Friday, April 30, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Paranoid Politix

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 break out some booze to drink while watching three films of "paranoid politix."  But wait, is it paranoia if they're really out to get you?


Movies about political paranoia were favorites of mine, until they… let's say there were some things mentioned to me… things I picked up while watching TV test patterns back in the day… things that just seemed a little out of place… Maybe I had better hurry up writing this article and get out while the getting is good.  

1962's The Manchurian Candidate sported quite the cast - with Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury, how could you go wrong?  The movie hinges on a Korean war veteran who was brainwashed by the commies.  You could tell he was brainwashed - he was the only person who didn't cheat at solitaire.  C'mon, admit it.  That's why you don't like online solitaire - because it's too hard to cheat!  They're always watching…

We can easily pair a Chinese baijiu with The Manchurian Candidate, a white liquor distilled from sorghum or some type of grain.  However, people say that drinking it makes one look like the guy on the Jagermeister label.  A South Korean soju might be a better play, especially if one's neck is sore from glancing over one's shoulder.  Soju is made from rice, wheat, barley, sweet potatoes or whatever other starchy stuff you can find near the distillery.  Just don't let anyone see you buying it…  

Winter Kills is probably not as convincing as JFK, but is likely a lot funnier.  The 1979 black comedy spins a yarn based on the John F. Kennedy assassination.  Speaking of an all-star cast, how does this strike you?  Jeff Bridges, John Huston, Anthony Perkins, Eli Wallach, Richard Boone, Toshiro Mifune, Sterling Hayden and Elizabeth Taylor.  Despite the roster, the team didn't make the playoffs.  Winter Kills tripped over its own complexity and earned only a fraction of its budget at the B.O.

While Kennedy was in the White House, he reportedly had Champagne flowing like it was going out of style.  Pick up a bottle of your favorite Veuve Clicquot and drink like it's Camelot all over again.

The 1974 political thriller The Parallax View will take in anyone who ever worried about American corporate greed, wealth and power.  Who is the assassin? Where is the assassin? Why is the assassin looking at me?  Directed and produced by Alan J. Pakula, the film is the second of what people call his "paranoia trilogy," sandwiched between Klute and All the President's Men.  Sink into The Parallax View and you start to believe all that crap people say about Google.

Santa Barbara County's Martian Ranch and Vineyard has a Mourvedre which they call Parallax.  They hung that name on it after getting googly-eyed while looking at grapes in the vineyard.  Open it at the same time you see the black umbrella, while listening to Revolution 9 backwards.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Three Gajas From Italy

A recent virtual tasting event spotlighted the wines of the Gaja family in Italy. staged the tasting for consumers and writers, and I was honored with an invitation.  Host Gwendolyn Osborn, a wine educator, led the discussion.  Adding to the event were appearances by owner Angelo Gaja, his daughter Gaia and son Giovanni.  The three wines featured were Ca'Marcanda Magari, Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino, and Gaja DaGromis Barolo.  They are imported in the U.S. by Terlato.

Angelo Gaja - a self-described artisan - is the heart of his family wine business, which was started three generations before him. says he single-handedly gave the Barbaresco appellation worldwide esteem, established the use of barrique aging and was a pioneer in planting international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in Piedmont.  His daughter and son represent the fifth generation to enter the family business.  The Gaja winemaker is listed as Guido Rivella.

Ca’Marcanda Magari Bolgheri

The Gaja's Ca'Marcanda property is in the Tuscan commune of Castagneto Carducci, in Bolgheri, in the Maremma region.  The vineyard was acquired in 1996 and is the Gaja home for  international grape varieties.  This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot, although Gaia says the percentages can vary from vintage to vintage.  Alcohol tips only 14% abv

This inky ruby-colored wine offers up a nose as dark as its hue.  Black cherry, tar and old leather mix in with tobacco and vanilla notes.  There is an herbal element, too, which gives a sort of minty framework for the aromas.  The palate is a juicy array of dark fruit with a touch of anise and salinity.  The tannins are fine and smooth and the finish brings those dark berry flavors back for a lengthy review.

Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Pieve Santa Restituta was the family's first Tuscan property, bought by Gaja in 1994.  The white, rocky soils were no good for the crops the one-time sharecroppers planted, but Gaja found that the poor dirt was perfect for grapes.  The estate was named after the parish church - pieve in Italian - of Saint Restituta.  The Sangiovese wine hits 14.5% abv

This Brunello is medium dark red in color.  The nose shows cherry and cassis aromas, draped in anise, cedar, vanilla and a layer of smoke.  The palate is fruity and carries a good acidity and tannic structure.  A spicy streak cuts through with an herbal character.  The finish is long and brings the savory aspect back for a reminder.

Gaja DaGromis Barolo

The Gaja family owns 250 acres of vineyards in Piedmont, in the Barbaresco and Barolo districts.  The Barolo plots - Serralunga d'Alba and La Morra - is where the Nebbiolo grapes grew for the DaGromis wine.  The grapes were harvested and vinified separately, then aged separately in oak for 12 months, then blended and aged further for 18 months in big oaken casks.  Alcohol sits at 14% abv.

This Barolo shows its garnet color turning to that of bricks.  The nose is soft and savory, with an earthy presence to frame the cherry and floral flavors.  The palate shows red fruit and licorice with a hefty dose of citrus minerality.  Oak spice plays a role, as does the wine’s great tannic structure.  The finish is long lasting and centered on the savory side.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

What Kind Of Wine Is Tussock Jumper?

Tussock is a kind of grass that grows longer than the grass surrounding it.

A jumper is a sweater - in this case, a red one.

Tussock Jumper Wines says that "tussock" represents their commitment to sustainable wines, and the red jumper is a mark of quality.

A publicist tells me that Tussock Jumper is a French negociant.  They own no vineyards but select quality grapes from small farms in multiple regions, around the globe.  Their wines are blended and bottled locally in order to support micro economies.  The U.S. importer, TRI-VIN, has a list of 24 wines available, from eleven different wine regions around the world.  

