Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Wildly Wonderful California Sauvignon Blanc

Crescere Vineyards is a Santa Rosa-based boutique winery.  Joe Reynoso says that they started out as farmers, then decided to make wine from their grapes which they had been selling to others.  Winemaker - and Bordeaux native - Philippe Melka has been there since Crescere's beginning.  The Crescere estate vineyard overlooks the Alexander Valley, up north of Geyserville, but this wine comes from land located a bit south of there.

The 2018 Crescere Sauvignon Blanc is made entirely from grapes grown in Kent Ritchie's vineyard in the Russian River Valley.  It's a very small plot - only five acres, planted among Chardonnay vines.  The Sauvignon Blanc vines are reportedly several decades old, producing concentrated fruit.  Crescere is the only winery making a single-vineyard SauvBlanc from the Ritchie Vineyard.

The label art was created by London-based artist Yehrin Tong.  It is made up of Fibonacci spirals, a fractal geometry design which is thought to embody the innate beauty of nature.

The wine is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes, which were whole-cluster pressed at the winery.  About two-thirds of the wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, but the rest was vinified in new French oak barrels.  Alcohol tips 14.4% abv and the wine retails for $60.

It is lightly tinted yellow-gold in the glass.  Its nose offers sweet stone fruit, tropical notes, citrus and a very faint grassy or herbal sense - just barely a hint.  The oak shows rather strongly on the palate, with a razor-sharp acidity, and both those elements seem to play off of one another.  Pineapple candy comes back on the finish.  This is an expensive Sauvignon Blanc, but it has a lot to offer.

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Monday, June 28, 2021

Hazy Little Thing Called Beer

The Hazy Little Thing IPA is made by the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company which is, according to the message on the can, "Family owned, operated and argued over."  The company is based in Chico, CA and has an operation in Mills River, NC.  It is becoming more common to find that West Coast breweries open up a shop in the east, presumably to cut down on shipping costs and deliver a fresher beer to their customers.  

Sierra Nevada says the Hazy Little Thing IPA is "aggressively dry-hopped and less filtered."  Why make it hazy?  They say the haze is where the flavor is.  Alcohol sits at 6.7% abv.

The nose of this beer is floral, citrusy and hoppy, as one would expect of a West Coast IPA.  The palate is so tart it's almost sour.  The citrus comes through plainly, while a malty aftertaste sneaks in after the sip is gone. It is quite a refreshing beer, one that would be great outside after doing some heavy lifting in the lawn and garden.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Nuclear Blowout

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week we examine three films which deal with the atomic age, in one way or another.

When I did a Google search for 2017's Atomic Blonde - just to make sure I already knew everything - Google showed me a few questions being asked by others about the movie.  One of them was, "Is Atomic Blonde worth watching?"

If you need to ask Google if a movie suits you, you have probably been reading too many Google ads in your email inbox.  How about you take a flyer on your own sensibilities and wildly risk the two hours it takes to actually find out if it's worth it?  Besides, Charlize Theron is in it, ya idiot!  Why wouldn’t you watch?

Theron plays a late-1980s spy who is one of a large handful of spies chasing down a list of double agent spies.  There is quite a bit of pretty solid action, most of it involving Theron.  It is a rather complicated bit of scripting, however.  "Oh, gee, does that mean it’s not worth it?"  No, it doesn't.

The super spy of Atomic Blonde does not go for the James Bond type of alcoholic beverage.  She likes Stoli vodka, on ice.  There is no "shaken, not stirred" mystique with her choice.  It's cold and direct: just bring the ice and leave the bottle.

1954's The Atomic Kid stars Mickey Rooney as a guy prospecting for uranium in what is presumably the Nevada desert.  It sounds like "Andy Hardy Goes to Area 51."  Rooney was 34 at the time, and still playing roles defined as "kid."  The kid finds himself at ground zero for a nuclear test blast.  Don't worry - he closed his eyes and plugged his ears, so he survived.  He did become radioactive, however.  Hilarity ensues.  The script came from a story by Blake Edwards, who managed to shoehorn a love angle into the proceedings.  That is a helluva meet-cute.

Scientists say there is a little radioactivity in everything, including the wine we drink.  Don't worry about it, though - it's not enough radiation to make us glow in the dark.  Wouldn't that be fun, though?  I was in a bar once when a street team came in and handed out glow sticks.  The patrons promptly bit the ends off of them, and soon everyone was speckled with the glowing contents of those sticks.  Pop open a cold can of Nuclear Wine to pair with The Atomic Kid, the wine which says "Yes we CAN."  If you are still worried about the radiation, cop a move from Rooney's character.  Close your eyes and hold your nose while you drink.

