Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Perrin Family Scores Big With Bargain Red Blend

The Perrin Family makes great wines in France, and is run by the fifth generation of Perrins to do so.  Their Château de Beaucastel estate is legendary, as are the Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines produced there.  

The 2017 Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Reserve was made from a blend of Grenache grapes - from their Grand Prébois vineyard - Syrah - from their Vinsobres vineyard - and Mourvèdre.  The wine was fermented and aged mainly in stainless steel, which gave it an incredibly fresh and youthful taste.  Only a portion of the wine was aged in oak.  Alcohol hits 14.1% abv and the retail price is around $10, a stupendous bargain.

This wine has a dark tint in the glass, foreshadowing a rich and deep nose and palate.  It actually comes off fresher and brighter than expected, with aromas of cherry and earth and flavors to match.  The wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel, so the profiles tend to be bright and focused.  The finish is full of fruit, juicy and long. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Cava Sparkles, Delights

Vilarnau is a Spanish cava house located outside Barcelona.  I understand they date back to the 1940s, although their parent company goes back much further.  Manuel María González Ángel founded his sherry winery in 1835, then joined up with his English agent Robert Blake Byass.  Importer Gonzalez Byass continues today under the descendents of Señor González.  They sell a large variety of wines, like the cavas of Vilarnau.  The bottles are wrapped in the avant-garde garden design of Antoni Gaudi

The Cava Vilarnau Brut Reserve was made from 50% Macabeo grapes, 35% Parellada and 15% Xarel.lo.  Aging in the bottle took place over 15 months.  Alcohol is quite restrained, at 11.5% abv, while the retail price is an easy $15.

This sparkling wine from Spain has as much on the nose as it does in the bubbles.  Peach and Meyer lemon aromas mix with toasty notes, while the bubbles froth up nicely - although they do dissipate quickly.  The palate is fresh and alive, with lemon, minerals and bit of orange peel for a festive flavor.

The Cava Vilarnau Rosé Délicat Réserva combines 85% Garnacha grapes with 15% Pinot Noir.  Alcohol sits at 12% abv and the price tag is $16 .

This sparkler colors up in a beautiful salmon orange.  The nose has a cherry note added to the peach and lemon.  The toasty aspect is gorgeous, the acidity is lively and fresh and the finish is long and vibrant.  This is a great bubbly for the holidays.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Another Fine Mess

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌, ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌, ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌  ‌This week, we find wine pairings for three films which borrow heavily from the Laurel and Hardy archives (fiddle with tie, do slowburn to double take.)  Two are salutations from different eras, while one is real-live Laurel and Hardy.

It's nice to take a break from our current diseased political landscape and revisit the diseased political landscape of fifty years ago.  The 1972 comedy Another Nice Mess stars Rich Little as Richard Nixon and Herb Voland as Spiro Agnew.  It's made to resemble a Laurel and Hardy comedy, right down to the title, which is very close to Hardy's catch phrase, "Well, here’s another fine mess you've gotten us into."  Hardy, however, never had to worry about an 18-minute gap in his movies.

The film was directed by the late and brilliant comedy writer Bob Einstein - remember Officer Judy from the Smothers Brothers TV show?  How about Super Dave Osborne, Marty Funkhouser or Larry Middleman?  All Einstein characters. Another Nice Mess was co-produced by Tom Smothers, who reportedly thought the movie was awful.

We'll pop a Benjamin for a wine with the Smothers name on it - the 2016 Smothers-Remick Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon.  It's made by Arrowood Vineyards, which now farms the vines once owned by Tom Smothers.  For 90 bucks, the winery says you get a decadent, but serious, wine.

2015's The Adventures of Biffle & Shooster also uses L&H as a touchstone, right down to the ill-fitting suits and schemes you just know are never going to work.  Benny Biffle and Sam Shooster (Nick Santa Maria and Will Ryan) are a vaudeville duo who supposedly ran afoul of Hal Roach's good graces over their copycat film shorts.  These efforts are set in 1930s black and white, with jokes that seem about that fresh.

For a knockoff of Laurel and Hardy, how about a Knockoff Chardonnay from Replica Wines?  They say they reverse-engineer their winemaking to imitate the qualities of other, high-priced, wines.  Don't know who their sights were set on with the $16 2018 Knockoff Chardonnay, but they say it has a buttery kick to it.

A Chump at Oxford is actually from the 1930s - 1939 in case you need to enter the date in your time machine, although it was released a year later.  The Laurel and Hardy movie satirizes the 1938 Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor film, A Yank at Oxford.  Pandemic streaming awards should go to all who have seen both Yank and Chump in the past ten months.

The film has seen enough editing that it can hardly be anything more than splice marks by now.  It has been 40 minutes long, 60 minutes, 20 minutes.  There's no telling what the run time is now, or how many unrelated scenes have made their way into the mix, and in what order.  

Stan does a drunk scene in the movie, so let's see if we can get there on our own.  We'll use a 13% brew from Brown's Brewing Company of New York state.  Their Fine Mess barleywine is aged in former rum barrels and packed with twice the alcohol of a strong beer, although only about the same amount as a typical white wine.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Two Wonderful Georgian Wines

Sun Wine is wine from Georgia - the country, not the state.  No Foghorn Leghorn imitations are needed, but if you can manage a decent Eastern European or Western Asian accent, get that one going as you pour.  The republic of Georgia has more than 500 grape varieties on vine.  The label on the bottles mention that in 2016 archaeologists discovered clay vessels in the country containing cultivated grape seeds that date back to 6,000 B.C. - prompting Sun Wines to lay claim that Georgia was the birthplace of wine.

The Sun Wine story dates back more than 50 years, when grand-dad Mzekalashvili planted some Rkatsiteli vines and started making wine.  He used - as does the present winery - qvevri, giant terracotta clay pots in which the grapes turn into wine.  Sun Wines are brought to the U.S. by Georgian wine importer Sada Wine Imports of Philadelphia.

The 2018 Saperavi is a dry red wine made from Saperavi grapes - the name means "to give color," which they do indeed in this dark wine.  The wine has an alcohol level of only 12% abv and sells for about $18.  It really took me back a bit, to Spanada, a wine my mother used to drink back in the 1970s.  That is not an insult, by the way, but a compliment.

The nose on the Saperavi is dark and rich, just beautiful.  Aromas of blackberry and cassis join with savory notes of tobacco and leather.  The palate brings black cherry into play and a fresh acidity keeps it lively.  The wine tastes young, but is still plenty complex.

The 2018 Tsinandali is a dry white wine made from 80% Rkatsiteli and 20% Mtsvane grapes, sourced in the Tsinandali appellation, in the Telavi region.  Alcohol hits 12.5% abv and the retail price is about $17.

This wine's nose is a little bit apricot, a little bit floral; a little bit citrusy, a little bit saline.  There is even an earthy lanolin note coming through.  The palate is where the Tsinandali really makes its mark.  It has highly unusual flavors, most of which lean into the savory side of the spectrum.  The apricot is tempered by a nutty taste, reminiscent of - but not replicating - a Roussanne, or maybe a North American white wine.  Acidity is great.  I'm glad I had the opportunity to sample this grape.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Robert Shaw Week

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌  ‌This week, we find wine pairings for three films starring the late Robert Shaw.  Whether you know him as Henry VIII, Doyle Lonnegan or Quint, he was a special talent and deserves a special toast.  After all, he has a pub bearing his name in his home town near Manchester - however, it is currently closed during the pandemic.

