Friday, October 15, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Spooks Run Wild

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 feel those trick-or-treaters breathing down our necks with a few comical ghost stories.

1964 brought us The Comedy of Terrors from American International Pictures.  Mixing comedy and horror makes me think of the clock radio analogy I have mentioned before - you either get a good clock or a good radio.  AIP, though, had a way with the genre, and the heavyweight names who made it work - Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone.  They got most of the Tales of Terror gang back together for this one.

The 19th century yarn centers on felons, miscreants and a drunk undertaker who drums up his own business and has only one coffin - which he recycles.  Love plays a role, too, as Joyce Jameson ends up involved in the farce.  You may remember her as the Marilyn Monroe wannabe in The Apartment or as one of the fun girls from Andy Griffith.  The older actors all play their roles with a generous portion of camp, as if they felt it may be their last chance to shine.  The movie didn't exactly get rave reviews at the time, but online raters seem to be warming to it in this century.

I'd love to pair a wine from the Vincent Price Signature Wine Collection with The Comedy of Terrors, but they seem to be unavailable these days.  Price was quite the food and wine aficionado, and he liked his wines simple but elegant.  Go for Joseph Drouhin Macon-Villages, a beautiful Chardonnay which can be had for under $15.

From 1966, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken features the great Don Knotts in his prime, surrounded by a host of the best character actors who were working at the time.  The movie was inspired by the "Haunted House" episode of The Andy Griffith Show.  It was Griffith's idea to fashion the movie as a Knotts vehicle.  Knotts plays a wannabe reporter who is assigned to spend the night in a supposedly haunted house.  

The movie poster promised that viewers would be scared until they laughed themselves silly.  The horror never really materializes, but the laughs are there, thanks to Knotts' shaky scaredy-cat persona.  Attaboy, Luther!

I may be reaching a bit, but a wine pairing from a winery in Mt. Airy, N.C. just feels right.  It was Griffith's hometown and the inspiration for TV's Mayberry.  I think Knotts would nervously agree, shaking his head and hands as his "old salt'n'pepper" sport coat swallowed him.  Round Peak Vineyards has a full menu of wines - dry and sweet - and uses good ol' American Appalachian oak for its aging barrels.

The Banana Monster was originally titled Shlock when a very young TFH Guru John Landis made it in 1971.  He also starred in it, wearing a gorilla suit designed by none other than seven-time Oscar winner Rick Baker.  Landis explains that after his success with Animal House, the distributor revived it with the new title.  People didn't like it under either name and stayed away in droves.  It is notable mainly for Landis being perhaps the skinniest gorilla you have ever seen. Jump cut to the drinks.

Banana wine is an obvious choice here, but you apparently have to make your own - nobody seems to sell it pre-made.  Hmm, I wonder why?  Here's an idea: Banana Schnapps.  Listen, it was good enough for your high school hip flask.  You're watching Schlock and complaining about drinking Schnapps?  A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, you know.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A White Wine For An Al Fresco Lunch

One of life's great pleasures is having a lunch outdoors when the winter weather starts turning warm for spring.  It works in reverse, too.  We had a wonderful lunch recently when the temperatures in Southern California dropped enough to make it comfortable on a dining patio.  In each case, a good white wine is mandatory - for me, anyway.

The Alexandre Sirech 2019 Les Deux Terroirs is a white wine blend, made from 70% Colombard, 20% Ugni Blanc and 10% Gros Manseng.  These are grapes that most people probably don't get to taste very often, if at all.  Colombard was originally used in France in the making of Cognac.

These grapes were grown in the Gironde region of Bordeaux and the Côtes de Gascogne in Southwest France.  The winery says that one of the vineyards is on a gravelly plateau overlooking the Pyrenees Mountains.  No oak was used in the making of the wine, alcohol tips 11.5% abv and it sells for $22 a bottle where I live.

This lightly tinted, greenish wine brings a nose that is heavy on the minerals, with citrus and a slight floral aspect.  The aroma is dominated by a beautiful savory sense.  The palate is mineral-laden, and has a flinty salinity and a savory finish.  The nice acidity makes it a great wine to pair with seafood.  I had mine with a lovely quiche Lorraine at Monsiour Marcel’s in L.A.’s Farmers Market.  My wife loved it and immediately wanted to make a cocktail with it, using Creme de Cassis.  We may just do that.  


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Monday, October 11, 2021

And Now, An IPA From Santa Monica

There are very few songs written about Santa Monica, California, probably because it's tough to find a word which rhymes with it, other than harmonica.  Not a deep well of inspiration, there. 

However, there may be an ode or two written about the beer.  Santa Monica Brew Works makes what they call the Head in the Clouds Double IPA.  That may be a left-handed way of saluting the left-leaning populace there, or it may reflect the general attitude of those who have an ocean readily available to them for their daily inspiration.  Either way, it works.

Labeled as "juicy" and "beach brewed," the former claim nails it.  The latter, though, suffers a bit since the Colorado Avenue location is a good 19 blocks from Santa Monica Bay.  To be fair, when I lived in Santa Monica I was 21 blocks from the beach and, due to the elevation, could still see the water.

The hops used in Head in the Clouds are listed as Citra, Mosaic, Summit and Wakatu.  Alcohol sits at 8.5% abv and my 4-pack of pint cans came from Trader Joe's.  It is a hoppy brew which the label claims was "brewed for the dreamers who seek an elevated beer experience."  Elevate away, Santa Monica.

The head is half a finger of off-white foam.  The nose displays a lot of citrus and a nice pine element, too.  The palate is on the bitter side, but very juicy - as billed - and quite refreshing.  The finish lingers nicely and has a nutty aftertaste.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Friday, October 8, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Down Under With BTS

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week TFH Guru Brian Trenchard-Smith takes us on a cinematic journey to The Land Down Under..  Of course, there are wine pairings for each.

The Nightingale is a 2018 Australian western set in the penal colonies of Van Diemen's Land, an island now known as Tasmania.  The British, in the 19th century, sent their hardened criminals to the colonies instead of incarcerating them in that blessed plot, that earth, that realm, that England.  They might have used the American colonies as their criminal dumping ground, had it not been for a little thing called the Revolutionary War.  "No thanks, England.  We have our own criminals to put behind bars!"  "Right, yes, that island down under, that will do."

The film centers on an Irish woman's search for revenge against British military officers who attacked her and her family.  Oh, yeah, she's angry.  She teams up with an Aboriginal tracker and sets out to beat the brush, looking for those responsible.  Woe be to those who have incurred her wrath.

There happens to be a wine which seems tailor-made for The Nightingale19 Crimes features wine labels depicting an array of criminals who received "punishment by transportation."  There is even an app which allows one to hear their stories through a code on the label.  It also seems that Snoop is now connected with the company.  There is no mention of what crimes he copped to, except that of shilling his Cali Rosé while wearing a hoodie.

The 1940 war film, 40,000 Horsemen, focuses on several young members of the Australian Light Horse, a cavalry on horseback, which played a big role in several battles of WWI.  They fought - and defeated - the enemy in the Sinai desert, staging what was reportedly the "last successful cavalry charge in history."

It's not all horseplay, of course.  There is a love angle which involves a fair maiden who has an eye for the mounted military man.  The romance blossoms after the young woman saves the life of one of the three young soldiers.  She happens to be the daughter of a French wine merchant who is killed by the Germans for spying, so there's some revenge in this movie, too.  When they start messing with the wine guy, that's when I get mad.  

This wine is a little hard to find, but the Four Horsemen Sangiovese hails from Australia's McLaren Vale.  Four horsemen down, 39,996 to go.