Each bottle shows a different animal wearing the red jumper.  Despite the "critter label" aspect, I found these wines to be very tasty, even interesting.  A mobile app is available which allows one to scan the label and get an earful about what's in the bottle from the animal itself.  I found the iPhone app to be balky and just plain goofy, not at all representative of the wine - which deserves much better.

Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc 2020 - Stellenbosch, South Africa 

This off-dry wine was made with minimal cellar intervention, from 100% Chenin Blanc grapes picked in select vineyards in the Helderberg and Paarl regions, as well as from the high slopes of the Du Toitskloof mountains.  The Western Cape wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, where it lay on the spent yeast cells for about four months before blending.  Alcohol hits 13% abv and it is available for $13.

This wine has a slightly yellow tint and a nose that is all about the minerals.  The smell of lemon zest, tropical fruit and a wet sidewalk all play into the aroma package.  The palate shows various kinds of citrus, stone fruit and a rich salinity, not to mention the racy acidity.  It's time for shellfish or crustaceans, or any kind of seafood, really. 

Tussock Jumper Riesling 2020 - Mosel, Germany 

These Riesling grapes came from the Rheinhessen region of western Germany, along the Mosel and Rhein river banks, where some of Germany's warmest and driest growing conditions are found.  Tank fermented, the wine sat on the lees - the spent yeast cells - for three months, giving it more weight and added complexity.  Alcohol is low, at only 10.5% abv, and the retail price is just $12.

This pale, off-dry wine's nose features scents of lemon, apricot, apple and cantaloupe.  The palate is mineral-driven with a decent acidity, although not razor-sharp.  Pair it with Thai or Indian curries, sushi or seafood risotto.

Tussock Jumper Sauvignon Blanc 2020 - Marlborough, New Zealand

Marlborough's 2020 growing season had lengthy dry spells, which the folks at TJ say led to concentrated flavors and aromas.  This vintage is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, made from a blend of three vineyards, two in Wairau Valley, and one in Waihopai Valley.  The wine aged on the lees for approximately four weeks before filtering.  Alcohol tips 12.5% abv and the price is $12.

This pale, yellow wine smells extremely grassy - no surprise for a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  There is also a large swath of grapefruit, cantaloupe and tropical fruits cutting through the nose.  The grapefruit comes through explosively on the palate, along with a mineral streak a mile wide.  The mouthfeel is quite crisp and the acidity zippy.  There is just a tiny hint of sweetness here, and the citrus flavor lasts a long while on the finish.  You can pair this with any sort of white meat or seafood, but I think it would be a great choice to go with one's breakfast eggs, if one were so inclined.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, April 26, 2021

Foxglove Chardonnay

The Foxglove 2018 Central Coast Chardonnay was bottled by Varner Wines, in San Miguel, CA.  Jim and Bob Varner produce handmade wine from grapes grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles AVAs.  Winemaker Bob sources his Chardonnay grapes from Edna Valley, and employs a light touch throughout the vinification process.  Made and aged in steel, the wine is all fruit, with no intervention from oak and no malolactic fermentation.  Nevertheless, the wine feels full and creamy in the mouth, and shows enough spice that the lack of oak seems a mystery.  Alcohol sits at 13.6% abv while the wine generally sells for around $17.

I had the Foxglove Chardonnay at The Willows in Palm Springs, during their evening wine and cheese soirée by the waterfall wall.  It shows quite a yellow tint in the glass.  The nose displays tropical fruit along with citrus and salinity.  The palate brings Meyer lemon, and abundant minerals.  There is a nice acidity, yet a creamy mouthfeel. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, April 23, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Long Live The Dome

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 join Cinerama fans in calling for the preservation of the world-famous Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.  If you want to see the petition to Save the Dome, click here.  We also have ideas for something to drink with these movies.

The 1952 documentary, This Is Cinerama, was narrated by Lowell Thomas, whose voice you may remember from the old Movietone newsreels.  His authoritative tones were used to introduce America to a brand new technology for movies.  

This is Cinerama features three-camera thrills from roller coaster footage, Niagara Falls, a bullfight, a B-25 flyby and parts of an opera, all shot using the Cinerama technique and its 2.65:1 aspect ratio, which enables viewers to watch not only with their eyes, but with their ears as well.  Actually, the peripheral vision is involved, not the ears, but catching all the action may seem like watching a tennis match from up close.

For a movie - and a cinematic technical advancement - that turned it up to eleven, let's toast with a wine of the same ilk.  Santa Barbara County's Andrew Murray turned up his winemaking skills to eleven with his line of E11even Wines.  Pick one, they’re all winners on a scale of one to ten.

A decade later, in 1962, How the West Was Won splashed across movie screens in true Cinerama.  The epic Western spans 50 years in the 19th century, in segments named The Rivers, The Plains, The Civil War, The Railroad and The Outlaws.  What about The Intermission?  The movie needed to run nearly three hours in order to fit in the cast of more than two dozen big names.   Everybody has an agent, ya know.

How the West Was Won was a blockbuster of the day, reportedly earning three times its $15 million budget.  It holds the distinction of being, probably, one of the few films to be sued by a hospital for a share of the profits.  The film was Bing Crosby’s idea, with a donation to St. John's Hospital attached.  Oh, and Spencer Tracy did a dandy job with the narration.

In wine, the west was won by Zinfandel.  That's my humble opinion, as Zin is generally considered to be the national grape of California.  Try one from Lodi, which also happens to be ground zero for the Golden State's heritage grape wine production.

1958's Windjammer is another documentary, this one covering a voyage by a Norwegian, multi-masted sailing ship.  It was shot in the Cinemiracle process, actually Cinerama's only competition.  It's amazing to me that a process as complicated as Cinerama had any competition at all, but I guess that's what happens when people with too much money realize that someone else had a great idea first.  