In 1973's The Hireling, Robert Shaw plays a chauffeur who flips for the upper-crust woman in the back seat of the Rolls, Sarah Miles.  Set in post-WWI England, all the characters seem to be dealing with one post-traumatic depression or another.  Shaw does not get the girl - that might have been considered "jumping the shark."  That opportunity comes along in the next movie.

Chauffeurs and wine go together like pub crawls and designated drivers.  SoCal wine lovers can book a car to drive you to drink in Santa Barbara, Solvang, the Santa Ynez Valley and even Temecula.  We've all seen limos hogging the parking lots at our favorite wineries.  When the world reopens someday, take a wine country ride and leave the driving to someone sober.

Steven Spielberg put Peter Benchley's book, Jaws, to celluloid in 1975.  Shaw plays a professional shark hunter, which has to look odd in the "occupation" blank on the tax returns every year.  It has to be a tough way to make a living, too.  Think how many shark-tooth necklaces you have to sell just to pay the note on your boat - even though you need a bigger one.  Shaw reportedly didn’t like the book and wanted to pass on the role of Quint.  His wife and secretary convinced him otherwise, as they did with From Russia With Love.

In Jaws, Quint chugs and crushes a Narragansett beer, a feat that was tougher in '75 than it is now because today's Narragansett cans are 40% lighter.  Get your hands on a case of the Rhode Island brew and chug a few for Quint.

In 1965, Shaw joined an all-star cast for Battle of the Bulge.  Sporting names like Henry Fonda, Telly Savalas, Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews, and Charles Bronson, the movie was filmed in Ultra Panavision 70 and shown in 70-millimeter Cinerama.  Shaw plays a heavy, a German officer who heads up a Panzer tank division for the attack on American forces.  His remark that "petrol is blood" comes true when his tank gets blown up by a fuel barrel.  The movie came under criticism for taking liberties with the actual facts of the battle.  Hey, what did you expect?  It's a movie!

Get a wine that smells like petrol - gasoline to U.S. folks - for Battle of the Bulge.  An aged Riesling often shows what is called the "petrol note" in wine circles.  You'll find great Rieslings from the Alsace region.  France and Germany have a history of fighting over the small area, but you won't have to fight too hard to get an expressive Riesling wine.  It's worth it.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Pink In Provence: Château des Bormettes

Most of the wine made in France's Provence region is pink.  It's what they do - they make wonderfully dry and crisp rosé wines.  I was recently supplied with several examples of Provencal pinkies, and this is one of them.

Château des Bormettes has been a family business since 1920, back when the area was known more for its mines than its wines.  The mining of lead ore and zinc ended in 1929, but the estate dates back five centuries.  The vineyard is a mere half mile from the Mediterranean Sea, and it yields Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Rolle (Vermentino), Mourvèdre and Carignan grape varieties, all sustainably grown.

L’Argentière 2019 is a Côtes de Provence wine made from Grenache, Cinsault and Rolle (Vermentino) grapes.  It is aged on its lees in concrete tanks to give the wine a full, creamy mouthfeel.  Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and the retail price settles in just under $20.

This wine's nose gives off minerals notes, aromas of red fruit and citrus.  There is a floral hint, too.  Red berries on the palate, with a nice acidity and creamy mouthfeel at the same time.  This is a very fine rosé which will pair wonderfully with seafood or snacks.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Pink In Provence: Love By Leoube

Most of the wine made in France's Provence region is pink.  It's what they do - they make wonderfully dry and crisp rosé wines.  I was recently supplied with several examples of Provencal pinkies, and this is one of them.

Love by Léoube 2017 is a Côtes de Provence wine blended by Romain Ott for Love Wine, a wine merchant in Jersey in the Channel Islands.  The store was founded by Chris Rogers - first as an e-commerce site, later as a brick-and-mortar outlet.  Château Léoube is located in the commune of Bormes-les-Mimosas.  

The rosé wine is made from Grenache and Cinsault grapes, pressed directly and fermented in stainless steel tanks.  Alcohol hits a restrained 13% abv, and the retail price is about $15.

This wine looks beautiful in the glass - medium pink, leaning towards orange.  The nose is fruity and laced with minerals.  Big strawberry and cherry notes are abetted by lemon and orange peel.  The palate is flinty and dry with a racy acidity and a long finish laced with citrus.  Pair it with fish or chicken, or with turkey or ham. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Still Going Viral

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌  ‌You may have heard, they've got this pandemic going on.  Well, viral is as viral does, so hitch up that mask and delve into the ‌wine‌ ‌pairings‌ ‌for‌ ‌three‌ ‌films‌ ‌of a viral nature.‌ 

Space aliens try to take over the world in 1999's Virus.  They use, as a starting point, an ocean-going tugboat.  I don't get that either, but it probably contributes to the film's status as a cult attraction.  It was likely one of those celluloid aberrations that got mentioned every time friends gathered to watch the film - back when friends could gather to watch a film.

Big names like Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland are in Virus, which makes it seem that we'll be quarantined in good company.  Don't get your hopes up too high, though.  Critics decried everything about Virus, from the stupid script to the bad lighting.

Those ETs found that a tugboat could get them to any port in a storm, so let's pair a Port with Virus.  Real Port comes from Portugal, so wineries in other places should refer to their fortified wines as Port-style, not Port.  Try one of the great Ports from Warre's, a label of the Symington family.  They have one for every taste.

David Cronenberg wrote and directed Rabid in 1977.  This horror movie stars former porn star Marilyn Chambers, just a half decade after she burst into the public eye with Behind the Green Door.  She plays patient one in a breakout of a new strain of rabies which sweeps Canada.  She infects others by sucking their blood through an appendage that grew in her armpit after an experimental procedure in a hospital.  That will make you think twice about expecting a trip to the ER to fix anything.

Cartlidge and Brown made a Rabid Red blend, assembling Foothills Syrah, Monterey Cabernet and Napa Zinfandel in one easy-to-carry bottle.  It seems to be sold out at this time, possibly because it took only a $15 bite out of your wallet.

In 1971's The Andromeda Strain, it's an extraterrestrial organism - stowed away in a satellite that crashes to earth - that kills nearly everybody in a small town.  How small is it?  The mice are hunchbacked.  Every time a baby is born, someone else has to leave town.  The town doctor has time to poke around on crashed satellites in his office.  That small.  The special effects were masterminded by Douglas Trumball, whose work you may have gotten high with in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Andromeda Rare Wine and Whisky promises to track down anything that tickles your fancy, the rarer the better.  They are not a bargain option, but then there's always the corner liquor store if price or promptness are an issue.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Pink In Provence: L'Excellence Des Muraires


Most of the wine made in France's Provence region is pink.  It's what they do - they make wonderfully dry and crisp rosé wines.  I was recently supplied with several examples of Provencal pinkies, and this is one of them.