A Boy and His Dog is a 1975 vision of post-nuclear war America in 2024.  Well we're getting pretty close to that time, so I suspect we should start looking for our jetpacks any day now.  It's always quaint when the future time depicted in a movie actually clicks over on the calendar, instantly dating the film.  But who am I to suggest that a nuclear war won't start and finish in the next three years? 

If it does, let's hope this movie's depiction of survival is wrong.  A Boy and His Dog is a black comedy starring a young Don Johnson as Vic, who travels the land with his telepathic dog, who helps Vic find women with whom he can satisfy his insatiable sexual appetite.  Now that's a puppy who is earning his Snausages.  However, Vic's methods are tainted with rape.   Food and sex, the tentpoles of the misogynistic future.

Some of the food would have to be Nuclear Winter barleywine.  It's a French craft beer with the influence of oak cognac barrels.  At 16% alcohol, you might think it's a wine.  After a few bottles, you might even think your dog is telepathic.  Just don’t start doing whatever he says.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Arrogant Bastard Ale

The makers of Arrogant Bastard Ale do all that they can to live up to their marketing.  On the can: "Drink Fresh Numbskull," and on the website: "You’re not worthy."  There is an accompanying monologue which lambastes the makers of "fizzy yellow beer" and the numbskulls who drink it.

The can also reads: "True arrogant bastards refuse to be ignorant.  Know where your beer comes from!"  In the interest of being as arrogant as possible, this beer comes from Escondido, California.  I have yet to try a beer from San Diego County that I did not like, at least a little bit.  Most of them I like a lot.  Like this arrogant bastard.  

It is brewed and canned by Arrogant Consortia, Escondido, CA and Richmond, VA, so they are bicoastally arrogant.  It is actually a subset of Stone Brewing, which launched Arrogant Bastard in 1997, and for my money Stone is the best damn brewery around.  Arrogant alcohol tips 7.2% abv.

Arrogant Bastard Ale is a strong American ale, dark and malty and laced with a caramel note. It is dark enough to be getting close to porter territory.  The palate is slightly bitter and carries a nutty sensibility that is completely charming.  

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Monday, June 21, 2021

Two Wines From Sicily

This is the final installment in my virtual tour of Italy.  The wines I have covered - all 48 of them - were mostly Tre Bicchieri award winners from Gambero Rosso, the international Italian wine guide.  Tasting four dozen Italian wines over several Zoom meetings was exactly what I needed to spice up my socially distanced life back in March.  In fact, I'll do it again any time.  With pleasure.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso Archineri 2017 is made completely from the Sicilian grape Nerello Mascalese.  Some people feel it is a lot like Pinot Noir, but I find it a lot livelier, more muscular than a typical Pinot.  The vines from which these grapes came are 80 to 90 years old - prephylloxera - on the northern slopes of Mt. Etna.  

Owner Michele Faro spoke fondly of the volcanic soil during the Zoom gathering and he even brought some freshly fallen volcanic ash with him as show-and-tell.

The wine was aged 14 months in French oak tonneaux, has alcohol at 15% abv and sells for around $40.

This wine does a little Pinot Noir act, medium ruby in the glass with earthy red fruit on the nose.  The nose also offers notes of coffee, sage and eucalyptus.  The palate definitely shows the volcanic origin along with spice and pepper, plus a firm tannic structure and a ripping acidity.  The sip finishes clean and savory.  Very tasty.

Cottanera Etna Rosso Feudo di Mezzo

From Sicily again, 100% Nerello Mascalese which was aged 14 to 16 months in French oak casks, then 18 months in the bottle.  Alcohol is tamer in this one, 13.5% abv, and it averages around $26 on the cash register.

This wine is medium ruby in the glass and smells of raspberry, cherry, anise and an earthy note.  The palate is like a more savory take on Pinot Noir, with coffee, red fruit and spicy herbs.  The tannins are very firm and the acidity is fresh.  There is a long finish which carries the red fruit back.  If it's an outdoor occasion this summer, the Cottanera takes a chill well.

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Friday, June 18, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - R.I.P. Ned Beatty

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 remember three movies which featured Ned Beatty, who passed away recently.

One of the most successful films of 1972 was Deliverance, directed by John Boorman.  Ned Beatty played one of the less experienced of four thrill seekers who got tired of "walkin' 'round Atlanta in their alligator shoes" and decided to get out of their man caves and raft down a Georgia river.  Well, Ned's character got experienced real quick.  The infamous "squeal like a pig" scene is one that nobody seemed to like, but it's the one thing everybody remembers about the movie. 

The Georgia setting may have you wondering which was worse, the heat or the humidity, but the wine could save the day.  Georgia's Tiger Mountain Vineyards produces quite an array of really good wines, including bottlings of the Norton, Tannat and Petit Manseng grapes.

