Monday, March 1, 2021

Rioja Red Now In Half-Bottle Size

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

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

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

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


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Friday, February 26, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Get Shafted

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week, we look at a couple of Shafts and a near-Shaft film, with wine and beer pairings for all three.

Shaft '19 is the fifth film in the Shaft series, a surprise to anyone who thought the first one was enough.  Samuel L. Jackson is John Shaft, son of John Shaft, Sr., played by Richard Roundtree, the original Shaft.  There's a grandson involved - named John Shaft III - but they call him JJ due to the unwritten rule concerning too many people in a movie bearing the same name.  Even the film itself couldn't find a title that separated it from the pack.

All three Shafts are detectives of one sort or another and they all try to beat the bad guys - the drug kingpins.  There are shootings, bad feelings and makeups along the way before an ending that leaves the door wide open for another Shaft sequel, possibly with a fourth generation of John Shafts.  The more, the merrier.

While scouring the internet for a pairing with Shaft ‘19, it did not surprise me to come across a listing for Samuel L. Jackson Motherf@#%ing Rye Wine.  It's actually more of a beer, and I don't know if the Pretentious Beer Company still offers it.  They do have one called Chug Life, a Czech-style pilsner which might fit the bill.

In the original Shaft, from 1971, Roundtree is the P.I. who is asked to find the daughter of a Harlem mobster who was kidnapped by Italian mafiosi.  There are shootings, bad feelings and a "case closed" stamp provided by Shaft… John Shaft.

For Shaft, you could scrape together a few grand for a wine once owned by the late mob boss John Gotti.  His collection is reportedly for sale at a wine shop in Queens.  Story goes, his wife once used a thousand-dollar bottle for cooking.  It may have gotten almost as big a laugh as wiping up lines of cocaine with a wet rag, thinking they were Parmesan cheese.

1973's The Slams features former NFL star Jim Brown in what could be taken as a "Shaft goes to prison" tale.  Brown's character is in the hoosegow for pulling a million-dollar job.  People inside want him to give up the location of the cash, but he needs to get over the wall in a hurry.  The clock is ticking, because the place where he hid the loot is scheduled for demolition.

For Brown, The Slams was quite a comedown from 1967's The Dirty Dozen.  The movie falls in with a stretch of celluloid which includes Black Gunn, Slaughter and Slaughter's Big Rip-Off.  Ooh, Netflix me!

Brown is a prisoner in The Slams, so let's pair the film with the wine known as The Prisoner.  I don't know how high the security is in Napa Valley's stoney lonesome, but it is said to be relatively easy to smuggle a bottle or two of The Prisoner out of your local wine shop.  $49 bucks is all it takes to grease the warden's palm.

For the adventurous - or the incarcerated - maybe some pruno will do the trick.  It's prison wine, and here's a spoiler alert: it tastes like something spoiled.


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Monday, February 22, 2021

Beer Or Pastry?

The Bruery makes beer in the northern Orange County city of Placentia, CA.  To say they make beer, and just leave it at that, undersells their passion - making interesting, experimental beers with visceral connections to other types of food.  Their Bakery line features stouts flavored to resemble such pastry items as sticky buns, coconut macaroons, oatmeal cookies and cherry pie.  Here is their tasting room in Placentia.

This is admirable for those who like their beer with flavorings.  I am not in that club, but I realize that I am a minority.  Flavored beers are popping up with increasing regularity in stores and on restaurant and tap room menus.

I received a four-pack of The Bruery's Sticky Bun barrel-aged Imperial stout for review, and I was astounded by the beer's look and smell.  At 10.2% abv, Sticky Bun pours like motor oil, jet black but slightly thinner in consistency.  Its color is blacker than black, with a tan head that leaves lovely, dense lacing on the glass.  The nose has delicious aromas of brown sugar, caramel and mocha, preparing me for what I hoped would be a game-changing experience with flavored beer.

The palate tastes like coffee with maple syrup in it.  That would normally win me over, if it were coffee and maple syrup.  But it's beer, and I found the sweetness to be a little off the mark.  It's pleasant enough, though, so that The Bruery should find plenty of support among the fans of flavored beer.