The Shaw Family of Australia makes a Windjammer Shiraz, out of McLaren Vale, for just $26.  If you want to step up your tall ship game, go with another Shaw Shiraz, The Navigator, which will run a man a Benjamin.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Three Proseccos

Ca di Prata Prosecco makes Italian sparkling wines which are imported and distributed by Mack & Schühle, a German company with a U.S. base of operations in Miami.  I was provided with three different Proseccos for review, which are listed below.  

People sometimes don't think that wine importers are very important, that all they do is have crates of wine shipped in from who-knows-where to be peddled on the shelves in the lower reaches.  The best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the product to us.  Mack and Schühle are not only importers, they also produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

The Ca di Prata Prosecco DOC Brut is made from 85% Glera grapes and 15% Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay.  Alcohol stays low at 11% abv and the wine retails for $16.

This wine is fun in a bottle.  The apple aromas on the nose translate directly to apple flavors on the palate.  The bubbles are lively and festive, which is about all you can say about bubbles.  It's great as an aperitif, and it was great with some slightly peppery ginger cookies.  Enjoy!

The Ca di Prata Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry is also 85% Glera and 15% other varieties.  Still a low alcohol reading at 11% abv the retail is a bit higher, at $18.

Hints of apple, citrus and a floral note make the nose, while the bubbles are frothy and fairly quick to dissipate.  The palate shows more minerality than the DOC bottling, and a more complex flavor profile which features earth, spice and Meyer lemon.  The minerals stick around the longest after the sip.  I snacked with the wine, and it went well with pretzel bits stuffed with peanut butter, although it went better with some mixed olives.

The Ca di Prata Prosecco DOC Rosé Extra Dry Millesimato is also 85% Glera, but with the remaining 15% composed of Pinot Nero.  Millesimato also means that at least 85% of the grapes came from the same vintage, in this case 2019.  Alcohol remains at 11% abv, and the retail sticker splits the difference at $17.

This pink bubbly offers a ton of froth, which dissipates rather quickly.  The nose shows strawberries, cherries and red apples.  The palate is fruity and fun, and there is more than enough acidity to make this a refreshing sip or a nice wine to pair with a salad or seafood dish.  It’s also great with aperitif munchies or a cheese and salami plate.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Wines Of The Earth, Pink And Red


With Earth Day approaching, it would be remiss of me to not tap out a few words about a collection of "wines of the earth," from Bonny Doon Vineyards.

Bonny Doon winemaking partner Randall Grahm said in an email blast that the year 2020 was an "annus horribilis" for most of us, and that includes winemakers.  He notes that the "Biblical plagues of Smoke, Covid-19, Social Isolation and somewhat more prosaically, Business (and Life) Interruption" appear to be getting smaller in the rear-view mirror, which we hope is not just a trick of the light.

In the spirit of getting back to business, Graham and his new partners at WarRoom Ventures sent over a collection of their current releases for my opinions.  Graham says that production winemaker Nicole Walsh "was very clever and proactive in dealing with any suspected smoke taint issues before they could eventuate.  Skill, yes, but luck played a part, too."

Vin Gris de Cigare 2020 

Bonny Doon's "pink wine of the earth" - Vin Gris de Cigare - is described by Grahm as a pink wine made from the lightest pressings of red grapes.  However, the 2020 vintage has three red grapes and three white grapes in the mix.  The blend is 71% Grenache, 11% Cinsaut, 5% Clairette Blanche, 5% Grenache Blanc, 4% Mourvedre and 4% Vermentino.

Graham says the mostly southern Rhône grape varieties came from cool-climate sites in California's Central Coast region, mainly Monterey County.  Some 20,000 cases were made, with alcohol at 13.5% abv and a retail price of $15.

The beautiful salmon-colored wine displays a nose of cherry, red currant and an herbal hint of spearmint.  The palate has a zippy acidity - Grahm says zippier than in previous vintages - and an abundance of red fruit, a citrus peel angle and a touch of tanginess.  Salads and seafood, sure, but even better if you’re having them on the deck and can afford to have a few more glasses after lunch.

Le Cigare Volant

This is the second vintage of Bonny Doon's flagship wine since the varietal makeup was jiggled around by Grahm.  He lost the Mourvèdre and increased the Cinsault, leaving a recipe of 56% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 13% Syrah and 1% Petite Sirah.  Grahm says, "This wine is a bit more restrained than the '18 Cigare and one that might easily confound. Initially, quite reticent and seemingly light in body, the wine grows dramatically in volume and in depth with air and time. Most remarkable is the seamless fusion between fruit and stone, evoking the mysterious synergy one finds in certain Old World wines we so greatly esteem.  Originally inspired by the Rhône Valley, Grahm says the wine now seems to reflect Burgundy.  Production was 7,700 cases and alcohol hits 13.5% abv, while the retail price is $15.

This 2019 vintage of Bonny Doon's long-running flagship wine is medium garnet in color and tint, but it smells much darker.  Aromas of black cherry, licorice, tea and a bit of earth pave the way for a palate which is fruit-driven, yet minerally-blessed.  The acidity is refreshing and the tannins are gentle.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

White Wines Of The Earth


With Earth Day approaching, it would be remiss of me to not tap out a few words about a collection of "wines of the earth," from Bonny Doon Vineyards.

Bonny Doon winemaking partner Randall Grahm said in an email blast that the year 2020 was an "annus horribilis" for most of us, and that includes winemakers.  He notes that the "Biblical plagues of Smoke, Covid-19, Social Isolation and somewhat more prosaically, Business (and Life) Interruption" appear to be getting smaller in the rear-view mirror, which we hope is not just a trick of the light.

In the spirit of getting back to business, Graham and his new partners at WarRoom Ventures sent over a collection of their current releases for my opinions.  Graham says that production winemaker Nicole Walsh "was very clever and proactive in dealing with any suspected smoke taint issues before they could eventuate.  Skill, yes, but luck played a part, too."