Robert Altman's Nashville caused quite a stir in 1975.  Critics praised it up and down as an insightful look at American politics through the lens of country music.  Then, complaints started rolling in about the film's cynicism.  Really?  How would one combine American politics with country music without a heapin' helpin' of cynicism?

Ned Beatty's redneck lawyer Delbert Reese is a role that was right up his alley.  If you're taking a cynical look at American politics and country music, you'd better have a lawyer handy - the smarmier the better.

Tennessee's Grinder's Switch Winery now has a tasting room in Nashville.  They seem fairly sincere - no cynicism on the menu - when they offer their grape wines mixed with the juice of other fruit, like blackberries and elderberries.

Network in 1976 brought cynicism to a higher status.  A man was killed because he got lousy ratings - how cynical can it get?  Beatty put a fine point on it as TV exec Arthur Jensen, who screams at Howard Beale - one angry man to another - that he won't stand for Beale meddling "with the primal forces of nature."  The role brought Beatty his only Oscar nomination.  When he rattled off a list of big American corporations as the new "nations of the world," I believed him.

It's been reported that theaters which show Network these days are sometimes throwing a party featuring a Mad As Hell cocktail - Bulleit Bourbon, Kings Ginger Liqueur, Cochi Americano vermouth and a dash of lemon juice and sugar.  As my neighborhood bartender used to say before he couldn't take it anymore, "schlagers!"

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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Chillable Red Wines For Summer

Summertime's warm weather and outside gatherings always leave people throwing a case of beer into a washtub of ice.  Red wines typically don't translate well to a backyard barbecue.  However, here are a pair of reds that take a chill very well.

They are made by Thacher Winery and Vineyard, a boutique producer in Paso Robles' west side.  Winemaker Sherman Thacher and Assistant Winemaker Daniel Callan are working with an admirable collection of grapes, from Chenin Blanc to Cinsault, from Négrette to Nebbiolo, from Viognier to Valdiguié.

The Thacher 2019 Cinsault was grown in the Glenrose Vineyard in Paso's Adelaida District.  Those Cinsault grapes came from a cutting taken off of a vine that was in an old UC Davis experimental station, a vineyard which had fallen from university ownership in the early 1900s yet was rediscovered in 1961 and found to be thriving.

The grapes were foot trodden and fermented whole cluster.  The wine was allowed to achieve malolactic fermentation in neutral oak barrels for four months, then racked into large concrete tanks where it aged for a year.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the wine retails for $36.

This wine has a medium garnet tint to it, but is full red, not rosato red.  The nose is amazing - there is a bit of raspberry, a touch of redwood and a hint of cinnamon.  I don't recall ever smelling a wine like it.  On the palate, again, amazing.  Red berries of some sort dominate - like the kind we would pick along the railroad tracks in East Texas - and there is a mild tartness and peppery quality.  The tannins are firm enough for those burgers from the grill and the acidity is refreshing.  Chill this for your backyard barbecues and everyone will want to know what it is, and where they can get some.

Thacher’s 2020 Valdiguié Nouveau hails from the Paso Robles Highlands District, the Shell Creek Vineyard.  For a century, Valdiguié was thought to be a clone of the Gamay grape, grown in Beaujolais.  It was known as Napa Gamay.  Growers and winemakers love it, but most of the vines were ripped out when Cabernet Sauvignon became the grape of the day in California wine.  It is almost extinct today.

The grapes were fermented as in a Beaujolais Nouveau - carbonic fermentation in a tank, whole cluster, and spent seven weeks on the stems and skins.  The wine was then racked to neutral oak, where malolactic fermentation happened.  The wine stayed in oak for five months.  Alcohol is low, at 12% abv and it retails for $28.

This wine is medium dark red in the glass and has a nose of strawberry and cherry, with an earthy element added to it - sort of a Beaujolais feel.  The palate offers up brilliant cherry notes and a racy acidity, along with rather firm tannins.  The oak treatment - only five months neutral - make this a great choice for backyard cookouts this summer.  Don't be afraid to ice down this unusual grape.  Valdiguié is almost extinct, I'm told.  It was once called Napa Gamay.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Two Special Primitivo Wines From Puglia

Today we go back to Manduria, in Puglia, the heel of Italy's boot.  The Gambero Rosso virtual tasting event has already covered a number of Primitivo di Manduria wines, but these two are special.

Felline Primitivo di Manduria Zinfandel Sinfarosa Terra Nera 2017

Feline's Gregory Perrucci spoke during the online event about how Ridge is one of his favorite California producers of Zinfandel.  He said "now it can be told" that he visited the winery and brought back a cutting from the Geyserville vineyard.  He grafted it to one of his Primitivo di Manduria vines, and so he uses both the Italian and American names for the grape on the Sinfarosa label.

