Friday, December 31, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad New Year

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, let's get crazy to usher in 2022.  And while we are at it, let's start demanding that each new year has to be better than the one it is replacing.

The 1963 madcap comedy, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, stars Spencer Tracy, backed up by an all-star cast featuring Edie Adams, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Dorothy Provine, - lemme catch my breath - Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, - did I say Dorothy Provine? - Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters and about 200 other notables in cameos.  Mr. Winters was enough to grab me as I was already a huge fan by the tender age of eight years.

The characters all scramble to be the first to discover the hiding place of $350,000 in stolen cash.  Jimmy Durante spills the beans about the money before dropping dead.  For his "the's in the…" moment, Durante tells the assembled mob only that the treasure is under a big W.  Terry Bradshaw should give a hint like that about how to win "his money," but maybe Fox really is taking it out of his paycheck.

The movie turns on the various troubles everyone has while trying to get to the place where the big W is.  It puts the mad in madcap, the screw in screwball, the slap in slapstick and the road in road comedy.  To be precise, it puts four mads in madcap. 

Director Stanley Kramer was reportedly none too happy about the studio ripping out footage like a drywall demo team.  Apparently nobody told him that Hollywood didn't need any three-hour comedies.  Even with more than a half an hour of celluloid on the cutting room floor, the movie still ran 161 minutes.  To quote Robert Vaughn from Blake Edwards' S.O.B., "That's too long."

Well, so just open three bottles of wine to get through the viewing.  Try Madcap, a red blend from British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.  The winery, Fairview Cellars, is described as being "on the Reed Creek alluvial Fan at the North end of the Benches of the Golden Mile."  I think there may be too many capital letters there, but that's how they wrote it.

2011 gave us a glimpse of a duplicate of our world, mad or otherwise.  Another Earth has a fairly convoluted plot, the crux of which is a second earth just like ours which hangs in the sky like a harvest moon.  The sci-fi film does not deal with how a second Earth might affect gravity or the tides or whether the extra light it sheds at night means we could get rid of daylight saving time.  Fingers crossed.  

Another Earth does examine the result of taking responsibility for one's actions and the issues that would arrive if you got to meet your other self from the mirror world.  I worry that I wouldn't recognize myself.  I mean, Aidan Quinn was pumping his gas right next to me and I was oblivious until my wife pointed him out.

I seem to be digressing a bit this week, for which I am sorry.  The holidays, the pandemic, you know.  Languishing.  But I cannot let the opportunity pass without mentioning that, in the cast of Another Earth, there is an actor named Flint Beverage.  I'm not kidding.  So, with the drop of his name, it must be time to select a nice wine to pair with the movie.  Beverage time.

Broken Earth Winery is a likely pairing, although their name probably is less a reference to the planet as it is to a shovel turning dirt.  They make a Paso Robles Cabernet Franc, which is a good grape no matter which Earth you find yourself visiting.

In this very space, I have referred to the 1989 black comedy musical parody Meet the Feebles as a Peter Jackson pre-hobbit fever dream.  Jackson has Muppet-like characters cast as members of a twisted and violent theater troupe.  Jim Henson could not have possibly given his stamp of approval to this use of puppets, and within a year of Feebles' release he was dead.  I'm not saying one thing had anything to do with the other, but there you are.  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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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Paso Robles Merlot, Via Los Angeles

San Antonio Winery survived Prohibition and the Great Depression by making sacramental wines in the urban heart of Los Angeles.  While all the other L.A. wineries folded, the Riboli's winery flourished, thanks to the family's strong connection to the church.  At more than 100 years old, it is the oldest and largest producing winery in Los Angeles.

Maddalena Estate Reserve Paso Robles Merlot 2020

Maddalena Riboli was the inspiration for this wine.  More than a matriarch, Maddalena was instrumental in the family's success in the wine business.  The family says she even founded the first wine tasting room in California.  Her signature is on the front label and her picture is on the back.

The Ribolis say that Maddalena Merlot gives us "intense flavors, plush mouthfeel and deep colors," and they are right on all counts.  The wine has an alcohol level of 14.5% abv and it sells for less than $20.  

This Merlot is very dark, almost inky.  Its nose brings forth black cherry, anise and plum aromas, along with some sweet oak spice.  The palate is succulent and flavorful, with dark fruit and enough spice notes to bake a pie.  Tannins are rather gentle, so the sip is smooth.  I would like this wine paired with a pork shoulder or a creamy cheese.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Napa Vintner Scores With Merlot, Prosecco

Bread & Butter's promotional blurbs urge customers to "buy the one that looks like this," and "don't overthink it."  Those are probably not the best ad lines Madison Avenue ever came up with, but there is a streak of truth in them.  For these wines, anyway, maybe you should embrace the lack of a kitty on the label.  Maybe it is a relief to find a wine at the supermarket which does not have a name ground out from the "random animal + random geographical word" sausage maker.  You know, like "Bear River," "Porcupine Pass" or "Ocelot Springs."  

As I was driving through Los Angeles the other day - the very day I had to choose which wine to open when I got home - I found myself in traffic behind a Bread & Butter delivery truck.  I figure the signs won't get much clearer than that.  B&B's winemaker Linda Trotta says it best, "A good wine is a wine you like."

The 2019 Bread & Butter Merlot brings alcohol at a reined-in 13.5% abv, and the retail price is only $15.

This medium-dark Merlot smells delicious.  It's labeled as a California Merlot, with no further indication of where the grapes were grown.  Rich plum and classic aromas mingle with a bit of smoke and a bit of chocolate.  The palate is velvety and lush, with dark fruit, mocha and a minty finish.  The tannins are unobtrusive, yet they worked just fine with our Thanksgiving … steak.  Drink what you like, eat what you like.

The Bread & Butter Prosecco DOC is all Italian - made in a small town near Venice, says the website.  It has alcohol at 11% abv and the retail damage is $15.

This bubbly wine has a pretty, frothy head which dissipates quickly.  That leaves you with a greenish-yellow wine and a line of bubbles around the edge of the glass.  The nose is lovely - pears, apples, a bit of citrus minerality - and the palate follows suit.  It is a semi-sweet delight that is very festive and tasty.

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Friday, December 24, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Holiday Drollery

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 a trio of Christmas movies, or at least movies which have the Christmas season as part of the scenery.  We are entering the fray here, about whether or not merely being set at Christmas time is enough to make a film a Christmas movie - see Die Hard or Diner as examples.  Or the following.

