Friday, February 26, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Get Shafted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Beer Or Pastry?

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

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

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

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

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Friday, February 19, 2021

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

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌‌ ‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we remove our beanies for another great who is no longer with us, Hal Holbrook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Paso Syrah Shows Its Dirt

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

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

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

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Friday, February 12, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Christopher Plummer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Fabulous Red BDX Blend From Paso

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

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

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

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Friday, February 5, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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