Monday, December 5, 2022

Sherry - Dry As A Bone

I have conveyed in this space my feelings about sherry a number of times before. I love sherry. Can't get enough of it. Here is my feeling: Wine is easy. Sherry is difficult. A few of my old articles on sherry will show you how varied the styles are, and how complicated even a cursory explanation of sherry can quickly become.

Lustau makes eight different styles of sherry, from dry to sweet and creamy. They describe their Jarana Fino as "bone dry, light, mineral and yeasty." It is made from 100% Palomino grapes, in Jerez de la Frontera. That is an inland town in Spain's "Sherry Triangle" which they say has a climate that helps produce "a more rounded and fuller style of wine."

This wine was aged under a layer of yeast, called a "flor," for what appears to be about four years. The solera method of aging the wine involves mixing this year's vintage with portions of previous harvests. That makes sherry a non-vintage wine. Alcohol sits at 15% abv and a bottle of Jarana sells for less than $20. For my money, sherry is one of the biggest wine bargains in existence. You always seem to get more aromas and flavors than expected.

This fino sherry has a mineral-driven nose with notes of dried apricots a bit of yeastiness and a bit of nuttiness. The palate is bone dry, loaded with minerality and showing stone fruit and citrus, but in muted fashion. It's the minerals that take center stage. The acidity is decent, but it won't rip out your taste buds. The mouthfeel is full and round, while the finish is long and features a nutty display of - you guessed it - minerals. 


Friday, December 2, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Still More Movies You Never Heard Of With Daniel Kremer

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, we have TFH Guru Daniel Kremer digging deep into the archives for a few cinematic nuggets you probably missed, for one reason or another.

Dear Mr. Wonderful is a 1982 film from Germany. That's Germany, not Jersey, as one might think of a movie starring Joe Pesci. His character owns a bowling alley - in, uh, Jersey - and is dreaming of catching his big break as a lounge singer in Las Vegas. Someone should tell him how much fun it is to do the 2 a.m. show downtown.

You may have missed this one through no fault of your own. The film disappeared so fast it was turning up on milk cartons. While it's not one of his more memorable outings, if you're a fan of Mr. Pesci's stylings, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you can find it.

Let's pair a German wine with this German movie. Let's get crazy and uncork Dr. Hermann’s latest Erdener Treppchen Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Goldkapsel. It's crazy because you're going to have to pick up the $800 tab for this bottle. Trockenbeerenauslese, by the way, is the way Germans call for the sweetest of the sweet Rieslings. They are even thirstier by the time they get the word out of their mouths.

From 1981 comes Kings and Desperate Men, a Canadian popcorn muncher that tells the story of terrorists taking people hostage on Christmas Eve. If you think it sounds a little bit like Die Hard, join the club. Kings writer/director/co-star Alexis Kanner thought the similarity deserved a lawsuit, which he lost. Die Hard we've seen. This one fell between the cracks.

You will want to track it down, however, if only because it stars Patrick McGoohan and Elizabeth Trudeau, who was the Prime Minister's wife at the time. Is that how to get a movie made in Canada? Just kidding, I'm sure there was an open casting call for the role. 

The film was shot in 1977, but Kanner reportedly held up the release by editing the footage for two years. There is something to be said for perfectionism, but that something is usually derisive when you cut a film for two years.

You can go all out for wine in Canada for less money than that pricey wine from Germany. An Inniskillin Cabernet Franc icewine will still run a man a Benjamin for a half-bottle - welcome to the world of icewine, vino made from grapes which were harvested while still frozen on the vines. Inniskillin's Niagara-on-the-Lake estate is home to several great icewines.

1971's Born to Win has an interesting cast: George Segal, Paula Prentiss, Karen Black, Hector Elizondo and Robert De Niro. How did he fall so far down in the credits? Oh, yeah, Mean Streets and The Godfather were still a few years down the road. 

Born To Win is set in the New York City drug world, and was shot in a serious tone. There are humorous elements which were reportedly played up during the editing process. Those rascally editors! They are so important to a film - they should start handing out awards to them. Ahem.

This black comedy got some nice reviews but missed the mark with many critics, who always seemed to find something nice to say about it right before telling us what a piece of crap it was. That's the old left-handed compliment syndrome - no offense to any southpaws who may be reading this.

For a black comedy, how about a black wine? It's really red, but it's so dark it looks black in the glass. Adventurous types can locate one from the country of Georgia, made from the Saperavi grape. Easier to find are Malbec wines from the French region of Cahors, in the southwest part of France. Château de Chambert makes a great one for just $25.


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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Fiddling Around In Santa Barbara County

One of Santa Barbara County's treasures is Fiddlehead Cellars, which I like to think of as the little winery that could. Kathy Joseph owns the place - an industrial-style facility, the kind that's easy to find in Lompoc. She also makes the wine, pulling Santa Ynez Valley grapes from wonderful sites in the cool Sta. Rita Hills and the warmer Happy Canyon region.

It's a family affair for Joseph, with Mom and Dad given honorifics on the labels and sister Jody providing the artwork for the bottles.

The 2017 Grüner Veltliner Estate is the third vintage of a truly wonderful wine. The fruit of this typically Austrian grape variety was taken from the Fiddlestix Vineyard, which Joseph planted back in the ‘90s and later sold. The wine was fermented in a combination of French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. Alcohol sits at 13% abv and it retails for $32.

The pale yellow wine smells beautifully savory, with a flowery nose which is joined by a big whiff of white pepper and earth notes. The palate carries the earthiness to a ridiculous extreme - and be glad of that. There is a sense of apricot, lemon curd and peppers on the palate. The acidity is just right and a blanket of salinity runs through the sip and into the lengthy palate. If you are searching for a white wine to put on your holiday table, this one would be a great fit.

The 2015 Bebble Grüner Veltliner Sta. Rita Hills comes from the Fiddlestix Vineyard as well. Joseph describes Bebble as her premier, reserve release of Grüner Veltliner. She writes that the wine was named to honor her "ever-elegant mother, Babette, whose name around the house adorns this bottle." The bottle also features her sister's artwork. 