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Friday, February 19, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Hal Holbrook R.I.P.

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 remove our beanies for another great who is no longer with us, Hal Holbrook.

I saw Hal Holbrook decades ago in Texas, doing his Mark Twain show.  My companion at the time raised a bit of a fuss and got up to leave during the performance, with me following.  Holbrook saw us leaving and said from his rocking chair, "Must be Democrats."  It may have been "Must be Republicans," but time has blurred the edges of that brush with fame.  There may not, in fact, have been a rocking chair.  I sincerely hope I wasn't identified publicly as a Republican, even in Orange, Texas.

By that time, Holbrook's appearance in 1977's Rituals was a distant memory.  The film was also known as The Creeper.  Why the producers would throw away a perfectly good horror movie title like The Creeper is beyond me.  Maybe they simply thought of it too late.

Whatever you call it, the movie concerns a group of doctors who go camping in Canada and realize they're being stalked.  Could the stalker have been someone from Hollywood, trying to recapture some of that runaway production from north of the border?  I guess anything's possible.

The Elyse Winery Holbrook Mitchell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon has Hal's name on the label, however coincidentally.  The wine and the vineyard have nothing to do with Hal Holbrook, Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens, but grapes have been growing there since the 1870s.

Capricorn One, in 1978, predated QAnon by decades but served up a mother of a conspiracy theory.  It seems a U.S. mission to Mars was faked by the government with the help of the coerced astronauts.  Holbrook plays the main guvmint cover-upper - he had a way with bad guy characters.  The cast featured not only Holbrook, but also Elliot Gould, Sam Waterston and … O.J. Simpson - playing a good guy here.  

Capricorns are serious people - at least that's what my zodiac decoder ring says.  So for Capricorn One, let's choose a serious wine.  The Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir is a handful.  Winemaker Adam Tolmach likes 'em aromatic and bold enough to be conspiracy theories of their own.  They sell for around $35.

1973's Magnum Force gave Holbrook a great bad-guy role, as a bad cop on the San Francisco police force.  Magnum Force was the second film in Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry series.  Holbrook gets a rude surprise near the end of the film, one that makes Eastwood opine that "a man’s gotta know his limitations."  Indeed.

There is a German item called Dirty Harry Licorice Liqueur, so how could we not?  The label shows a guy who looks a lot more like Dick Tracy than Dirty Harry.  If that doesn't bother you, and you like anise flavored booze, and there's no Jagermeister around, knock yourself out.  Just know your limitations.


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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Paso Syrah Shows Its Dirt

Denner Vineyards, in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles, has been around for a couple of decades.  Ron Denner got the ball rolling in the late ‘90s, and is joined today by general manager Carol Rounsaville, winemaker Anthony Yount, assistant winemaker Alex Kemp and vineyard manager Aron Nevarez.

Located in the Templeton Gap and noted for its cool climate and dirt laced with limestone, the Willow Creek AVA is a favorite spot for those growing Rhône grapes.  The Dirt Worshipper 2018 is 98% Syrah with a small dollop each of co-fermented Roussanne and Viognier.  The winery calls it a "beastly hedonistic" wine.  That's how it goes with Syrah, and aren't you glad of it?  The wine was 45% whole-cluster fermented, stands at 14.3% abv and sells for $80, but it is available only to wine club members.  Aging took place over 21 months in 15% new French oak, 7% new Hungarian oak, and 78% previously used barrels.

This very dark wine shows a slight ruby tint along the rim.  The nose offers blackberry, black olive, a floral spray and a hint of white pepper.  The palate is a fistfighter, with sharp tannins that ease up after a decanting, a huge dark fruit profile and a generous streak of savory meat and, as expected, dirt.  The finish is joyful and lengthy. 


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Friday, February 12, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Christopher Plummer

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ We take a loving last look this week at the work of Christopher Plummer, who passed away recently at the age of 91.  R.I.P., Captain von Trapp. 