Bonny Doon Vineyards Picpoul, Monterey County, Beeswax Vineyard 2020

Picpoul means "lip stinger" when translated from the French, as pictured on this wine's label.  The promise of a tingling acidity is delivered in full, making this one of the food-friendliest wines you'll find.  Try it with oysters on the half shell or cold crab claws for a real treat.

Graham heralds his 2020 Picpoul as coming, once again, from the "redoubtable Beeswax Vineyard in the Arroyo Seco appellation of Monterey County."  He says the white wine is "definitely super-savory, nay almost waxy/salty, perhaps even a bit more unctuous than in vintages heretofore."  He also likes the floral notes, which he says are often missing from Old World versions of Picpoul.  1800 cases were produced, with alcohol at 12.5% abv and the retail price of $15.

This wine is tinted light yellow and puts up a magnificent nose which is driven by citrus and salinity.  I don't get much of the floral note mentioned by Grahm, but there is a waxy or soapy element in the package of aromas.  The palate seems a bit heavier, oilier than bygone vintages, and the salinity comes across in the mouth as well as the nose.  Meyer lemon flavors are abundant, and while the acidity may not actually sting the lips, it is nice and racy and it awaits some crab cakes or grilled calamari.

Bonny Doon Vineyards Le Cigare Blanc 2020

The white version of the winery;s flagship "Cigare" line is the 2020 Le Cigare Blanc.  This wine underwent a radical change in the previous vintage and is now made from 60% Grenache Blanc grapes, 32% Vermentino and 8% Clairette Blanche.  Graham explains that it's the Vermentino which now leaves its mark most noticeably and the Clairette Blanche which sustains its length.  "Dusky, almost mentholated, doonright balsamic, in fact; it is an aromatic riot" of a wine which also sports a creamy texture.  

Bonny Doon made 5,200 cases of the 2020 Le Cigare Blanc, which carries alcohol at 13.5% abv and a retail sticker at $15.

The wine does indeed have quite the nose, with Meyer lemon, minerals and a fine salinity to its credit.  The palate brings a saline sensibility to the stone fruit and minerality, and the mouthfeel is fairly hefty - especially for a white wine.  The finish keeps the minerals in mind, with a hint of apricot

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, April 19, 2021

A Tuscan Delight - Piaggia Carmignano Riserva

The winery's name is Piaggia, and the wine is the Carmignano Riserva 2017.  The Carmignano DOCG requires that red wines have at least 50% Sangiovese grapes in their makeup.  This one has 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot.  The area's wine quality has been held in high regard for centuries, something the Medici family took great pride in.  England's Queen Anne reportedly placed orders for the Carmignano wines.

Mauro Vannucci bought the property in the 1970s and began releasing wines in the '90s.  The land now spans five Tuscan vineyards.  Mauro's daughter, Silvia now owns the estate.

The Piaggia Carmignano Riserva underwent full malolactic fermentation, was aged in French oak barriques for 18 months and stood another six months after bottling.  The alcohol content is 14.5% abv and the wine usually sells for around $43.

This Carmignano DOCG wine marries Sangiovese and Bordeaux grapes like they were made for one another.  Medium dark in the glass, the wine shows a bright cherry aroma, which turns into black cherry over time, as tar and smoke gather on the nose.  The palate continues the dark theme, with a savory coat hung on the shoulders of the black fruit.  The acidity is fresh, while the tannins provide plenty of power to take down beef, the fattier the better. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Overlooked And Underrated

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, the gurus have scoured their "What About This One?" lists for fine films forgotten.

1974's noirish crime film, Buster and Billie, was directed by Daniel Petrie, who also helmed Fort Apache, the Bronx.  This is notable to me only because in Las Vegas, out west of the Strip in the Summerlin area, there is a street named Fort Apache Road.  Every time the wife and I are driving there and we pass the street sign, I always blurt out "Fort Apache the Bronx!" as if it is some kind of movie mantra.  She puts up with it like a champ.  I also have a tendency to answer her with fragments of song lyrics, which is a habit that is somewhat less entertaining to her.

Buster and Billie was reportedly the first American mainstream film to show a man's penis on camera.  Fans of celluloid shlong rejoiced to find that it was Jan-Michael Vincent's member, not Robert Englund's.  The scene had to be shot out in the woods near a small Georgia town so the good citizens would be shielded from the exposed johnson, no matter whose it was.

Now we need a wine to pair with Buster and Billie, and it had better be better than one we could order at Dave and Buster's.  Three Penis Wine is a Chinese virility concoction made from the private parts of deer, dog and seal, and is better left alone, if you were to ask me.  Stick with Viagra.  For Buster and Billie, let's get a Georgia wine - and a damn good one at that.  I'm a sucker for an overlooked and underrated grape variety, and Tiger Mountain Vineyards makes a great Petit Manseng.  I had it several Thanksgivings ago, when the white wine wowed me while washing down sweet, brown sugar ham and chestnuts.  You can have it with anything you like.

The Survivor was made in 1981 Australia, but its release in other parts of the world were rather hit-n-miss.  Mostly miss.  The pilot of a jetliner is the only survivor when it crashes, and he has trouble remembering what happened.  That sounds like a horror movie to me.  Director David Hemmings - you saw him acting in Blowup - chatted with the producer before the start of filming, and they decided to make The Survivor brainy rather than gory - a decision they lived to regret.  The guy who wrote the book that inspired the film says he hated it.  They did their best to keep him off the PR circuit.

South Africa's Survivor Wines is a slam dunk shot for the wine pairing, just on name alone.  The winery says the name came along when a cattle truck "lost a passenger" on the road by the vineyard - a cow literally jumped out and is still living there.  That's right, she couldn't be mooooved.  The picture on the winery website makes me think someone may have pulled a switcheroo on them.  The pic shows a cow with horns.  That would be a bull.  Survivor Wines' Western Cape Cabernet Sauvignon could pair well with ol' Bessie if she’s not nimble enough to avoid the lasso.