"Following an atypically warm winter that gave way to an early March budbreak, dry and consistent temperatures allowed for an even growing season. Acids remained vibrant due to the cool maritime-influenced temperatures native to our area." Alcohol checks in at 13.5% abv and the wine sells for $42.

This is also a pale wine, with a nose that is minerality personified. There is wet sidewalk, seashore, apricot, white pepper and lanolin in the aroma package. The palate brings all those savory notes in the form of flavors, with a big dollop of salinity. The acidity is fresh and the finish is long. White wine lovers will love this savory Grüner from the Sta. Rita Hills.


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Monday, November 28, 2022

Make Priorat A Priority

Priorat is a small wine region in northeastern Spain, less than two hours south of Barcelona. Monks brought winemaking to the area and did that handiwork for around 700 years. Then, in the mid-1830s, the government began overseeing the situation. However, tragedy struck before the end of the 19th century. Phylloxera wreaked havoc on the vines, ruined the wine industry and caused general economic hardship. The area wouldn't be important for wine again until the 1950s, when Priorat's DO status was established.

The terroir of Priorat is unlike any other, with soil of black slate and small shiny bits of mica known as llicorella. Vines have to grow their roots very deep in the poor soil to reach water and other nutrients. These conditions result in low yields, which makes for a concentrated flavor profile.

Hammeken Cellars has Tosalet under their umbrella. The land features 100-year-old Carignan vines which give up the grapes for this selection. It is 92% Carignan and eight percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was aged for 18 months in new French oak barrels, has alcohol at a lofty 15.5% abv and sells for $89.

The 2013 Tosalet Carignan Vinyes Velles Priorat is an inky wine which smells like black berries and plums, with a delightful lacing of minty herbaceousness. Clove, vanilla, tobacco and an array of spices join in for the olfactory party. The mouthfeel is very full, and the palate is laden with black fruit and earthy minerals. It is a bold sip, but the tannins have begun to soften. They can still tame a ribeye, however. 


Friday, November 25, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Auteurs In Action

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, we look at a trio of arthouse favorites, with suggestions on what to drink with them.

I don't know about his cred as an auteur, but 1974's Sunday in the Country was directed by Canadian-born John Trent. He lived for less than a decade after he made this film. He was killed in a car crash by a police cruiser that was driving on the wrong side of the road. That's the sort of tale that might have been spun by my father, who told me, at a very early age, that his father was run over by an ambulance. That was my dad's dry wit. Too bad he didn't realize that sarcasm and irony didn't play all that well to a kindergarten audience. I believed the story well into my adult years.

The movie, by the way, was also known as Blood for Blood, but details about it are hard to come by under either title. Thanks to the movie poster, we know that Ernest Borgnine starred in it, as a nice old man with a double-barreled shotgun who liked to torture bank robbers. Get your kicks while you can, Ernie. The one-sheet also tells us that those kicks come at a high price.

On a tangent - and you know how I love to go off on those - John Trent also directed one of Red Skelton's last television appearances, Red Skelton's Christmas Dinner, from 1981. That show - no doubt spawned by Skelton's Freddie the Freeloader holiday segment from a couple of decades earlier - also featured Vincent Price in the cast as Freddie's friend. 

Was I just talking out loud? Man, I really have to try and focus on the task at hand. Let's do a wine pairing for whatever the hell the name of that movie was. 

Just about every winery has done an event or promotion that involved the words "Sunday" and "Country" somewhere in the name. Let's go down the country path for Arrington Vineyards. This Tennessee winery was partly founded by Kix Brooks, of the country duo Brooks and Dunn, giving additional emphasis to the phrase "wine country." Their Antebellum White was aged in whiskey barrels - Tennessee whiskey, no doubt.

The director of The 400 Blows needs no introduction, but he's going to get one anyway. This was the first film made by François Truffaut, unless he did some Super 8 reels at family pique niques, which have not seen the light of day. He directed and wrote the movie, which launched him as a high-level auteur.

This 1959 classic is something you may remember from a college film class, or from actual real life if you did not form an aversion to subtitles in college film class. It is a coming-of-age story, complete with juvenile trouble, some psychological brain-picking and a day at the beach.

The movie's title is a bad translation of a French idiomatic expression which has more to do with hell-raising and sowing wild oats than with… well, than with blowing. There is now nowhere to go but straight to the wine pairing.

For a French film about a youthful, spirited firebrand, how about a youthful, spirited Gamay from Beaujolais? Beaujolais Nouveau is here - le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé, as they say en Francais - since it is rushed out the winery door on the third Thursday of November each year. The one you'll see at nearly every checkout aisle for the next few weeks is from Georges Duboeuf, the king of Beaujolais Nouveau.

Eyes Without a Face is a 1960 French horror film directed by Georges Franju, who also co-wrote it. If the script doesn't chill you to the bone, maybe the subtitles will, again, if you had a hard time in college film class. 

A plastic surgeon - ooh, it's getting creepy already - tries to alter his daughter's disfigurement after a car crash by performing a face transplant. Was he successful? Would there be a movie if he were? Let's just say she probably wished dad had stopped with a little liposuction.

The movie was probably the first French horror film, although Franju called it an "anguish" film rather than "horror." However you parse the translation, the script had to run a gauntlet of censors in three countries, each of which had problems with different aspects of it. 

Appolo Vineyards in New Hampshire has a Sauvignon Blanc wine which they call Blue Eyes - and the label has an eerie resemblance to the masked woman in the movie. By the way, in case spell-check wants to change the winery to Apollo for the fortieth time, vintner Mike Appolo would appreciate that someone, somewhere could spell his name correctly. 


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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Gods Speak Through Spanish Grapes

The Hammeken Cellars winemaking team is on the cutting edge. Of the seven winemakers and quality control folks, four are women. That is more common than it was not too long ago in a male-dominated business, especially in Europe. Progress is a beautiful thing.