The first movie to feature two Aboriginal actors in the lead roles was Jedda, in 1955.  It was also shot in color, a first for an Australian film.  The Gevacolor process was complicated, but then so was shooting a movie in the Australian outback.  Things get done.

The title role is an Aboriginal woman who was raised by a white foster mother in Australia's Northern Territory.  Always barred from learning anything about her own roots, she aims to find out for herself as a young woman.  She starts with an Aboriginal man who caught her eye.  That turns out to be a bad idea.

He sweeps her up and takes her to his people, but they're not having it because she is not their kind of people.  You can see the tragedy coming a mile away, but the movie's narrator spins it as two more for "the great mother of the world."  So much for the happy ending.  No wonder Hollywood didn't want to finance the picture.

The Northern Territory is an official wine region in Australia, but the area is not hospitable for the growing of the grapes.  The land is either bone dry or tropically humid.  The area was given official status simply so that every state and territory in the country could claim it.

There is a distillery - Seven Seasons - which offers such liquid refreshment as Green Ant Gin, Bush Apple Gin and Native Yam Vodka.  That first one is not just a catchy name, by the way.  The gin is actually made from real green ants.  They say they taste like coriander, which begs the question, why not just use coriander?  It's easier to harvest and it won't walk away from you.  Anyway, Green Ant Gin has been winning awards, so there must be something there.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter






Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Windsor Vineyards Gets Personal With Their Wine

Many wineries find it resourceful to create an additional revenue stream by making personalized labels for the wine they sell.  Sonoma County's Windsor Vineyards does this, and they sent me a bottle of bubbly to show me what it looks like.

The wine is Windsor's Platinum Series Brut Rosé North Coast sparkling wine.  It is made through the Méthode Champenoise of secondary fermentation in the bottle, just like in Champagne.  This one has the name of my wine website plastered on the front of the bottle.

For Windsor, it would seem to be more about the private labeling than it is about the wine.  However, Windsor - founded by wine legend Rodney Strong in 1959 - has been winning awards for their wines for decades.  They are now owned by Vintage Wine Estates.

The personalized labels actually started way back in the day, with Strong.  He started putting personalized labels on the wine - Mr. and Mrs., Happy Birthday, the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe - and the tradition continues today.

The Windsor Platinum Series Brut Rosé North Coast sparkler was aged in the bottle, on the spent yeast cells, for 19 months.  The non-vintage wine has a full mouthfeel, while presenting a vibrant freshness.  Alcohol is 12.5% abv and the wine retails for $32 with the Windsor label on the bottle.  It costs extra for a personalized label.  They start at $12 with a minimum order of two bottles.

This Sonoma County bubbly is a beautiful copper-salmon color in the glass with a nose of sweet red fruit and toast.  The palate is as dry as a bone and loaded with a racy acidity.  Strawberries, cherries, lemons, tangerines and a truckload of minerals fill out the flavor profile.  Lemon chimes in on the finish.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Monday, October 4, 2021

This IPA Is Maximus, Colossal

West Coast IPAs have been favorites for me for quite some time now, and I just discovered another one.  The Lagunitas Maximus Colossal IPA comes from Petaluma, California and is loaded with hops.  The website says the great taste comes from, "Simcoe, Cascade and Centennial hops balanced against tons of rich malted barley—a bed of smooth malted wheat, biscuity Munich malt, and English Crystal."  They say on the can that the beer is "For all the hop heads."

Also on the can, in tiny type around the top of the can, is a bit of Lorem Ipsum drivel: "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing élit! Donec Maximus… uh… ex et nisi aliquam commodo… Are you not entertained?!"  I'm always entertained by Latin babbling.

This beer clocks in at a heady 9% abv and sells for the nice price of $2.50 for a bigger-than-a-pint can.  

The body is copper colored, and it shows off a lightly yeasty, malty nose.  Malt and hops each vie for the lead on the palate, and it’s a great fight.  A bitter finish brings that West Coast style home with plenty of fanfare.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Friday, October 1, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Desert Heat

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 three films deal with heat.  Hot heat.  Desert heat.

1962 found Great Britain and West Germany collaborating on an action picture, Station Six Sahara.  The movie is a remake of 1938's S.O.S. SaharaCarroll Baker plays a beautiful woman who turns up at a tiny oil pipeline station in the desert.  She and her husband just happen to be driving along, three days from anywhere, when he crashes the car.  Wrong turn?  "Shoulda made a left at Albakoykee."  

His attempt at killing both of them lands him in the sick bay, where he can only imagine what his estranged bombshell wife is doing with the five men who work there.  They leer at her the way the cartoon wolf saw sheep as mutton, and she leers back.  The film's sexual heat is as real as that of the desert, which surprised at least one critic, since the British were involved.

The movie was shot in Libya, which provided some problems for actress Baker.  That country had no provision for a sexpot wandering around in her bra.  Martin Scorsese was fond enough of the film to include it in a list of a couple dozen faves.

For this arid movie, let's look to Orin Swift's David Phinney and his 8 Years in the Desert wine.  It's a $50 blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah which - oddly enough - spent eight months in the barrel.  Of course, in S.O.S. Sahara, three days in the desert was too long.

The desert could hardly seem more inhospitable than in the Australian 2015 film Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth film in the string of Mad Max movies.  To describe the scenario merely as post-apocalyptic makes it seem like less than it is, like it's just an unusually hot day.  It is oppressive just to think about the unrelenting bleakness of a life in which water and gasoline are the only concerns.  Thankfully, we get to worry about water, gasoline and why that guy isn't masked up.

Charlize Theron brings a feminist touch to the Mad Max series, as an able replacement for the male kingpins of past episodes.  This movie garnered some critical praise and a heap of Oscar noms - ten, winning six.

Certainly, an Australian wine is proper here - even though there is a German Riesling which inexplicably bears the name Mad Max.  Penfolds is the choice, their Max's Shiraz sells for just $25.  By the way, it’s a nod to winemaker Max Schubert, not the movie series.

The Professionals, in 1966, assembled an all-star cast for the story of what is basically a mob hit in the old west.  Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Jack Palance, Ralph Bellamy and Claudia Cardinale should require more than one movie screen for all that acting talent.  

The story revolves around a group of men - all trained in various ways of killing - who are hired by an American to rescue his kidnapped wife in Mexico.  Guess what, though?  She's not kidnapped - she ran off with a bandit.

Some of the filming took place in Nevada, and there's a wine for that.  The Pahrump Valley Winery bills itself as Nevada's Winery in the Desert.  Their Vinho Doce Port-style wine is barrel-aged and serves as a great wine to pair with some Mexican chocolate.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Italian Wine From The Grignolino Grape

It's always nice to see that a wine box has arrived through one delivery service or another.  It's especially nice when it means that I get to try a grape which is new to me.  I have sampled more than a hundred different grape varieties during my wine writing life.  I don’t know precisely how many, but here is one more to add to the pile, and I'm happy to have had a taste.

The 2020 Tenuta Montemagno Ruber Grignolino d'Asti is made entirely of the Grignolino grape. The folks at Montemagno say it's "one of the oldest indigenous varieties in the Monferrato," in Italy's Piedmont region.  It was apparently known in the Middle Ages as Barbesino, but the name actually comes from a word meaning seeds, since these grapes are full of them.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the wine retails for about $14.

This wine has an extremely light garnet color and a nose of flowers, strawberries and earth.  The palate is full of bright red fruit that’s a bit tart, but it's the tannins that will leave you gasping - extremely firm, with a razor's edge acidity.  This is not to say it's unpleasant - quite the opposite, in fact.  It is a very distinctive wine - one that may possibly have to grow on you.  Try it chilled for starters.