In the 1979 film, Murder By Decree, Christopher Plummer plays Sherlock Holmes as a human being instead of a pitiless thinking machine.  James Mason plays Dr. Watson as a man of science instead of a bumbling sidekick. These departures from the Holmes movies of decades before warmed the hearts of even the harshest critics.  However, the critics were not so kind to the film's writing, pacing, direction and solution, which clocked in at considerably less than seven percent.  Holmes puts his wits on the line to solve the Jack the Ripper murders, which are presented as a possible Masonic plot.  I didn't see a lodge in the movie, nor did I witness any secret handshakes.

Sherlock Holmes has enjoyed a number of different wines - Burgundy from Beaune, sherry - presumably from Jerez - and a few Port wines after dinner.  I would think that Holmes - particularly Plummer's Holmes - would like A Proper Claret.  California's Bonny Doon Vineyards has had one in recent years, but the winery was always more Rhône oriented than Bordeaux.  The wine seems to have disappeared from the BDV website, so maybe Holmes could help us track down a bottle.

The Man Who Would Be King is from 1975, which was as good a year as any to be a king.  Plummer portrays Rudyard Kipling, whom you may remember as the author of the novella on which this film is based.  Plummer gets to narrate the story behind lead actors Sean Connery and Michael Caine.  

While conducting a ruse in a small, out-of-the-way country, Connery's character is recognized as a god and named king.  He finds that it is good to be the king and wants to remain in the gig rather than rip off his nation's valuables.  He then finds that it is not so good to be the god.  You have to take your victories in small, easily digestible pieces, it seems.  Plummer kept his hands clean while simply relating the tale.

Kipling, in one of his more lucid moments, is said to have opined, "A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition."  I can back the red wine part of that quote, and I have a pairing of such for The Man Who Would Be KingKing Wine Estate in Oregon's Willamette Valley offers a handful of Pinot Noirs, mostly under the $100 mark.  For books and bullets, you're on your own.

In The Silent Partner, 1978, Plummer gets a role into which he can sink his teeth.  His Santa Claus bank robber is something anyone would relish playing.  At least anyone who had ever worked as a mall Santa.  I won't bore you with the details, but I think to this day that Bad Santa came about as a response to my own SoCal Santa stint.

Plummer's Santa is a tad on the psychopathic side, which I am told is an occupational hazard in the mall Santa biz.  Anyway, his plan to rob a bank gets sidetracked and the teller gets the dough.  The film follows Santa's efforts to reclaim the cash and exact some revenge.  Sounds like the perfect job for a psychopathic mall Santa.

Pheasant Run Wine has a Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon called Bank Robber Red, Bank Vault Reserve.  There's a story attached to the wine of a woman pulling a heist to win back her husband.  They say it didn't work.  Supposedly, the ex wasn't so interested in having a rich wife as he was in having one who wasn't crazy.


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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Fabulous Red BDX Blend From Paso

Denner Vineyards, in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles, has been around for a couple of decades.  Ron Denner got the ball rolling in the late ‘90s, and is joined today by general manager Carol Rounsaville, winemaker Anthony Yount, assistant winemaker Alex Kemp and vineyard manager Aron Nevarez.

Located in the Templeton Gap and noted for its cool climate and dirt laced with limestone, the Willow Creek AVA is a favorite spot for those growing Rhône grapes.  Even so, Mother of Exiles is made of grapes which are more aligned with Bordeaux - 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc.  The wine was aged for nearly two years in French oak barrels, three-quarters of which were new.  Alcohol tips in at 14.4% abv and the retail price is $80, and it is available only to wine club members.  

This dark wine - opaque, in fact - has a powerful nose.  It packs a perfumed aroma package consisting of dark fruit - like blackberries - and only a limited supply of the earthiness which I often find in a Paso Robles Cab.  There is a savory streak, to be sure, and it throws leather, tar and a pine forest into the nose.  The chalky aspect of the Paso dirt comes through on the palate, which is heavily influenced by the earth and the two years spent in barrels. 