Christmas in Connecticut was released in 1945 to great success.  The end of the war left people hungry for a screwball comedy about food and a soldier returning home from the conflict.  Usually, characters who are far from home and dream of "a steak that thick" are marked for death.  But Dennis Morgan's wounded warrior escapes the worst and actually gets his meal, in the form of Barbara Stanwyck.  Every Christmas comedy needs a Grinch, and Sydney Greenstreet serves in that role here, to an extent.  His Grinchiness is circumstantial, and he isn't the only one pouring soot on the snow - Stanwyck’s fiance is no Christmas miracle.  By the end of the movie, we find that Greenstreet is really a nice guy deep down.

In addition to the seasonal setting, there is also a sleigh ride included to add to the holiday flavor.  Me, I've never even seen a real sleigh, but apparently back then in Connecticut, they were left unattended outside barn dances, just there for the taking.  Understand that not only will you spend a Christmassy night in jail, but Grand Theft Sleigh is sure to land you on Santa's naughty list.

A wine from Connecticut would be fine here, but how about one which was made in a WWII-era airfield?  The Nutmeg State's Saltwater Farm Vineyard has a Cabernet Franc with enough fruit and spice to tempt Santa before he's finished assembling the kids' toys.

1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas has that ol' Pumpkin King Jack Skellington trying to take over Christmas.  It seems natural, following in the Charlie Brown TV special's footsteps, to move from Halloween Town to Christmas Town.  Things go awry, and Santa is kidnapped, and his life is threatened, and it looks like there won't be a Christmas this year.  But wait… it looks like Jack saves Christmas Day for all of us.  Didn't see that coming, didja?

If you're looking for Nightmare Before Christmas stemware, head over to Etsy for a startlingly full complement of glasses.  Those craft people never miss a trick-or-treat.  We want wine, however, and we want it now.  For a slightly scary Christmas wine pairing, let's throw ten bucks at the cashier and make off with Apothic Dark.  It’s heavy on the oak, making you think of that tree in your living room, and it has a hint of chocolate to remind you that Halloween wasn't all that long ago.

The Apartment, from 1960, is the movie every romcom wants to be.  Billy Wilder's masterpiece stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston and a host of wonderful character actors.  The story unfolds during end-of-year festivities which bring Lemmon and MacLaine together in unlikely circumstances, holiday-wise. 

Lemmon - Buddy Boy - has an apartment which gets used by his superiors at the office for their extra-marital meetups.  He leaves the key under the mat and clears out, then waits for the lights to be turned off, signaling that it's okay for him to go home.  He falls for a gal who turns out to be a one-time guest in his place, with his boss as her host.  It's awkward, situation-wise.

The Apartment has all the holiday trimmings - New York City, loneliness, Santa in a bar, slushy sidewalks and a Seconal suicide attempt.  Not to play the spoiler, ending-wise, but everything works out fine.

Holiday entertaining on a working person's budget?  Drink Cava and pretend it's Champagne, leftover from last night's party.  Vilarnau has a Spanish sparkler that sneaks out of the wine shop for less than $20 and will pair quite well with The Apartment and a couple of cha-cha records.  Just keep the music down - the neighbors have been complaining. 

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Imprisoned Red Wine Grapes Released On Recognizance

The Prisoner Wine Company has a couple of California red blends of which you should be aware.  They have a Zinfandel blend and another red blend - Saldo - which is heavy on the Petite Sirah.  Dave Phinney is no longer involved with the label - wine megatron Constellation bought the brand.  Now, things are run by The Prisoner Wine Company's Director of Winemaking Chrissy Wittman and newly appointed lead winemaker Todd Ricard.

Saldo's bottle looks like it was decorated with a label maker.  The minimalist bottle style has a certain appeal, but I really like reading wine labels so it doesn't work for me.  The wine is a mix of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, which the company says is "approachable and serious."  The alcohol level is a ripe 15% abv and the wine sells for $32, as does the Zinfandel.

This wine is extremely dark with notes on the nose of black cherry, anise, smoke and spice.  The palate is rich and dark, showing blackberry, licorice, allspice, cinnamon and black pepper.  The finish is not too long, but it is full of sweet oak spice while it's there.  The tannins are a bit toothy until it has been open for a while. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Pinot Noir By Sonoma-Cutrer From The Russian River Valley

Sonoma-Cutrer Winery is celebrating 40 years of marrying Burgundy with California.  They have a trophy case full of awards won by their wines over the past three decades.

Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2019

The 2019 vintage of Sonoma-Cutrer's Russian River Valley Pinot Noir shows a complex and elegant nose and palate.  The wine was made by a female-led team of winemakers, but Mick Schroeter got to put his name on the label, and he is understandably proud of helping to bring the finicky grape to its full fruition.  The Russian River Valley is a world-class region for Pinot Noir, thanks to the fog that rolls up the river and turns the valley into a cool climate area.  The wine aged in French oak barrels for eleven months and got another half-year in the bottle.  Alcohol is restrained at 13.9% abv and the retail price lands at $35.

This wine is medium-dark in its ruby color.  The nose offers up beautiful raspberry notes with black tea and a pretty floral element.  On the palate, the raspberry is a bit brambly and is joined by tea, coffee and cola notes.  The tannins are fairly stiff upon opening, but they settle down after awhile.  The finish is medium and savory.  Altogether it is an elegant wine.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Hit Men

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, Hit Men take center stage - guys who kill for money and say "It's not personal, it's just business."  You know the phrase if you've ever been fired from a job.

Ah!  A movie title with an exclamation point in it!  Hit! came out in 1973, apparently before Strunk and White clamped down on such punctuation abuse.  Still at large on their hit list: Oliver!, Airplane! and Tora! Tora! Tora!  Boy, are they in trouble.  

Billy Dee Williams was richly praised for his performance as a federal agent who assembles - through coercion - a team of vulnerable misfits, Richard Pryor among them.  

The team takes out a drug cartel, one by one, showing how easily it could be done.  The hits are carried out using weapons which range from poison to a speargun to a bazooka.  Now that's a variety show.   The agent's success does not endear him to his bosses, who have been losing the war on drugs while playing by the book. 

Yeah, there are plenty of holes in Hit!'s Swiss cheese of a plot but it's actually a pretty fun popcorn movie.  The critics were mixed back in the day, but then they always seem to be, don't they?

For a wine to pair with Hit!, let's look at The Uprising, a red blend which is part of the 19 Crimes line.  It should be called 19 Criminals, but we'll ride with it as labeled.  It was aged for a month in rum barrels, so expect a bit more sweetness to offset the sour topic of the film.

Murder By Contract is a 1958 film noir which had a lot more influence than its sphere at the time of release would suggest.  Martin Scorsese has hailed the movie as one of the biggest influences on his style of movie making.  Vince Edwards stars as a hit man who carries no gun, who has principles despite his choice of professions and who thinks a bit too much for someone in that job.