Monday, September 27, 2021

Lovely Albariño Wine

Albariño wines are some of the mainstays of the Spanish wine industry, and anyone who likes a good white wine should be on board already.  Albariño is not only a delicious white wine on its own, but it is one of the more food-friendly grapes you’ll find.  In fact, Albariño seems to crave a food pairing so it can show its best, especially with seafood.  

The wines which were made available for an online virtual tasting event were produced in the Rías Baixas region of Spain, up in the northwest corner of the country, the place that Albariño calls home.  I was given three of them for sampling.

Granbazán Étiqueta Verde Albariño 2020

Etiqueta Verde - Green Label - is Granbazán's entry level Albariño.  Importer Skurnik Wines explains that the Verde was made from a combination of free-run and lightly pressed juice.  The wine was fermented with indigenous yeasts in a tank, where it aged on its lees for four months.  

This Rías Baixas Albariño is pale yellow in the glass.  The nose is like a bouquet of flowers, with some elegant citrus notes to hold them together.  Lemon, lime and orange are all here for the smelling.  The palate sings of citrus and apples and has an acidity that is zippy enough for oysters.  The finish shows a wonderful salinity which puts me in mind of the ocean.


Pazo das Bruxas Albariño
2019

The Miguel Torres family asserts that their wine is partly the result of legendary Galician witches, who cast spells to get the vines to produce well.  Now, that's a back story.  There is even a picture of the witches - artist's conception, I'm guessing - on the label.

The Pazo das Bruxas Albariño is produced largely with grapes from the O'Rosal area, combined with some from the Salnés Valley.  The winery says that both areas are known for their Atlantic climates, influenced by the nearby ocean.

The wine is made in stainless steel tanks, with no oak.  Alcohol resides at 12.5% abv and it’s usually sold for just under $20.

This wine has a rich yellow-green tint.  On the nose I thought I smelled some oak, but I was mistaken.  It's all steel.  There is an overriding salinity that mutes the floral, apricot and citrus aspects a bit.  The palate carries that salinity as well.  That, plus a racy acidity, makes me want some oysters with it.


Leira Pondal Albariño
2020

The Pondal winery is in the second generation of turning Albariño grapes into wine.  They also grow Treixadura, Caiño Blanco and Loureira grapes on the estate.

The winery states that the grapes selected for the 2020 Leira Pondal come from vineyards in El Rañado, Torre and El Alto - higher altitude vineyards with less humidity, more ventilation and a greater temperature variation between day and night.  This all allows for a wine with greater aromatic intensity and acidity.   The alcohol level rests comfortably at 13% abv and the retail price is around $18.

This wine brings the floral on the nose, as well as a strong mineral aspect.  The citrus notes include lime, lemon, orange and even a little grapefruit.  The acidity is fairly strong and the finish is lengthy.  


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Friday, September 24, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - The Future Is Fear

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 three films deal with a future that looks like the past and serves as the present.  Of course, there are wine pairings for each.

Filmmakers from the U.S., New Zealand and South Africa collaborated on the 2009 sci-fi District 9, which is set in an imaginary 1982.  Back then, I thought 1982 was imaginary until I got my MTV.  

In the movie, a spaceship appears over Johannesburg and it turns out to be full of alien bug-people.  The South African government puts these aliens into a camp - District Nine - and the place turns into a slum over the years.  Locals derogatorily call the residents "prawns" and claim that they are dirty, dangerous and a drain on government resources.  Sound familiar?  Maybe they should have given them tinfoil blankets.  

The tale was inspired by actual events in South Africa's time of apartheid.  There was a Cape Town area called District Six which was branded by the government as "whites only," resulting in the removal of thousands of black Africans from their homes.

Let's do a wine pairing that is as ripped from the headlines as the inspiration for District 9.  In South Africa's Stellenbosch region there is a wine estate named Louiesenhof Wines.  There is also controversy after impoverished people from a neighboring township stormed part of the owner's land a few years ago and built shacks upon it.  Last year, the owner was murdered in his home.  One of the people facing charges in the case is... his wife.  Excuse me while I update my Final Draft program and get started on this script.

If you can locate any product from Louiesenhof Wines, try a Pinotage.  The grape's detractors say it leaves a taste in your mouth as bad as apartheid.  Its fans think of it as wine's Rusty Nail.

1997's Event Horizon is another blend of science and fiction.  In science, an event horizon is basically the border around a black hole.  My high school physics teacher liked me, but not so much that I made good enough grades to understand that.  

The movie is about a rescue/recovery mission sent to a spaceship which is found orbiting Neptune.  There is no truth to the rumor that the script originally called for the ship to be orbiting Uranus, but nobody could get through the table reads without laughing.

Paramount reportedly had the director cut more than a half hour out of his film.  The resulting movie tanked at the box office but became a hit at the video stores.  When the studio came asking for the deleted footage - no doubt for a "director’s cut" version - the scenes could not be found.  Too bad they didn't care that the movie they initially had in their hands was the director's cut.

The story is scientifically complicated with stuff that I don't think is even possible, but there is a lot of action and wild visions that come from, you know, breaking the space-time continuum.  Let's drink.

As luck would have it, there was an Event Horizon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, but it appears to have fallen out of our gravitational pull.  A bottle of Pétrus that was aged for 14 months aboard the International Space Station was auctioned off for a reported cool million.  For something a little more down to earth, try Bright Cellars Dead Planets and Black Hole Pinot Grigio.  It's a California PG, so don't expect anything too transcendental. 

Escape from New York made my 1981 bearable, and I didn't even know how close I was to having my MTV.  John Carpenter directed this movie that consists of 100% attitude, mainly from Kurt Russell.  After seeing the film, I couldn’t stop saying to my friends, "The name's Plissken."  It was mighty confusing for anyone who hadn't seen the film yet.

And hey, how's this for rounding out a cast: Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Adrienne Barbeau, and Harry Dean Stanton all play parts in it.  Everyone should be all in on each of those co-stars.  And on Russell, too, of course.

For Escape From New York, let's find a wine which grew up there.  From New York's Finger Lakes region, Red Tail Ridge Winery on Seneca Lake keeps husband-and-wife team Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan busy.  They produce excellent Chardonnay - oaked and unoaked - along with Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Blaufränkisch.  You might not be able to resist telling folks, "The name's Blaufränkisch."



Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Space XPA Extra Pale Ale

Los Angeles Ale Works makes beer in the L.A. suburb of Hawthorne, which also happens to be the home of SpaceX, Elon Musk's rocket company.  Considering that, it is fitting that L.A. Ale Works makes a beer called Space XPA, an Extra Pale Ale.  Of course, they also make Flight Path, Lunar Kitten and Martian Occupation, so the whole space thing must be bleeding over from just down the street.

At any rate, Space XPA has emblazoned on the can, "into the unknown."  That would be fine if we didn’t already know where we were going with a West Coast ale.  We do, though, so we are not exactly in uncharted waters.

The hops are Wakatu and Mosaic, and reports show Maris Otter as the malt.  The ale is just barely above session range, at 6.5% abv.  The retail price is listed as $16 for a 4-pack of 16-ounce cans, but I got mine a bit cheaper at my nearby Whole Foods Market.

The beer froths up with a nice, white head in the glass and it continues to lace long after the head has settled.  The nose offers up a full-on pine tree, while the palate is lighter than one would expect from a West Coast ale.  It is, however, very tasty - with a nutty flavor on the finish - and quite satisfying when the weather is warm.


Monday, September 20, 2021

Kosher Bubbles From The Russian River Valley

The Jewish High Holy Days are happening this month, which means you'll need some kosher wines.  You can always turn to Royal Wine Corporation for reliably high-quality kosher wines.  Royal is owned by the Herzog family, whose wine history dates back to the middle of the 19th century.  Royal imports and distributes kosher wines from all over the world, and they make their own at the Herzog winery in Southern California.