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Friday, February 5, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Cloris Leachman R.I.P.

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week, we look at the work of an actress we lost recently.  Cloris Leachman won an Oscar and an armload of Emmy Awards.  She passed last week at the age of 94.

1975's Crazy Mama filtered and regurgitated the family lawlessness of the previous year's Big Bad Mama.  The movie is set in 1958, and Leachman plays the mom role in a family that is a crime wave all its own.  After their beauty shop is repossessed, they head for Arkansas, where the family farm is located, but get sidetracked by stickups and shootouts.  It is quite possibly the only script which ever made a happy ending out of getting to Arkansas.  Okay, so the ending wasn't really all that happy.

Let's get a wine from Arkansas here, which is something you really never hear in wine circles, or any circles, for that matter.  Chateau Aux Arc - Ozark, get it?  They make a wine called Smashed, which is how you get after drinking too much of it.  Smashed is a sweet blend of Concord, Zinfandel, Muscat and Muscadine grapes, which is another thing you never hear in wine circles.

Young Frankenstein in 1974 had Leachman in the role of Frau Blücher - pause for horses to whinny.  This movie captured her comedic talents so well that Gene Wilder reportedly had trouble getting through one of their scenes without laughing.  Her warning that "the stairs can be treacherous" is good advice.  Stay near the candles.

We are tempted to pair Ovaltine with her character, but no, let's stay in the realm of wine.  Frankenstein Red Wine Blend is a mix of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes which have been growing in the Sierra Nevada foothills since before California was a state.

1971 saw Leachman's only Oscar, for her role as Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show.  She breaks our hearts with her portrayal of sheer hopelessness in that small, desolate Texas town.  I grew up in a slightly larger, slightly less desolate Texas town.  Leachman’s performance - and all the others in that film, really - ring true to me.

For pairing with The Last Picture Show, you can grab a Lone Star Beer - longnecks only, please - or get fancy with a wine from Lone Star Wine Cellars.  The winery is on the North Texas Wine Country map, in McKinney.  That town has more than one traffic light and several picture shows, although the Cinemark 14 is presently in a pandemic pause.


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Friday, January 29, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Tough Guys

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 all about tough guys - guys who don't even flinch when they get the COVID vaccine shot.

Tough Guys Don't Dance is a 1987 film noir, written and directed by Norman Mailer.  Critics say the movie can't make up its mind if it wants to be a crime drama or a comedy, so it suffers on both counts.  It was not received all that well except by cultists who can't wait for the "Oh God oh man" scene.  Spoiler alert: Ryan O'Neal is not a tough guy.

Award nominations for Tough Guys were hard to come by, and most of them came from the Golden Raspberry group, which draws attention to what is generally felt to be the worst of the year.  Mailer ended up in a split decision for worst director, with the Raspberry going to both he and Elaine May, who directed Ishtar.  By the way, that's another movie which has amassed a cult following due to its campy humor.  

Mailer may have been Jewish, but he could hang with the Irish all night long.  Let's pair an Irish Whiskey with Tough GuysThe Quiet Man Irish Whiskey name drops another film starring a tough guy, a moniker that Mailer would no doubt proudly wear.

1946's The Big Sleep hits the "tough guy" nail right on the head.  Humphrey Bogart seems to have been born to play Philip Marlowe.  And Sam Spade, while you're at it.  Throw in Lauren Bacall and you'll sit still for an hour and a half just to see what happens.

Don’t worry if you can't follow the action - nobody can.  In the two years it took for Howard Hawks to finish reshooting a number of scenes and deleting others that made the script understandable, some things were lost in translation, like how did the chauffeur die?  Not even Raymond Chandler knows the answer to that one.  The chemistry between Bogie and Bacall was not lost - in fact it was highlighted.

If her tears flowed like wine in The Big Sleep, maybe it was a mix of Champagne and Cognac, which is discussed briefly in the film.  Although Marlowe likes his bubbly "in a glass," the millionaire who hired him says it's better "with about three ponies of brandy under it."  You can use a cava - Spanish bubbles - if money is tight during the pandemic, but don't scrimp on the Cognac.  An XO - aged six years - from Hennessey or Remy Martin will keep the tab under 200 bucks.