The Felline website refers to this particular grape as "Zinfandel Californiano," but it is properly identified on the label as Primitivo di Manduria.  even the label art recalls a poster from the old American west.  The label also bears the name of the production area, Terra Nera.  The Felline "hybrid" was aged for six months in French and American oak.  It carries a walloping 15% abv in alcohol and sells for less than $20.

This wine is medium-dark in the glass, and full-blown dark on the nose.  Aromas of black fruit leap out first, but the tar notes follow quickly.  It has a peppery smell to it and a healthy amount of chocolate and cigar box.  The palate is full and lush.  Blackberry notes, anise, mocha and bramble all join together with firm tannins and a lengthy finish.  I want a steak with this one, but a sausage and pasta dish would be nice, too.  You can also enjoy it by itself as it is quite sip-worthy.

Coppi Gioia del Colle Primitivo Senatore 2017

The Coppi Winery started in Puglia in 1882 and has passed through several hands over the years.  Antonio Coppi entered the cellar in the late 1960s, producing wines grown in the stony soil of the hills of the "Murgia dei Trulli."  The winery proudly declares that they are "in the cradle of the Primitivo DOC Gioia del Colle."  Coppi would go on to become a senator, with the Senatore wine named in honor of that achievement.  His daughters and son are involved in the business today.

The Coppi family still carries a chip on their shoulder about how Apulian wines have been "mistreated and snubbed" by the mainstream Italian wine industry.  It is the company's aim to restore "dignity and prestige" to the region through their wines.  In addition to Primitivo, the Coppi vineyards also hold grape varieties like Aleatico, Verdeca, Malvasia, Negroamaro, and Falanghina.

The 2017 Senatore was fermented in steel tanks, then aged for a year in Slavonian oak barrels.  Alcohol is restrained at 13.5% abv and the wine typically sells for around $25.

The wine is quite dark in the glass but is also very closed off on the nose.  There is some black plum and some tar, but it is surprisingly faint.  The palate isn't shy about showing its dark fruit with a layer of savory spice and anise over it.  The tannins are not forceful, so pairing with pasta is a cinch, or just sip it.  It is very tasty and smooth, and has a lengthy finish.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Italian Wine - Aglianico From Campagnia

Today we continue a virtual trip through Italy provided by wine guide Gambero Rosso, who staged the online tasting event recently.

The Donnachiara winery is located in Campagnia, home to Naples, Salerno, Mt. Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast.  The company is located in the province of Avellino, within the Irpinia appellation.  The business has a mostly female power structure, with owner Chiara Petitto delegating CEO duties to her daughter, Ilaria.  

Taurasi is one of the region's three DOCG wines, all of which are made by Donnachiara.  The 2016 Donnachiara Taurasi was made from 100% Aglianico grapes, harvested by hand and  fermented in steel tanks, then transferred to barriques, where malolactic fermentation took place.  The wine aged for a year in oak and a year inside the bottle.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the wine retails for around $36.

This wine is medium-dark in the glass and offers up a perfumed nose of red fruit, sweet oak spice, smoke and hint of spearmint.  The palate is just as delightful, with cherries, raspberries and red currant flavors joining together.  The tannins are sweet, while the finish is medium length and savory.  It was great with an Italian sub sandwich and also a hit with arancini and fennel-laced meatballs.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Italian Wine - Roma Holiday

Today we continue a virtual trip through Italy, provided by wine guide Gambero Rosso, who staged the online tasting event recently.  

The Roma DOC is in the Lazio region, which surrounds Italy's capital.  The DOC was established in 2011, but winemaking in the area goes back to around 800 B.C., so they really know what they are doing with the grapes.  It's natural to find Roma wines scoring great popularity with the citizenry.

Felice Mergè carries a century of winemaking with him as the owner and enologist for Poggio Le Volpi.  His father, Armando, and his grandfather, Manlio, set the scene before him.  The grapes grow in soil of volcanic origin, loaded with minerals.  

The 2017 Limited Edition of Roma DOC Poggio Le Volpi was made from three grape varieties - 60% Montepulciano, 20% Syrah and 20% Cesanese.  The grapes were grown in the same vineyards as the regular vintage Roma, but the winery says only the best bunches contribute to this wine.  It was fermented in steel tanks and aged for a year or so in oak barriques.  Alcohol sits at 14% abv and the retail price averages around $19.

This is an extremely dark wine, inky black, and it smells of black plums, blackberries and black cherries.  The palate shows a terrific display of said fruit with a savory blanket of spice and licorice thrown over it.  The tannins are a bit tame, but that fault does make for an extremely sippable wine.  It will pair nicely with pork or tomato-based dishes.

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Friday, June 11, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Femme Noir

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 dark side of the fair sex in a trio of Femme Noir films.