1979's Over the Edge told the story of bored teenagers left to fend for themselves, filling out their empty existences with booze, drugs and crime.  To paraphrase Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, "well, it's always worked for me."  Director Jonathan Kaplan says the script was inspired by a newspaper article which documented the teen angst in a planned community.  The planned community in Over the Edge was set in Colorado, which had real-life violence erupt decades later in Columbine, and again in Aurora.  Maybe we should take a moment here for a "don’t try this at home" warning.

Pairing a wine with Over the Edge is a tough choice, considering that many of the characters were in their teens at the time.  Matt Dillon was only 14 when he got his career started in this movie.  An Over The Edge Winery would be perfect here, but the one in Tasmania - see: "what for you bury me in da cold, cold ground?" - is no longer open.  If you cannot get over the edge, that means you are still on it.  Calistoga's On the Edge Winery is now called Vermeill Winery.  Former NFL coach Dick Vermeill has been a vintner since the late '90s and provides a quick pairing for the next time the Eagles, Rams or Chiefs make the Super Bowl.  For Over the Edge, his Cabs are pricey, but they are all blood red.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Pair of Organic Wines From Chile

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

Veramonte Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2020 

This organic wine was made from Casablanca Valley grapes.  They were pressed into steel tanks where vinification took place.  The juice was separated from the lees during this process.  The vintage wasn’t easy, owing to a hot summer and a dry winter.  It is all Sauvignon Blanc, with a 13.5% abv alcohol level and a retail price of $12.

This wine has a New World feel to it, to be sure.  The nose is a little bit herbal, a little bit floral and a little bit grapefruity.  On the palate, the citrus aspect takes center stage, with a spicy element and a racy acidity.  Grapefruit lingers on the finish.  Pairing this wine with salads and shellfish is a natural, but it could certainly stand up to a piece of baked chicken.

Veramonte Organic Cabernet Sauvignon

The winery says that the 2018 vintage in the Colchagua Valley was "exceptional," with a rainy winter and a moderate summer.  The 2018 Organic Cabernet Sauvignon is a 100% varietal wine.  It was vinified in steel tanks, then aged for eight months in neutral oak barrels.  Alcohol content is 14% abv and the retail price is only $12, a steal for a wine this fresh and juicy.

This wine is ripe and beautiful - dark, with a nose of blackberries, cassis and violets.  There is a hint of tobacco and spice there as well, a tribute to the perfectly finessed aging.  The palate explodes on the tongue with dark fruit, vanilla and herbs.  The fruit is the story, but don't sell complexity short.  It offers a lot to ruminate on while you sip.  

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

One Of America's Favorite California Chardonnays

The folks at Sonoma-Cutrer are celebrating 40 years of passion, imagination and pride.  They say their approach to winemaking "marries Burgundian traditions and California ingenuity."  Head winemaker Mick Schroeter puts his signature on the label, showing the pride that leads to the boast that their Chardonnay is one of America's favorites.

The winery says that the 2019 vintage featured rain, rain and more rain, plus a summer free of radical temperature extremes.  The harvest started a week later than usual and proceeded methodically - just the way a winemaker wants it.

The grapes - 100% Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast - were whole-cluster pressed and vinified in 15% steel and 85% oak, a mixture of new and neutral barrels, which is where the wine aged for eight months.  Alcohol hits 13.9% abv and the wine retails for $23.

The nose is beautiful, with notes of stone fruit and honeydew mixing with a touch of oak spice.  The oak is not at all overdone, and it hits the palate as cleanly as you wish it would.  The mouthfeel is full and creamy, the acidity is gently refreshing and the flavors of peach, pear, lemon and a bit of sweet oak make for a delicious sip.

Women In Wine

Sonoma-Cutrer says they are proud to have one of the only all-female winemaking production teams in the industry.  Argentina-raised, Pinot Noir Winemaker Zidanelia Arcidiacono also oversees the winery's sustainability initiatives.  Cara Morrison has served as Chardonnay Winemaker, and has mastered the variety that the brand is known for.   As Wine Production Manager, Venezuelan-born Mayra Hernandez oversees everything from grape intake to bottling.  Vineyard Operations Manager Shannon Donnell, born and raised in Sonoma County, manages the grape supply used to create the wines.

Sustainable Efforts

Sustainability is an integral part of life at Sonoma-Cutrer.  The "Certified Sustainable" stamp on the label reflects the winery's long-term commitment to adopting environmentally-friendly and efficient measures.  A few of the steps they have taken: 

  • Organizing and recognizing a group of sustainability leaders across all departments, from landscaping to the tasting room, SET (Sustainability Environmental Team), who uphold and educate on the sustainability vision for the winery.
  • Installing specially-made owl boxes across the vineyards, providing a home for the birds that serve as a natural defense against gophers and voles who eat vines.
  • Planting pheromone lures that attract and confuse pests so they can’t mate, humanely limiting the growth of insects that harm the growing grapes.
  • Harvesting grapes early in the morning so employees avoid extended time in the California heat. This also allows the grapes to come into the winery already cold, reducing the amount of energy used to chill them. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Amarone Wine From Valpolicella

Amarone wines are made through a process called appassimento, in which harvested grapes are left to dry out for a time before vinification begins, causing the grapes to shrivel considerably, leaving a more concentrated fruit.  The Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso recently held a virtual tour of Italy, in which one important stop was Valpolicella, where Amarone is made.

Speri Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Sant'Urbano 2016

Speri was founded in Valpolicella in 1874 and is now run by the seventh generation of Speris, although the estate dates back to the 16th century.  Valpolicella is in Verona, part of the Veneto region of Italy.  The Speri organic wine is made from grapes grown in three different districts of Veneto, and each vineyard is vinified separately so that each wine is a single-vineyard effort, not just the Amarones.  