Herzog Special Reserve Russian River Valley Sparkling Wine

This sparkling Chardonnay is made from grapes grown in the cool-climate Russian River Valley.  The bubbles were produced through the Methode Champenoise, and the wine is kosher.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and I saw it selling online for more than $50.

This pale yellow wine produces a nice, white froth when poured.  The nose has yeasty notes of citrus and stone fruit, with an earthy element that is fabulous.  The toast and earth aspects are also present on the palate.  It's a dry wine, but there is a sweetness about it that has everything to do with the fruit.  This is one California sparkling wine I could easily recommend.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Friday, September 17, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Trains Of Events

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 trio of films takes its name from the 1949 movie, Train of Events, which tells various stories as a train hurtles toward an explosive end.  Let's get to watching and drinking before that happens to us.

1952's The Narrow Margin is a film noir lover's film noir.  A "B" movie of its day, the story is tight enough to snap and the cast is a bunch of "who are these guys?"  A dead mob boss no doubt spins in his grave as his widow takes a train from Chicago to Los Angeles to spill in front of a grand jury.  If there is spousal abuse in the afterlife, she'll probably get some.

The banter between the two cops assigned to pick up the widow at Union Station is classic film noir: "She's the sixty-cent special. Cheap. Flashy. Strictly poison under the gravy."  That makes me want to get my Thanksgiving dinner at Carl’s Jr.  The movie poster is noirish, too:  "A fortune if they seal her lips!... A bullet if they fail!"  There never seems to be enough exclamation points for a film noir one-sheet.

Margins Wine owner Megan Bell finds Central Coast vineyards that are "in the margins," over-delivering yet under-appreciated.  She started with a Carmel Valley Chenin Blanc, but her San Benito County Négrette might be better for a film noir.

Strangers on a Train is 1951 Hitchcock.  The two strangers get to know each other quickly - over drinks, naturally, a hallmark of Hitchcock movies.  Actually, the crazy man has a double while the famous tennis player orders coffee.  During the train ride, a plan is hatched for the two men to exchange murders, each doing the other's dirty work.  Things proceed to spin out of control, figuratively and literally.  

There is really a dearth of drinking in this movie, save for the dining car and a cocktail party.  It's as if Hitchcock was on the wagon while going through the list of famous writers to do his screenplay.  Most of those scripts ended up in the trash, but Raymond Chandler’s name stayed on the picture, even though his contributions were said to be largely erased from the pages.  What they would have given for just one bottle of Wite-Out.  The script was adapted from Patricia Highsmith's first novel, and whom better to check with about a talented psychopath with killing on his mind. 

We can pair a wine with Strangers on a Train in much the same way the movie pairs two strangers of different backgrounds.  Save Me, San Francisco Wine Company combines rock star (from the group Train, no less) Pat Monahan and winemaker James Foster.  Their collaborative wines bear names based on songs and albums by Train.  Bulletproof Picasso sounds like a Sauvignon Blanc over which two strangers could form a bond.

Boxcar Bertha was directed by Martin Scorsese in 1972 during producer Roger Corman’s lady gangster phase.  It was Marty's first time directing a Hollywood picture.  He did a pretty good job of it, although Corman promoted it as dripping with sex.  It isn’t, even though Playboy magazine did a spread on it upon its release.  Bertha and her boyfriend rob trains for a living.   The film puts that into perspective with a firm pro-union stance and an exploration of the plight of railroad workers.  It would seem that being robbed between stops would be one of those plights.

Here is a suitable low-budget wine for a low-budget movie - Boxcar Pinot Noir.  Apparently an Australian wine dealer has a few bottles left, at seven bucks a pop.  If you want something a little nicer, try Red Car's Box Car Pinot, from Sonoma County.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

DAOU Family Estates - Soul Of A Lion

The Paso Robles wine region is so often overlooked that we could excuse them if they developed a complex about it.  You could call Paso California’s "forgotten" wine region - or is that Temecula?  

Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, for my money, gives Napa Valley a good deal of competition.  The limestone influence in the Paso dirt plays wonderfully in red wines, as well as white.  And, while Napa may be elegant, Paso has a more rustic approach which I find compelling.

Paso Robles winemaker Daniel Daou is bringing out his new Cab release this month, the 2018 Soul of a Lion, the crown jewel of DAOU Family Estates, named in honor of his father. 

Soul of a Lion puts Paso Robles on the map for world-class Cabernet Sauvignon.  It showcases Daou's vision to produce Bordeaux-style wines that combine elegance, freshness, and power.  The 2018 vintage has all the hallmarks of its cooler growing season, revealing both the power and finesse.

The winery credits DAOU Mountain's "remarkable geology, microclimate, a 2,200-foot elevation and steep slopes" for creating what they call "a jewel of ecological elements."

The 2018 Soul of a Lion was made from 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot, all grown in Paso's Adelaida District.  The wine was aged for 22 months in 100% new French oak.   Alcohol sits at 14.7% abv and the retail price tag is $150 for a 750ml bottle.

This wine is inky in the glass, with no light getting through its rich, purple shade.  The nose is a showcase for black and blue fruit, with a good deal of minerality and some nice floral notes.  A little sweet oak spice comes through as well.  On the palate, the fruit is dominant, but there is an ample sense of spice.  The tannins are quite firm upon the first pour, but they settle down after the bottle has been open for a while.  The finish is long and satisfying.  In a region which produces outstanding Cabernet blends, this is one of the better ones.

 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, September 13, 2021

A Kosher California Chenin Blanc

The Jewish High Holy Days happen this month, which means you'll need some kosher wines.  You can always turn to Royal Wine Corporation for reliably high-quality kosher wines.  Royal is owned by the Herzog family, whose wine history dates back to the middle of the 19th century.  Royal imports and distributes kosher wines from all over the world, and they make their own at the Herzog winery in Southern California.

Baron Herzog California Chenin Blanc 2020

Philip Herzog was the winemaker nine generations ago, when he crafted his wine for the Austro-Hungarian court.  Emperor Franz-Josef liked the juice so much that he made Phillip a baron, hence the name on the label today.

The previous vintage was sourced from the Clarksburg appellation, but this 2020 has only a California credit, so the grapes may have come from a variety of areas.  Herzog has vineyards in a number of good regions up and down California.  The 2020 Baron Herzog Chenin Blanc has an alcohol level of 11.5% abv and sells in most places for around $10.

This golden, kosher wine has a beautiful nose of flowers, apricots and citrus, with some pineapple thrown in for good measure.  There is a hint of sweet oak spice in there as well.  The palate brings the lemon and lime out front, with a stone fruit aspect as well.  The finish is medium long and maybe a bit too oaky for some, but I think it hits the right spot.  


Friday, September 10, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Jazzed Up

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 get three movies we can listen to as well as watch.  We’ll have appropriate wine pairings for these Jazzed Up films.

Round Midnight is the 1986 film about a musician who exiles himself in 1950s Paris, finding new fans and friends in the jazz scene there.  The cast - peppered with real musicians - reads like the marquee at the Blue Note.  The movie features Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Freddie Hubbard and Cedar Walton, to name more than a few of them.  Gordon plays Dale Turner, a fictional character based on real-life musicians Lester Young and Bud Powell, who were fellow ex-pats of Gordon's back in the day.

The story centers on the musician's abuse of alcohol and drugs and his efforts to escape their clutches.  All the while, the music is the most important thing in his life, more so than his family and friends who were left behind in New York, but running neck-and-neck with booze and a fix.