Chato's Land is from 1972 and has not one, but two tough guys on the bill.  Charles Bronson and Jack Palance play a cat-and-mouse game which turns ugly, fast.  Palance doesn't do any pushups, and Bronson lets his squinting eyes do most of the acting.  Early on, a mean sheriff confronts Bronson at a bar and calls him a "redskin."  If there is a remake coming anytime soon, the sheriff would have to call him a Football Team.

Palance did not shy away from a glass of wine, particularly while relaxing at his ranch in Tehachapi's Cummings Valley.  It's probably tough to find, but Tehachapi Winery offers red varieties in addition to the whites made by most of the wineries in the region.  A Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah might be a good choice, in case any tough guys insist that they are "not drinking any f&#%ing Merlot."


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Monday, January 25, 2021

A Great Zinfandel For Half Its Original 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' Lot 744 is a 2018 Zinfandel from Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley, a small AVA tucked in between the Russian River and Lake Sonoma.  Hughes says that despite being a wine travel destination, Dry Creek Valley is still "a tiny, rural area filled with family-owned vineyards, one deli, and no traffic lights."  I do understand that neighboring Geyserville has a signal, but it may be flashing most of the time.  Hughes raves about Dry Creek Valley Zins, which he feels are benefited by the region’s unique dynamic.

This Zinfandel, Hughes says, is a "stylistically perfect gem" from a family winery that has been crafting top rated Zinfandel for decades.  He feels that Lot 744 is easily one of the best Zins he has ever gotten his hands on.  Alcohol checks in at a lofty 16% abv and it sells for $17 - half the original price.

This Sonoma County Zinfandel has a medium dark ruby tint to it, and it smells of brambly raspberry and blackberry with an undercurrent of leather, cigars and spice.  The nose doesn't really foretell of an amazing palate experience, but that's what it delivers.  The fruit is carried along on a savory wave of earth, minerals and tobacco.  Oh my, this is a good Zinfandel - and I would say that even if I were not a big fan of the grape.


Friday, January 22, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Getting Small

Pairing‌‌ ‌‌wine‌‌ ‌‌with‌‌ ‌‌movies!‌‌  ‌‌See‌‌ ‌‌the‌‌ ‌‌trailers‌‌ ‌‌and‌‌ ‌‌hear‌‌ ‌‌the‌‌ ‌‌fascinating‌‌ ‌‌commentary‌‌ ‌‌for‌‌ ‌‌these‌‌ ‌‌‌ movies‌,‌ ‌‌and‌‌ ‌‌many‌‌ ‌‌more‌,‌ ‌‌at‌‌ ‌‌Trailers‌‌ ‌‌From‌‌ ‌‌Hell.‌‌ This week's triple play of classic films are about getting small.  Steve Martin had the smallness concept in his stand-up act way back when - "Let’s get small…" - but the examples of "small getting" in these films were not for recreational purposes.

The 1966 fantasy, Fantastic Voyage, features a team of miniaturized specialists who are injected into a scientist to clear up a blood clot in his brain.  They race against the clock, as the "getting small" effect lasts only a short time.   Along with Stephen Boyd, Edmund O'Brien, Donald Pleasence and  Arthur Kennedy, Raquel Welch is a co-star.  The miniature Raquel, by the way, looks as good as life-size.  There is a Cold War slant to this mid-60s offering, with Rooskie commies serving as the bad guys.

Let's do a cocktail for Fantastic Voyage, one that stole the name from the movie.  The Fantastic Voyage cocktail is one of those recipes that infuriates me, because I don't keep Japanese whisky, Vanille de Madagascar or lightning bolt shaped orange peel around the house.  I'm lucky to have the Riesling and the club soda on hand.  Home mixologists, enjoy.