He routinely kills men at the request of his bosses - guys with names like Mr. Brink and Mr. Moon - but he experiences pangs of guilt when an important witness in a big case is targeted, and it turns out she's a woman.  Right, the hit man with a heart o' gold.  Nah, actually he thinks women are too unpredictable to make good targets.  He thinks they are trouble.  He finds out that in his case, they are.

Oregon's Witness Tree Vineyard no longer offers their Witness Protection Plan Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but if you can scare up a bottle, that's the one to have.  Trust me, there are not many wines out there with "Witness Protection" on the label - this is it.

1971's Get Carter brought real, honest-to-god violence into the British crime film genre, and did so without even blushing.  The plot works about as easily as a Rubik's Cube, but the film has collected a cult following over the years and is now considered one of the very best British films.  Michael Caine stars in it and excels as the morally bankrupt double-barrel trigger man.  

Grab a bottle from Temecula's Carter Estate Winery to pair with Get Carter.  A well-structured Syrah, Malbec or Merlot should fit nicely within the loose moral structure of the movie.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

The San Simeon wine label hails from the Paso Robles AVA, but it is under the wine umbrella of the Los Angeles-based Riboli family and their San Antonio Winery.  You may also know of their wines by the names Stella Rosa, Maddalena, Highlands 41 or Opaque.  From L.A. to Paso Robles to Monterey to Italy, the Ribolis have vineyards in some of the best places on earth to grow grapes.

San Antonio Winery survived Prohibition and the Great Depression by making sacramental wines in the urban heart of Los Angeles.  While all the other wineries folded, the Riboli’s winery flourished, thanks to the family's strong connection to the church.  At more than 100 years old, it is the oldest and largest producing winery in Los Angeles.

The estate offers a variety of soils: calcareous limestone, sandstone, and loam.  The winery is certified sustainable, powered entirely by solar energy and uses water conservation techniques.  The grapes for the 2019 San Simeon Cabernet Sauvignon - 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot - came from several hillside vineyards, which were blended together to make this wine.  Aging took place over 18 months in mostly French oak barrels.  Alcohol tips 14.9% abv and the wine sells for about $20.

This wine is very dark in the glass.  It features a beautiful nose of brambly cassis, mocha and chocolate notes.  Minerals come into play as do sage and thyme.  The palate is loaded with dark fruit, more minerals and sweet oak flavors.  Tannins are alive and well, so a bit of time opening up in the glass is recommended.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Two Nice Wines From Creston Highlands

The Highlands 41 wine label comes from Monterey County, but it is under the wine umbrella of the Los Angeles-based Riboli family and their San Antonio Winery.  You may also know of their wines by the names Stella Rosa, San Simeon, Maddalena or Opaque.  From L.A. to Paso Robles to Monterey to Italy, the Ribolis have vineyards in some of the best places on earth to grow grapes.

San Antonio Winery survived Prohibition and the Great Depression by making sacramental wines in the urban heart of Los Angeles.  While all the other wineries folded, the Riboli's winery flourished, thanks to the family's strong connection to the church.  At more than 100 years old, it is the oldest and largest producing winery in Los Angeles.

Highlands 41 Pinot Noir 2020

On the label, this brand promises the "thrill of exploration and the spirit of adventure."  To me, that just about sums up the promise contained in any bottle of wine.  The name, Highlands 41, comes from Highway 41 and the Creston Highlands.  Those highlands, by the way, used to be a seabed - providing the ground with plenty of limestone mineral deposits.  This wine is vinified to 14.5% abv and it retails for $15.

This Monterey County Pinot Noir is fairly dark and very fragrant in the glass.  Aromas of black cherry, black tea, licorice and cinnamon put together the kind of display that makes me think of the holidays.  Dark fruit dominates the palate, and a full set of tannins accompany the juicy sip.  The Riboli family recommends pairing their Highlands 41 Pinot with grilled sausage, pasta primavera, baked salmon or roasted duck.  I would toss in turkey and ham as excellent pairings.  I had mine with lemon and honey Wensleydale cheese, and it was beautiful.

The Highlands 41 Chardonnay 2019 has an alcohol content of 14.% abv and a retail price of $15.

This wine has a lovely golden tint in the glass.  The nose is loaded with sweet oak spice, which I normally wouldn't care for in a Chardonnay, but I go with it over the holidays.  It also shows aromas of tropical fruit and a hint of burnt caramel - also a nice holiday touch.  The palate plays up the fruit more than the oak - for which I am grateful - and gives a nice acidity to make it a good wine to pair with food.  The Ribolis say that the Highlands 41 Chardonnay goes best with baked halibut, wild mushroom risotto, fried chicken or grilled pork loin.  I will go along with all of those recommendations.  

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Friday, December 10, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Grindhouse Classics

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, Grindhouse Classics are the topic.  Violence, sex and child kidnapping all come crashing over the spillway in a flood of exploitation.  Pass the popcorn, please.

There is a place in Los Angeles called Terminal Island.  It separates Wilmington from San Pedro, presumably to try and make Rivals Week during high school football season a little safer.  Terminal Island, CA also has a low-security prison on it, with relatively few breakout attempts.  Inmates probably realize that once out, they'd be in either Wilmington or San Pedro, making life in Club Fed look a little rosier.

1973's Terminal Island movie takes the prison theme to the extreme.  After the death penalty is written out of the penal code, hardened criminals are dumped on the isle and left there without supervision.  That sounds like the first neighborhood where I lived when I moved to L.A.  It also sounds like Escape From New York with an ocean view.  The one-sheet explains it all: "Where living is worse than dying."   

The film was directed by Stephanie Rothman, who says she really didn’t have the stomach for the violence and sexual abuse depicted in Terminal Island.  Some of it reportedly got left on the cutting room floor.

It seems too easy to pair Terminal Island with a wine named The Prisoner, but here we are.  The winery has taken some heat recently for, you know, glorifying incarceration - but it's all in a day's work in the grindhouse.  The Prisoner is a tasty blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Charbono.  The Charbono grape is actually Bonarda, living under Napa Valley's witness protection program.

The Candy Snatchers  also came out in 1973, an apparently good year for sleaze.  The movie was inspired by a real life kidnapping.  Sixteen-year-old Candy is nabbed on her way home from school by a group of wannabe hoodlums.  They bury her alive, allowing her to breathe through a pipe, and try to get a ransom from her stepfather, who really isn't interested in saving her.  At least one actor in the movie regretted having appeared in it, claiming it was a paycheck that took more than it gave.

From the shores of Lake Michigan comes Cotton Candy wine, a sweet dessert beverage offered by St. Julian Winery.  Pairing opposites works well, so the sweetest wine we could find should go like a natural with a nasty mess like The Candy Snatchers.