The Bernard Magrez L'Excellence des Muraires 2019 is a great example of what you get when you seek out a Côtes de Provence rosé wine.  Magrez is mainly known for his four grand cru châteaux in Bordeaux, but this pink wine comes from his estate in the south of France, Chateau Des Muraires.

Made from three grapes - 46% Grenache, 41% Rolle (Vermentino) and 13% Syrah - the wine was fermented in concrete and aged in huge oak barrels, on the lees.  Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv  - a little higher than a typical Provence rosé - and it retails for about $35.

This wine shows a very light color in the glass, sort of an onion skin shade.  The nose offers minerality first, a flinty aroma with strawberry and cherry notes more subdued.  The sip is beautiful, with minerals again leading the way and a fresh acidity that is softened by the creaminess of the lees.

Monday, December 7, 2020

California Viognier Blend

Windsor Vineyards was founded by Rodney Strong in 1959.  Today they are based in Santa Rosa, California.  It seems that personalized labeling is a big part of what Windsor does.  The winery's website provides endless urging to select a custom label.  Strong originated the specialty when he put his best customers' names on the bottles they bought.  It's still a thing for Windsor today.

These days, the Windsor Viognier has a California appellation, with no indication of where the Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Muscat grapes for the blend were grown.  Alcohol is quite low, just 12% abv.  The wine retails for $16, but customized labels are extra.

This wine shows a light golden hue in the glass.  It gives off a nose of honeysuckle, lemon and apricot, with a palate that is just as sweet.  The acidity is fresh, but not ripping, and the finish of Meyer lemon lasts a good while.  It's a great wine to put on the holiday table - pairs well with turkey, ham and stuffing. 

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Friday, December 4, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - What's In A Name?

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 examine wine pairings for three films which have in common … a name in the title.  Hey, they can't all be diamonds - there's a pandemic on, y'a know.

 Jeremy is the 1973 high-school romance movie which relates to the Pearl Jam song of the same name, in name only.  That's a good thing, because the song is a real bummer.  Besides being a fairly good flick, the movie, Jeremy, reportedly has the distinction of spawning a real life love affair between the principals.

Robbie Benson plays a cello-studying, dog-walking, poetry-reading, chess-playing 15-year-old who follows the ponies.  He falls for Glynnis O’Connor - can you blame him? - but they never make it to the track to place a bet.  They have a short teenage love affair - as if there is another kind - and in fine early '70s fashion, the ending leaves a few tears in our eyes.  Enjoy Detroit, missy.

We're going to need something on the happy side for Jeremy, so let's grab a chocolate Port from Jeremy Wine Company, located in downtown Lodi.  You're probably not shelling out more than four bucks to see the film, so go ahead and spring for a $28 bottle of sweet that will soften the inevitable heartbreak.

The 2011 thriller, We Need to Talk About Kevin, features Tilda Swinton as a woman who drew the bad luck card in motherhood and Ezra Miller as a child who should not have been given the gift of life.  When I told my wife I was writing about this film, she nearly burst into tears and said it was one of the saddest stories she could remember.  The laughs are not coming easily this week.

Suffice it to say, if you think your offspring might be a sociopath, don't give him a weapon as a gift.

You may know Kevin O'Leary from TV's Shark Tank, but he also makes wine.  I should say, he also sells wine … the bottles happen to have his name on them.  It's high class stuff - you can get it in red, white or pink.

1973's Charley Varrick features Walter Matthau as a bank robber.  That casting error aside, let's focus on imagining Oscar Madison as a hardened criminal.  At least he was good at it.  He seems to be the only one left alive at the end of the film.  Better luck imagining him as a crop duster, which the script attempts to pass off as well.  

The movie was received fairly well by critics, if not by Clint Eastwood, for whom the role of Varrick was intended.  He turned it down.  Matthau himself reportedly didn't think much of the finished product.

We'll alter the spelling a bit to pair Varick wine with Charley Varrick.  The New York winery is on the shore of one of the Finger Lakes - Cayuga.  Their Cabernet Franc looks enticing, but I'd beware the bright pink ones.  Steer toward the rosé labeled as "dry."

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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Recipe: Prime Rib Chili

Here is the winning recipe in the promotional push engineered by the folks from
San Marzano tomatoes.  Bunni Bixler's recipe for prime rib chili earned her a gift basket full of good products, including those wonderful Italian canned tomatoes.

Prime Rib Chili

1 1/2 pound prime rib

Three whole zucchinis

1 1/2 yellow onions

1 15 1/2 ounce can pinto beans

1 15 1/2 ounce can black beans

1 800 gram can Pomadoro San Marzano dell Agro Sarnese-Nocerino D.O.P.

Chili powder

Granulated garlic



Cumin powder

Raw Sugar

Measure to your taste


Chop all vegetables in bite-size pieces.  

Chop prime rib into bite-size pieces.

Brown onions with prime rib on a medium heat. Add seasonings, zucchini and keep stirring. Add all the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn stove down to simmer and cover for one hour and a half. Add more seasoning if necessary. Side note: If you wish, chili can be served with grated cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

As an extra bonus, Bunni got to choose someone else to receive a gift basket.  She chose her doctor, Blanche Watson.  Here is why:

"As the world struggles through our deadly pandemic, every day our health care workers put their lives on the line for us.  My doctor, Blanche Watson, is a true hero.  She was set to retire, date announced, retirement adventures planned, and then people began to get sick and die from COVID-19.  Dr. Watson immediately cancelled her retirement plans.  She continues to work, caring for her patients, and being a support through these troubling times.  Dr. Watson has given me a great deal of emotional support.  She’s a constant source of encouragement.  Like me, I'm sure her other patients are grateful that she continues to work. We hope the new year finally brings her a chance to retire!"  - Bunni Bixler   

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Red Wines From Chile

Primus was established at a time when the Chilean winemaking vision was rather conservative.  The winery says the name - Primus - means "first of its kind," the first in the nation to blend Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère.

The Primus winemaker, Sofía Araya, was born, raised and schooled in Chile.  The winery reports that she is a perfect fit for their organic program, and that she knows well how to make wines which have a sense of place.  Agricultural manager José Aguirre directed the migration to organic farming for all three of the Primus estates - Casablanca, Apalta and Marchigüe.  The Primus wines are imported in the U.S. by Gonzalez Byass.

Primus Apalta Carménère

The Apalta Vineyard is in Colchagua, where the hundred-year-old vines grow on the terraced shores of the Tinguiririca River.  The wine was aged in French oak, one-fifth of which was new.  Alcohol hits 14% abv and it sells for around $15.

This wine has a fragrant nose of cassis, blackberry and licorice.  A hint of black pepper also comes through.  On the palate a large serving of dark fruit hits first, with sweet oak spice and a savory note of earth.  The tannins are easy enough on the mouthfeel, but firm enough to serve a purpose at the table.  The savory aspect lingers on the generous finish. 

Primus Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon

From the Maipo Valley, these grapes grew along the terraced shores of the Maipo River, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains.  Alcohol reaches 13.5% abv and the wine sells for around $17.

This Chilean Cab has an earthy, rustic nose full of dark berries, leather and sage.  The palate shows the blackberry up front and leaves an herbal trail along the lengthy finish.  The tannins are firm, but not raspy and the acidity is vibrant enough to promote plenty of lip-smacking.  Fans of Napa Cabs might not be wowed by this one, but if you like the Cabs of Paso Robles, you may find a friend in this bottle.