It's always hard for me to pair a wine with a movie about someone who abuses alcohol, but let's focus on the jazz.  I mean, what else am I going to do, say "I’ll pass on this one?"  Paso Robles winery Vines on the Marycrest has a GSM blend for $42.  It is Syrah-heavy and Grenache-light, so it should really be called an SMG.  Enjoy while watching - and listening - to these masterful jazz giants.  Just know when to stop.

All Night Long was released in the UK in 1962, although it would not hit the states until a year later.  Dave Brubeck and Charles Mingus appear in the film, although British jazzmen Tubby Hayes and John Dankworth are featured more prominently.  The lead actor is Patrick McGoohan, who would go on to be a cult favorite five years later in TV's The Prisoner.  

This movie revolves around the single night of an anniversary party, with plenty of jazz happening.  It was based upon Othello, so there is also plenty of subtext concerning relationships.  

Look to the Sierra Foothills for the wine pairing.  Jazz Cellars is in Calaveras County, California.  They have a tasting room there, but you must bring your own jumping frogs.  Choose a white wine for this B&W movie, a Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc or Marsanne/Roussanne blend should do the trick.

1979's All That Jazz was directed by dancer and choreographer Bob Fosse, who also co-wrote the script as a loosely-based autobiography.  Roy Scheider is nothing short of fantastic in the lead role of a man who is trying to edit a film and stage a musical at the same time.  The work takes its toll, and his hospital bed hallucinations set the tone for other such dream sequences that would follow through the years.  The movie views life as a series of days which start with "It’s showtime, folks!" and end in the morgue.

Pair New Zealand's All That Jazz Rosé with this movie, for the obvious reason.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Rhône Wine Via Israel

The Jewish High Holy Days happen this month, which means you'll need some kosher wines.  You can always turn to Royal Wine Corporation for reliably high-quality kosher wines.  Royal is owned by the Herzog family, whose wine history dates back to the middle of the 19th century.  Royal imports and distributes kosher wines from all over the world, and they make their own at the Herzog winery in Southern California.

The 2018 Razi’el red wine blend comes from Israel's Jerusalem-Haute Judée region.  The winery is located west of the holy city in Ramat Raziel.  The name means "secret of God," but in this case, the secret is out.  It's a wonderful wine.

Razi’el was made from Rhône varieties, 60% Syrah grapes and 40% Carignan, aged for 18 months in French oak barrels.  Alcohol stands at 14% abv and I found it online selling at quite a discount, from $70 down to $50.

The Rhôn-ish nose of this dark wine delivers blackberry aromas draped in savory notes of earth and spice - forest floor, cardamom, allspice, even a bit of roasted meat.  The savory aspect really takes hold on the palate, with a beefy flavor coming through.  The tannins are firm enough, but not too firm.  The finish is long and satisfying.


Monday, September 6, 2021

Fine Wine Gets More Portable Than Ever

A new packaging format is being introduced into the single-serving wine category.  It's new to me, at least.  The containers come from Le Grand Verre and are billed as award-winning, ethically-made single-serve bottles.  

The 6.3-ounce plastic cylinders stand about eight inches tall,  have a diameter of only a little more than an inch and are topped with a screw cap.  You could stuff a lot of those into a picnic basket or backpack.  But it's not just the convenience and quantity that impresses - so does the quality.

Le Grand Verre's entire line consists of French wine from various wine regions, like Bordeaux, Languedoc, and Provence.  The company says they curate the wines every step of the way to your glass, partnering with mostly female-led boutique estates which are organic and sustainable.

The tasting samples provided to me were made up of two reds, two rosés and a white wine.

Le Grand Verre Domaine Caylus Rosé 2020

This pink wine hails from the Pays d'Herault region of southern France, a part of the larger Languedoc-Roussillon region.  LGV partnered with Inès Andrieu of Domaine de Caylus for this organic blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache.  Andrieu took over the property from her grandfather, Henri Andrieu who was in charge since buying the property in 1963.  The Domaine Caylus rosé carries alcohol at 12.5% abv and a price tag of $25 for a 4-pack.

The nose of this pale pink wine is loaded with strawberry and tropical notes.  The mouthfeel is full and the palate is earthy.  Flavors of apple, pineapple and ripe red cherry are a delight.  The acidity is somewhat tame, but the sip is juicy and the finish is very long.

Le Grand Verre Château Val D’Arenc Rosé 2020 

Bandol is generally considered to be the top Provence region for rosé, where the pinks are spicier, more structured and more flavorful than typical rosés thanks to the use of the Mourvédre grape.  This one is a critic's darling, an organic-certified Provencal blend of 80% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache and 10% Cinsault.

The wine was produced by young, innovative winemaker Gérald Damidot, and under his leadership the estate converted to organic farming practices in 2015, bringing about an enhanced quality of the wine.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the retail is $30 for a 4-pack.

This wine is a little richer in color than a Provençal rosé, approaching the red side of pink.  The nose brings some watermelon into play with the berries and the citrus notes.  The palate shows a healthy streak of grapefruit through the melon.  Acidity is nice, and the finish is long.  This is a great rosé to pair with seafood or salads, or both.

Le Grand Verre Domaine Nadal Hainaut Red 2019 

Here is a gorgeous wine for the coming cooler weather this fall, but it takes a chill well, too - for those of us still stuck in summer.  This somewhat rustic Cabernet Sauvignon is made with organic grapes from the Domaine Nadal Hainaut estate in the Côtes Catalanes region of the Pays d'Oc IGP, which covers most of the Languedoc-Roussillon area.  The Château was built in 1826 and has belonged to the Nadal family since 1900.  Martine and Jean-Marie are currently turning over the winemaking duties to their three daughters.  This red wine's alcohol level is 13.5% abv and a 4-pack will set you back $25.

The nose and palate are both dominated by black and blue berries.  Anise aromas make an appearance as well.  The tannins are medium firm, while the acidity is quite refreshing.

Le Grand Verre Château Peyredon Red 2019 

This LGV selection comes from the Haut-Médoc Crus Bourgeois.  Laurence Dupuch of Château Peyredon Lagravette works with her husband Stephane Dupuch to produce this wine.  The fruit was picked from vines over 100 years old.  The blend was envisioned by world-famous oenologist Hubert de Bouard - winemaker and owner of Château Angelus, one of the four most prestigious Saint-Émilion estates. 

This classic Bordeaux is 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Merlot, with grapes that are sustainably farmed.  Alcohol is a restrained 13% abv and an LGV 4-pack of the canisters costs $30.

On the nose are rich blackberry, cedar, vanilla and bacon grease aromas.  The palate shows elegant dark fruit, very firm tannins and a playful acidity.  This is a wine that wants a steak next to it. 

Domaine Prataviera Sauvignon Blanc 2020

The Côtes de Gascogne region occupies France's far southwestern corner and is known primarily for the white wines produced there.  The grapes which are allowed in the region read like a list of grapes you never heard of:  Abouriou, Duras and Portugias bleu among the reds, Len de l'El, Ugni Blanc and both Mansengs - Petit and Gros - among the whites.  Of course, there are also some grapes you have heard of - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

The grapes at Domaine Prataviera have been grown under the female hand since 1960 - that's when Elisabeth Prataviera's mom took over from her father.  The Prataviera is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, has alcohol sitting low at 11% abv and sells for $20 in the 4-pack.

This SauvBlanc is lightly tinted and offers up a lovely nose of grapefruit and grass.  The citrus/mineral element outweighs the herbal, so it does not come off like a fully New World wine.  On the palate, the grapefruit really shines, with a full mouthfeel, an apricot note and a pretty good level of acidity.  I don’t drink a lot of Sauvignon Blanc, but when I do, it's usually French, and this wine is a perfect example of why. 