In 1974, The Swinging Cheerleaders appeared, in which those pom-pom pretties "gave their all for the team."  You may have seen it - we won't judge - under its other titles: Locker Room Girls and H.O.T.S. II.  The movie was part of a series of films based on the notion of sexually loose cheerleaders.  Turns out there is a market for that.  

The gals really have their own issues to work through, so there's not much time for cheerleading.  There is, however, plenty of time for campus intrigue, scandal and conversations about the value of virginity.  It's not quite Cinemax After Dark, but it helped start the ball rolling.

For pairing purposes, the Cheerleader cocktail just won't do.  I'm not drinking a cocktail which involves putting a popsicle into a flute, and I won't expect you to do it either.  Cheerwine is probably available at your local specialty market, but it's a soda.  I'm certainly not going to Etsy to spend good money on a cheerleader skirt for my wine bottle.  Turns out there's a market for that, too.  

Let's give the holiday spirit its due.  Mulled wine.  Oregon's Honeywood Winery saves you the agony of ruining a perfectly good bottle of red by doing it for you.  Have a good time at the Dickens Festival.  Bottoms up, and no, that's not a cheerleader pun. 

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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Licensed To Put Wine In Cans

Licence IV is the permit in France given to cafes, restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs which allows them to serve alcohol.  There is no wonder that the sign is a welcome sight - it means refreshment, relaxation, fun and friends are inside.

This wine takes its name - and logo - from those signs.  It is a Muscadet wine, made entirely of Melon de Bourgogne grapes from the Loire Valley, fermented in stainless steel and aged on its lees in concrete tanks.  It is available in 1-liter bottles or the four-pack of lightweight cans, 250ml each.

This canned wine pours up with a nice straw-yellow appearance in the glass.  The nose is mineral-driven, with traces of peach and apricot in the whiff.  The palate also brings the minerality, with great citrus notes and an acidity that is really fresh.  It is an easy-to-sip wine, but it will pair nicely with any kind of salad or seafood dish.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Nebbiolo Wine

People sometimes don't think that wine importers are very important, that all they do is have crates of wine shipped in from who-knows-where to be peddled on the shelves in the lower reaches.  While that may be true for some, the best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the product to us.  Great importers like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise - are as important and as recognizable as great producers.  Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a price that is more than fair.  Founded in 1939, the company expanded to the Miami office nine years ago.  They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.  Their choices are nearly always right on the money, for taste and value.

The 2017 Riva Leone Barbaresco comes from Italy's Piedmont region, where the Barbaresco DOCG is located.  The wine was made completely from Nebbiolo grapes.  The wine was aged for one year in American and French oak barrels, then half the wine was aged that way for another 12 months.  Alcohol ticks 14% abv and the retail price tag reads $25.

This fine Italian wine has a medium ruby tint.  Its nose is dark, full of plum, black cherry, strawberry, flowers and earth notes.  The fruit really comes through on the palate, along with some oak spice.  The acidity is racy, the tannins firm.  It is perfect for pairing with mushroom dishes, and it will also pair nicely with your holiday feast.

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Monday, December 6, 2021

Beautiful Rhônish Wine From Paso Robles

Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles was founded by the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas of Vineyard Brands.  They are dedicated to grape varieties of the Rhône Valley.

The 2020 Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas Blanc is made up of 40% Grenache Blanc, 21% Viognier, 19% Roussanne, 15% Marsanne and 5% Clairette Blanche - sourced from various Paso Robles vineyards which lean in the Rhône direction.  For this wine, those vineyards are Derby, Tablas Creek, Fralich, Creston Ridge and M du R.

They say the wine "marries the richness and vibrancy of Grenache Blanc with the aromatics of Viognier and the structure and minerality of Marsanne, Roussanne and Clairette Blanche."

Alcohol tips in at 13% abv and the wine cost around $25 when I bought it recently at a local specialty store.

The golden tint has a green element to it.  The wine's nose is a veritable fruit basket of tropical aromas - pineapple, mango, lemons - and a quarry full of minerals.  The mouthfeel is rich and creamy, yet with a zing of acidity that tingles.  The palate brings Meyer lemon, some tangerine and a touch of apricot to the party.  Delicious. 

The red version - the 2019 Patelin de Tablas - is a blend of four red Rhône varietals: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Counoise. They say it is "based on the dark fruit, mineral and spice of Syrah, with the brightness and fresh acidity of Grenache, the structure and meatiness of Mourvèdre and small additions of Counoise for complexity."

The rouge is medium dark, but light enough that I can see through it.  The nose displays brambly blackberry and black cherry.  On the palate, blackberry and blueberry notes are right up front.  It is very fresh and fruity, and I hardly notice any oak effect at all, although it was fermented in oak and steel and aged for a year in upright oak tanks.  The wine drinks quite smoothly, with tannins that are fairly firm.  The medium finish is all about the fruit.

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Friday, December 3, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Fun With Simians

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 go ape over some monkey movies.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes was 1971's sci-fi followup to Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  It was the third of the four-film series.  A fifth one - Get Me The Hell Off the Planet of the Apes - never materialized.

This one is more character-driven than its predecessors.  There are really only a few actors in monkey make-up, including the stars Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter.  The movie touches on several social issues of the day.  It must have been hard to present a serious argument for or against something while made up to look like an ape.

The chimps escape the destruction of the earth in a spaceship and go through a sort of ripple in time that lands them in the 1970s, just as the earth's pop music was beginning to turn bad.  They seem to ignore the tectonic shift that replaced The Beatles with ABBA, while serving as simian lab rats at the Los Angeles Zoo.  Yeah, I didn't know that stuff was going on there, either.  The next time I'm at the monkey house, I'm going to ask to interview the talking apes.

The Bored Wine Company has found a way to mix wine, monkeys and non-fungible tokens.  How does it taste?  Who knows if it even does?  This website is on the ".xyz" domain, so anything is possible.  Nice monkeys on the labels, anyway. 

Just nine months after the release of King Kong, the movie gave birth to a sequel.  Son of Kong is a 1933 film which takes a group of treasure seekers - including Kong's original abductor - back to Skull Island.  There they encounter an albino monkey which they believe is Kong's son.  It's a pre-code movie, by the way, so the big ape doesn't even have to wear pants.    

Kong's kid turns out to be a real mensch, assisting the team by fighting off dinosaurs and saving a drowning man.  Spoiler Alert: he couldn't save himself.

Son of Kong was riddled with humor, which was explained by the writer with the adage that if you can't make something better, make it funnier.  Nowadays, that notion has escalated to "if you can't make something funny, make it filthy."  I save my cursing for the other drivers around me.

Colorado has a winery called The Infinite Monkey Theorem, and they make a Cabernet Franc for $30 that comes with a picture of a monkey on the label, no extra charge.  You can imagine him as an oversized albino, if you like.