The one-sheet for 1947's Nora Prentiss says "Loving her once is once too often," and if the movie had been made a few decades later, I'd swear I knew her.  Ann Sheridan is the femme fatale while Kent Smith is the sucker who fakes his own death to be with her.  Claiming a dead guy's body as his own doesn't turn out so well for him, but didn't we all see that coming?  That's film noir, Jake.

Critics didn't respond well when Nora Prentiss was released, if you care what critics say.  However, time has been kind to the film, which is now generally viewed as a fine example of femme noir.

Oriel Winery used to have a Bordeaux rosé called Femme Fatale.  It could be hard to find now, as the company's website looks like an untended garden.  For Ann Sheridan, let's go to Washington's Yakima Valley and Sheridan Vineyard’s Mystique, a Cab-heavy red blend with lush Merlot in a supporting role.

Beverly Michaels gets the starring role in 1953's Wicked Woman, as a waitress who aims to take the place of her employer's drunk wife.  When their little secret gets out, well, you know what they say about the best laid plans - and the best planned lays.

Let's refer once again to the movie posters: "She’s nothing but trouble… every voluptuous inch of her."  "She uses sex the way a hoodlum uses a loaded gun."  "She lives up to every scarlet letter of her name."  "They called her wicked, but they didn’t know the half of it."  The writers had a blast with those movie posters.

Clouds Rest makes a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which bears the name Femme Fatale.  Be warned, it's expensive - as is any femme fatale worth her one-sheets.

Body Heat is the 1981 film that served as the launching pad for Kathleen Turner's career.  I hear that Body Heat was inspired by Double Indemnity, but there is also a taste of DI in our previous two Femme Noir films.  Noir often calls for a character like Walter Neff - or Ned Racine - guys who can’t resist the siren call of a woman they know to be trouble.

It was a hot summer there in Florida, but one ambulance chaser felt the need to turn up the heat a few degrees.  William Hurt played the shyster who stepped right into Turner's tangled web and took the fall.  Critics either panned it or praised it, but Body Heat became an icon of the eighties anyway.

Tessier Winery has a $28 Femme Fatale rosé.  Since Turner's character was so good at stepping on people to get what she wanted, the Pinot Noir grapes for the wine were foot-trampled as well.

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Thursday, June 10, 2021

Two New Releases From Cameron Hughes

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.

Cameron Hughes Lot 811 Zinfandel Lodi 2019

Lot 811 is made completely from Lodi Zinfandel grapes.  The Lodi appellation has come on strong in recent years, especially with respect to the Zinfandels being produced there.  Most of the growers in Lodi are families which have been growing those grapes for generations.  Many of them have only recently begun making their own wine instead of selling the fruit to other producers.

This wine checks in with alcohol at 14.5% abv and a retail sticker of $13.  Yes.  Great Lodi Zin, for thirteen dollars.

The wine is medium dark in the glass.  The nose is perfumed with plum and blackberry aromas, with a hint of black pepper and campfire smoke.  An undercurrent of lilacs sets off the more savory aspect.  On the palate, there is amazing fruit - cherry, blackberry, cassis - along with some fairly awesome peppery notes.  The mouthfeel is full, yet lean, with tannins firm enough to do a job but soft enough to stay out of the way when they are not working.  I don't get a color reference very often on the palate, but this wine tastes purple to me.  The finish is medium at best, but full of the aforementioned fruit. 

Cameron Hughes Lot 825 White Meritage Napa Valley 2020

Lot 825 combines 70% Sauvignon Blanc grapes with 30% Semillon, a blend found more famously in the Bordeaux region of Graves.  These grapes were grown in the Napa Valley, where ripeness never seems to be a problem.  Alcohol tips only 12.9% abv and the retail price is $16.

This wine is lightly tinted yellow.  The nose is full of citrus and minerals - that smell of a wet sidewalk is in there.  There is also a trace of apricot and a hint of an herbal note - not full-blown grassiness, but edging in that direction.  The palate is very clean and lean.  The citrus takes center stage with the minerality staying close.  I usually think California SauvBlanc is riper than anywhere else in the world, but this example does not follow suit.  It is a bit tart, but with the usual Sauvignon trappings quite muted.  I suppose the Semillon helps out in that area.  The acidity is light enough for easy sipping, yet strong enough to handle some non-demanding pairing jobs.  I think this is actually a pretty good Sauvignon Blanc for people who think Sauvignon Blanc comes on too strong.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Colors Of Abruzzo

Here are three distinct colors of Italy's Abruzzo region - white, red, and rosé.

Feudo Antico Tullum Pecorino Biologico 2019

The Feudo Antico winery is located in Abruzzo, an Italian wine region east of Rome.  The region is more known for its red wine, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo than its white or pink bottlings.  Antico was founded in 2004 with its sights set on preserving some indigenous grapes which were falling out of favor - like Pecorino and Passerina.