Primus Apalta The Blend

Back now to Apalta for a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Carménère, 10% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot, 5% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol stands at 14% abv and the retail sticker shows about $17.

This six-grape blend is as aromatic as one might expect from Carménère, PV, Merlot, Syrah and Cabs Franc and Sauvignon.  There is much dark fruit on the nose, along with cigar box, leather, cedar and licorice.  The palate is bold, too, with a complex flavor profile and tannins which are useful but not overpowering.  

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Friday, November 27, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - The Mills Family

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  This week, the Mills Family - John, Haley and Juliet.- not to be confused with the Mills Brothers.  How many holiday meals will have face masks as a side dish?

1959's Tiger Bay stars John Mills and daughter Hayley Mills, in her first movie role.  It's a tasty role for a young actress, as she gets to expose a killer while at the same time generating sympathy for him.  There is a murder - a crime of passion - committed by a sailor played by Horst Buchholz.  He returns from a sea voyage to find his girlfriend has taken up with a sportscaster.  Pause here for uproarious laughter, at the mere thought that a 1950s sportscaster was able to steal someone's girlfriend.  I knew plenty of sportscasters in my broadcast days and, let me tell you, none of them got the girl.  

Horst is drawn up as a pretty good guy when he jumps off a ship to save Haley, who fell overboard right in front of him.  The heroic move costs him a trip beyond the three-mile mark, his jurisdictional salvation.  It's great that he saved the girl, but we can only wish that his girlfriend had been so lucky.  

There is an $18 Chardonnay produced - or, at least labeled - by the Flagler Tiger Bay Club.  The outfit is based in Palm Coast, Florida, about halfway between Jacksonville and Orlando, but there may be as many as 20 other outposts in the state.  They claim to be a non-partisan political group, but we'll try not to hold that against them, since they hold civility as one of their guiding principles.  I suppose that means Citizen Trump won't be one of their guest speakers.

Avanti!, from 1972, stars another John Mills offspring - daughter Juliet - who shares the screen with Jack Lemmon.  The script for the romcom was written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, so there is a pedigree to be considered.  If you don't think it’s funny enough, welcome to the club.  Wilder reportedly didn't care for the finished product and claimed he didn't write it as a comedy in the first place.  So, there.

Wine plays a tangential role in the movie.  A deadly auto accident that serves as the film's linchpin happens at an Italian vineyard, and the owners prove to be unhappy that their vines were damaged by the crash.  Colorado's Avanti Winery comes to mind, but wouldn't you rather have a nice Ligurian Vermentino?  I thought so.  

Hayley Mills takes the lead in 1960’s Pollyanna, the first of six Disney films in which Mills would star.  This one was taken from a series of books, from which arose the term Pollyanna.  As her name indicates, Mills is an impossibly cheerful kid, an orphan, who is shipped off to live with her rich aunt.  The aunt turns out to be a bit on the mean side.  Through her actions, Pollyanna falls off the house and is paralyzed.  Predictably, that bums her out a bit.  But spirits soar before the end credits as there is a doctor who can fix everything.  Classic Disney - cue Rex Allen for the voiceover.

D’Arenberg's Pollyanna Polly is a sparkler from South Australia's Adelaide Hills.  You’ll find it hard to wipe that smile off your face when the bubbles start tickling your little nosey-wosey.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Great White Wine From Santa Barbara County

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

Lot 676 White Blend Santa Barbara County 2016

This beautiful white wine consists of 49% Roussanne grapes, 27% Viognier and 24% Marsanne.  The fruit was harvested "from one of California’s iconic producers of Rhône varietals … in cool climate vineyards bathed in cold coastal breezes from the Pacific Coast, whole cluster pressed, and barrel aged ... before blending."

Hughes says, "there might not be any wine producing region in California that delivers better value per dollar than Santa Barbara."  Alcohol sits at 14.3% abv and the wine sells for $14.  Roussanne is my favorite white grape, and if you can find one at twice that price, please let me know.

The wine's nose is very expressive and full of apricot, almonds, anise and Meyer lemon.  The mouthfeel is weighty and the acidity is medium-vibrant.  Flavors like stone fruit and citrus leads the way, while the Roussanne's notes of nuts and salinity are balanced by the floral aspect of the Viognier.  This is a versatile white wine for pairing with food.  It will be a hit on your holiday table.

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Monday, November 23, 2020

Wine From The Limestone Hills Of Paso Robles

Brecon Estate is a boutique winery in Paso Robles, in the rolling hills of the region's West Side, the Adelaida District.  Welsh winemaker Damian Grindley and Australian entrepreneur Simon Hackett combine their talents to produce small batches of wine which are produced through passion.  Grindley loves the limestone soil of the Central Coast and the wines which come from it.

The Brecon estate sports vines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot, Malbec and more - some of which were planted years ago by a pioneer of the region.

The 2018 Brecon Estate Cabernet Franc Reserve was made from the grapes of Paso Robles’ Adelaida District, 89% Cab Franc and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The winery says that both varieties are among the oldest planted in Paso.  Alcohol hits 15.2% abv and the wine sells for $73.

This wine has a medium-dark ruby tint to it.  The nose has dark fruit, a touch of bell pepper and other herbal scents.  Fruit plays large on the palate, and the acidity is refreshing while the tannins are razor sharp.  Herbal elements linger on the delightful finish.

The 2018 Brecon Estate Mourvèdre also hails from Paso's Adelaida District.  It is a single-vineyard hilltop wine which carries alcohol at 14.8% abv and retails for $64.

This wine shows a medium color in the glass with a little shading at the edge.  The nose is full of ripe blackberry, cassis, smoke, cigar box and clove.  The palate is rich and full, with dark fruit and sweet oak spice providing a counterpoint to the savory notes of minerality.  The acidity is fresh and the tannins are firm.

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Friday, November 20, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - C'est Paree

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  This week, it’s a virtual trip to France… or at least Texas.  Check your tickets before departing so you'll know how to respond when someone asks who got your vote in the election.

Jazz fans should remember 1961's Paris Blues, starring Sidney Poitier and Paul Newman.  Guest shots by Louis Armstrong and a soundtrack headed up by the Duke Ellington Orchestra lend strong jazz cred to the film.  The story - of two expat jazzmen in Paris - compares race relations in the U.S. with the more freewheeling French way.  Early drafts of the script reportedly focused on an interracial relationship, but then steered away from that angle, prompting Poitier to say later that he felt the studio "chickened out."  Maybe they chickened out, maybe they were just jive turkeys.  In the end, no one gets the girls.

What better to pair with a swingin', be-boppin' movie like Paris Blues than something from Jazz Cellars, due east of Lodi in the Sierra Foothills community of Murphys.  They have single-vineyard Grenache, Syrah and Zinfandel in the $35 range.

The 1984 Wim Wenders film, Paris, Texas, stars Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell and Nastassja Kinski.  Some scenes in the movie were shot in my home town of Port Arthur, Texas.  While Stanton and Stockwell fit well into the downtown surroundings, the locals got a pretty good buzz going from having Nastassja Kinski around.  She was definitely not your typical Texas gal.