Hammeken makes the wine known as Oráculo. Their website describes Oráculo as a storyteller, but one who speaks the words of the gods. This oracle sends the heavenly message of Tempranillo grapevines which are between 80 and 120 years old. The grape is known in the Ribera del Duero region as Tinta del Pais and they were grown in and around Peñaranda del Duero.

The wine was aged for 24 months in new French oak barrels. Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and it retails for about $37. 

This is an extremely dark wine, one which allows no light to pass through it. It is a complex wine, with a nose that delivers a powerful blast of red fruit along with a dense layer of spices, tobacco and a floral perfume. The palate has cherry, cassis, licorice, cinnamon, and earthy notes all vying for attention. The tannins are mellowing, but they are still capable enough to handle your favorite steak right off the grill. The acidity is refreshing and the finish is long and luxurious. 


Monday, November 21, 2022

A Spanish Red Wine For The Holiday Table

Bodegas Beronia is known for its Rioja Alta vineyards.  The winery was formed by several Basque friends who wanted to have just the right wine to go with their culinary get-togethers.  Now that's a bunch of choosy wine drinkers.  The beautiful state of the art revamp on the winery is only a couple of years old.  Winemaker Matías Calleja puts his signature on the label of each bottle, as does importer González Byass.

The 2018 Beronia Crianza is nearly a full-blooded Tempranillo, with just splashes of Garnacha and Mazuelo in the blend. The wine aged for one year in barrels that were made from American oak staves and French oak tops, then for three months in the bottle. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the retail price is around $15.

This wine has a dark red color of medium-dark intensity. The nose has red fruit up front - cherry, plum and raspberry aromas - with an assortment of herbs and spices that seem to go right along with holiday cooking. There is thyme and a hint of sage along with the smell of cinnamon. The palate brings the fruit forward with sweet oak spice and a full, but refreshing, mouthfeel. The tannins are serviceable, but not harsh. Those herbs and spices find their way back on the medium length finish. 


Friday, November 18, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Revisionist Westerns

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, we look at a few westerns that turned the genre around to view it from a different angle. We also have wine pairings for the films, even though a shot of redeye might be more appropriate.

1970's Little Big Man is an early version of a revisionist western. 1970 was a time when a lot of cultural shifts started to churn, and this film was a western while also serving as a satire and an anti-war statement. And a pretty damned good one, too.

Was Little Big Man the first western to side with Native Americans and line up against the U.S. Cavalry? Maybe. Dustin Hoffman stars as the title figure, who, as an old man, tells the story of his life - a series of unbelievable events and coincidences. Do we believe that this old man was really a student of Wild Bill Hickock, an advisor to General George Armstrong Custer, the only white survivor of Little Big Horn? Sure, why not. It's really more fun to believe an outlandish tale than not.

Big Little Wines produces small batch vino from Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula. If it surprises you to learn that Michigan is a good wine state, try this on for size - they now have a completely blue state legislature! Will wonders never cease? Their bigLITTLE Underdog is 100% Gamay Noir, and they ship to 17 states of which California is one.

Django Unchained is a fairly recent entry for these pages, 2012. Director Quentin Tarantino calls his film a "Southern" rather than a "western." It sets American slavery against a tapestry of violence and cruelty in the style of a Spaghetti Western. 

Jamie Foxx stars as the slave-turned-bounty-hunter Django, a role which he paints as meticulously as Eastwood painted the Man with No Name. Foxx plays his character as a man with a fistful of revenge. Audiences seem to love the grisly ways this angry black man exacts his vengeance - the grislier, the better. Gun? Easy. Dynamite? Cool. 

There was a ton of blowback to this movie due mainly to the extreme violence within it and its perceived disrespect towards African-Americans. Spike Lee won't have anything to do with it, saying it dishonors his ancestors. After a mantle full of awards for Django, Tarantino can no doubt rest easy.

Bounty Hunter's Cabernet Sauvignon The Vigilante is available from Napa's Benchmark Wines, which has expensive wines for serious collectors. It's $141 for the 2012 vintage, and the prices go up from there.

Ulzana's Raid gets us back to the weird old '70s - 1972 to be precise. Robert Aldrich directed it and Burt Lancaster starred as the army scout sent to bring the Apache renegade Ulzana in for justice. He has led a brutal Native American attack on white settlers in 1880s Arizona, and he is number one with a bullet on the army's most-wanted list.

The film is called revisionist due not to its view of the Native American war party - depicted as ruthless killers - but because of its view of American involvement in Vietnam. The cavalry cluelessly chasing an enemy is seen as a direct swipe at the U.S. Army's pursuit of the Viet Cong. 

D.A. Ranch in Cornville, Arizona has a variety of tasty wines produced from their estate-grown grapes. It looks like the D.A. Stands for Dancing Apache, which is the name of the road where the vineyard and winery is found. Does Ulzana dance well enough to escape the raid? Watch and find out, with a bottle and a glass on the coffee table. 


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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Wine From Everyone's Favorite Neighbor

My Favorite Neighbor is a winery run by Eric Jensen, owner of Booker Vineyard in Paso Robles. He and some of his Paso neighbors collaborate on a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay, which they make to exacting standards. Jensen puts the concept on the label - grapes which are "thoughtfully farmed with careful consideration for the land."

Jensen's Booker Vineyard is certified organic. The MFN grapes come from a variety of special vineyards. The name comes from one of his grape-growing neighbors, who would always identify himself on the phone as "your favorite neighbor." It's nice to know we are not limited to just one favorite neighbor.

MFN Blanc 2021 is full-throated Chardonnay, grown in San Luis Obispo County. The wine was aged for eight months in equal parts new and experienced oak barrels. Alcohol sits at 14.1% abv and the retail price is $50.

This wine sits golden in the glass and offers a beautiful nose of apricot, Meyer lemon and oak spice, with a nice dollop of salinity in the mix. That savory note explodes on the palate and brings all that lovely fruit along with it. The acidity is right on the mark - food friendly while maintaining the creamy mouthfeel. The oak treatment is noticeable, but not at all overdone, and it leaves a nearly buttery sensation on the lengthy finish. 