The grapes in the 2016 Speri Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Sant'Urbano are 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, and 5% Corvinone.  Winemaker Alberto Speri says the grapes were dried for four months, eliminating more than 40% of their original weight.  Vinification starts in stainless steel tanks, then finishes in oak barrels.  The wine was aged two years in Allier oak tonneaux, plus 18 months in Slavonian barrels and another year in the bottle.

Alcohol is a bit higher than most Italian wines - 15% abv - due to the drying of the grapes.  It sells for around $50.

This dark wine offers aromas of blackberry, vanilla and cedar on the nose, along with a strong sense of minerals.  Dark fruit dominates on the palate, with sweet oak spice, chalky limestone minerality and very firm tannins.  Have a steak with it, or game meat dishes.  

Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Campo dei Gigli 2016

Four Brothers - Armando, Tiziano, Paolo and Massimo Castagnedi - established Tenuta Sant'Antonio in 1987, in the heart of Valpolicella.  Paolo is the head winemaker, who turns the estate's Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella Croatina and Oseleta grapes into magic.

The grapes for the 2016 Tenuta Sant'Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Campo dei Gigli came from the town of Mezzane di Sotto, in the Monti Garbi District of Verona.  Those grapes are 70% Corvina and Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina and 5% Oseleta.  Vinification took place in oak casks, as did the three years of aging, with new oak all around.  The wine's alcohol level sits at 16% abv and it retails for about $60.

This wine has a rather explosive nose - aromas of black cherry and smoke provide an ample backdrop for the balsamic notes that come later.  I get a whiff of smoked meat and a bit of black olive at times, too.  On the palate, the dark fruit is simply luscious, while the taste of licorice hangs around on the lengthy finish.  The tannins seem fairly tame at first sip, but they sharpen up later.  

Monday, April 12, 2021

Why Albarola? It's Barbera Del Monferrato

Alessio and Romina Tacchino are the third generation to run their family's Tacchino wine business.  The  2016 Tacchino Albarola Barbera del Monferrato DOC is, despite what the name suggests, a 100% varietal wine, made from Barbera grapes grown in Piedmont, in the clay soil hills of Monferrato, in the Comune di Lerma and Castelletto d'Orba.  The name, Albarola, is also the name of a white grape, found mainly in Liguria.  The word was chosen for this wine as a tip of the hat to the last remaining tower on the property, named Albarola.

The wine was first produced in 1999, and was vinified in stainless steel before being aged in big wooden vats (tonneaux).  Romina says 30% of the wine has  oak treatment, because she doesn't like too much wood in the wine.  Alcohol hits almost 14.5% abv and the wine sells for around $15.

The nose is beautiful on this wine - perfumed blackberry, strawberry and plum.  It has some noticeable sweet oak spice with a good whiff of vanilla.  The palate brings flavors of red fruit with a slightly tart edge to it and a very good acidity that is lip-smacking.  There is a savory undercurrent that I find irresistible.  The finish lingers quite a while.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - George Segal Week

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies since 2011!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, we fondly remember some of George Segal's work after his recent passing.

In 1972's The Hot Rock, Segal got second billing to Robert Redford in the story of a diamond heist which keeps going south, showing that even the best-laid plans can always blow up in your face.  Take the making of this movie, for example.  The critics thought it was good, but not great.  The director, Peter Yates, said that despite an interesting story and a wonderful cast, the butts just didn’t get into the seats.  Go figure.

As a tribute to the movie, punk rockers Sleater-Kinney named one of their albums after it, although I feel "Afghanistan banana stand" would have been a better name.  At least it would have been more memorable.

For The Hot Rock, let's pair 19 Crimes wine with the film, since it seems like the band of criminals needed 19 chances to pull off their heist.  SoCal imbibers should note that the wine company has debuted a line of Snoop wines, Cali Red and Cali Rosé.  The latter looks a lot like gin and juice.

Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf was the most decorated film of 1966, nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning five of the statues.  Wikipedia notes that it was the first time a film's entire credited cast was nominated for Oscars.  Alas, Segal didn't take one home for Best Supporting Actor.

Billed as an evening of fun and games at George and Martha's, the fun was booze and the games were psychological Russian roulette.  Segal's Nick has some drunken bedtime with Elizabeth Taylor's Martha, but probably ends up wishing he hadn't.  Martha was not impressed.

Virginia Woolf herself didn’t like wine, saying it has "a drastic, an astringent taste. I cannot help wincing as I drink."  The Virginia Woolf Cocktail - gin and lemonade - sounds completely insubstantial.  Leave out the kid stuff and grab the strongest gin you can find for Virginia Woolf.  The Swedish Strane Uncut clocks in at 76% alcohol - not proof, percentage - making it reportedly the one gin in the world with the most powerful kick.  Rubbing alcohol for you, Martha?  Never mix, never worry.

The 1967 retelling of The St. Valentine's Day Massacre put Segal co-starring with Jason Robards.  It was a Roger Corman film, with Corman getting a bigger budget to work with than he ever had with the horror pictures that made him.  Corman promised the public the most accurate gangster film ever, and delivered it in docudrama fashion with the great Paul Frees doing the narration.  Segal plays one of Bugs Moran's goons and is one of the "seven against the wall" who don’t make it to the end credits.  

America's shameful prohibition of alcohol was still in its 13-year run when the massacre took place, so a speakeasy cocktail might be in order to pair with this film.  Just shake up some scotch, rum and sparkling wine with a dab of jelly - and keep an eye out for the coppers.  Or, you can shop for some Big House Prohibition Red.  Who cares which grapes are in it?  The Al Capone imagery on the bottle - or box - is reason enough to pair it with Massacre.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Thursday, April 8, 2021

If It's Northern Italy, Make It A White Wine

Friuli is in the northeastern tip of Italy, bordered by Austria to the north, Slovenia to the east and the Adriatic Sea to the south.  It is home to the magnificent Dolomite Mountains, and to Tenuta Luisa.  The Dolomites are part of the Southern Limestone Alps, and when it comes to white wine, limestone is the magic word.

