gamay grapes, stems and all, keeping the skins in contact for two days.  The wine is aged for five months and bottled with minimal SO2.  Alcohol hits 12% abv and the retails price is around $20.

This pink Gamay wine has a fairly rich color, rather like salmon meets orange.  There is a bit of a Jolly Rancher note to the strawberry nose, and an herbal angle.  Strawberry plays big in the flavor profile, too, with a distinctive earthy tone to it.  It has great heft - it drinks like a red - and a very refreshing acidity.  


Château Thivin Beaujolais Villages Rosé 2018

Château Thivin dates back to the 14th century and is now under the guidance of the fifth and sixth generations of the Geoffray family, who bought the property in the 18th century.  The Château Thivin Beaujolais Villages Rosé is imported by Kermit Lynch, which is as good a recommendation as you are likely to get.  The wine’s alcohol level sits at 13% abv and the retail price is somewhere around $18.

This wine is delicately tinted light salmon.  Its nose is quite fruity - cherries, strawberries, orange - but also graced with a minerality that serves as a bedrock base for all that beauty.  The palate brings ripe red fruit, a hefty mouthfeel and a zippy acidity into play.  It’s great for salads, and even better just for sipping. 

Le Rosé d’Folie Beaujolais Rosé 2019

The owner and winemaker of Domaine des Terres Dorées is Jean Paul Brun.  The 40-acre family estate is in the village of Charnay, in the southern part of Beaujolais, just north of Lyons.  The area is beautifully nicknamed "the Region of Golden Stones."  The wine is imported by the well-respected Louis/Dressner Selections.  

Le Rosé d’Folie is made from 100% organic Gamay grapes, aged in concrete tanks, on its lees with malolactic fermentation.  The contact with the spent yeast cells and the allowance of malolactic fermentation give the wine a hefty mouthfeel.  Alcohol tips a mere 12.5% and the retail price is around $15.

This wine glows salmon pink in the glass, and smells of fresh, ripe strawberries and cherries.  On the palate the strawberry takes the lead, while a note of stone fruit slips into the arena.  There is a fairly zippy acidity to go along with the flavors.  It's Beaujolais, but bears a striking resemblance to Provençe.  

Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Rosé 2019

This pink wine comes from the southern Beaujolais hamlet of Le Breuil, where Domaine Dupeuble has been turning out wine for about five centuries.  Importer Kermit Lynch says the estate has only changed hands three times over that span, most recently in 1919.  Lynch began his involvement with the brand in the 1980s, by importing the estate's Beaujolais Nouveau.

The vineyards are tended through the practice of lutte raisonnée, which literally means "reasoned fight" but is translated in English as "supervised control."  The practice shuns synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides in favor of a more natural approach.  It is seen by many as a first step towards organic farming, but is also a happy medium for some growers.  Alcohol comes in at only 13% abv and the retail price is $17.  

The Lynch website describes the 2019 Gamay rosé from Domaine Dupeuble as the gold standard of Beaujolais rosé.  Promised are aromas of white flowers, rhubarb, and wild berries, leading to a palate which is smooth and rounded yet full of those Beaujolais minerals and a hint of citrus on the finish.  A subtle herbal quality and vibrant acidity make it a perfect match for light summer fare.


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Monday, August 24, 2020

Single-Estate Tequila

Does a single-estate tequila have the same cachet as a single vineyard wine?  It does if you listen to the makers of the La Adelita line of tequila.  A single vineyard often imparts more characteristics to a wine that are inherent to the site.  One might draw a similar conclusion about the selection of specific hops used in brewing - the locale determines the flavor profile.  In tequila, the terroir, if you will, of the plantation where the agave plants are grown is what gives the sip its character.

The folks who market La Adelita tequila say a "partnership of distillers, agave farmers and cult wine artisans" crafted this array of spirits.  The line is named after women warriors who took part in the Mexican Revolution in the early part of the 20th century - a decade-long armed conflict which sprang from a rigged presidential election.  The name is also borne by one of the most famous ballads of the revolution and "la Adelita" has come to signify any woman who is fighting for her rights.  