1942's Dr. Renault's Secret is a mashup of horror, mystery and sci-fi movies.  A French doctor's assistant happens to be the result of the doc's experiments which turned an ape into a man.  I suppose that's one way to get cheap help - make it yourself.  The good doctor - or mad scientist, if you prefer - should have checked with Dr. Frankenstein about how that trick usually plays out.  

The movie comes complete with a washed-out bridge, an unexpected stay at a mysterious inn, unexplained murders and an ape in the backstory.  It's a real shame about that little dog, but it's an even bigger shame about the poor monkey that was recast as a human.  He didn't deserve that fate.  

We could pair Dr. Renault's Secret with a New Jersey namesake wine.  Renault Winery is also a resort, if the Garden State is your idea of a vacation destination.  We'll ignore the website pic which shows a guy sabering a bottle of sparkling wine with what appears to be a dinner knife.  Also ignoring: their reference to the bubbly as an American champagne.  Champagne comes from Champagne, not New Jersey.  Oops, I guess I didn't really ignore it, did I?  Try the blueberry sparkler, or the Merlot.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Big Red Wine From Chile

Primus claims to be the first of its kind, a marriage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère, the two main red grapes of Chile.  The winemaking team at Primus have every right to be proud of their work.  Winemaker Sofía Araya and Agriculture Manager José Aguirre helped to transition Primus into an all-organic winery.

The 2018 vintage of Primus The Blend was made from five different grape varieties, all grown in Apalta, in Chile's Colchagua Valley.  The mix is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carménère, 10% Syrah, 10 % Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc.  The vintage featured a rainy winter and a temperate summer, allowing for a good, long growing season.  The wine was aged twelve months in French oak, two-thirds of it in barrels and one-third in big vats.  Alcohol hits only 13.5% abv while the retail price is a mere $19.

The blend pours up to a medium-dark garnet color.  Aromas of cassis, tobacco and spice are up front on the nose, with a hint of bell pepper in the background.  The fruit is juicy on the palate, with jammy black and red berries and a stout set of tannins.  This wine was made for steak, the bigger the better. 

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Monday, November 29, 2021

Pinot Grigio From Sicily - They Should All Be Like This One

People sometimes don't think that wine importers are very important, that all they do is have crates of wine shipped in from who-knows-where to be peddled on the shelves in the lower reaches.  While that may be true for some, the best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the product to us.  Great importers like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise - are as important and as recognizable as great producers.  

Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a price that is more than fair.  Founded in 1939, the company expanded to the Miami office eight years ago.  They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

The 2020 Barone Montalto Pinot Grigio is a full varietal Pinot Grigio, grown and made on the Italian island of Sicily.  The appellation is Sicilia IGT.  These grapes were turned into wine in stainless steel tanks, where they also aged for two months before bottling.  Alcohol touches 12% abv and the retail price is just $12.  

The wine appears as a very pale yellow in the glass.  Its nose suggests citrus and minerals more than flowers and fruit.  The aromas come across as a savory salinity, not the dainty sweetness which afflicts many Pinot Grigio wines.  The palate follows suit, with a bit of the sea in the flavor profile that centers largely on limes, lemons and grapefruit.  The finish is medium long and the minerals are the lasting impression.  The acidity is zippy and fresh enough for seafood and salad pairings.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Post Apocalypse Follies

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 what our landscape might look like had something in the past gone terribly wrong.

The backstory behind 1998's Six-String Samurai is a Russian nuclear victory over the U.S. in 1957.  There aren't many places left that can support life, but one of them is a place called Lost Vegas.  Wouldn't it figure that post-apocalypse life in America would be centered in the remnants of Sin City?  The whirlwind story focuses on Buddy (Holly?) as he travels across the desert to try and become the new King of Rock and Roll, after the death of King Elvis.  

Like a topping on a dessert, the soundtrack is performed by the Red Elvises, a sort of Russian rockabilly outfit you may have seen in one small Los Angeles club or another back in the mid-'90s.  

Buddy's mission sees him hindered by car trouble, cannibals, a vicious bowling team and a rival guitarist named Death in a seemingly endless series of setbacks.  It's the bowling team that scares me the most.  For reasons I do not recall, I spent time in bowling alleys decades ago in southeast Texas - in the lanes, in the bars and even back where the pins were reset - and I remember the ladies league play during afternoon hours being particularly dicey times.

Anyway, no spoiler alert here - you’ll have to watch Six-String Samurai yourself to find out who claims the King's thorny crown.  

The wine pairing for Six-String Samurai could easily be the Austrian Rockabilly Riesling, but they probably haven't gotten their container ship back, so procuring it may be a problem.  Let's look at Canada's Nostalgia Wines and their Rockabilly Red - they also have Boogie Woogie White and Pink Cadillac, if you find yourself so taken by the marketing effort.  Rockabilly Red cannot possibly be worth the $27 it costs, but hey, it has a nice label.

1979's Mad Max began what was to become a popular and critically acclaimed franchise.  The movie spawned sequels, video games and comic books - er, graphic novels.  The setting is Australia, devastated by war and crippled by shortages of life's staples.  During the pandemic, some likely recalled this film as they stared at empty supermarket shelves, devoid of toilet paper, bottled water and good, moderately priced Champagne.

The story is a gritty one, detailing a former cop's life as he wanders the Outback after avenging his family's murder by a biker gang.  Mel Gibson used his role in this film (and two sequels) to springboard to stardom.

If it's Mad Max, you'll want a fortified wine, preferably one from Australia.  Harkham Wine sells a Mad Max vintage Port from Hunter Valley.  Of course, everyone knows that you don't call it Port unless it was made in Portugal - this is a Port-style wine.  The wine is not kosher, but neither is cultural appropriation.

The Road Warrior is the name given to Mad Max 2 in the U.S.  The setting stayed in the Outback, but the Western template showed our hero helping a community fight off the roving bands of bad guys.  If your nickname is Mad Max, it's a foregone conclusion that you are either a helpful road warrior or a person shouting at unseen entities on the street corner.  Sometimes both.

Since we were thinking of Port, let's have the genuine article.  Warre's Warrior Port has been in continuous production for some 270-odd years.  It is British by way of Portugal, it tastes really good, and the empty bottle could come in handy if any roving bands of bad guys show up at your viewing party.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

From A High Hill In Paso Robles - Alta Colina Wines

A recent virtual tasting event gave me the chance to sample some of the latest releases from Alta Colina winery.  They are based in Paso Robles' Adelaida District at a nice elevation.  In fact, their name translates as "high hill."  The event was hosted by Stacie Jacob, with Mike Dawson of Solterra Strategies also on the Zoom call.  