1987’s Innerspace drew its inspiration from Fantastic Voyage.  The story follows another miniaturization experiment gone wrong.  The film was directed by TFH head guru Joe Dante, so I suppose I had better write some nice things about Innerspace or suffer retribution from the boss!  Only kidding.  Joe rarely beats the staff, and even then only until morale improves.

Here's a surprise - Innerspace beer.  It comes from Huntsville, Alabama and promises suds for the final frontier.  They seem focused on outer space, but their menu looks tasty.  

The Incredible Shrinking Man brightened up 1957.  The story has a guy - exposed to a misty fog - getting smaller and smaller until you need an electron microscope to see him.  The special effects guys worked overtime on this one.  Loyalists will praise the shrunken man's confrontation with a house cat and his battle with a spider - both much larger than him.

Incredibly - pardon the pun - Mr. Shrinking Man would not get a girlfriend until decades later, when The Incredible Shrinking Woman would try playing the small scenario for laughs.

Joie de Vivre Wines has a Shrunken Head Red, which may or may not answer your questions of how that head was shrunk.  I'm betting it didn't float in on a fog.


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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Sonoma County Rosé Of Pinot Noir

Sonoma-Cutrer says they don't follow only Old World or New World winemaking procedures.  They say they "marry Burgundian practices with Californian innovation and a deep appreciation of the Sonoma County terroir" to come up with their wines.  You'll find Sonoma-Cutrer in Windsor, California, between Santa Rosa and Healdsburg in Sonoma wine country.

The 2020 Sonoma-Cutrer Rosé of Pinot Noir is labeled as Grower - Vintner from the Russian River Valley.  The 100% Pinot Noir grapes that went into the bottle came from Vine Hill Ranch and the winery's Owsley estate.  Winemaker Mick Schroeter puts his signature on the label, and he can certainly be proud to do so.  Alcohol ticks the meter at 11.9% abv and the retail price is $25.

This wine's nose is really fruity - full of fresh strawberries, cherries and a hint of raspberry.  The palate is delish.  The fruit dominates, with minerality and citrus peel filling it out.  The acidity is bright and fresh, but is just a tad laid back.  The light salmon color is beautiful.


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Monday, January 18, 2021

Keep Your Sake - I'll Have A Beer

I am not a sake fan, I guess.  At least nigori sake left me unimpressed enough to toss the rest of the bottle.  Denise and I picked it up at one of our neighborhood sushi restaurants, to take home with the take-out dinner we ordered and picked up.  If I ever order sake again, I now know that I’ll steer clear of nigori.

Nigori is a type of sake - a fermented rice beverage - unfiltered and cloudy in appearance.  The brand we had was Sho Chiku Bai, imported by Takara Sake USA and sold for about $8.  The label explained that the sake was "sweet, silky and mild" and 15% abv.  The instructions on the bottle say "shake well," and the sediment stacks up in the bottom of the bottle about an inch high.  The clear liquid turns milky white after a shake.  I'm afraid that strikes me as none too appetizing.

The importer promises "flavors of ripe banana, vanilla, melon, strawberry, and creamy sweet rice custard."  I got coconut milk, and a whiff of fingernail polish remover.  The palate carried a very slight acidity and it didn't taste all that sweet to me.  I would not want it as a dessert beverage, that's for sure, but I'll bet it's a hit with Korean barbecue or Thai food.


Friday, January 15, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Blastploitation

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌, ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌, ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌  ‌Here are a trio of films which explore the difficulty of being black in America, and pose responses to that difficulty in varying scenarios.

Blast! is the 1976 retitling of the 1972 blaxploitation film, The Final Comedown.  Seeing the confrontation between black radicals and the popo may put you in mind of today’s headlines.  However, in the movie both sides are shooting, not just one.  Billy Dee Williams stars in it, and additional footage of him was shot for the re-release.

How about a wine made by a black winemaker?  Theodora Lee owns and operates Theopolis Vineyards in Anderson Valley, Mendocino County.  Ms. Lee makes a dandy Pinot Noir, but try one of her several Petite Sirah wines, right around $40.