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Monday, November 14, 2022

A Great Fall Wine From Italy's Ankle

The Caldora winery is in the community of Ortona, in Italy's Abruzzo region, just above the "ankle" on the back of the "boot."  Abruzzo is described as an endless vineyard, from the mountains to the Adriatic Sea. The winery has a special arrangement with the many small growers in the two coastal provinces of Teramo to the north and Chieti to the south.  They say they don't actually buy grapes from these growers, but rather rent the vineyards and use the fruit for their wines.

The 100% Montepulciano d'Abruzzo grapes for the 2020 Caldora wine were grown in Chieti, harvested by hand, destemmed and gently crushed for vinification. Alcohol hits only 13% abv and the wine sells for around $16. It is imported by González Byass USA.

This medium dark red wine offers a nose of red fruit aromas, joined by some cigar box, earth and baking spices. The great smell gives way to a great taste, with flavors of cherry, raspberry and a savory serving of salinity. The wine seems much more open and complex than it did a coupla years back when I tried it. Very nice finish, medium in length and somewhat savory.  


Friday, November 11, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Lights! Action! Music!

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week it’s all about the music. Oh, and the wine. 

Celebration at Big Sur is the film version of the 1969 Big Sur Folk Festival, although the movie was not released until 1971. You get a heavy dose of Joan Baez, not nearly enough of Joni Mitchell and just about the right amount of CSN&Y. It would have been nice had the filmmakers included a complete version of "Cowgirl In the Sand," but I get it - ten minutes can be a long time to wait for a Neil Young song to end. 

Miniscule in comparison to Woodstock, which had happened just a month earlier, the Big Sur event drew barely more than 10,000 people. Many of them listened to the two-day folk fest for free, from the shoulder of Highway 1. It’s not the best way to hear a concert, but it is the cheapest. 

I enjoyed a Bob Dylan concert once in San Diego, when he played the Embarcadero Amphitheater. As I walked toward the venue, planning to buy a ticket, I realized that I could hear just fine from the steps of the Convention Center, so I sat down. There was no $20 beer to be had there, but I did save the cost of a ticket and didn't mind being able to leave whenever I felt like it.

For a movie about a music festival in Big Sur, it is only fitting that we open a bottle of Big Sur Red from Big Sur Vineyards. This wine is a blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes grown in Monterey County, the home of Big Sur. Pretend you're at the festival and drink it straight from the bottle. 

From 1975, That's the Way of the World showcases the music of Earth, Wind and Fire, who basically play themselves as a fictional band. Harvey Keitel is in it, which is usually enough to draw me into the theater. He's a record producer with a "golden ear" who works with the group. Personally, I prefer him as a hit man, but a hit record producer will do in a pinch. If he had only insisted on "more cowbell."

You may have listened endlessly to the soundtrack album to That's the Way of the World without realizing that it was a soundtrack album. Rolling Stone called the EW&F record "makeout music of the gods," which is at least one thing they got right.

Lodi's Jessie's Grove Winery puts out a nice red wine which they call Earth Zin and Fire. The Zinfandel clocks in at more than 15% alcohol, routine for the fine farms of Lodi. It will def put a person in the mood for making out. 

1973's Wattstax is 103 minutes of pure soul. The film shows the concert put on by Stax Records in 1972 to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the Watts riots. There is more than the concert in the film - many artists who couldn't appear during the show were asked to film separate pieces elsewhere to be included. Isaac Hayes, in fact, recorded some songs that were different from those he did in concert because MGM wouldn't let them use "Theme From Shaft" in the movie. That restriction fell by the wayside in 1978. When the movie was restored in 2003, Shaft was put back in as part of the film's finale. "Right on."

There was skepticism that a little record label - Stax - could team up with a little neighborhood - Watts - for a successful show at the Los Angeles Coliseum with tickets that sold for a buck apiece. It happened. It happened big time. As Isaac Hayes said, "You’re damn right."

Watts Winery isn't in Watts, it's in Lodi, farmed for four generations by the Watts family. But hey, how about an actual musician vintner? Earl Stevens - you might know him as rapper E-40 - makes California wines that look to be on the sweet side and are priced on the affordable side. Enjoy a chilled Mangoscato with Wattstax.


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Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Bold Chilean Pinot Noir Could Get To Be A Habit

Chilean Pinot Noir is quite often a different breed than wines of the same grape from another terroir. These wines, I have found, offer a darker, bolder experience that Pinots from, say, Oregon or Santa Barbara County or Burgundy. The Ritual estate is located in the east end of Chile's Casablanca Valley, but on the west side of the mountain range, a little less than 20 miles from the cooling Pacific Ocean. 

The wine -  Ritual's 2019 Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir - is composed of 100% Pinot Noir, organically farmed, cool-climate grapes which were grown near Chile's coast on the Pacific Ocean. The soil is mainly decomposed granite, which is well-drained. Aging took place in French oak barrels, 20% of which were new. Winemaker Sofia Araya also produces Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for Ritual, an arm of Vinedos Veramonte.

Alcohol for this wine sits at 14% abv and the retail price is $21. It was imported to the U.S. by Gonzalez Byass USA.

The wine’s tint is medium dark. Its nose is even darker, with an earthiness to it that comes off as a bit brawny. There is the red fruit you expect, but aromas of cassis, plum, cola and strong black tea also come forward without a trace of shyness. The palate is also dark, with black and blue fruit joined by savory notes of tar, forest floor, tobacco and a sense of roasted meat. The tannins are tamer than expected in a package like that, but there is still plenty to match up against a thick, juicy steak. This wine is robust, to say the least. 


Monday, November 7, 2022

A Sonoma Chardonnay From Sun And Wind

Located in Sonoma County's Carneros region, Anaba Wines boasts that they are "powered by the sun, sustained by the wind." It should come as no surprise that the winery draws extensively on solar and wind power to make their wines.