In a Zoom meeting to kick off the product, a couple of LGV bigwigs talked with a collection of wine writers.  Nicolas Deffrennes (LGV Founder) spoke about how he started LGV, with an eye towards presenting fine French wines in a format that made it easy for people to sample.  He also said that part of his innovation was to focus on female-owned and organic, sustainable wines.  He estimated that within the next couple of years, the plastic containers will be made from organic, plant-based plastic.

Deffrennes then threw it to Régis Fanget (Brand and Artistic Director) who talked about the inspiration for the pretty little bottles - cosmetics.  He said they wanted to present the wine in a physical manner that resembled the way perfume is sold.

Pauline Nadal (one of the daughters behind Le Grand Verre Domaine Nadal Hainaut Red 2019, a beautiful wine from Languedoc-Roussillon) spoke about all the animals they have on the property - sheep, swans, bees - and the importance of the animals being happy in the absence of chemicals, and the happiness of the vines themselves.  They don't irrigate the vines - she says her grandfather maintained that watering the vines made them "lazy."  


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, September 3, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Dysfunction Junction

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 selections are films which offer different views of dysfunction and the corresponding unction, without compunction.  And, we'll try to find some laughs along the way. 

The 2017 Russian movie, Loveless, actually needed support from four countries, reportedly due to Russia's aggressively dim view of the director's anti-corruption stance.  The story turns on the bitterness between two separated parents.  Their only child disappears, and they are drawn together again as a search for him drags on.

The movie was compared by critics to the work of Ingmar Bergman, although there are no scenes showing death playing chess.  The parents' neglect and lovelessness spills over into every area of their separate lives.  The bleakness of their existence mirrors the bleakness of the society in which they live - if you call that living.  Their story could have been featured in "Bleak Living" magazine, if there were such a thing.

My pairing advice for Loveless might well be to simply crack open a bottle of vodka and drink heartily from it.  That does seem a bit bleak, so let's turn to Sonoma County, where the Russian River brings daily fog upstream to make it a perfect place to grow Pinot Noir grapes.  Inman Family Wines has the perfect antidote to a loveless story - their $68 Pinot called Whole Buncha Love should get you through the movie.  Buy two - you’re gonna need them.

More bleak obsession drives the 1970 British-West German collaboration, Deep End.  It's funny how bleakness seems to appear in movies which required an international effort to produce.  Unfortunately, that's about all that's funny here.  The film's main setting is a bath house where swimming and less innocent things happen.  The main character is a 15-year-old dropout who develops a crush on a woman ten years older with whom he works.  Right, he quickly gets in over his head.

Nelson Hill Winery has a line of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir which they call the Deep End, after the vineyard where the grapes are grown.  They say the wine is more beauty than brawn, which sets it apart from most other California Pinot Noirs.  

Despite his Best Actor Oscar for East of Eden, 1955's Rebel Without a Cause was James Dean's career highlight, although he didn't live to experience it.  The teenage dysfunction in Rebel centered not on inner-city kids, a popular movie theme at that time, but on teens from the suburbs - kids who had all the so-called advantages.  But, dysfunction learns to thrive in between the advantages.

The "Rebel Without a Clue" paraphrasing has been appropriated over and over again through the years.  Tom Petty, Bonnie Tyler, "Quantum Leap" and Garfield have all taken a swing at the line, for better or worse.  Clueless, Dean's character certainly is not.  You don't wear that red windbreaker without realizing you are making a statement.

Let's go to New York's Finger Lakes for the wine pairing.  Red Tail Ridge Winery makes a delightful sparkling wine - Rebel With a Cause - from Teroldego, Lagrein and Blaufränkisch grapes.  They describe it as "slightly restrained and brooding," so it's perfect to drink while watching Dean's performance.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Extremely Tasty Syrah From Israel, Kosher

The Jewish High Holy Days happen in September, which means you'll need some kosher wines.  You can always turn to Royal Wine Corporation for reliably high-quality kosher wines.  Royal is owned by the Herzog family, whose wine history dates back to the middle of the 19th century.  Royal imports and distributes kosher wines from all over the world, and they make their own at the Herzog winery in Southern California.

Nana Estate Cassiopeia 2019

Nana Winery is located in the small Israeli town of Mitzpe Ramon, in the Negev Desert.  Eran Raz - his nickname is Nana - started it in 2004. He was later joined by Niv Ben Yehuda of 3 Corners Winery, who had come to the vineyard looking for grapes which represented the terroir of the desert.  Here, he found them.

The 2019 Cassiopeia was made from 85% Syrah grapes, 12% Petite Sirah and 3% Petit Verdot.  They also make a Chardonnay, a Chenin Blanc and a Cab-heavy red blend.  The Cassiopeia fruit was partially whole-cluster pressed.  The wine aged for 14 months in French oak, most of it new barrels.  Alcohol is 14.5% abv

This wine is inky dark indigo in the glass - no light gets through.  The nose is full of blackberry and cassis aromas and savory notes of leather, tobacco, cedar and a whiff of smoke.  The palate is juicy and fruity with an amazing acidity to go along with some rather firm tannins.  The savory notes stay on the finish the longest.  This will be a great wine to have with a brisket.


Monday, August 30, 2021

Kosher Wine - Italy

The Jewish High Holy Days happen in September, which means you'll need some kosher wines.  Fortunately, Royal Wine Corporation provides what I have found to be high-quality kosher wines.  Royal is owned by the Herzog family, whose wine history dates back to the middle of the 19th century.  Royal imports and distributes kosher wines from all over the world, and the make their own at the Herzog winery in Southern California.

When we think of kosher wine, we may often think of those from Israel, but here is one is from Italy.  Terra di Seta is in Tuscany, near Siena in the Chianti Classico region.  Their winery is on a family-run organic farm, overseen by Daniele Della Seta and his wife, Maria Pellegrini.

The 2016 Pelegríni della Seta Chianti Classico Riserva is made entirely of Sangiovese grapes, harvested from the stony soil of a sunny, windy, low-yield vineyard at an elevation of more than 1,500 feet.  The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 18 months.  Alcohol sits at a lofty 15% abv 

This Sangiovese is a fairly dark wine which smells of cherries, plums and blackberries with a mineral-driven overlay and some sweet oak spice.  The palate has plenty of fruit, too, as well as a savory aspect that lingers on the finish.  The tannins are firm - pair it with meat dishes or sauces and aged cheeses.


Friday, August 27, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Hands Of Death

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  For this week’s movies, look no farther than the end of your arm.  Let’s give the TFH gurus a hand for coming up with these choices.

If you ever sat around a campfire with your scouting brothers or sisters, you must have heard the story of that couple from "the next town over," who were haunted by a hand.  "It was still gripping the car door handle!"  Yikes!  What was that sound?  A hand crawling through the leaves?  Save us, camp counselor!  Never underestimate the power of a story about a disembodied hand.

1962's Hand of Death was also known as Five Fingers of Death, which has nothing to do with trimming your nails too close to the quick.  It's a low-budget horror film, which is underscored by the presence of Joe Besser in the cast.  He's the forgotten Stooge, the actor whose big shtick was the inability to pronounce the word "cinnamon."

The story hinges on a scientist who tries to take the killing out of war.  He develops a nerve gas which incapacitates and hypnotizes its victims.  Guess what happens when he is exposed to it.  Yup, monster time.  Let us simply say that the U.S. military did not pursue the invention and went on killing people in the usual ways.

Australia's Two Hands Winery has an entry that might help ward off the bad effects of nerve gas.  Of course, it might not, but it's worth a try.  Their Angel's Share Shiraz comes from the well-known McLaren Vale wine region.