The estate got its start in 1907 with Francesco Luisa.  His son, Delciso followed, as did his son Eddi, who still works alongside his wife, Nella.  Now, brothers Davide and Michele are the fourth generation to handle the vineyards and the winery, with generation five waiting in the wings.  

The crown on the label, says Michele, stands for the coat of arms of their hamlet in the village of Mariano del Friuli and represents the Collio hills that "crown" the area.  Their vineyards are in the Friuli Isonzo DOC, containing the name of the river flowing through the eastern part of the Friuli Venezia Giulia wine region.  Their I Ferretti wines get their name from the iron-rich soil in which the grapes grow.

The 2018 Tenuta Luisa Friuli Isonzo Friulano I Ferretti, made with 100% Friulano grapes, is fermented 30% in oak and 70% in steel.  It was awarded the highest status of Tre Bicchieri by Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso.  Alcohol rests at 13.5% abv and the retail price is about $20.

I am not a huge fan of white wines with a floral nose, but in this one it plays very well.  The flowers are subtle, with an overriding minerality coming forward.  That's where I like my white wines to live.  Aromas of tangerine and lemon zest are abetted by the smell of wet rocks and a trace of what smells to me like oregano.  The palate is all about those minerals, with a subdued citrus flavor along for the ride.  The acidity is great, perfect for something from the ocean.  I paired the I Ferretti with a seafood risotto for dinner, and wished that it was on the table at lunch when I had polpo, a grilled octopus salad.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A White Italian Wine From The Shadow Of Mt. Etna

The Cusumano winery - now Under the Terlato umbrella - was started in 2001, when brothers Alberto and Diego Cusumano took over for their father, Francesco.  Winemaker Mario Ronco makes the Cusumano wines entirely from estate grown grapes, from five different territories throughout Sicily, including Alta Mora from Mount Etna.  Diego is the winery's export manager, who spoke for the business during a recent virtual event put on by the Italian wine guide, Gambero Rosso International.

The folks at Cusumano say the 2019 Cusumano Etna Bianco Alta Mora uses the best Carricante grapes grown in the districts of Pietramarina and Verzella, in Castiglione di Sicilia and in Arrigo in Linguaglossa.  The volcanic terroir makes the wine what it is - a complex, character-driven wine.  Alcohol checks in at 12% abv and the wine generally sells for about $53.

This wine is tinted lightly yellow and carries a hefty bit of salinity on the nose.  There is also the scent of lemons, almonds and a wet sidewalk.  The palate shows terrific minerality, a nutty backbeat and a citrus finish that lingers.  I would like a little more acidity, but this is fresh enough.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Two From Tuscany IGT

Tenuta Monteti Toscana IGT 2016

Tenuta Monteti was founded in 1998 by Gemma and Paolo Baratta in the southern Maremma area of Tuscany.  The couple returned to wine after having been in the business in their youth.  The estate was named for the Monteti hill, which protects it from the strong Mediterranean winds.  

They built from the ground up, starting from scratch with vines of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Alicante Bouschet grapes.  The IGT Toscana classification allows them the freedom to choose the grapes they want to grow.  Consulting oenologist Carlo Ferrini has been with them from the beginning, and now their daughter Eva is in her second decade of running the show with her husband Javier Pedrazzini.  The vineyards are managed in sustainable fashion, and they have the government certificate to prove it.

Monteti, their flagship wine, is a blend of 40 to 55% Petit Verdot, 25 to 30% Cabernet Franc and 15 to 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The percentages varying from vintage to vintage.  The wine is aged for 18 months in medium-toasted French oak barriques, 70% of which are new, followed by another two years in the bottle.  They say the Petit Verdot is the personality of the wine, "the rebel horse," while the Cabernet Sauvignon brings structure and longevity.  The Cabernet Franc provides an elegance which softens both.  Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and the Monteti has averaged through the years at a price of $36.

This wine carries a dark ruby color and a nose of dark fruit, blueberries and blackberries mostly.  There are also aromas of mocha, white pepper and oak spice to be found.  The palate displays the blueberry flavor, and a lip-smacking acidity which really feels refreshing.  It feels a touch light in the mouth, despite having spent a year and a half in oak.  The tannins are firm but not overwhelming - there is plenty there to work on a steak, a rack of lamb or a pasta dish with meat sauce - or a mushroom risotto, for that matter.

Caiarossa Aria di Caiarossa 2016

The Caiarossa company logo is an Etruscan clay head of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus, dating from the fourth century B.C.  The winery's story dates back only as far as 1998.  In 2004 the estate was bought by Eric Albada Jelgersma, who brought with him the experience of creating wines in two Grand Cru vineyards in the Margaux neck of the Bordeaux woods, Château Giscours and Château du Tertre.

Caiarossa is located near the Tuscany coast, in the southern part of the Province of Pisa.  The vineyards are biodynamic and certified organic, and winemaker Lorenzo Pasquini is charged not only with making the juice, but also with cask selection.

The 2016 Aria di Caiarossa is an IGT Toscano Rosso wine made from the noble grapes Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine was fermented in concrete tanks, then aged for 14 months in 15% new wood barriques and tonneaux, then back into the concrete for six months before being bottled.  Alcohol is 14% abv and the average cost of a bottle is about $30.

This dark wine has fruit aromas to match - blackberries, currant, black cherry - and I love the way those smells power past the oak effect.  The oak has indeed left its mark, with vanilla, cedar, tobacco and a hint of tar on the nose.  The palate shows vibrant fruit and earthy notes, with a healthy dose of tannic strength and a racy acidity.  I'm having it with chicken Dijonnaise, but thinking of a pork chop to pair with it.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Two Sardinian Vermentino Wines

A recent series of virtual wine tasting experiences took a host of wine writers on a trip through Italy, thanks to Gambero Rosso International.  The wine guide provided wines for the tasting to which they awarded the status of Tre Bicchieri, or three glasses, their highest honor.  Today, two fabulous Vermentino wines from the Italian isle of Sardinia.