The Blue Weber agave estates - Rancho El Fraile - are in the highlands of Jalisco, where generations of jimadors have harvested the piñas when their time had come, usually after about seven years of growth.  The tequilas are distilled in small copper pot stills that were imported from Cuba shortly after the Mexican Revolution.  

La Adelita Tequila founder and CEO Chris Radomski says, "As the tequila category blew up, it lost its authenticity, and I wanted to do something at a higher level while keeping it authentic," with an affordable price point.

La Adelita tequila comes in five different varieties: Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, Cristalino and Extra Añejo.  I was provided with a sample of Blanco, a bright, clear tequila with notes of lime and a clean finish.  The others in the line are aged in American oak whiskey barrels for three, 18 or 48 months.  La Adelita Blanco carries an alcohol content of 40% abv - 80 proof - and retails for $40.

If you are looking to fashion some cocktails, the margarita is no doubt the top tequila-based drink.  Don’t buy the mix, because margaritas are incredibly easy to make, using only tequila, triple sec, and lime juice.  Experiment with the portions to suit your taste.  Almost as easy is the Tequila Sunrise - tequila, orange juice, and grenadine.  


Friday, August 21, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Happy Birthday Robert De Niro

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  What else are you doing while stuck at home?  You can't blow out your candles while wearing a mask, and who needs birthday cake when there's a bottle of wine sitting right there?

Robert De Niro turns 77 this week, so a celebration is in order.  And, yes, I am talking to you.  De Niro has a mantle full of awards for his acting and he helped create a vodka company, so we like him even more.  Italy likes him so much that they made him an honorary citizen, over the objections of the Sons of Italy.  That group says anyone who made his bones playing Italian-descended mobsters should get the boot from Italy.  Suggested punishment: Drink only Chianti from a bottle covered in straw.

In 1974, DeNiro starred in The Godfather Part II, both a sequel and a prequel to its namesake film.  Think of it as a shot of grapes on the vine and a shot of an empty wine bottle.  The before and the after.  DeNiro collected an Oscar for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in the prequel part of the movie, the grapes on the vine.

The film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who also knows his way around a vineyard.  Try some of his Inglenook Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon while watching this movie. He bought the property, by the way, with the profits from the original Godfather movie.  He no doubt made them an offer they couldn't refuse.

1990's GoodFellas showed how "made men" get unmade.  Director Martin Scorcese put the film together with breakneck pacing.  The movie makes it feel as if it is you being pursued by the feds, not wise guy Henry Hill.  By the way, they call gangsters "wise guys," despite so many of them sleeping on a bunk in prison.  It makes one wonder about their wisdom.

Scorcese once did a commercial for Spanish Cava producer Freixenet that looked more like a Hitchcock film than one of his own.  I was told by a woman once that she cheated on a boyfriend and he correctly identified the aromas in her apartment - "Freixenet and baby oil."  Now, that's a great nose.

Goodfellow Family Cellars uses sustainably-grown grapes from Oregon's Willamette Valley to make several single-vineyard Pinot Noirs that sell for about $40.

In 1970, De Niro had yet to wonder if we were talking to him or not.  He was just a youngster in Roger Corman's Bloody Mama in that year, playing one of Ma Barker's criminal sons.  It might be hard to notice him, what with a flamboyant Shelly Winters cavorting across the screen.  The film was shot entirely in Arkansas, and I would imagine that De Niro hasn't been back there since. 

Let's pair this movie with De Niro's VDKA 6100 vodka.  It's made from New Zealand whey.  Yes, whey.  He likes it in a martini with a lemon twist.


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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Gambero Rosso Italian Wine Masterclass - Part Three

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.  The event was called the Tre Bicchieri Web Show, which featured twelve different Italian wines from various producers.  My shipment was delayed several times - it came from Italy, after all - so I didn't get to take part, but the box finally arrived and I was able to taste the wines inside.

The Tre Bicchieri Web Show was presented by Gambero Rosso, a Rome-based Italian wine and food magazine that was founded in 1986.  It was their first-ever Master Class, which indicates that there are more planned.

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.  This is the final of three articles on Now And Zin Wine which feature the wines that were tasted.  