The Beast with Five Fingers goes way back to 1946 for a dose of horror featuring Robert Alda and Peter Lorre.  A concert pianist dies, but his left hand - like the Energizer bunny - keeps on keepin' on.  Not only does it set about strangling folks, it won’t stop playing Für Elise.  No, wait, that was my kid sister who tortured the family by elongating that two-note phrase to intolerable lengths.  This hand has the bad habit of scaring the bejeezus out of everyone in the old mansion.  But, really, what do you expect in an old mansion?

Washington state's Sinister Hand wine is the perfect match for The Beast with Five Fingers.  You'll probably want to turn the label away from you while watching the film.  I don't promote shoplifting, but if ever there was a wine that begged to be taken at a five-finger discount, this is the one.

The Mummy's Hand would appear at first glance to be Universal's 1940 addition to the world of severed appendages.  The hand, however, is fully connected to the mummy, which stumbles around the various sets trying to get more tanna leaves.  Gotta have them tanna leaves.  Three for life, nine for motion, you know the drill.  

The hand of the mummy gets in some exercise along the way by doing the strangling thing.  That's what you get when you bogart the tanna leaves from a mummy.

Door Peninsula Winery - on that bit of Wisconsin which sticks up into Lake Michigan - has a Mummy Moscato, replete with mummy bandage label art.  They claim the wine will have you "walkin' like an Egyptian" before the mummy has a chance to get his hand around your neck.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Greek Moschofilero Grape

Greek wines are wonderful, especially the whites, which go with seafood like they were made for the job.  In fact, they were.  The Moschofilero grape has come into its own fairly recently.  Abundant in Greece's Peloponnese region, the peninsula at the bottom of the Greek mainland, the grape earned the nickname of "the Chameleon," according to Wine Enthusiast.  It can produce wines of varying styles and expressions.  WE offers this pronouncer for Moschofilero:  mow-sko-FEEL-err-oh.

Gai'a Wines makes a 100% Moschofilero wine they call Monograph.  I had the 2018 vintage at a Beverly Hills restaurant - Avra - which offers a number of Greek wines to pair with the cuisine.  The huge restaurant also offers indoor/outdoor seating, so you have a front row experience as Ferrari after Lamborgni race up and down that one block of Beverly Boulevard.  The Monograph on their list was $17 by the glass, but you can buy the bottle elsewhere at $13 retail.  That's quite a markup, even by Beverly Hills standards.

Importer Winebow gives this pronouncer for Gai'a:  Yay-ya.  The winery has been around since 1994 and is called a pioneer in "the modern Greek wine revolution."  Winebow says the grapes for the Monograph Moschofilero "come from vineyards located in the Arcadian plateaus in the Mantinia region of Peloponnese, at an altitude of 1,500 feet."  In this cool-climate region, "the pink-skinned Moschofilero thrives, developing intense, spicy and floral aromatics and crisp acidity."  They say it pairs well with seafood - it does - as well as Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines.  The wine was vinified and aged in stainless steel tanks and has a reasonable alcohol level of 12% abv.

The nose gives a sense of the seashore, with salinity driving the smell and a light floral note lifting it.  The palate is spicy, with that wonderful salinity and earthy minerals leading the way.  The wine has a nice acidity and a lengthy, earthy finish.  I paired it successfully with a crab cake and grilled octopus.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter



Monday, August 23, 2021

L.A.-Area Brewery Plays With Hops

Smog City Brewing Company Of Torrance, CA makes Fire Tornado Hazy IPA, part of the Smog City IPA Series and an addition to their "ever changing line-up of experimental IPAs."

The hops get star billing on the front of the can - Zambia, Citra and Cascade, if you are a hops nerd.  Alcohol sits just above that of a session beer at 6.3% abv.  I paid about $14 for four 16-ounce cans at my local Whole Foods Market.

This beer pours up yellow and hazy in the glass, with a pretty head that sticks around awhile.  The nose shows some delightful tropical notes along with the expected citrus blast.  The palate is full and fresh, and a nutty element joins in with the hops.  Bitterness is kept low, but there is a bit of that in play.  Fire Tornado is probably one of the better efforts I have tasted from Smog City.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Friday, August 20, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Kitty Kat Korner

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 a salute to three feline references in the movies.

I belong to an online group of people in my neighborhood, which puts forth a daily email blast of my neighbors' concerns.  Sometimes the information shared is helpful, and sometimes it's just plain ridiculous.  Recently, a message came across the computer screen that someone was selling three cats - or, at least, wanting to sell them.  Seriously, I have never heard of anyone actually getting money for house cats.  It has been my experience that people generally pay money to pawn off cats on someone else who has never had the pleasure of feline ownership.  Writing this paragraph has made me want to watch movies and drink, not necessarily in that order.  Let's see what all the fuss is about, shall we?

The country bumpkin who went to Broadway to see Cats and was disappointed because there "wadn't no cats - jus' people dressed up like cats" - he would probably hate 1964's Kitten With a Whip.  The kitten in question is sex-kitten Ann-Margaret, who knows just how much trouble she can cause for politician John Forsythe.  She is in his house when he returns from a trip.  She invites a couple of young toughs over and they all go to Mexico.  It's the kind of story that leaves one thinking, "how the hell did this happen?  Did he not lock the door when he left?  Were the cops not answering?"  Critics of the day seemed puzzled by the ending - spoiler alert - in which Forsythe is the last one standing.

Sonoma County's Barber Cellars had a Kitten With a Whip rosé just a couple of years ago, but it seems to have made a getaway.  Dammit!  On to beer, I suppose.  Massachusetts brewery Brick and Feather makes a namesake lager for this film, in 16-ounce cans.  It's only 5% alcohol.  Perfect for that road trip to Mexico.

The 1965 Russ Meyer sexploitation film, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! chronicles three SoCal club dancers who trade in their go-go boots for black leather and a life of crime, kidnapping and murder.  The movie poster reads, "Superwomen! Belted, Buckled and Booted!”" That ought to put some mid-'60s butts in the seats.  Unfortunately, the film didn't make much money or gain much critical praise at the time, although it has now become a cult classic.  

The rock band Faster Pussycat took their name from this film.  As luck would have it, they commissioned a wine in their honor, a blend of Arizona Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon called Body Thief, possibly another name for a kidnapper.

1972's Fritz the Cat introduced sex, drugs and violence into the world of animation.  The X-rated film sent notice that we weren't in Disneyland anymore.  The movie was Ralph Bakshi's first outing as a director.  He used R. Crumb's underground cartoon cat as a bludgeon against the animation institutions of the day.  His response to the many who told him, "You can't do that in a cartoon" was something Fritz might say, but I won’t.

Fritz was made as a cartoon for adults.  The old Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies shorts were made with adults in mind - smart, funny, sarcastic - but always with the idea that they had to be fit for consumption by kids.  By the 1970s, cartoons were stripped of their adult appeal and dumbed down, as if kids weren't fit for anything that was smart, funny and sarcastic.  On the other end of the spectrum was Fritz.  In many households the VHS for Fritz was probably tossed into dad's porn box.

In 1972, you may have prepared for a trip to the movies to see Fritz the Cat by firing up a doobie and downing a bottle of Mateus.  Here, we have the wine.  You're on your own for the rest.  I don't know anything about the winery Fritz de Katz except that it is in Mosel, Germany, where a lot of good Riesling is made.  Cheers! 


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Gin Designed To Wear Many Hats

Ford's London Dry Gin has a banner on the label which reads, "It doesn’t take an empire to make a gin."  This is somewhat confusing because Ford's is distilled in England.  However, the freshly-distilled gin is shipped to the U.S. - to Mendocino County, to be precise - to be cut with local well water and bottled at 90 proof.

Ford's website declares the gin to be the product of a collaboration between eighth-generation master distiller Charles Maxwell and gin expert Simon Ford.  It is described as a juniper-forward mix of nine botanicals, "deceptively soft, aromatic, fresh and floral." 