Melvin Van Peebles pretty much started the blaxploitation genre singlehandedly with 1971's Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.  It seems he worked himself too hard, doing the acting, directing, editing, scoring and producing all by himself.  He must have fallen asleep at the typewriter to wind up with all those extra letters in the title.

He wore out his knuckles knocking on doors while looking to gather up the financing for the film.  The checkbooks of white Hollywood wouldn’t open for what was intended to be the first Black Panther film.  Bill Cosby ponied up the cash, back when it was still okay to take money from Bill Cosby.  Sweet Sweetback was born of black America, and made for black America.

When choosing a wine to go with Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, we should follow the "opposites" rule of wine pairing.  It's a salty movie, so look to a sweet wine.  A vintage Port will match up nicely with the story that's anything but sweet.  Graham's or Taylor's both make excellent Port wines.

Spike Lee, in 2018's BlacKkKlansman, told the real-life story of a black Colorado cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.  Ron Stallworth was the only person of color on the force, and he posed as white on the phone to fool every Klan member from the bottom to the top.

Underscoring the precarious relationship between blacks and the police, he gets beaten by cops even though he is one of them.  It's hard out there for a black cop who buddies up to Grand Wizard David Duke.  Not so hard, though, that he doesn’t eliminate a few klansmen and take down a racist cop in the process.  Too bad Duke was still standing after the smoke cleared.

There was a beer being sold by a Swedish company as a satire against racism.  The white sheet packaging was not seen as funny by a lot of people, so Yellow Belly Beer has been pulled from shelves.  So, the wine pairing.  The Klan would doubtless want only a white wine at their event, so let’s paint it black and try one that's really dark.  

Syrah is often blessed with the deepest, darkest color of any red wine.  Washington state's Alexandria Nicole Cellars has a Jet Black Syrah which will do nicely for BlacKkKlansman.

 

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Friday, January 8, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Low Rent Comedy Teams

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 have wine pairings for three films sporting low-rent comedy teams.  In each case, they came together for a brilliantly mediocre film - a moment in time that has proven to be unforgettable no matter how hard the participants have tried.
 
Masterminds probably overreaches on the title just a bit.  The 1949 movie stars The Bowery Boys, who picked up where the Dead End Kids and the East Side Kids left off.  The fanciful plot centers on one of them, who finds he can tell the future due to a toothache.  Believe it or not, his gig in a circus sideshow is the good news in this story.

For a Masterminds wine pairing, let's take a bridge or tunnel to Brooklyn, where a former California winemaker has set up the Brooklyn Winery.  He uses grapes from Napa Valley and Sonoma County as well as fruit from New York’s Long Island and Finger Lakes regions, so you can take your pick.
https://bkwinery.com/
 
1966's The Last of the Secret Agents? sends the spy film genre up the river for a few laughs.  It stars the comedy team of Marty Allen and Steve Rossi.  Okay, so you need more bait?  It also features Nancy Sinatra in her underwear.  

The plot depends on the belief that Allen and Rossi would ever be tabbed by anyone to help the good guys beat the bad guys.  A few years after this film, the comedy team would star in Allen and Rossi Meet Dracula and Frankenstein, the death knell of a film career.  Decades later they would get a "lifetime contract" to play a Vegas hotel, a gig that lasted a good four years.

For an Allen and Rossi movie, why not buy a Martini and Rossi vermouth?  Go ahead, as long as you have the mask on no one will recognize you.
 
1959 saw a resurgence in popularity for the Three Stooges.  I'm guessing it had something to do with their film shorts being shown on television on a daily basis.  I know that's where I first saw them, in the afternoon block of cheap comedies for kids after school.  "Weekday afternoons at three," said the announcer.  "Dad, is today a weekday?" I asked, hopefully.  

The plot of The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze, predictably, is similar to the Jules Verne classic, Around the World in 80 Days.  This time, it is Phileas Fogg's great-grandson making the bet - and the trip - with the help of the Stooges.  Moe Howard and Larry Fine are joined here by Joe DeRita, in the revolving door known as "the third stooge."  DeRita confessed later in his career that he never thought the Stooges were funny.  I knew a bunch of eight-year-olds that would argue that point.