Pala Vermentino di Sardegna Stellato 2019

The Sardinia Pala wine estate was founded in 1950.  Mario Pala is the third generation of the family to tend the vines, with the help of his wife Rita and the fourth generation of the family: Massimiliano, Elisabetta and Mariantonietta.

The Vermentino grapes for this wine were grown in a single 60-year-old vineyard.  The wine was fermented in steel and aged there for five months on the lees, the spent yeast cells.  This gives additional heft to the wine and a fuller mouthfeel.  Alcohol gets up to 14% abv and the wine sells for and average price of $18.

This Vermentino delivers what I love about the grape, especially those from Sardinia.  It is a smell that is more than simple salinity, it is the ocean.  With flowers floating on it.  The palate brings a savory smattering of citrus, along with a gentle acidity that lets us know that it is there without ripping a gash in our tongues.  Seafood time.

Surrau Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Sciala

Vigna Surrau is also located on the Italian island of Sardinia - Sardegna, if you prefer.  The isle is mainly mountainous, and the winery says there is plenty of unspoiled wilderness and forests of oak and cork trees.  

Their 2019 Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Sciala comes from Sardinia's jagged coastline, the part in the island's northeast corner, called Costa Smeralda - the Emerald Coast.  Gallura - which means "stony area" - is the first and only Sardinian DOCG.  The 100% Vermentino grapes were grown in that region's granitic soil.  Alcohol tips 14% abv and the average price for a bottle is $24.

This wine has a floral nose, but that does not shortchange the minerality.  There is a good bit of lemon and salinity in the mix, too.  The palate shows the citrus and minerals strongest, with a very nice bit of acidity.  Extremely nice, actually.  I should have had some seafood with it, but it was cream of mushroom soup day at the house, with some rice on the side.  It paired quite well.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Epic Spectacles

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 back at a few Epic Spectacles and find a suitable beverage to consume with each.

1959's Ben-Hur was directed by William Wyler, who won Oscars three times for directing movies which also grabbed the statue for Best Picture.  Ben-Hur was the final piece of the hat trick, joining Mrs. Miniver and The Best Years of Our Lives on Wyler's mantel.

I don't know if it still holds true, but for people of my generation, Ben-Hur - and The Ten Commandments, see below -  define the phrase "epic spectacle."  Ben-Hur may have featured hundreds of camels, thousands of horses and 10,000 extras - but there is only one Charlton Heston.  And he liked it that way, dammit.  Heston signed on to do the movie for a quarter of a million dollars, which back then was a lot of money.  Nowadays, big stars hit the Lotto every time they do a film - which is payback for those years of waiting tables.

In the film, Hur got water from Jesus when he was thirsty, and tried to return the favor as Jesus struggled to his crucifixion.  Damn Roman soldiers, anyway.  We're going to have something a little more satisfying to drink.  Hur and his mortal enemy/bosom buddy Messala may well have locked arms and imbibed a wine resembling a modern day Tannat.  That grape has a skin so thick it could survive a chariot mishap.  Tablas Creek in Paso Robles makes a Tannat which sells for $40 and should age well, long past the end of the movie.

The 1960 Italian film, Revolt of the Slaves, starred Rhonda Fleming, who passed away not six months ago at 97 years old.  On the one-sheet for the movie - "The Revels… The Ravages… The Revolt of the Ages!" - she seems to be wielding a bullwhip while wearing a little rag of a dress.  That's how the slaves rolled in the fourth century when they shed their shackles.

Pairing a wine with a movie about slaves in the Roman Empire was easier than I expected it to be, thanks to Italian winemaker Elena Walch.  Her Schiava - it's a grape, and a word meaning "slave" in Italian - comes from the Alto Adige region in northern Italy.  That's where you want to look for a great Italian white wine.

Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 epic, The Ten Commandments, saw Charlton Heston in sandals as Moses, maybe the greatest slave-freer of all time.  Lincoln freed four million slaves, but DeMille made his look like more, and threw in some miracles for extra measure.

Besides Heston, the all-star cast included faves like Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Yvonne De Carlo, Vincent Price and Edward G. Robinson.  "Look, Moses, we're slaves, see?  You gotta get us outta here, see?  We need an exodus, see?  Gotta part the Red Sea, see?"

Now, another wine for a movie about the stone tablet ages.  There are a number of great kosher wines, one being Covenant Viognier, produced in Israel after getting started in Southern California's Herzog Cellars.  It's a little bit of Galilee in a bottle.  

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Brunello Di Montalcino

The Tenuta di Sesta vineyards are in the southern part of Montalcino, where the warm Tuscan breezes keep the cold north winds off the grapes.  The winery has been managed since 1995 by Giovanni Ciacci, who has now brought his children into the business the way his father and grandfather did.

The 2015 Tenuta di Sesta Brunello di Montalcino DOCG is made from Sangiovese grapes known locally as Sangiovese Grosso, Brunello di Montalcino - or simply, Brunello.  The wine is fermented in steel tanks, then transferred to oak barrels for aging that takes 30 months.  Traditional aging occurs in Slavonian oak barrels, which is thought to be better wood for lengthy aging as the aromas are imparted more slowly.  The wine ages another twelve months in the bottle.  Alcohol tips the scale at 14.5% abv and the average price for a bottle is about $40.

The wine shows a medium ruby tint in the glass.  The nose gives off aromas of black cherry and licorice, plum and tobacco.  It is as complex as one might imagine for a wine which spent two and a half years in oak.  On the palate, there is red fruit along with some savory notes of earth and oak spice.  The tannins are supple and the acidity is refreshing.  This is a wine to pair with a special steak or game dish.