Ford designed his gin to be a versatile "Jack-of-All-Trades" which bartenders could use as a go-to liquor for any cocktails which call for gin, no matter what other ingredients were used.

The nine botanicals of Fords Gin are sourced from Joseph Flach & Sons Ltd. That company has been importing medicinal and culinary botanicals from around the world for London gin houses and tea companies "since the days of the British Empire."

Ford's offers a complex flavor profile, with juniper joined by orange, grapefruit and spices.  It makes a great martini and I would imagine a perfectly fine Negroni, although I have yet to try out that recipe.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter



Monday, August 16, 2021

A Wine From The Hitching Post

If you have ever dined at one of the Hitching Post restaurants in Santa Barbara County wine country, you may be familiar with their line of wines.  They are cellared and bottled by Hartley Ostini Vintners in Santa Maria (fisherman Gray Hartley and chef Frank Ostini).  

Their Gen Red 2019 is a Central Coast beauty, made up of 31% Merlot grapes, 31% Valdiguie, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Sangiovese, grown in several Central Coast vineyards.  The grape varieties and the blend seem to change from vintage to vintage.  Alcohol sits at 14.1% abv and the price tag of $17 makes it the least expensive wine in their line.  I got mine at a Los Angeles specialty market.

The wine shows a medium dark ruby color in the glass.  The nose sports blackberry, black cherry, earth, spices and coffee grounds.  On the palate, the full mouthfeel is abetted by a wonderful freshness and firm tannins.  The finish is long.  I used a portion of the bottle to bring another dimension to my red beans.  The wine added such a layer of complexity to the dish - I don't know how people manage to cook without wine.  Even if it never makes it into the food.


Friday, August 13, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Coppolacalypse

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, a trio of films directed by the great Francis Ford Coppola.  The wine pairings are easy choices this time around, since Coppola also has a winery.  The director and vintner sold his Francis Ford Coppola winery recently but retained Inglenook, where he has a home.

Coppola wrote and directed the 1966 film, You're a Big Boy Now.  The story concerns a young man who, according to the movie poster, "wants no part of sex - he wants it all."  The boy in question - Big Boy - seems to do reasonably well with the ladies, but is not exactly a Cassanova and is certainly no Lothario.  He is just finding his way in the world of adult relationships.

It is fun to note that Big Boy was made as Coppola's thesis at UCLA film school.  How can you not love a movie with character names like Barbara Darling and Miss Thing?  The presence of Rip Torn and Geraldine Page are bonuses.  

Coppola's wines generally are made from grapes out of Napa or Sonoma, but here's one with SoCal roots.  The Francis Coppola Reserve Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay has the hallmark earthiness of Santa Barbara County's Santa Maria Valley, at a pretty decent price of just over $40.

1979's Apocalypse Now is generally considered to be Coppola's masterpiece, a film which resides in just about any cinematic "Best Of" list you can find.  Besides giving us a dark and soul-searching vision of the Vietnam War, it also injected several phrases into the popular lexicon.  Who among us hasn't paraphrased, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning," "the horror, the horror" or "never get out of the boat"?  (At least not until the boat has come to a full and complete stop.)

A movie about the movie calls the many production problems encountered by Coppola "A Filmmaker's Apocalypse."  Weather delays, temperamental actors and budget overruns look like small potatoes when set next to emotional breakdowns and a serious heart attack.  Just remember - if you don't get off the boat, you don't have a movie.

While we can't say that Coppola's Diamond Collection Malbec will smell like victory, it may well take you to your virtual heart of darkness.  As one of my favorite bartenders used to scream every time I walked through the door, "Schlagers!"

If you ever find yourself playing a "seven degrees of Coppola" game, this one might come in handy.  Dementia 13 was written and directed by Coppola in 1963 - and produced by Roger Corman.  The producer was looking to stamp out a cheap copy of Psycho with castles, and gave Coppola a shot at the director's chair after having worked with him on another film.  The two men found themselves in disagreement - didn't see that coming - and Corman eventually hired another director to shoot more footage.

The black-and-white horror film still stands as vintage Corman - if not vintage Coppola - and it features an axe murder, a decapitation, a drowning and the underwater disposal of a heart attack victim.  Scary stuff with a low-budget flair.

Coppola's Director's Cut Zinfandel brings the spice and everything nice to counter the snips and snails of Dementia 13.  


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Citrus And Piney IPA

San Diego County's The Hop Concept puts the sensation of their brews right on the label, right in the name.  Their beers all utilize hops in inventive ways to offer a variety of tastes and aromas.  Names like "Dank and Sticky" and "Tropical and Juicy" advertise themselves truthfully in their names.

I had their "Citrus and Piney" IPA.  They describe it on the can as boasting "bold orange peel and honey aromas" followed by a "faint hint of bready malt."  Alcohol is 8.5% abv and a four-pack of 16-ounce cans ran me about $15 at my neighborhood specialty market.

The hops are right out front, as they should be with an IPA.  Six varieties of hops were used in this brew: Amarillo, Centennial, Chinook, Citra, CTZ and Simcoe.


Friday, August 6, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Animaniacs

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 may rely heavily on "critter labels" for our wine pairings, as the three movies all deal with animals.

Looney Tunes Back in Action is a 2003 film directed by TFH chief guru Joe Dante.  He refers to the making of the film as the longest year and a half of his life.  Those who didn't grow up with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck may feel it was the longest hour and a half of theirs, since they will likely miss the charm found by the critics of the day, who applauded the movie.  I mean, how can even the most hard-hearted critic pan Bugs Bunny?

A host of characters from the old Warner Bros cartoons get "rebranded" in the framework of a silly spy story.  Not that anyone asked me, but I feel rebranding is generally not a good idea for things which already have a brand.  Bugs and Daffy are the animated leads, of course, but it is somehow most satisfying to see Yosemite Sam as a Vegas casino owner.  Marvin the Martian is a natural for the scenes set at Area 51.

Let's use Marvin as our wine pairing linchpin.  Martian Ranch and Vineyard has a Mourvedre-based wine they call Retrograde Reserve.  It's a $50 exploration into a grape that may be too heavy for cartoon characters, but feels just right for a rebranding effort.

1973's Heavy Traffic is Ralph Bakshi's big success, following his interpretation of R. Crumb's Fritz the Cat.  The mix of live action and animation loses the talking animals in favor of humans.  The tone is similar in nature to the freewheeling - and dirty - Fritz.  

Napa Valley's Highway 29 is known as much for its heavy traffic as it is for the tasty wines being made near its jammed lanes.  Trefethen Family Vineyards is a great stop whether you are north or southbound.  Their Dragon's Tooth is hailed by professional drinkers as an exceptional $65 wine.  And, hey, a dragon is an animal, right?

Dirty Duck is a 1974 adult cartoon, which means you can expect the worst and never be disappointed.  Crudeness finds a new level in Dirty Duck, which has nothing to do, by the way, with the comic strip character of the same name.  How was there not a lawsuit born out of that?  

The film boasts that the duck in question is "madder than Daffy... dumber than Donald… more existential than Howard."  Besides, he gives Fritz the Cat a run for his money on gratuitous sexual perversion.  If you ever felt that you didn't get quite enough inane, immature sexual one-liners in high school, this is the film for you.  On a brighter note, Dirty Duck features the voices of Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, founding members of The Turtles, sometimes remembered as Flo & Eddie.  

Lithuanian microbrewer Biržų Alus has a spiced, herbed ale that sounds almost as unappealing as the movie.  Or, there is a cocktail called Duck Fart - if you must.  Layer in some Bailey's, Kahlua and Crown Royal in a shot glass and let'er rip.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter