Friday, January 29, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Tough Guys

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week it's all about tough guys - guys who don't even flinch when they get the COVID vaccine shot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, January 25, 2021

A Great Zinfandel For Half Its Original Price

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 22, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Getting Small

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Sonoma County Rosé Of Pinot Noir

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

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

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

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Monday, January 18, 2021

Keep Your Sake - I'll Have A Beer

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

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

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

Friday, January 15, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Blastploitation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Friday, January 8, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Low Rent Comedy Teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 4, 2021

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 1, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Fuzzy Woodland Critters

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌, ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌, ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌  ‌This week, we have wine pairings for three films which feature fuzzy woodland critters of one sort or another.  Maybe they are the kind you've been seeing out the window during these pandemically challenged times.  Or, maybe they are the things of your pandemic nightmares.  Cheers, drink up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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