Tenuta Monteti Caburnio 2015 

The Baratta family owns Tuscany's Tenuta Monteti in Capalbio, in the southern part of Maremma, very close to the sea.  The winery was founded in 1998 and it deals exclusively with international varieties like Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Alicante-Bouschet.  All the Monteti wines are aged in small wood barrels. 

The 2015 Caburnio was made from 50% estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 25% Alicante Bouschet.  The individual grapes were vinified and aged separately, then blended, then aged a year in the bottle.

Ruggeri says the area is in the wildest part of Tuscany, where the forests are populated mostly by wild animals.  The region, he says, is too warm for Sangiovese or white wine grapes, but great for the Bordeaux varieties.  Caburnio has alcohol at 14% abv and a retail price of $21.

This wine is dark enough, that's for sure.  It is a blend of Cab, Merlot and Alicante Bouschet.  No light gets through it when I hold it to the light.  It smells dark, too.  Cassis and tar fight for first place, while blackberry and oak spice aromas jostle from behind.  The palate is stately, with a muscular elegance structured by firm tannins, flinty minerals and a lively acidity.  Bring on the steaks, as big as you like.

Coppi Gioia del Colle Primitivo Senatore 2015

Now we come to Puglia - the heel of the boot, the land of Primitivo.  The winery which is now Cantine Coppi was founded in 1882 and taken over by the Coppi family in 1976.  It sits between Turi and Gioia del Colle, where the vineyards feature. traditional varieties like Primitivo, Aleatico, Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera, Malvasia Bianca, Falanghina and Verdeca.  On the label, you'll see an artistic representation of an elevation map of the property.

The 2015 Coppi Senatore was named after Senator Antonio Michele Coppi, who founded the company and makes the wine.  It was made completely from Primitivo grapes which were grown on their chalky, clay hillsides.  The de-stemmed fruit was crushed and put into fermenters before being transferred to steel tanks after separating the juice from the skins.  Aging took place in barrels of Slavonian oak for about a year.  Alcohol hits only 13.5% abv and the price is $30.

This Primitivo shows a medium-dark tint in the glass and a nose that is all fruit, all the time.  Cherry aromas are joined by notes of plum and cassis, with just a hint of oak.  After it sits for a bit, a whiff of smoke gathers at the top of the glass.  The palate shows a lot of earthiness and a chalky quality, which we can chalk up to minerality.  There is a lengthy finish that turns slightly tart on the fade.  I would love to have this wine with some nice Italian sausages and pasta, or a meatball sub. 

Còlpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino 2012 

Còlpetrone is in Montefalco, right in the middle of Umbria, which is right in the middle of Italy.  Under the umbrella of Tenute del Cerro, they are known for producing wines of note from the ancient Sagrantino grape and the white Grechetto.  The winery was founded in 1995 in the hilly region of clay loam soil.  

The 2012 Còlpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino is a full varietal wine, 100% Sagrantino, which was racked into French oak barrels after fermentation for a full malolactic fermentation.  It was aged in the wood for a year and another six months in the bottle.  The winery rep noted the big spiciness in the wine, adding that it is unusual to think of Sagrantino as elegant, but that this one earns the description.  Ruggeri said, it is "not showing off, the wine speaks in a low voice."  One of the participants commented that it is like meat in a glass.  Alcohol sits at 14% abv and the list price is $30.

This 2012 wine is extremely dark in the glass - inky - and bears a nose of beautiful blackberry and black plum.  There is a savory ride-along for good measure.  The sip reveals a wine with a tingling acidity and very firm tannins - eight years old and it still has plenty of fight left in it.  Bring on the rib eye, bring on the porterhouse… this wine will tame all of them.

Tenuta Sant'Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Campo dei Gigli 2015 

The Castagnedi brothers' estate extends along a ridge in Veneto that separates the Mezzane and Marcellise valleys.  They also have vineyards to the east, towards the Illasi valley.  Tenuta Sant’Antonio was represented on the virtual event by Armando Castagnedi, who said the property's marly limestone soil is so deprived of nutrients that it is white.  Accordingly, the vines have to work to stretch their roots deep to find the richer dirt.  

The 2015 Amarone della Valpolicella was made from a mix of Italian grape varieties: 70% Corvina and Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina and 5% Oseleta.  The grapes were dried for three months for raisining before being pressed late in the year.  The wine was vinified in new 500-litre French oak casks.  Afterward, the aging process took place in new casks for three years.  Tasters mentioned barbecue notes, cinnamon and fruits.  The alcohol content is 16% abv and the retail price is $73.

This wine speaks loudly through its minerals, but does not need to shout.  The dark liquid gives off aromas of meat, fine cigars, dried fruit and a slight raisiny note.  It is a complete joy to smell, let alone to drink.  The palate is silky smooth, with tannins on the back end.  Dark fruit dominates the flavor profile, but there is a hefty chunk of savory minerality that elbows through - ever so elegantly.  Pair it with pasta, marinara, Bolognese, or just sip it and make dinner wait.


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Monday, August 17, 2020

Sunny With A Chance Of Flowers Wine

There is a new entry into the ever-more-crowded field of wines targeting people who want a "healthier" wine experience.  The Sunny With a Chance of Flowers line is produced by Scheid Family Wines of Monterey County, with a dozen estate vineyards scattered up and down the Salinas Valley.  

All three Sunny wines - Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - are made from sustainably-grown Monterey County grapes, all three hit alcohol at only 9% abv and all three retail for $17.  The labels say that these wines are for people who "want a full glass and a healthy pour," however the promise of only 85 calories applies to a five-ounce serving.  That's not a full glass at my house.  The winery marketers try to help with the pour, saying that "moderation never tasted so good."

Heidi Scheid, Executive Vice President of Scheid Family Wines, says that "consumers are looking for a wine that is ... 'better for you' with zero sugar, low calories and low alcohol."  She continues, "it also needs to be delicious and authentically sourced and produced."  Scheid says their winemaking team lost count of how many tasting trials they conducted to arrive at a wine that "doesn’t make you feel like you’re giving up anything."

While I don’t seek out low-alcohol wines, there are those who feel that a small sacrifice in alcohol is worth it to be able to enjoy a glass of guilt-free wine every night.

Sunny With a Chance of Flowers Sauvignon Blanc 2019

A light straw color in the glass leads to a sweet, beautiful nose.  It strikes me more as the nose of an Albariño or Viognier.  The herbal aromas come across as floral notes mainly, with plenty of fruit up front - peaches, nectarines, apricots.  The sip reveals some light grassiness, but citrus is more in the spotlight.  This is a very Cali SauvBlanc.  A nice acidity makes this a good food wine, but it is perfect for sipping at a pool party - socially-distanced, of course.

Sunny With a Chance of Flowers Chardonnay 2018

This wine has a golden hue in the glass and a nose in which oak is prominent.  Apricot and tropical aromas follow, but they have to fight their way past the staves.  The palate is a bit less ripe than I would like and there is a lingering tartness on the finish, too.  Acidity is nice, but the oak treatment really spoils the grapes here.

Sunny With a Chance of Flowers Pinot Noir 2018

I love a good whiff of cola and black tea in a Pinot Noir, which this one has in abundance, and a puff of smoke to boot.  Those flavors come in on the palate, too, with some boysenberry and raspberry.  The tannic structure is firm and the acidity refreshing.  It is a brawny wine, heavy handed even, but presents itself with such charm it's hard to not like it.  


Friday, August 14, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - And Now For Something Completely Python

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  This week, movies by Monty Python’s Flying Circus are featured, with appropriate wine pairings.  Feel free to have some Spam if you like.  We need to have some guilty pleasures during a pandemic.

1971's And Now for Something Completely Different packaged sketches from the first two seasons of TV's Monty Python's Flying Circus.  That alone was cause for a drink or two, since mood adjusters were quite common among those who watched the show.  The film was intended to introduce the British comedy troupe to the U.S. audience, which flopped when nobody got the humor.  After PBS began showing the TV series, awareness was elevated enough so that a 1973 re-release was slightly more successful.  It became a regular on the midnight movie circuit.

A lot of the group's best-loved sketches are included here, remade for the movie, like "The Dead Parrot," "The Lumberjack Song" and "Nudge Nudge," which played well to a wildly appreciative Hollywood Bowl audience a decade later.  "Your Glendale wife, is she a goer?"

I could go on and on, but I didn't come here for an argument.  "Yes you did."  That sketch isn’t even in the movie, so let us pour.  There's a temptation to go with a wine from Down Under as a nod to the Pythons' "Australian Table Wines" sketch.  It touts a wine which leaves a "lingering afterburn," a Cote du Rod Laver which has "a kick on it like a mule" and Perth Pink, "a wine for lying down and avoiding."

Coming to the defense of Aussie wine is Penfolds, Australia's largest and most respected wine producer.  Their Bin 389 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, which always sounds to me like a Python way of saying Syrah.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail was Monty Python's 1975 sendup of the legend of King Arthur.  It was so good that decades later it spawned the Broadway hit Spamalot.  When studio funding for the picture did not appear, the group reportedly got money from private investors, including British rockers Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis and Elton John.  They felt a movie was a good way to hedge against England's exorbitant tax rate.  The film made a good deal of money, got mixed reviews yet grew in stature over the years.  It aged well, one might say, if one was intent on spinning this narrative into a wine pairing.  Which I am.

Believe it or not, there is a Holy Grail Winery, but it’s not in Australia, nor England.  It's not even in California.  It's in the Show-Me State of Missouri.  Mizzou winemakers are deservedly proud of the juice they bottle, and many of them do wonderful things with the Norton grape, which at one time, was America's top fine wine grape.  If you can't find the Holy Grail anywhere, try anything from Stone Hill Winery, which is located not far away.

In 1979's The Life of Brian, the Python gang had their come-to-Jesus moment.  It was actually their come-to-Brian moment, as Brian, the Messiah's neighbor, was given the crown of thorns in a case of mistaken identity.  Once again, there was trouble with a movie studio and their money.  Once again, a rock star came to the rescue in the form of George Harrison, who financed the film.  

The theme of the movie was taken as blasphemous by some, and several nations actually banned the movie from being shown.  The ad campaign in Sweden reportedly boasted, "So funny it was banned in Norway."  Actually, the film's message is a simple, "You don’t need to be a follower of anyone."

What does the movie say that the Romans have done for us lately?  "All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"  Yes, the wine.  As nasty as it must have been back then, there was the wine.  

I have seen speculation that the wine consumed by Jesus at the Last Supper was probably something like what we now know as Amarone, an Italian wine made from dried grapes.  Bertani makes a hell of an Amarone, and vintages from multiple decades are available to buy.  I'm sure Brian would welcome a glass at his last supper.


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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Gambero Rosso Italian Wine Master Class: Part Two

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.  The event was called the Tre Bicchieri Web Show, which featured twelve different Italian wines from various producers.  My shipment was delayed several times - it came from Italy, after all - so I didn't get to take part in real time, but the box finally arrived and I was finally able to taste the wines inside.

The Tre Bicchieri Web Show was presented by Gambero Rosso, a Rome-based Italian wine and food magazine that was founded in 1986.  It was their first-ever Master Class, which indicates that there are more planned.

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.  This is the second installment on Now And Zin Wine to feature the wines that were tasted.  We started with four amazing white wines and now move on to four of the eight reds included in the assortment.

Velenosi Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Prope 2017 

Ercole Velenosi and Angiolina Piotti established Velenosi in 1984 in Ascoli Piceno, in the Marche region.  They now make Abruzzo wines in Controguerra, to the east and across the border to the south.  The first vintage from that outpost was in 2005.  Angela Velenosi now sits on the board, while Filippo Carli and Luca Fioravanti work in the cellar.

Prope is made completely from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes, grown in gravelly clay soil.  They are destemmed and placed in stainless steel tanks for vinification, which could last as long as a month.  Then, the wine is transferred into large barrels for 12 months of aging.  Alcohol is 14% abv and the retail sticker should be around $15 when it is available in the U.S. market.

This wine is tinted medium dark ruby and shows purple around the rim.  It smells of bright, ripe cherries and strawberries.  There is not a big influence of oak.  The palate is nice and fresh, with fruit in the forefront and a gentle acidity.  The tannins are easy-going enough for gulping, but the wine does pair well with tandoori lamb from my favorite Indian restaurant.  Ruggeri noted the flavor of dried fruit and meatiness at the end of the sip.

Conte Leopardi Dittajuti Conero Pigmento Riserva 2016 

The Count Leopardi winery is in Numana, Marche, on Italy's Adriatic coast.  The estate is owned by the Leopardi Dittajuti family and has been for some 15 centuries.  Back then, one of the Leopardis was made a bishop, then killed by pagans, then made a saint.  Today, Piervittorio Leopardi is dedicated to the beautiful area, the forests, the limestone massif, and to Montepulciano, Conero's traditional grape, which has been vinified by Leopardi for nearly forty years.  The vineyards between Numana and Sirolo are rich in limestone and marl and cooled by the Adriatic Sea.  

Leopardi's Pigmento Riserva was made by winemaker Riccardo Cotarella, completely from Montepulciano grapes.  The fruit was late-harvested - in the end of October and early November - a roll of the dice that dared the fates to bring damaging rains.  He lucked out.  Leopardi says this elegant, full-bodied, well-balanced Riserva wine has great structure, good concentration and smooth, consistent tannins.  Alcohol tips 14% abv and the price tag reads $38.

As the name implies, this wine is very dark colored - hardly any light gets through.  The nose is complex and lively - black cherry, cassis, vanilla, cedar.  On the palate, a bit of licorice joins the fruit profile.  Acidity is brisk, but not racy.  Tannins are firm, but not toothy.  I would like a sausage or pork chop with it, but I would settle for a salami.

Giordano Emo Capodilista - La Montecchia Colli Euganei Cabernet Sauvignon Ireneo 2016 

Giordano Emo Capodilista's estate is located in Veneto, in the Euganean regional park.  The vineyards lie in the northern part of the area - in the almost Alpine territory of Selvazzano.  More recent acquisitions are in the volcanic hills to the extreme south - in the more Mediterranean area of Baone.  The two sites are not that far apart - only about six miles - but they feature very different terroir.  The grapes that make up Irenèo are 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, grown along the slopes of Monte Castello, while the 6% Merlot and 4% Carmenère came from the area around Villa Emo Capodilista.  The wine was aged for a year in barrique barrels, then six months in the bottle.  Alcohol hits 14% abv and the retail price is $30.

This Italian Cab has a bit of Merlot and Carmenère mixed in.  The color is medium dark garnet with a bit of bricking around the edge.  Aromas of blackberry are joined by the smell of minerals and a whiff of smoke.  The palate has a chalky note to it - the owner referred to the wine in his presentation as "salty."  The tannins are manageable and the acidity is middle-of-the-road.  The wine really puts me in mind of Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, not Napa.  I paired the wine successfully with grilled kielbasa and charred Brussels sprouts.

De Stefani Colli di Conegliano Rosso Stefen 1624 2015 120 USD

Still in Veneto, up north in Piave, owner and winemaker Alessandro di Stefani steered away from the so-called easy money of Prosecco in favor of still wines with character.  The results should make everyone glad he made that choice.

The 2015 De Stefani Colli di Conegliano Rosso Stefen 1624 was made from 100% Marzemino grapes grown in clay soil which is mixed with minerals from the Southern Limestone Alps, the Dolomite Mountains.  Marzemino is said to have been Mozart's favorite wine grape, and that is completely understandable.  The single-vineyard grapes were destemmed and slowly fermented on the skins up to a point, when the juice was put into oak barriques, where it stayed for three years.  Aging continued in the bottle for 18 months before release.  Alcohol checks in at a lofty 15.5% abv.  Depending on the vintage, it can be as high as 17.5% alcohol.  The sticker price is up there as well, at $120.  

This wine is deep, dark and delicious.  The nose opens with a whiff of smoke, which leads to aromas of dried cherry, cedar and pipe tobacco.  The palate shows a nice mix of fruit and savory - the cherry flavor finds a black raspberry partner.  Firm tannins and bright acidity make it dance on the tongue.


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