After watching Stanton wander wordlessly through the dusty Texas backroads, you're going to want something wet to whistle down your throat pipe.  Try a New Zealand wine, Alexander Dusty Road Pinot Noir.  It's fruity, it's juicy and it's only $27.

The 1972 Bernardo Bertolucci film, Last Tango in Paris, was originally rated X due to its themes of sexual violence.  I feel that people who find Marlon Brando's sexual violence interesting fall into the category of "it takes all kinds."  After viewing one notorious scene, you'll never see butter the same way again.  The score by Gato Barbieri is a real treat.

JaM Cellars has a California Chardonnay called Butter, so let's pair that with Last Tango and avert our eyes.  Get the full Butter experience - well, the wine part, at least - for $16.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Pair Of Wines From L.A.'s Oldest Winery

The California wine industry got its start in 1833 by Jean-Louis Vignes, a winemaker who brought vines from Bordeaux to downtown L.A.  Within 50 years, the beautiful climate helped produce a thriving wine industry, one that was bigger than any in the U.S.  Southern California was known then for grapes, not gridlock.

The oldest winemaking outfit in Los Angeles is San Antonio Winery.  They started downtown, but now they own vineyards in Paso Robles, Monterey, and Napa Valley.  They even have an Italian branch on the family tree, which produces Stella Rosa wines.  That winery is located in Piedmont, in the Asti region.

San Antonio Winery was founded in 1917 by Santo Cambianica, a young Italian immigrant who went straight from Ellis Island to L.A. to begin his foray into the American Dream.  In 1933, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles granted Cambianica permission to make sacramental wines.  That move spared San Antonio Winery the fate which befell the other hundred or so wineries in Southern California during Prohibition - a quick trip out of business.  Stefano Riboli soon came to work in the winery and the fourth generation of the family now operates the business.

San Simeon Pinot Noir Estate Reserve Monterey 2018

The Riboli family's Monterey vineyards - Loma Vista and Sarmento - overlook the Santa Lucia Highlands.  The family also has estate vineyards in the Arroyo Seco appellation.  This Pinot Noir has alcohol at 14.9% abv and a retail price of $19.

This wine is medium dark in the glass and gives up the telltale Pinot Noir aromas of black tea and cola.  There are also blackberry notes in the nose.  The palate comes on strong, with dark fruit, cola and a nice acidity.  The tannins are on the gentle side of firm.  It is a bit riper and brawnier than I like Pinot to be, but that's how it is so often in California wine.  

Stella Rosa Golden Honey Peach Il Conte

Although they don't get too specific on the label, this wine was made from Italian grapes, likely from Piedmont's Asti region.  It's a semi-sweet style, leaning more towards the sweet than the semi.  Alcohol is quite low, at 5% abv, and the wine sells for $13.

This fun wine is not to be overthought.  It smells like stone fruit and honey, so it was aptly named.  Rather tastes like that, too, with some light effervescence on the pour.  While it is not a wine that shows much complexity, it is an affable quaff, one that could be welcome in a number of casual scenarios.  5% abv.

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Monday, November 16, 2020

Bordeaux Grapes From Paso Robles' West Side

Brecon Estate is a boutique winery in Paso Robles, in the rolling hills of the region's West Side, the Adelaida District.  Welsh winemaker Damian Grindley and Australian entrepreneur Simon Hackett combined their talents to produce small batches of wine which were produced through passion.  Grindley loves the limestone soil of the Central Coast and the wines which come from it.

The Brecon estate sports vines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot, Malbec and more - some of which were planted years ago by a pioneer of the region.

The 2018 Brecon Estate Cabernet Franc Reserve was made from the grapes of Paso Robles' Adelaida District, 89% Cab Franc and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The winery says that both varieties are among the oldest planted in Paso.  Alcohol hits 15.2% abv and the wine sells for $73.

This wine has a medium-dark ruby tint to it.  The nose has dark fruit, a touch of bell pepper and other herbal scents.  Fruit plays large on the palate, and the acidity is refreshing while the tannins are razor sharp.  Herbal elements linger on the delightful finish.

The 2018 Brecon Estate Mourvèdre also hails from Paso's Adelaida District.  It is a single-vineyard hilltop wine which carries alcohol at 14.8% abv and retails for $64.

This wine shows a medium color in the glass with a little shading at the edge.  The nose is full of ripe blackberry, cassis, smoke, cigar box and clove.  The palate is rich and full, with dark fruit and sweet oak spice providing a counterpoint to the savory notes of minerality.  The acidity is fresh and the tannins are firm.

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Friday, November 13, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad... Housewife?

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  If the pandemic has turned your household upside down and inside out, don't get mad.  Get mad, mad, mad, mad.  For the soul of the country, y'all.

Of course, it was possible for anxiety to back up on you even in 1970.  Diary of a Mad Housewife has Carrie Snodgress in the title role.  She can't get satisfaction in her marriage, in her affair or in her therapy group.  It sounds like a job for Calgon, but life has gotten so bad for her that even a long, hot soak won't fix it.

Surely a Mad Housewife wine will pair with this film like it was born to do so.  It is a "mommy wine" aimed at a broader spectrum of women who are in sore need of drinking alone, kids or no kids.

1963's It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was Stanley Kramer's first attempt at directing a comedy, and it was a big success.  The movie was nominated for six Oscars, but only won the one for best sound editing.

The all-star cast chases after $350,000 in stolen cash.  These days you likely couldn't sell a story about a group of people getting excited about such a paltry sum.  You'd have to have at least a billion-dollar payoff to make it believable.  See Mike Myers' Dr. Evil for a quick lesson on how much to ask.

The movie should attract viewers still today, since it is basically a car chase involving the six passers-by who learned of the "fortune."  Car chases capture attention like little else these days, especially with a "breaking news" graphic on the screen.

Since the mad, mad, mad, mad caper ends up under a "big W," let's grab a wine from Oregon's Willamette Valley Vineyards for pairing purposes.  The region is known for its lush Pinor Noir, like this one that sells for $20.

If you’re going to be exploring a mad, mad, mad, mad world, you'll have to spend some time with a mad, mad, mad, mad doctor.  The one-sheet for Universal's 1942 flick, Mad Doctor of Market Street, asks, "Genius or fiend?"  I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess "fiend" just based on the way Lionel Atwill is depicted on the poster - that pencil-thin moustache, those shifty eyes - he's got fiend written all over him.  Most critics - then and now - feel that the writing on the one-sheet was better than that of the script.

Australia's Dr. Tom Cullity is known in wine circles as the Mad Doctor from Perth.  The moniker settled on him in the 1960s when he first started planting grape vines in the Margaret River region on the continent's west side.  People thought he was nuts, and maybe he was - but the vines grew anyway.  A Chardonnay or Cab from Voyager Estates would be a nice pairing for a movie which may be tough to get through without some help.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Wente Vineyards is the country's oldest continuously operated family-owned winery.  It is now run by the family's 4th and 5th-generations.  A French Chardonnay cutting planted in 1912 gave the world a new clone of the grape, which is now used to make 80% of America's Chardonnay.