The 2019 Tullum Pecorino Biologico was made from 100% Pecorino grapes, taken from vineyards on the hillsides around Tollo in Chieti.  The soil in the DOCG Tullum - the smallest wine region of Abruzzo - is slightly calcareous.  A winery rep stated on the virtual tasting event hosted by Gambero Rosso that the land came from the sea, and it is easy to find fossils there.  

The wine was fermented in steel tanks, then aged on the lees - the spent yeast cells - for six months in large concrete tanks.  Winemaker Riccardo Brighina spontaneously fermented the wine and left it unfiltered.  Alcohol checks in at 13.5% abv and the wine sells for, on average, $15.

This Abruzzo white wine is tinted yellow.  It smells of citrus, mostly - Meyer lemon, lime and tangerine.  There is also an earthy aroma like that of apricots.  The apricot note is more noticeable on the palate, with all that citrus coming along for the ride.  The acidity is quite fresh, very refreshing.  The finish is medium and carries apricot and salinity, along with the Meyer lemon.

Tenuta Terraviva Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo Giusi 2019

Tenuta Terraviva lies in the hills of Tortoreto, Teramo province of Abruzzo.  The vineyards are close to the Adriatic Sea, and benefit from that proximity.  Terraviva works primarily with indigenous grape varieties, like Trebbiano, Pecorino, Passerina and Montepulciano.

The Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo DOC is dedicated to the rosato wines which used to be labeled as Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Cerasuolo.  Giusi is made completely from organic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes.  The wine was fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeast, aged six months in steel tanks, then aged three more months in the bottle.  Alcohol is a restrained 12.5% abv and a bottle usually sells for around $12.

This Italian rosato lights up the glass beautifully in a blaze of cherry red.  The nose - the expected cherry, strawberry, cassis notes - has an undercurrent of tar and is draped in a muscular earthiness.  The fruit flavors come along on the palate bright and fresh, with a beautiful acidity.  The grapes, by the way, are Montepulciano with limited skin contact and steel vinification and aging.  

Valle Reale Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Vigneto di Popoli 2015

Valle Reale makes Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine like no other winery.  Their vineyards are located within one of Italy's most noted and beautiful national parks.  Besides the lovely surroundings, it must be nice to know there is always a park ranger nearby.  The estate is owned by Leonardo Pizzolo, and the winemaker is Emmanuel Merlo.

The rich Vigneto di Popoli wine is made wholly from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes, grown in the pebbly, chalky soil of the oldest estate vineyards.  Fermented in stainless steel, this wine was aged for two years in neutral French oak tonneaux, then six months more in the bottle.  Alcohol slips under the radar at 13.5% abv, while the wine generally sells for about $19.

This wine is medium dark with aromas of black cherry, cassis and blackberry wafting up from the glass.  There is also a bit of leather, tobacco and pencil lead.  The palate offers cherry, licorice and baking spices, along with a nice acidity and medium-firm tannins.  The sip is really enjoyable, but it pairs well with a steak or anything Bolognese. 

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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Two Tastes of Paso Robles

One of California's best and biggest wine regions is ready to do business again.  Paso Robles put their best feet forward in a webinar, held in celebration of the state's impending reopening, after the lengthy pandemic restrictions.  

Stacie Jacob of Travel Paso said a road trip is just what everyone needs right now, especially a road trip to Paso Robles.  She assured those on the Zoom meeting that when they are ready to travel, Paso Robles is ready to welcome them.  She pointed out that Paso Robles gets things most communities of 30,000 people don't get - world class wine, world class beer, world class restaurants and world class accommodations among them.

Mike Dawson, also of Travel Paso, promoted "girlfriend getaways" and the fun of a summer trip to the wine region that lies about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  He called Paso the "wine country with beach access."

Jason Haas, of Tablas Creek Vineyard, said he likes the small town feel in Paso Robles.  He recalled that when he moved to Paso, the big news on the police blotter was a swarm of bees on Spring Street.  Haas, whose father was a co-founder of Tablas Creek, talked about the difficulty of maintaining social distance during wine tastings in the time of COVID.  They are renovating the tasting room with bar seating inside or an outside table available for guests.  He said the new use of outdoor areas was one of the silver linings of the COVID era.

Matt Brynildson, of Firestone Walker Brewing Company, made it clear that there is nowhere he would rather be than in Paso Robles.  A music fan, he commented that there is no shortage of live music in Paso.  My box of goodies for the webinar included Firestone Walker's Anniversary Ale, but he said they also have a hazy IPA, Mind Haze, among many other brews.

Eva Peck, of Stables Inn, spoke of her boutique accommodations, which are the smaller sister project of the more established Hotel Cheval.  Peck said Cheval's owners are avid equestrians who refurbished an old building, turning it into a funky hotel with beautifully appointed rooms.  Stable Inn was recently named one of the best new hotels in the world.  Cheval is now preparing to expand across the street, and Peck is looking forward to a more relaxed time when visitors can enjoy the travel experience much more than they have over the past year and a half.

There were comments made during the online event that it would hopefully be "the last Zoom meeting" for Travel Paso, but I hope it won't.  The folks in Paso Robles have done several webinars designed to keep people in the loop, and they've done a fantastic job with them.  They are quite informative - so much more than a simple sales pitch - and I would like to see their online presence continue.

Firestone Anniversary Ale XXIII

The slogan for Firestone Walker Brewing Company is "Beer Before Glory," which sounds so much better than citing the famous last words, "hold my beer."  During the decades they have been in operation, Firestone Walker has grown into a major player in the beer industry.  Brynildson indicated that his crew loves beer and loves making beer.  Their Anniversary Ale XXIII is very dark, like a porter, and carries an alcohol level of 11.5% abv.  The nose is extremely nutty, with a mountain of malt.  The palate is chocolatey, but savory instead of sweet.  Notes of vanilla, caramel and brown sugar also appear.  Several dark beers were aged in liquor barrels for a year, and a dozen winemakers participated in the blending process, what Brynildson called "organized chaos."  He feels the beer fits in well in the artisan community that is Paso.

Tablas Creek Vineyard Côtes de Tablas 2019

Tablas Creek Vineyard was founded "in the limestone hills of western Paso Robles" by the Perrin Family of Château de Beaucastel and the late Robert Haas of Vineyard Brands.  The winery is dedicated to sustainably farmed grape varieties of the Rhône Valley.

The 2019 Côtes de Tablas features 44% Grenache grapes, 30% Syrah, 17% Counoise and 9% Mourvèdre.  Each variety was harvested and vinified separately, then blended together in the spring before being aged in neutral oak for a year.  Alcohol tips 14% abv.

The 2019 Côtes de Tablas is medium dark in the glass, ruby red with a nice violet tinge.  The nose delivers lots of fruit - strawberry, cherry, red currant - and delivers it in such a fresh manner.  The fruit of Grenache, the power of Syrah, the structure of Mourvèdre and the wildness of Counoise work together splendidly.  The flavors are fresh and bright, almost as if there had been no oak involved.  It is almost surprising, considering the muscular grapes in the blend, that the wine has a light and elegant feel.  The tannins are firm but not a bother, so pairing is easy without losing the sipping factor.

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Monday, June 7, 2021

Rosé From Uruguay

A recent visit to Las Vegas found the wife and I taking her mother to lunch on the strip, at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab in Caesars Palace.  There, I chanced upon a wine from Uruguay.

Uruguay is located about halfway down South America's South Atlantic coastline, between Brazil and Argentina.  

Bodega Garzon is in the seaside town of Maldonado.  It was named by Wine Enthusiast as the New World Winery of the Year a few years ago.  Their website shows pictures of a winery so modern that it could rival the elegance of any in the world.  I had the rosé.

I do not know if this was the Garzon Riserva Rosé or the Pinot Rosé de Corte.  Whichever, it was all Pinot Noir, aged in stainless steel for three to six months.

The wine showed a nice salmon color in the glass and a nose of earthy strawberry and cherry.  The acidity was nice, if not overwhelming, and the wine was quite dry.  I paired it with Joe's Chilean sea bass and it was delicious.

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Friday, June 4, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Music Matters

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 Music Matters in three films that gave us a record of three seminal concert experiences.  What better reason to crack open a bottle or two?  Or three?

The 1973 documentary, Save the Children by director Stan Lathan, captured on film the concert staged in the previous year for Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH exposition in Chicago.  PUSH - People United to Save Humanity - was an ambitious effort at the time.  It remains so.  For the record, it sometimes looks like humanity is still on the ropes. 

There is something about a concert for a good cause that heightens the music, makes the scene about something more than simply than blazing up and holding your Bic lighter aloft.  The Concert for Bangladesh, Live Aid, Farm Aid, The Concert for Hurricane Relief were all "rockin' fer a cause" shows.

Save the Children performers ranged from pop stars of the day - Marvin Gaye, the Jackson 5, Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield - to mainstreamers - Sammy Davis, Jr., Nancy Wilson - to bona fide jazz artists - Cannonball Adderly, Ramsey Lewis.  The soundtrack on Motown is worth a spin, although the music is arguably better in the context of the film.

Pairing a wine with a benefit concert means the wine should do some good, too.  One Hope Wine benefits a number of good causes, including The Goldie Hawn Foundation's MindUP For Life, which aims to help mentally challenged kids.  One Hope offers a wide range of California wines, mostly for around $25.