The stars of the tasting were Bob and Maggie Tillman, the father-daughter team who run the business.  Winemaking is handled by relative newcomer Molly Lonborg.  Bob commented at the outset of the session that Alta Colina is his "retirement program run amok."  He has been at it for 18 years now.  He says he just started making wine, "and it got out of hand."

Alta Colina grows Rhône grapes on their estate, organically farmed.  The grapes are not organic, because he has never gone for accreditation.  Says Molly, "Organic is a philosophy, not a marketing tool."

The 2020 Alta Colina Grenache Blanc Estate Bottled is all white Grenache, a 50/50 blend of tank- and barrel-fermented Grenache Blanc.  The wine has a pale yellow tint and a nose of citrus and minerals - akin to the smell of a wet sidewalk.  On the palate are pear, honeydew and peach flavors delivered with a full mouthfeel and a fresh and lively acidity.  Pairing suggestions include manchego cheese and paella, although it is so versatile that you can let your imagination run wild.

The 2019 Alta Colina Claudia Cuvée Marsanne is also a varietal wine.  Bob says it was named after his mother, who was a big fan of white wines.  Claudia Cuvée was aged in oak for 16 months.  It's a blend of all four white Rhône varieties that they grow, Marsanne leading the way for Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier.  Molly says she focused on the texture of the wine while making it.  Try it with Alpine style cheese or lobster dishes.

Their 2018 GSM Grenache Blend boasts 73% Grenache grapes, 15% Mourvèdre and 12% Syrah.  It's not an oak-forward wine - they say they let the grapes do the talking.  It only had six months aging in oak, and another year in the bottle.  It shows.  This is a very fresh and fruit-forward wine, with ripe, red fruit in front.  Molly explained that the Grenache drives the palate for the fruit experience, the Mourvedre is for earthy notes and Syrah takes care of the backbone.  A creamy cheese, like Cambozola goes well with it, or wild mushrooms.

Alta Colina's 2018 Old 900 Syrah contains 96% Syrah grapes, with 2% splashes of Grenache and Viognier.  Molly said that they do co-ferment with Viognier, but this wine was blended after the fact.  Old 900 was the name of the Bomber Bob's father flew in WWII.  The grapes came from a north facing vineyard plot, rather than the Toasted Slope vineyard plot, which is south facing.  The color is very dark and the nose shows cassis, blackberry, blueberry, black pepper and a hint of bacon.  The palate is delightfully earthy and the finish is lengthy and savory.  Have some blue cheese on hand for this, or maybe braised short ribs.  

Monday, November 22, 2021

Albariño For Tapas-giving, With Recipes

The folks promoting Rias Baixas wines - Albariño, from Spain's northwestern corner - have sent some ideas on how to have a Tapasgiving this year.  They tapped Chef Albert Bevia from Spain on a Fork to curate a Spanish tapas recipe menu inspired by traditional Thanksgiving dishes for the upcoming holiday celebrations with family and friends. 

Chef Albert's Tapasgiving twist on American classics offers the perfect opportunity to shake up the Thanksgiving table, and they pair exceptionally well with a bottle of Albariño.  Click here for more on Albariño wines and for the recipes: Sauteed Garlic Pumpkin, Stuffed Mushrooms with Manchego Cheese and Breadcrumbs and Spanish Garlic Shrimp with Grapes.  Albariño is a great wine for pairing with a variety of foods, so it's perfect for the Thanks - er- Tapasgiving table.  

Paco & Lola Albariño Rias Baixas

The O Rosal part of Rias Baixas is home to Paco & Lola Albariño.  It's a little piece of land butted up against the Miño River to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.  The grapes were estate-grown and vinified to 13% abv.  The 2020 vintage is selling for about $18.  In a nod to their labeling, the winery boasts that they are "the polka-dot wine."

An earthy nose masks the floral arrangement one expects.  There are some herbal elements there, but more along savory lines.  The palate shows apples, peaches and a shovel of the earth of Rías Baixas.  Nice acidity and a pleasantly earthy finish cap a wonderfully different style for the region.    

La Val Albariño Rias Baixas

La Val was founded in 1985.  Most of the grapes they use are estate grown, which is somewhat unusual for Rias Baixas.  Many producers buy grapes from other growers.  La Val winemaker Jose Maria Ureta vinfied this wine to 12.5% abv, and it sells for around $15.

This wine also has an earthy tone to its nose, but not as strong as Paco & Lalo.  The citrus aromas come through nicely and are accompanied by a light floral bouquet.  The palate is loaded with lemon and lime and the acidity is gentle enough to pair with something spicy.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - There Are 8 Million Stories...

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 head to the East Coast to take a bite out of the Big Apple.  Here are three films which deal with NYC's gritty, noirish image - with wine pairings for each.

Just one of those famously mentioned eight million stories was this one, 1948's The Naked City.  The film follows around a New York detective as he tries to solve a murder.  The famously mentioned tag line - "There are eight million stories in the naked city.  This has been one of them" - was also used in the television series adapted from the movie.

Like any good police procedural, The Naked City mixes in some exciting cops'n'robbers action with the tedium that is detective work.  Jack Webb would later boil out most of the excitement for Dragnet, which centered on the boredom of a police officer's workaday life.

The Naked City was directed by Jules Dassin, who would later be a victim of the Hollywood blacklist.  He exiled himself to Europe, where his career continued.  Today he is noted as a top director of crime drama.  The Naked City was well received at the time of its release, a box office hit - and is regarded now as a fine example of film noir.

If you are ever in Seattle, you can stop in to the Naked City Brewery and Taphouse, which borrows a noirish gangster silhouette for its logo.  An Australian Naked City Wine has left us, unfortunately, letting its trademark lapse into bureaucratic red tape.  The Naked Wines club may get you a little too involved, but it does sound like a good deal.  However, when have you heard a sales pitch that makes the product sound like a bad deal?

The Killer That Stalked New York came out in 1950, a couple of years after a magazine article scared everybody stiff about the possible effect of a smallpox outbreak in the Big Apple.  A diamond thief returns from Cuba and starts infecting everyone she encounters.  Officials try to get everyone vaccinated - uh oh - but the demand is so high they run out of doses.  Wait, what?  Everyone wanted the vaccine?  This movie must have been mislabeled as film noir instead of fantasy.  The guvmint ain’t gonna tell me whether I can have smallpox or not!

There were some stories a few years back that resveratrol - an ingredient in red wine - might be able to stem the growth of pox viruses.  That, along with all the other wonderful effects supposedly found in resveratrol is, for me, a good enough reason to raise a glass.  

If you have a hard time swallowing the idea of a vaccine that is universally desired, maybe you'd like Pessimist, from Paso Robles' Daou Vineyards.  The blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Syrah and Grenache probably has enough resveratrol in it to give a semi-medical benefit to the sipper.  Hold on, there - now ya tryin’ ta put the vaccine in mah wine? Imma have to switch back to Bud Light - or mebbe try that White Claw that I stumble over in the store.