Today, we are looking at what Wente has done with Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Wente 2018 Livermore Valley Cab is the wine we are tasting on this web page.  It is a single-vineyard Cabernet, from the Charles Wetmore Vineyard.  Wetmore was responsible for bringing many cuttings from Bordeaux to the Livermore Valley.   The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 40% of which were new.  Alcohol tips in at 14% abv and it retails for $35.

This wine is extremely dark in the glass and offers a nose to match.  Blackberry aromas are laced with cedar, vanilla, clove and tobacco.  The palate is dark, too, and rich.  The fruit flavors are in the front while savory notes complement them.  There is a rustic feel, and the tannins are firm.  

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Monday, November 9, 2020

Spanish Desert Wine Yields Nod To Actor

The wine known as El Gringo was named after an actor who worked as an extra in the many Western movies that were filmed in Spain's Tabernas desert.  The region picked up the nickname the Hollywood of Spain due to the many films shot there.  Hammeken Cellars has created an elaborate back story for this gentleman, which is told on their website.

The 100% Tempranillo wine was made from grapevines which have been in place for more than thirty years in the Castilla region.  Aging took only four months and the French oak barrels were previously used.  Alcohol hits only 14% abv and the wine sells for around $16.

This is a dark wine, with light able to show through only around the edges.  Bright red fruit appears on the nose, along with oak spices.  The palate bears the taste of ripe, red berries which dance around a lively acidity and firm tannins.  A smoky element also comes into play, benefiting a wine which is not extremely complex to begin with, but tasty nonetheless.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - R.I.P. Sean Connery

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  As if the pandemic isn’t bad enough news, we lost another movie great last week. Sean Connery passed away at the ripe old age of 90.  R.I.P, Mr. Connery.

Dr. No, directed by Terence Young in 1962, was the first film in the James Bond series, Connery played Bond, James Bond, opposite Ursula Andress.  Nice work if you can get it.  

Remember how you couldn't get away from spy shows in the '60s?  Dr. No is why.  After the film's success, the spies all came in from the cold.  The character Andress plays, by the way, is a shell diver.  That's right, she sells sea shells by the seashore.

The movie is set in Jamaica, so how about pairing it with Jamaican wine?  Magnum Tonic Wine is actually mead, and is drunk by the locals "for medicinal purposes" and is also considered a sexual stimulant.  That's all well and good, but you might find it easier to locate a Red Stripe beer, or a bottle of rum for your pairing pleasure.  Or a big, fat spliff, mon.

1965's The Hill was directed by Sidney Lumet.  The story centers around a British military prison in Libya where the guards get their jollies by running the prisoners ragged on a hill at the center of the desert camp.  Connery plays a soldier who refused an order to send his men on a suicide mission, so it's the British version of Gitmo for him.  

The role was a real departure for Connery, who by this time had become well known as Bond, James Bond.  He reportedly relished the idea of playing a character that was more or less a heavy, and who didn't have to say his name twice.

The Hill was shot in Almeria, Spain, where so many American movies were shot that the area became known as the Hollywood of Spain.  At least that's what they called it in Spain.  And why not take that as the cue for a wine pairing?

The wine known as El Gringo is a Tempranillo which was named after an actor who worked as an extra in those movies filmed in the Tabernas desert.  If you're in the mood, you can make it a double feature with a Spaghetti Western.

Wrong Is Right is a 1982 comedic thriller that centers on a suitcase full of nuclear explosives.  Man, have we been worrying about that scenario for almost forty years?  Will the pandemic stick around so long that it becomes second nature to us as well?  Scary thought.  

In Wrong Is Right, Connery plays a television news reporter who goes to an Arab country to interview the king.  Despite being an ol' buddy, the king gets him mixed up in the terrorist bomb escapade, which is not something one would expect from our ol' buddy the king.  The laughs in Wrong Is Right are wrung from a situation that is not so funny at all, as in M*A*S*H, S.O.B. or Ishtar.

The wine pairing for Wrong Is Right is a bottle from the Arab world by way of Paso Robles, DAOU Vineyards.  Brothers George and David Daou grew up in Lebanon, with bombs bursting outside the kitchen window.  They left Lebanon, got rich and bought a vineyard in Paso.  Their white Chemin de Fleur is a tasty blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne.


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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Winning Lodi Zinfandel At Half The Price

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

Lot 730 Zinfandel Lodi 2018

This Zinfandel was sourced "from an esteemed producer home to numerous parcels of Lodi's famous old vines," says Hughes.  The vintner promises it is everything you would expect from a Lodi Zin - fruity, spicy, nuanced - and more, because it sells for about half of its original price.  Alcohol rises to 15.5% abv and the sticker reads about $13.

This Lodi Zinfandel carries a medium tint in the glass and smells of red fruit and black pepper.  The palate is fruity with a savory note to go along with it.  A zippy acidity is fresh, while the tannins are quite firm.  My pork chop paired very well with it.

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Monday, November 2, 2020

Single-Vineyard California Pinot Noir

As part of a recent SommCon video tasting series, a single-vineyard Pinot Noir from Merry Edwards Vineyards was featured.  The segment was hosted by winemaker Heidi von der Mehden, only the second winemaker at the winery after Merry herself turned over the reins.

The 2017 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was made from grapes harvested from the Meredith Estate.  The Russian River flows east-west through the appellation, allowing the evening Pacific fog to roll in and cool things down by 40 to 50 degrees.  That's great for growing grapes, especially Pinot Noir.

The Meredith Estate vineyard is planted to the UC-Davis 37 clone of Pinot Noir, Merry's own personal clone.  Online tasters had high praise for this wine, citing its "stunning" and "intoxicating" nose and palate.  The alcohol content sits at 14.5% abv and the retail price is $68.

It is a dark wine, and the nose is very expressive.  Blackberry, cassis, vanilla, tea and a slight brambly note are present.  On the palate, savory cola and oak spice get into the act, while the tannins are firm, but not overly so.  The dark fruit is there, but the savory aspect of the flavor profile definitely leads the way.  Have a juicy filet with this one - they deserve each other. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Halloween Chills

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  A show of hands: how many remember trick-or-treating when a tampered-with candy bar was the biggest fear?  Should a surgical mask be worn inside or outside the scary character mask?

The 1925 version of Phantom of the Opera predates a handful of other remakes and even different editions of this film.  Phantom has been remade more times than a motel bed.  The takeaway from Carl Laemmle's roaring twenties epic is: when you buy a theater and the seller tells you it's haunted, what's the harm in believing him?

Lon Chaney as the Phantom devised his own makeup for the gig and pretty much did whatever else he wanted.  The Man of a Thousand Faces reportedly told the director to "go to hell" whenever he dared to give him any direction.

Phantom Wines offers two haunting styles to pair with this film.  The California red blend mixes Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, while their Chardonnay hails from Clarksburg.

Just when you aren’t expecting a "slapstick zombie comedy," along comes Dead Alive.  Apparently that title didn't draw enough laughs, so you may see it billed as Braindead.  That oughta have 'em howling in the aisles.   

It's the old boy-meets-girl-who-becomes-a-zombie story, set in New Zealand because it was co-written and directed by Peter Jackson.  The movie reminds us that you can bury a zombie, but you can't get rid of her.