Just so you don't let it slip past you, they have named their flagship line "Turbine," after  the 45-foot Skystream windmill which powers their facility. I have been supplied with a Chardonnay from this line, and I am eagerly looking forward to their Picpoul, Rosé, Pinot Noir and carbonic Grenache, as well as a red and a white blend of Rhône varieties. The wines come packaged in lighter-weight glass and without a foil capsule over the cork.

The 2021 Anaba Turbine White, as the Chardonnay is known, is sourced from coastal Sonoma vineyards. Winemaker Katy Wilson ferments and ages the wine entirely in stainless steel. She says that allows the fruit flavors and natural acidity to shine. The wine's alcohol level clocks in at 12.3% abv and it sells for $34. Only 233 cases were produced.

This is one of those wines which show us why people like Chardonnay so much. It sits light yellow in the glass. It gives a very nice package of aromas - peaches, apricots, citrus, tropical fruit - which goes to demonstrate the all-steel vinification it went through. Those fruit flavors are abundant on the palate, and the acidity is fresh and zippy. The finish is fairly long and leans into the stone fruit notes after the sip. 


Friday, November 4, 2022

A Beautiful Red Wine From Italy's Bootheel

The Torrevento estate in Apulia dates back to 1400, but it wasn't a winery then.  It was a Benedictine monastery. Winemaking took root in 1948, when Francesco Liantonio bought Torrevento and its vineyards. The old monastery now houses the cellar and casks. The Torrevento winemaking philosophy concerns staying out of the way and letting the terroirs of the rugged Murgia and Salento regions speak for themselves. 

The Nero di Troia grape (or Uva di Troia) thrives on the calcareous and rocky soils of Torrevento's vineyards. They have made a full-varietal wine from this grape since 1992. The wine is aged in steel tanks for eight months, then for a year in oak. Alcohol hits 13.5% abv and the wine sells for about $25. 

This 2016 Torrevento Vigne Pedale Riserva Castel del Monte DOCG is tinted medium dark ruby. The nose is somewhat muted upon opening, but shows dark fruit - blackberry, plum - laced with an earthy minerality and a whiff of smoke. The palate has the dark fruit and cherries up front, and the sip is smooth. Spices and herbs liven up the taste, but it does not seem over-oaked. The tannins are well integrated and provide ample food-friendliness without getting in the way of the mouthfeel. The finish is medium-long and the minerals play through to the end.


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Wednesday, November 2, 2022

A Classy Chianti Classico

This wine, Castelli del Grevepesa's Clemente VII, was named after Giulio de' Medici, who became Pope Clemente VII in 1523.  He used to live in the region where this wine is produced, Chianti Classico. The Tuscan sub-region uses Sangiovese grapes in its red wine production, either as full varietal - like this one - or a blend with at least 80% of the grape.

The Chianti Classico area has as its emblem a black rooster, which dates back to the 14th century Republic of Florence. The rooster reportedly represented a political-military institution of the day.

This wine was aged 85% in Slavonian oak barrels for 12 months and 15% in barriques for 12 months. The wine rested for an additional three months after bottling. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and it sells online for less than $20. It was imported by Votto Wines of Hamden, Connecticut.

There is a strong sense of dark fruit on the nose, along with a beautifully smoky mocha note which appeared on the day after opening the bottle. Tar and spices come through as well. The palate is fruity, with a savory backbeat that balances very well. The tannic structure is firm without overpowering the sipping experience, and the finish is of medium length. 


Monday, October 31, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Happy Halloween

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 scares come fast and furious as we pair wine with three movies suitable for the spookiest night of the year.

Night Gallery was the 1969 pilot for the television program, hosted and partly written by Rod Serling. You may remember him - who am I kidding… of course you remember him - from The Twilight Zone, the 1960's series which was also hosted by Serling, sometimes with a lit cigarette firmly stuck between his fingers as he spoke. In Night Gallery, times had changed enough that he went without the ciggie.

The pilot - and the ensuing episodes - consisted of three segments, each of which was represented by an oil painting in the gallery. Serling delivered his introductions while standing before the paintings, like a macabre docent. One of the segments in this hour-and-a-half pilot film was the directorial debut of one Steven Spielberg. He went on to gain a bit of fame on his own.

While Serling's intros were delivered in much the same style as his oft-imitated Twilight Zone cadence, they seemed a bit threadbare in comparison. The tone of the show also had changed, from TZ's sci-fi slant to a more supernatural approach, either of which is okay for Halloween.

Let's find some really artsy wine labels for Night Gallery. Château Mouton Rothschild has commissioned genuine, real live, authentic painters to adorn some of their labels since 1945. Big names like Picasso, Dali and Hockney have splashed a little paint for the Rothschilds over the years. Unfortunately, you won't be able to pick up a bottle at Gil Turner's on the way home. They are sold at auction each year, for anywhere from four to 20 thousand dollars a case. I understand if you take a pass on this pairing suggestion - I know you have to budget for that expensive trick-or-treat candy.

1982's The Entity was directed by Sidney Furie and starred Barbara Hershey. The story - of a woman who is assaulted repeatedly by an invisible entity - was based on actual events. Sort of an Exorcist with clippings. There was a ton of backlash at the time, with women's groups railing against the depiction of the violence. Since then, it has attracted a cult following and is now seen as an allegory of the way women are victimized. It's not a pleasant movie to view, and it's hard to write something snarkily funny about it, so pardon this paragraph's lack of laughs. There simply aren't any there.

Thank goodness there is a wine called "Entity." I don’t think I could stand trying to come up with a sentence of lighthearted nonsense about this movie. Entity is an Australian Shiraz - that's what they call Syrah down under - from John Duval Wines. For $40, you get all the brawn that Barossa has to offer.

Now, if you'll please allow a little shameless brownnosing. Nightmare Cinema comes from 2018 and is a horror anthology featuring segments directed by, among others, TFH's very own chief guru Joe Dante. There are also works included by Alejandro Brugués, TFH associate guru Mick Garris, Ryūhei Kitamura, and David Slade.