1960's Blast of Silence was a movie of many hats.  The director also wrote it and starred in it; the producer was the cinematographer.  I heard that the gaffer also gave his opinion on the lighting, which may be a union problem.  

The movie is about a hitman with mental problems - as opposed to a normal, well-adjusted hitman.  He has a job to do in NYC, but he rambles around his hometown for awhile before getting down to business.  I always thought hitmen tried to lay low, but this guy makes new friends, runs into old flames and generally gets around town a lot for a man who wants to be invisible.  He also tries to get his bosses to release him from the gig - good luck with that, buddy.

If you are a gamer, you might enjoy Hitman 3, the highest level of which is called Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina.  Seems that many not-so-well-adjusted players are using the game to put people in the wine press.  Now that makes a full-bodied red.  There are a number of urban wineries in New York, but how many of them could be called "gritty?"  Not many, I'm guessing.  At least Brooklyn Winery is said to have a "speakeasy vibe."  

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A Throwback Chardonnay From Sonoma-Cutrer

Sonoma-Cutrer is celebrating 40 years of marrying Burgundy with California.  They have a trophy case full of awards their wines have won over the past three decades.

Sonoma-Cutrer The Cutrer Chardonnay 2019

This Chardonnay cuvée from Sonoma-Cutrer is all Chardonnay.  The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation during its time in barrels, where it lay on the spent yeast cells for five months  Another eight months of aging took place in older barrels, and then there were three more months in the bottle.  Alcohol tips 14.1% abv and the retail price is $35.

This Chardonnay has a golden tint in the glass, and is quite clear, too.  The nose displays oak, imparted during the 13 months or so it spent in barrels.  Underneath the wood lies some beautiful fruit - pears, peaches, pineapples, lemons.  The mouthfeel is creamy - expected with full malolactic fermentation - and yet a racy acidity flows behind it.  There is definitely a buttery note on the sip, one that harkens back to a different time for California Chardonnay.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Sweet Bubbles Of Italy!

The Acquesi winery is located in the Piedmont region of Italy.  Their sparkling wine house, Cuvage, utilizes the method of making bubbles that was devised in 1895 by Federico Martinotti.  

The Acquesi Asti Spumante is from the Friuli appellation of Piedmont, and is made from 100% Moscato Bianco di Canelli grapes.  The label is pretty and the wine's alcohol content clocks in at only 7% abv, with a retail price of $17.

This sparkler has fun, frothy bubbles which disappear quickly, so enjoy them while they are there.  The nose is beautiful - peaches, pears, white flowers - very aromatic.  On the palate, a trip to sweetsville awaits.  All the fruit mentioned is there plus a slight touch of Meyer lemon.  There's nothing to think about here - just sip and enjoy.  If you are looking for a crowd pleasing aperitif for holiday dinners, this is a fine choice. 

The Ca' di Prata Brut Prosecco comes from the village of Prata di Pordenone, in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, Prosecco DOC.  This bubbly was also made using the Martinotti method.  The grapes which went into it are Glera (85%) and the remainder is attributed only as "other."  Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks for this non-vintage wine.  Alcohol tips 11% abv and the retail price is $16.

In the glass, this Prosecco has a pale yellow tint.  The bubbles froth up nicely, but completely disappear almost immediately.  The subdued nose features mainly citrus and minerals, with a slight floral note adding some depth.  The mineral-driven palate is clean and fresh and has a nice sweetness on the back end.  The acidity is lively and adds some versatility.

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Friday, November 12, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Counterculture Blues

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 let our freak flag fly with three movies set in the turbulent times of the late 1960s - when pot was a protest, music was magical and all California wine was from Napa.

The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart was released in 1970, a year which may have said "70s" but really was still "60s."  The movie is about a New York City college student - Stanley Sweetheart - who is trying to navigate the confusing road of sex, drugs and getting along in the late '60s.  Stanley rambles around in his druggy way, bouncing from one meaningless relationship to the next.  You remember how it was in college, right?  Don Johnson got his first lead role in the movie, years before he wore his jacket sleeves pushed up in Miami Vice.

Critics almost universally panned the film and the public stayed away from it as if it was contagious.  The only person who apparently went on the record with a positive review was Andy Warhol, who called it the best studio film ever made about 1960s counterculture.  The theme song - "Sweet Gingerbread Man" - was performed by elevator-music-specialists The Mike Curb Congregation, not exactly a group with counterculture bona fides.

Sounds like it's time for a wine pairing for Stanley Sweetheart.  If you were in college when Stanley was, you may have a passing acquaintance with a little thing we called Boone's Farm.  They still make it - "they" being Ernest and Julio Gallo.  If you went to college in the '80s, just go grab a four-pack of their Bartles & Jaymes Wine Coolers.  Those are back on the shelves, too.

1970 also brought us Zabriskie Point, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.  This movie takes us on a wild ride of student protests, racial friction and the sexual revolution, with the awesome spectacle of the Mojave Desert as a backdrop.  

Some of the scenes were shot in Death Valley, the place called Zabriskie Point, where a sort of outdoor orgy takes place in the film.  The film features sex, violence and music that sounds a lot more counterculture than the Mike Curb Congregation.  The soundtrack fares better than that of Stanley Sweetheart, with some genuine counterculture figures like Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead.  As with Stanley Sweetheart, everybody hated the film at the time, but it has grown a following over the years, largely because of the cinematography and Antonioni's direction.  Oh, and the Grateful Dead.

How about pairing a desert wine with Zabriskie Point?  That’s d-e-s-e-r-t, not dessert wine.  Skip over to Nevada, to dear ol' Pahrump.  Pahrump Valley Winery has a Riesling that’s great on ice, but in the desert, anything is great on ice.  

F.T.A. is a 1972 documentary featuring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland - now we're getting somewhere with this counterculture thing.

The movie follows the FTA Tour, a response to Bob Hope's USO shows.  FTA was defined by the U.S. Army in its recruitment material as "Fun, Travel and Adventure."  The movie presents the initials the way G.I.s defined it - F*ck The Army.  Say it loud, they’re bitter and they’re proud.  "The FTA Song" ended with the words - not the letters - in its title.

F.T.A. was no doubt seen by the USO crowd as anti-American, but the American military men who saw the shows gave it their full-throated approval when the performers of "The FTA Song" gave them their chance to shout out the last line with them.  There's little doubt that the soldiers meant those words.

A wine to pair with F.T.A. should be one with a protesting attitude, and we happen to have one right here.  At least the maker of Protest, Sonoma County's Chateau Diana, says it shows a bit of a 'tude.  It is made from Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot and just a splash of Cab, so it already sounds like a handful.  It could be one of those rare wines which display a whiff of a burning police car on the nose.  