Chateau Diana - in California's Dry Creek Valley - has a Zombie Zin which is dark, lush and complex.  That's more than you can say for most zombies, by the way.  It's a $10 pairing with any form of the Zombie Apocalypse.

1978's Halloween set the tone for decades of slasher movies and started an entire industry of Halloween costumes.  Michael Myers was a bad kid - killed his sister - and was no better as an adult - killed nearly everybody else.  

You could argue that John Carpenter's film shouldn’t even be seen because it promotes the most evil and violent human tendencies, but that cat's out of the box.  Everyone has already seen it multiple times and has probably dressed up as Myers for trick-or-treating or an office party.  Welcome to Slasherville, USA, babysitters beware.

Pair Halloween with a wine which is comfortable living a life of sin.  The 7 Deadly Red has Lodi Zinfandel blended with its conspirators, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  If you are slicing some cheese to go with it, be careful with that kitchen knife.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Pairing Sherry With Halloween Candy

It may, or may not, surprise you to learn that Halloween candy isn't just for Halloween - and it isn't just for kids, either.  Hershey reports that nearly half of Halloween candy sales are made by people buying treats for themselves.  

Since I write more about wine than candy, I'll explore some pairing ideas for various types of Halloween candy with sherry.  With trick-or-treating presumably at a minimum this year due to the pandemic, just break open the candy bags for you and the kids and pop the cork on a sherry for yourself.  Safer at home.

Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso  -- SRP $25

Nick Africano, Founder of En Rama LLC New York, says he finds one candy-and-sherry pairing to be a no-brainer.  "Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are a classic American candy," he says.  "Now try them alongside a sip of another classic: Oloroso Sherry."  Africano believes that Oloroso is sherry's "gateway to the American palate."   "The Alfonso Oloroso from the iconic Gonzalez Byass family with its dark notes of toasted pecan, old wood, and burnt orange is not only a harmonious match for the nutty, chocolatey, Reese's cups, but simultaneously serves as a poignant introduction to one of the world's best beverages: Sherry!"

Peanuts also play a role in the pairing for Washington DC-based Chantal Tseng, Founder of Custom Cocktails for the End of Times and US Sherry Week Ambassador.  She recommends Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso and PayDay Bars, a salted peanut bar held together with nougat-caramel.

Gonzalez Byass Nectar PX -- SRP $25

A more adventurous pairing comes from Cheryl Wakerhauser, Owner, Executive Chef and Wine Director of Pix Patisserie and Bar Vivant, in Portland, Oregon.  "The full-bodied opulence of the Pedro Ximénez is calling for something to contrast it with, such as the crunchy outer shell of a Good & Plenty," she says.  "The licorice flavor of the candy brings forward the hint of savory, black olive notes in the wine."

Harveys Bristol Cream -- SRP $20

"So, you want to feel responsible with your candy cravings?" remarks Kat Thomas, Wine Goddess LV from Las Vegas. "I've got the perfect treat (no tricks here). Unwrap a Chunky Bar and let yourself find the flow in a nutty, sweet, and responsibly balanced bite. Dried fruit and sweet chocolate find their safe place nestled in this Sherry's 'legs'... and if you can't do peanuts, feed the flow with Raisinettes."  Pair the goodies with Harveys Bristol Cream.

Hopefully your Halloween will be a safe one, a happy one, and one full of candy - and sherry.

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Monday, October 26, 2020

Winning Hand From Spain

A trusted importer is a great place to look for exceptional wines.  Ace Kicker Big Bet Blend is brought to us from Spain by Gonzalez Byass.  The wine is a six-grape mix designated as Vino de la Tierra, from Castilla.  The grapes are 34% Cabernet Franc, 27% Syrah, 15% Petit Verdot, 12% Tempranillo, 7% Graciano and 5% Garnacha.  The wine was aged for eight months in French and American oak barrels.  Alcohol hits 14% abv and the retail price is $15.

The importer says the wine was "born in Spain and raised in a casino," and that it pairs well with steaks and winning hands.

The quality level of Vino de la Tierra is a notch below the typical D.O. designation for Spanish wine.

This Spanish red blend is medium dark and has a nose that is loaded with red fruit, peppery herbs and smoke.  The fruit forward palate has eight months of oak showing and a firm set of tannins.  The flavors are deep and quite juicy.

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Friday, October 23, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - A Hitch Not A Glitch

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  What better trio of films to receive a wine pairing than a handful of Hitchcocks.

If you're a fan of Alfred Hitchcock's films - and you'd better be - you know there's going to be some drinking going on.  Nearly all his dozens of movies have his characters using booze to brace themselves, lighten themselves or heal themselves.  Hitchcock was a fine wine connoisseur, he loved the juice of the grape so much that he bought an estate in the Santa Cruz mountains.  It's now a winery, by the way.

Notorious, from 1946, started out as a David O. Selznick project.  He sold the movie to RKO after trying unsuccessfully to get a hit song included in the soundtrack.  One of his song ideas was reportedly "Don't Give Any More Beer to My Father," which is a hit I think the world really missed out on.

This is one of several high-water marks of drinking in Hitchcock films.  Ingrid Bergman's character says to a party guest who claims to have "had enough," "The important drinking hasn't started yet."  She is also seen drinking a fizzy hangover cure in the morning, after some of that "important drinking," no doubt.

A fancy French wine is used as a hiding place for some Nazi uranium ore in Notorious.  When Cary Grant drops that bottle of 1934 Volnay Caillerets Bouchard, my heart skips a beat every time I see it. "Not the premier cru!"  The black dust gets swept under the wine rack without so much as a rubber glove for protection.

So, the wine pairing for Notorious is all spelled out for us.  You can find a recent vintage of Volnay Caillerets Bouchard for $50 to $60, but for the 1934 vintage you'll have to go to auction, so expect to spend a lot more.  Louis Jadot has a Pommard which sells for around $40, and that appears to be the bottom end for that appellation. 

1972's Frenzy is about a London serial killer who strangles his victims with his own tie.  Before you jump to the conclusion that such an idiot move means he was drunk at the time, consider that he wore a tie pin which had his name on it.  "Oh, so he was high, too?"  

Tying himself to the crimes even tighter, the criminal uses a trunkful of circumstantial evidence to try and frame his friend for the killings.  Well, what are friends for, anyway?  The television series The Fugitive was only a five-year-old memory at the time.  So, Frenzy's framee becomes a fugitive trying to prove his innocence, while the framer is left making sure he still has both arms.

Look to New Zealand for this wine pairing - Marlborough's Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc.  The Kiwi acidity is refreshing enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, even if the film fails to do so.

The 1964 thriller Marnie may be one of Hitchcock's most misunderstood efforts.  Knocked by a lot of critics at the time, it was well-received at the box office and has maintained a so-so ranking among movie buffs over time.  Much criticism was given to the two relative unknowns Hitch cast in the lead roles - Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery.  He gave Hedren the role while The Birds was still in production.  Suffice it to say the actors didn't remain unknown for long.