Mickey Rourke plays the projectionist at a movie theater that shows films depicting the worst fears of the audience. Yeah, I know, you thought that was All The President's Men. Well, strap yourself in and get set for segments on slasher killers, sex demons and an alternate reality experienced while waiting for a doctor's appointment. Hey, wait, that's actually happened to me - and I don't think my insurance covered it.

Washington state winery The Walls has a Tempranillo they call a Wonderful Nightmare, Hemingway's description of the running of the bulls in Pamplona. I'll leave that sort of thing to other fools - a Nightmare Cinema sounds plenty dangerous for me. 


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Friday, October 28, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Halloween Haunts

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 hellishness finds new heights - er, depths - as we prepare for the end of the month with a trio of Halloween Haunts.

Scary movies are a staple in my home - the wife loves 'em. Me? I can take them or leave them alone, mostly leave them alone. My idea of a good frightfest is All the President's Men. But here we are, staring at a huge bowl that needs to be filled with expensive fun sized candy. We're going to need to watch something after the cute little kids are tucked into bed and those older tweens - way too old for this kind of stuff - start coming around. Oh, and we're going to need some alcohol, too. For us, not the kiddies.

Wishmaster is a 1997 slasher film, the sort that crawls out from its temperature-controlled hiding place each October. Much death and cruelty is dealt out in the film's running time, and by various means - not just slashing. Robert Englund brings some slasher cred to the movie.

A djinn is released from his confines, and we all know where that sort of thing leads. Wishes will be granted. However, this evil genie has a separate agenda which does not involve serving the person who uncorked him. This genie really brings to life the warning that one should be careful about what one wishes for. 

I would wish for a nice, dry, Provençal rosé to go with this movie, preferably one which has the word "genie" on its label. Here we have just what we wished for. Coup de Genie makes this pinkie from Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grapes grown in the sunny south of France. At least when you uncork it, you know it won't uncork you.

1981's Dead and Buried deals with reanimated corpses - that's right, there is a town full of zombies. Every Halloween-y movie should have a coroner/mortician in the cast. Especially one who has interesting hobbies. If you are already a coroner or a mortician, and you want another occupation to slash onto, wouldn't it be better to have one that balances things out a bit? Coroner/barista? Mortician/landscaper? I mean, coroner/mortician just sounds a lot creepier than it needs to be. But, that's Halloween for you.

Anyhoo, these homemade zombies do a good job of passing for regular folks - dead ringers, you might say. The cute little tourist town is a dead ringer for Mendocino, by the way, which is where some scenes were filmed. That’s a cue for popping a cork if I ever heard one.

I don't know how good Zombie Zinfandel tastes, but it's ten bucks worth of fun for that one night a year when it is actually appropriate. It is claimed by Sonoma County's Chateau Diana, so they must be at least a little bit proud of it. 

House of Dark Shadows appeared in 1970, towards the end of the run for the television show that was so not-scary that it had to be shown in the afternoon, right after Merv Griffin and right before the Three Stooges. I suppose there were those who considered it scary at the time - children, slow learners, people with head injuries - but those are the same groups who might have mistaken the regular daily soap operas for legitimate entertainment. I'm sure Jonathan Frid was a great guy to have a beer with, but Barnabas Collins wasn't scaring anybody. My wife and I saw House of Dark Shadows at the New Bev. She elbowed me when my snoring got too loud.

In this feature-length TV show, Barnabas wants a relationship with a mortal woman, so he tries to be cured of his vampiric tendencies. Maybe he should have sought the help of an industrious coroner/mortician with an interesting hobby. Any time one is stabbed in the back so hard that it comes out one's chest, and one turns into a bat and flies away, one would have to consider it to be a pretty good day.

For Barnabus Collins, let’s pour St. Barnabus Commandaria - a dessert wine from Cyprus. It's nice and sweet - it will pair well with the Halloween candy you'll be sneaking from your kids' trick-or-treat bags after they've gone to sleep.


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Wednesday, October 26, 2022

An Everyday Red Wine From Abruzzo

Nestore Bosco has been making wines in Italy's Abruzzo region since 1897, and there is something to be said for being able to sustain a business for that long. The Bosco 2018 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is a full varietal wine which carries an alcohol level of 13.5% abv and retails for around $15. It was brought to the U.S. by Connecticut importer Votto Vines.

This dark-colored wine smells of dark fruit - blackberries, plums, currants - and tastes much the same. There is quite a bit of sweetness to the palate, and the tannins are very firm. Oak spice comes across as flavors of cinnamon, clove, tobacco and anise. The finish is savory and somewhat lengthy. 


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Monday, October 24, 2022

White Wine From Northern Italy - It's Just Right

The Venezia Giulia IGT region is in the far northeastern corner of Italy, sharing borders with Austria and Slovenia. Northern Italy is known for its white wines, and the Venezia Giulia IGT is no exception. The soil in the region is a mix of clay and stones and is pretty much the perfect dirt in which to grow white wine grapes.

The Bastianich Winery was founded in 1997 by the Bastianich family. They are the folks who have brought so many fine Italian restaurants to so many corners of the world, and who are the driving force behind Eataly in Los Angeles, which is where I had this wine with lunch, I brought a bottle home as well.

The 2018 Vespa Bianco is a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, grown in the hills of Premariacco and Cividale. The wine is fermented half in stainless steel tanks and half in oak casks. Aging in the bottle lasts a year before release. A good portion of the lees - the spent yeast cells - are left in the wine, which enhances and lends weight to the mouthfeel. Alcohol hits 14% abv and Vespa Bianco sells for around $27.

This beautiful wine carries a golden hue in the glass and has a nose which features salinity as well as fruit. The aromas range from pears to guava to beeswax to lanolin. On the palate, there is bountiful salinity and minerality to meet the tropical fruit flavors. Acidity is fresh and zingy, too, so food pairing is simple. 


Friday, October 21, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Angela Lansbury R.I.P.

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week we salute the recently departed Angela Lansbury.

Something for Everyone is from 1970 and features Lansbury in what is billed as a black comedy, but the critics of the day would dare you to find the humor. Lansbury is a German matron who is a bit down on her luck, while Michael York co-stars as a castle-hungry young man who will stop at nothing to get his four walls and a moat. 