A wine for the Stooges?  There is one for Iggy and the Stooges, but that's probably a reach.  How about a wine which is simple to the point of immaturity?  Grab one of those bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau off the point-of-purchase end cap.  It was harvested and vinified only months ago.  It's not a wine for everyone and is actually reviled by many who consider themselves experts, much like the Stooges themselves.  Also like the Stooges, the wine isn't getting any better while sitting on the shelf.


Monday, January 4, 2021

Ancient Peaks: It's In The Dirt, I Just Know It Is

It has been almost a decade since I took a fascinating tour of Ancient Peaks Winery and their estate vineyards near Paso Robles.  Santa Margarita Ranch is the southernmost wine region in the Paso Robles AVA.  The land was once an ancient sea bed, and time has left it high and dry, dotted with old oyster shells which impart their minerality to the grapes grown there.  Science may pooh-pooh that notion, but I cling to the idea that what's in the ground is in the grapes.

The 2018 Ancient Peaks Zinfandel sports grapes which were grown in the coolest region in the Paso Robles AVA, in five different blocks of the estate.  Aging took place over 17 months in French and American oak barrels.  Alcohol hits 15% abv and I picked up my bottle for $20 at a Whole Food Market in Los Angeles.

This medium-dark wine is loaded with blackberry and red plum aromas, but not so much that the savory side slips away.  Intense minerality is at work, a reminder of the oyster shell dirt that is Santa Margarita Ranch.  Black pepper also checks in, along with hints of lavender, cedar and cigar box.  The palate is marked by dark fruit and minerals, with a nice acidity and tannins with a firm grip.  The finish is chalky and moderate.


Friday, January 1, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Fuzzy Woodland Critters

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 have wine pairings for three films which feature fuzzy woodland critters of one sort or another.  Maybe they are the kind you've been seeing out the window during these pandemically challenged times.  Or, maybe they are the things of your pandemic nightmares.  Cheers, drink up!

Drinking with Bambi?  You're damn right.  In case you haven't heard, things are different during pandemic times.  The 1942 animated Disney classic has broken the hearts of youngsters for eight decades.  There is reportedly a remake/sequel in the works.  My guess is that in the new version, hearts will still be broken, Bambi will still be a boy deer and kids will still be scarred for life at the sight of venison sausage. There may, however, be a Second Amendment issue to deal with.

With lean deer meat, a Pinot Noir is often a good pairing, especially a more elegant offering. Try a Burgundy with your venison, or this wonderful New Zealand bottling.  If you have a few extra bucks - ahem - lying around, try a Napa wine from Stags' Leap.

1988's Critters 2 was the first feature directing job for Mick Garris.  The sci-fi is set a couple of years after the initial Critters movie and would be followed by Critters 3 and Critters 4.  Somebody just couldn't get enough critters.  The little monsters reappear on earth and are set to make all of us the main course.  A hero steps up, however, and saves the day.  I hope that spoiler doesn't ruin the viewing experience for you.

"Critter" wines are those which rely on cartoonish animal characterizations on the label to make the product more attractive to busy shoppers.  You see them every time you shop for wine - cute little kitties, ducks, chickens and puppies adorn countless bottles of wine.  One of the most offensive examples is Bearboat wine, which depicts two bears in a rowboat.  Drink fast, so you can throw the bottle away sooner.

The 1989 black comedy Meet the Feebles looks like a Peter Jackson pre-hobbit fever dream.  Muppet-like characters are cast as members of a horrifically twisted and violent theater troupe.  The poster for the movie shows a hippo in a party dress hoisting a machine gun, and that tells you all you need to know about whether you should drink while watching.

For Meet the Feebles, lets find a black wine for this black comedy.  I'm thinking of a Malbec from Cahors.  That French region is known for its dark-times-three wine.  Georges Vigouroux's Pigmentum - "that which colors" - is a nice choice, and easy on the wallet, too, at about $12.  


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