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A Bargain Wine From Chile

Veramonte Winery is located in Chile's Casablanca Valley, but over the years they have expanded with vineyards also in the Colchagua Valley.  Casablanca is a great locale for white wines and cool-climate reds, while the Colchagua Valley is warmer.  The winery follows organic practices and has a certificate stating so.  Their importer, Gonzalez Byass, says Veramonte's farming is free of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizer.  The feeling among the Veramonte staff is that living, balanced soil makes quality grapes.

Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Reserva 2019

The 2019 Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon is made from 100% Cabernet grapes, then aged in neutral oak for eight months.  The vintage had scarce precipitation, but the winery chiefs seem happy with it nonetheless.  Alcohol tips 14% abv and the wine retails for $12.

This wine looks medium-dark in the glass, a deep ruby color.  The nose is rather rustic, especially for a Cab.  That quality could possibly be due to a limited time in oak, for a Cabernet, only eight months.  There is currant in there, along with bramble and a strong minerality.  The palate is on the rough’n’tumble side, with dark berry flavors  and earthiness showing.  The finish lingers and brings the savory side back for a revisit. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

International Sherry Week - With Pie

When the holidays roll around, sherry comes to mind.  It is festive, often sweet and pairs well with things like pumpkin and pecan pies.  There's no reason to relegate sherry to only the the holiday season, but it seems to be a little more welcome at this time.

In fact, International Sherry Week begins today, November 8, 2021.  It's the perfect excuse to get to know Sherry better.  There are so many styles of sherry from which to choose and so many pairings, especially at Thanksgiving, that maybe you could use a little help.  The folks at Gonzalez Byass - Spain's most well-known sherry producer - suggest a few ways to enjoy sherry in its different forms, with pie.   

Apple Pie with Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso  
This sherry is produced from 100% Palomino grapes and is significantly drier than Apple Pie, but the toasty flavors pair nicely with the sugar to provide a contrasting taste that is not cloying. The nutty character of the Alfonso pairs perfectly with the cinnamon and clove spices of the Apple Pie.  18% abv, $17

Pecan Pie with Harveys The Bristol Cream
This sherry is produced from a blend of 80% Palomino and 20% Pedro Ximénez grapes.  Its semi-sweet, velvety character enhances the nuttiness in both the pie and the Sherry.  17.5% abv, $20

Texas Two Step (a pecan and chocolate brownie pie) with Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 Cream
This sherry is produced from a blend of 75% Palomino and 25% Pedro Ximénez grapes.  It adds a touch of sweetness and pairs nicely with the nuttiness and the not-too-sweet chocolate in this pie.  18% abv, $17

Cherry Pie with Gonzalez Byass Néctar Pedro Ximenez  
This sherry is produced from 100% Pedro Ximénez grapes.  It brings with it aromas of candied fruit, figs and raisins and offers a good contrast to the tart cherry flavors of the pie.  15% abv, $17

Harveys the Bristol Cream has been billing itself that way since 1882, when wine merchant John Harvey was importing what was known as Bristol milk, named after the British port city through which it passed on its way from Jerez, Spain.  It's a sherry, not a liqueur, and it is the only Spanish product with a Royal Warrant from the Queen of England, which was issued in 1895.

This sherry is a blend of four different sherries from the solera, the racks of barrels where sherry is aged for up to two decades.  The four sherries used in Harveys Bristol Cream - Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez - are of different ages, all made from 80% Palomino grapes and 20% Pedro Ximénez, in the home of sherry, Jerez, Spain.

The company advises you to serve The Bristol Cream "chilled or over ice in a wine glass with a slice of orange."  The iconic blue glass bottle now has one of those labels with a logo that turns blue when the perfect serving temperature is reached.  It carries an alcohol content of 17.5% abv and retails for about $20.  As you can see by the picture, I had mine at room temperature - no blue letters.

This sherry has a gorgeous chestnut brown color and an aromatic nose for days.  Raisins, brown sugar, dried apricots.  It's all on the palate, too - complex in an easy-to-understand way.  The sip is smooth but the acidity is quite useful if you want to pair it with food. Try it with banana nut bread, ginger snaps or pumpkin pie.  By the way, the finish won't stop. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - More Monsters

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  Remnants of Halloween candy wrappers still litter the floor and the jack-o-lantern on the porch has not yet been completely consumed by the squirrels, so we’re still in the mood for a few more monster movies.  There will be pairing opportunities, of course.

Frankenstein Conquers the World is a 1965 kaiju film, the Japanese genre of films featuring giant monsters.  The genre has given us wonders like Godzilla and Mothra, but this one gets a little weird.

So the story goes, the heart of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster was taken to Hiroshima in WWII by the Nazis, see, right about the time the atomic bombs fell.  The heart was blasted by radiation, see, and a new version of The Monster was created.  He is now called Frankenstein.  He acts as a traveling wrecking crew, but he’s really just out looking for something to eat.  Hangry, I guess.

Meanwhile, back at the earthquake, another monster is spotted emerging from a split in the ground.  He is called Baragon.  As if you couldn’t see it coming, the two monsters square off in a climactic battle royale to end the picture.  Fade to black, roll credits.  Some Japanese pop culture just seems weird to me - Hello Kitty, I’m looking at you - but kaiju movies have never failed to entertain.

There is a Kaiju! Beer, from Australia, which represents their monsters more along the lines of psychedelic eyeball Minions than Godzillas.  Their creations don’t rise from nuclear waste, but they have been known to take the use of hops to the extreme.  My kind of giant monster.  If you are really taken with the eyeball theme, try Eyeball Monster Sake, if the shirimes haven’t bought out the store.

In 1981, The Evil Dead took the old cabin-in-the-woods routine and made it the setting for one of the most prolific horror franchises ever.  Creator Sam Raimi no doubt believed in this movie, but he could not have imagined just how successful it would be.  The Evil Dead spawned several sequels, a television series, a video game and an off-Broadway musical.  Gore was the central theme in all its various permutations.  

Another beer?  Have an Evil Dead Red from San Diego’s Alesmith Brewing Company.  They promise the amber beer will make you scream - with delight.

One of those sequels we mentioned was cleverly titled Evil Dead 2.  It came out in 1987, but we have to wonder why it took six years to hit that cash register button.  The gore is still there, but a bit of comic relief was mixed in and it stayed in the recipe.  Who doesn’t love their blood-soaked horror served up with some laughs?

You’ll want this wine for Evil Dead 2 - or any of the original film’s offspring.  Hob Nob Wicked Red has a wonderful skull on the label.  The French Pays d’Oc wine may not be a 100-pointer, and it may not be truly evil, but at least it’s cheap.

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