It's a bedroom farce with a plethora of untimely "accidents" engineered by York's character to further his desire for the Bavarian palace. 

Lansbury - always a pleasure to watch - got a Golden Globe nomination, but alas, no hardware to tote back to her castle. She did amass quite a collection of awards in her time, including a handful each of Golden Globes and Tonys, all well deserved.

For this film, get a wine made from the Silvaner grape, a fave near Bavaria. Most Silvaners from this area are labeled as "dry," but their wine laws leave a lot of leeway for that designation. Make sure it's one that comes in the unique bocksbeutel, the stubby, round wine bottle of the Franconia region. It won't taste different, but you'll feel more authentic for it.

All Fall Down hit the big screens in 1962, with Lansbury playing the sort of mother only a rotten son could love. She shares the billing with Eva Marie Saint, Warren Beatty and Karl Malden, with John Frankenheimer directing.  The movie ties together a bad mama, a drunk daddy, a femme fatale and fraternal rivalry with a big bow of tragedy and pathos. I'll have a double, bartender.

If you've never seen the grape-stomping lady fall down, it's a staple on YouTube. However you feel about foot-stomped wine - I Love Lucy notwithstanding - you have to love a Napa winery that invites people to try out the ancient art. By the way, Grgich Hills Winery uses the foot-stomped grapes as compost, not for winemaking. Treat yourself and try the Cab.

Also from 1962,  The Manchurian Candidate sported quite the cast - with Lansbury - a domineering mom again - abetted by Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh, and Frankenheimer once more at the helm, 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.  Soju is made from rice, wheat, barley, sweet potatoes or whatever other starchy stuff you can find near the distillery.   


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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Brawny Petite Packs A Wallop

Just off Highway 46, on Paso Robles’ east side, sits Vina Robles Winery. Their tasting room is there, too, as is their bistro, serving a seasonal menu which features locally grown food prepared on-site. Founder Hans Nef felt his Swiss heritage blended well with the opportunities that America offered him. The winery website tells us that Mr. Nef died in 2019 due to an accident while swimming off the Cape Verde islands. The winery is now in the hands of Nef's two daughters. 

Winemaker Kevin Willenborg takes the grapes from their six SIP certified sustainable estate vineyards and creates wines that promise to honor the past while looking into the future. He has a minimal intervention policy of staying out of the way and letting the grapes do their thing.

Besides sustainability, Vina Robles partners with One Tree Planted, an organization which tries to improve the world one tree at a time. A portion of the Vina Robles wine, The Arborist, goes to that charitable outfit. The wine was named The Arborist after an actual arborist saved the life of a 300-year-old oak tree that sits in one of their vineyards.

The Vina Robles 2019 Petite Sirah Paso Robles is all estate fruit, which was vinified and aged for 20 months in oak barrels. Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and it retails for $27.

The wine is inky purple and has a beautiful nose full of blackberries and oak spice - vanilla, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg - and even a whiff of smoke. The palate shows the big, brawny black fruit along with the spice rack and a tannic structure that is plenty firm enough for a steak but not too toothy for sipping. 


Monday, October 17, 2022

A Wine Dedicated To A Tree Doctor

Just off Highway 46, on Paso Robles’ east side, sits Vina Robles Winery. Their tasting room is there, too, as is their bistro, serving a seasonal menu which features locally grown food prepared on-site. Founder Hans Nef felt his Swiss heritage blended well with the opportunities that America offered him. The winery website tells us that Mr. Nef died in 2019 due to an accident while swimming off the Cape Verde islands. The winery is now in the hands of Nef's two daughters. 

Winemaker Kevin Willenborg takes the grapes from their six SIP certified sustainable estate vineyards and creates wines that promise to honor the past while looking into the future. He has a minimal intervention policy of staying out of the way and letting the grapes do their thing.

Besides sustainability, Vina Robles partners with One Tree Planted, an organization which tries to improve the world one tree at a time. A portion of the Vina Robles wine, The Arborist, goes to that charitable outfit. The wine was named The Arborist after an actual arborist saved the life of a 300-year-old oak tree that sits in one of their vineyards.

The 2020 Arborist Estate Red Blend is a blend of 40% Syrah grapes, 34% Petite Sirah, 20% Grenache and 6% Tannat. The wine was aged for 18 months in both small and large-format French, Hungarian and American oak barrels. Alcohol reaches 14.5% abv and sells for $20.

The nose on this dark wine shows lots of dark fruit - blackberry, plum, currant - and plenty of complexity thanks to notes of clove, tar and roasted meat drippings. The palate is rich and dark, and the tannins will not be ignored. You can pair this wine with a steak, no problem. 


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Friday, October 14, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - The Peerless Otto

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 a few flicks from the peerless Otto Preminger, with a wine pairing for each.

I should apologize for the title of the column this week. The Peerless Otto seems to be a bit of wordplay on the "Peerless auto," a British car company that went belly up after only a few years of production. The great director, who is the subject of our snark, was successful for quite a bit longer. 

Otto Preminger was one of a handful of celebrities who achieved the rarified air of being included in my impersonation repertoire as a kid. It wasn't very good, but it delighted the friends of my parents in southeast Texas, who sometimes commented that Jimmy and Mary's son "didn't have hardly no ayukcent at awul!"

The 1971 comedy-drama Such Good Friends is one of those movies we look back on as a touchstone for a decade. At least I do. It had that wonderful feel of being either funny about serious stuff or serious about funny stuff - it was hard to tell which. A lot of folks had trouble with that and panned the movie at the time of its release because of it. Some of them still feel that way and refuse to watch it when it comes on late-night TV. 

A woman finds that her husband - who is in a coma - was screwing all her so-called friends for years. See what I mean? Laugh or cry? With friends like that, who needs enemies? The sarcasm of the film's title is impossible to miss, unless you, too, are comatose.