Viewers often balk at the characters - Hedren as an embezzler and Connery as a businessman who hires her, even though he knows about her past.  Of course, she robs him, too.  Of course they marry.  Of course, it’s complicated.  You can say that about any honeymoon involving a rape and a suicide attempt, I suppose.  The rape scene was apparently what Hitchcock liked best about the script, which gives us a view of the master through the "creepy misogynist" filter.

Let's get a wine pairing from Hitch's very own California land.  His former Santa Cruz Mountains home is now called Heart O’ the Mountain Estate.  Today, they make Pinot Noir wines that sell for around $50 and a Chardonnay that goes for a little less.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Savory Rias Baixas Albariño

Spain's Rias Baixas region is the home of the Albariño grape, the sometimes floral, always fruity white wine grape which thrives in the country's northwest corner.  Albariño is not only a delicious white wine on its own, but it is one of the more food-friendly grapes you’ll find.  In fact, Albariño seems to crave a food pairing so it can show its best.  

The 2018 Eidosela Albariño was made from grapes grown in the Condado do Tea sub-region.  The destemmed fruit is crushed, pressed, decanted, filtered, fermented, racked and cold stabilized at the winery, then filtered again.  Alcohol content is Albariño's usual 13% abv, while the wine sells for less than $20.

This Spanish wine has a medium-pale golden hue in the glass.  The nose is more fruity than floral, with apricots and citrus in the forefront.  A salinity hovers over the fruit, giving the aromas a nice savory angle.  That savory side shows up for real on the palate, with a racy acidity to go along with it.  Pair this with shellfish and enjoy.

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Monday, October 19, 2020

Sweet Piedmont Mosketto Wines

There is a big market these days for sweet wines.  Sweet in the sense that they are not dry, but not exactly dessert style.  These three Mosketto wines - from Bronco Wines - should appeal to those looking for low-alcohol beverages in the White Claw vein.  I was not bowled over by complexity in these wines, but for sweet, fizzy fun, they fit perfectly.  All three were made with grapes from Italy's Piedmont region, Moscato and Brachetto.  All three also hit only 5% abv for alcohol content and they all sell for $12.  Don’t pair them with dessert, by the way - they go better with salty snacks.

Mosketto Frizzante Bianco

This one is all Moscato.  The wine is actually a partially fermented grape juice.  Sweet on the nose, sweet on the palate - with a bit of fizz thrown in to make it feel more like a party.  This is a wine for gulping by the pool, not a wine for ruminating upon.  

Mosketto Frizzante Rosato

Combining Moscato and Brachetto grapes, this one is a little more tart on the nose, but with the same sweet palate.

Mosketto Frizzante Rosso

All Brachetto here.  The wine is much earthier than the previous selections, and actually quite tasty.

The Mosketto wines are imported by Mack and Schuhle of Miami.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Crime Spree

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  Crime is a hot topic in the movies, but be careful - you don't always know who the criminals are.

Clay Pigeon didn't exactly set 1971 on fire, but if it had, it would have been liable for more serious crimes than artistic ones.  Plus, in the pairing-wine-with-movies biz, it's always touch-and-go when dealing with a film involving substance abuse.  The laughs don't exactly fall out of the balcony.  

This movie starred Tom Stern, who also co-directed with Lane Slate.  You may know Stern as the one-time husband of Samantha Eggar, or he may be on your radar for being what IMDb calls the "Orson Welles of '60s biker movies."  Citizen Knucklehead, anyone?

In Clay Pigeon, Stern was a Vietnam vet who wanted to kick hard drugs.  An admirable pursuit, and one that would be hard enough without CIA goon Telly Savalas leaning on him to help take down drug kingpin Robert Vaughn.  A lot of actors in Clay Pigeon had to master the art of looking like a dead body - a time honored Hollywood skill set.

Savalas was very proud of his Greek heritage, so a Greek wine might be a nice pairing with Clay Pigeon.  Skip the Retsina - that beverage you might sample at a Greek church festival.  It tastes like a pine tree, and not in a good way, if there is a good way to taste like a pine tree.  Try a bottle of Nu Greek Wine of Sonoma.  It is made in Greece and shipped to Sonoma where it is bottled.

1988's The Dead Pool was the fifth and final movie to feature Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry character.  Harry Callahan gets to assert his dislike of criminals and the media in more or less equal measure.  The story centers on a friendly wager over premature celebrity deaths.  The bet becomes an issue for Harry when he becomes one of the celebrities and murder becomes a way to fix the betting line.

Eastwood was once the mayor of Carmel, California, so a Monterey wine would be an appropriate match.  He told interviewers that he preferred to drink Chardonnay, so let's grab one from Bernardus, which has several good Chards in the 30 to 50 dollar range.

Prime Cut was a dark 1972 glimpse of the underbelly of the underworld in the American Midwest.  Director Michael Ritchie - before Bad News Bears - manages to juxtapose the sex trade with slaughterhouses, and it doesn't seem like that much of a reach.  Anyhow, it stars Lee Marvin as mob muscle and Gene Hackman as a miscreant meatpacker.  You had me at Lee Marvin.  And Gene Hackman.

For some reason, the scene that stuck in my seventeen-year-old mind was Marvin looking over Hackman as he tore through a hideous looking plate of food.  "You eat guts," says Marvin.  Hackman replies, with a mouthful of food, "Yeah. I like ‘em."  Then Marvin blocks the plate and says "Talk now, eat later."  The scene leaves me with mixed feelings about sausage.

We will want a wine for Prime Cut which pairs nicely with midwestern beef.  You may opt for a Napa Cab - nothing wrong with that choice if you are afraid to branch out.  I'll go out on a limb for Zinfandel without any prompting.  Beekeeper Zinfandel hails from Sonoma County and will face off against any Cab, anytime.  And, people who wear labcoats to work say red wine is not only good with guts, but also good for your gut health.  Cheers.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Going For Broke - Zinfandel-Heavy Red Blend

Paydirt winery's Going For Broke red blend embraces the notion that "risking it all brings about the greatest reward."  This is a Zinfandel-heavy mix with six other grapes involved.  The breakdown looks like this: 81% Zinfandel, 6% Grenache, 4% Petite Sirah, 3% Syrah, 2% Mourvedre, 2% Barbera and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon.

The fruit came largely from Paso Robles' Westside Hills, but contributions were also made by Napa Valley, Alexander Valley, Sonoma Valley, Amador, Lodi and Marin County.  Specific vineyard sites include Gravity Hills, Dusi Vineyard, Hastings Ranch, Paso Ono Vineyard, Terra Bella, Clevenger Ranch, Shadow Canyon, and Alta Colina. 

The interesting label art wraps around the bottle and depicts what seems to be a variety of "going for broke" facial expressions in what is likely a coastal California Gold Rush scene.

Winemaker McPrice Myers says the de-stemmed grapes were fermented in stainless steel and small open-top bins with 20 days of skin contact.  Aging took place over 12 months in mostly neutral French oak barrels.  Alcohol is up there - 15.2% abv - and the retail price is $25.

The medium-dark wine smells of ripe, red fruit dotted with peppery, herbal notes.  There are whiffs of vanilla, cedar and cigars as well.  The palate shows the red berries plainly, along with a tongue-tingling acidity and toothy tannins.  A lengthy decant is useful, if not required, before enjoying.  Pair the wine with the red meat of your choice.

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