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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