1967 was the Summer of Love, but it was also the summer of Monterey Pop.  The rock festival which shaped the genre was detailed by D.A. Pennebaker in a film that would be released in 1968.  We careened from the summer of love to the summer of Chicago in twelve crazy months, and by this film's December '68 release date - after assassinations, riot and war - everyone was in need of some diversion - and a drink or two.  

Monterey Pop - the movie - was commissioned by ABC for a Movie of the Week slot.  Word is that the network's head honcho - after watching Jimi Hendrix use his guitar as a phallus - decided that he would take a pass.  It was 1968, after all.

Chalone Vineyards claims to be Monterey County's oldest producing vineyard.  Two of their plots date back to the WWI and WWII eras, so I guess they may be right.  It's not certain that the Electric Flag had a bottle of Chalone stashed behind an amp while they played "Wine" at the Monterey Pop festival, but you know they had a stash of something.   Try Chalone's Estate Chardonnay or Estate Pinot Noir in the $30 to $40 range.  However, I'll bet the Electric Flag would opt for their Estate Syrah.

The Band hung up the group's rock'n'roll shoes with a Thanksgiving farewell concert in 1976.  Martin Scorsese happened to have a few cameras rolling at the time and caught most of the performances, releasing The Last Waltz in 1978.  Scorsese actually had seven 35 millimeter cameras rolling during the concert, each one producing seven migraines for the esteemed director.  The filming actually came off with barely a hitch, although much criticism has been leveled at how the concert turned out on the screen.  I won't complain, except to say I wish they hadn't airbrushed Neil Young's coke booger away.  Thank God they saved a few shots of Garth Hudson's Ludwig Von Beethoven/mad scientist act. 

Let's look to The Band's old stomping grounds of upstate New York for a wine pairing with The Last Waltz.  Billing itself as the Hudson Valley's Hippie Winery, Palaia's grounds are dotted with reminders of Woodstock, peace and love.  Wines like Deadish Red, Pinkish Floyd and Zappa Franc are certainly cute enough to be adorned with a flower.  Oh, and they make mead, too - a drunkard's dream if I ever did see one.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Primitivo Di Manduria - Part Five

Manduria is a town in the region of Apulia - Puglia - the heel of Italy's "boot."  The warm climate brings the best out of the Primitivo grape, known in the province of Taranto as Primitivo di Manduria.  In the U.S., particularly California, the grape grows under the name of Zinfandel.  In Manduria, they like to think of the Puglia Primitivos as a pyramid, with the Primitivo di Manduria DOC at the top.

Apollonio Vini Primitivo di Manduria Mani del Sud 2015

The Apollonio winery dates back to 1870 when Noè Apollonio planted grapes and made wine from them.  Wine was in his blood, as his father and grandfather - Tommaso and Giuseppe - had both been wine producers.  The generations rolled on, with Salvatore upgrading the winery in 1975, which his sons inherited.  Marcello and Massimiliano now run the place, with Massimiliano handling the winemaking duties while Marcello heads up marketing and exporting. 

Their estate is in Lecce, the capital of Salento, which is mid-way between the two coasts of the Italian boot heel.  The 2015 Mani del Sud Primitivo di Manduria saw 18 months of aging in all - six in American oak barriques, six in large Slavonian oak barrels and six in the bottle.  Fermentation was in large Slavonian oak vats.  Alcohol is at the standard for the style, 15% abv, and the wine sells for around $20.

This very dark wine has a nose which I would call massive.  Tremendous tar notes blend with the blackest fruit imaginable, pulling along aromas of black olives, leather, forest floor and smoke.  The palate is just as savory, with black plum and berry flavors joined by black pepper, black cherry cola and a hint of cardamom.  The tannins are fairly smooth.  Pair this wine with any kind of meat or game dish.

Cantine Erario Primitivo di Manduria L'Unico Riserva

The Erario family have been growing vines and olive trees since the middle of the 19th century.  Primitivo di Manduria accounts for 65% of the winery's product, with much smaller amounts of Negroamaro, Fiano, Aleatico, Chardonnay and Moscato rounding out their wines.  

The grapes for Erario's 2015 L'Unico Riserva Primitivo di Manduria came from vines that are at least 70 years old.  The wine aged for 12 months in steel tanks, then 12 months in oak barriques and finally six months in the bottle.  In addition pairing with meat and game dishes, the winery says L'Unico Riserva is also a good "meditation wine," which can be fully enjoyed when sipped slowly to appreciate its complexity.  Alcohol is a rich 16% abv and the wine sells on average for around $24.

This medium-dark wine offers a nose of dark fruit and a bit of tar.  There is smoke, a touch of clove and a hint of mint, too.  The palate is drenched in blackberry, cassis and plum, with a noticeable level of tannins.  The finish is long and juicy, with that dark fruit flavor lasting the longest.  Pair with steak or a Bolognese dish.