George Wine Company has a label called Sonoma Coma, so let's not get cute by trying to do better than that. It's a Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley which appears to sell for about $60. I don't know what it tastes like, so make sure you really want that label in your home before you plunk down for a case.

Anatomy of a Murder is a 1959 courtroom drama, and it's considered one of the best of its kind. The cast includes Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O'Connell, Eve Arden and George C. Scott. Oh, and Duke Ellington appears briefly - taking a break, no doubt, from his work in creating the score for the film. 

The story was "ripped from the headlines," as it was based on a real-life murder trial in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where the movie was shot. A local lawyer beats a murder charge against his client with a twist on the insanity plea, but there are plenty more twists as the trial unfolds. The film got a bad mark from the Catholic League of Decency - or whatever they call themselves - for its frank handling of the subject of rape. Preminger did not shy away from the tough topics.

There was a murder case a while back in New Jersey in which a woman killed her wife with a wine chiller - an aluminum cylinder used to quickly cool a bottle of wine. I know, at first I, too had an image of someone crashing a wine refrigerator down on someone else's head. Now that scene lives rent-free in my head, like a bad song that popped up on SiriusXM and just won't go away.

Where was I? Oh, the wine pairing. We need a killer wine for Anatomy. Come and gitcha red hots, right here. Killer Merlot comes from Mendocino by way of Brutocao Vineyards. If it needs it, I'll be chilling mine in the fridge, thank you. 

Now, let's take a walk down a dark street - far enough down that you find the place Where the Sidewalk Ends.  This 1950 noir has nothing to do with Shel Silverstein's later poetry collection under the same title.  No, this story is not suitable for the youngsters in the crowd.  You won't find "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout" lurking in these frames.  Preminger directed Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in this violent cops-n-criminals yarn.  

Andrews is a cop who hates criminals so much he actually scares the other cops.  That takes some doing.  He is the sort of cop that other cops call "badge heavy." Wouldn't it be something if he ended up being the one wearing the handcuffs?  The story starts with a gangster's gambling game and runs through murder, misdirection and mayhem.  It's hard to tell the good guys from the bad without a scorecard.  Hey, it's film noir - put your money on "bad."

Footpath Winery uses organic grapes from the Temecula Valley to create some pretty nice Cab Franc, Barbera and Malbec.  Try one of those for your sidewalk-less viewing party.


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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Paso Robles And The Delightful Cab

Just off Highway 46, on Paso Robles' east side, sits Vina Robles Winery. Their tasting room is there, too, as is their bistro, serving a seasonal menu which features locally grown food prepared on-site. Founder Hans Nef felt his Swiss heritage blended well with the opportunities that America offered him. The winery website tells us that Mr. Nef died in 2019 due to an accident while swimming off the Cape Verde islands. The winery is now in the hands of Nef's two daughters. 

Winemaker Kevin Willenborg takes the grapes from their six SIP-certified sustainable estate vineyards and creates wines that promise to honor the past while looking into the future. He has a minimal intervention policy of staying out of the way and letting the grapes do their thing.

Besides sustainability, Vina Robles partners with One Tree Planted, an organization which tries to improve the world one tree at a time. A portion of the Vina Robles wine, The Arborist, goes to that charitable outfit. The wine was named The Arborist after an actual arborist saved the life of a 300-year-old oak tree that sits in one of their vineyards.

The Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 features Cabernet Sauvignon grapes taken from two of their estate vineyards. As they explain it on their website, Huerhuero Vineyard is in the hilly terrain between the El Pomar and Geneseo Districts. It gets the cool Pacific breezes that blow through the Templeton Gap in the afternoon. Creston Valley Vineyard has high terrain, a southern exposure and shallow, limestone-laced soils. The wine was aged for 20 months in oak barrels, with a bit of Petit Verdot added at the eight-month mark. The Cab has alcohol at 14.5% abv and retails for $32.

The wine is dark in color and features a complex nose of currant, plum, black cherry and oak spice - all layered with the chalky minerality that is a hallmark of Paso Robles Cabs. That limestone minerality comes through especially strong on the palate. The dark red fruit plays a big role, the sweet oak is just right and the tannins are medium-firm.


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Monday, October 10, 2022

A Fresh Piedmont Red Wine

If you love the opportunity to try a grape that's new to you, this wine might be right up your alley. The Ray Albarossa by Colle Manora is 100% Albarossa grapes, grown in Italy's Piemonte D.O.C.. Albarossa is a cross between the Barbera and Nebbiolo di Dronero grapes. 

The wine underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged for a year in steel and a year in the bottle. There was no exposure to oak at all. Alcohol hits 14% and the wine sells for about $12 - and it's quite a bargain.

This medium-dark wine has a very fresh nose, dark and full of blackberry fruit aromas. The palate puts me in mind of some of the darker Cru Beaujolais wines. It also makes me think of unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina. This Albarossa grape wine was aged a year in steel and a year in the bottle, so it is fresh and youthful - a very fun wine. 


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Friday, October 7, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Jive Junction

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, we have three films which feature the swingin’ sounds of the big bands, and a wine pairing for each.

The music we are dealing with this time is more than soundtrack fodder or score. The music is the focal point. We're going back decades to relive the sounds that were "a hit before your mother was born." Maybe even before your grandmother.

In 1942's Orchestra Wives, Glenn Miller plays the leader of a big band. It wasn't a stretch for him, since that's what he was in real life. The story centers on the jealousy that arises in one of the musicians' wives due to his previous relationship with the cute little singer in the orchestra. It's a malaise that soon infects the whole band, as one wife after another falls victim to the green-eyed monster. It seems that the band members' wives all travel with the tour, something which would change in the rock era so that guitar players would be free to have a honey in every city along the way. I'm told that bass players and drummers had to work a little harder.

The songs include the great "(I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo," which, with its "a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h" walk-up to the title line would have made a nice Sesame Street segment. Miller's "Moonlight Serenade" sneaks in over the credits. It was a huge hit on the radio back then and it's a shame they didn't market soundtrack albums the way they do now. Of course, the 12-inch vinyl record didn't become a thing until well after this movie was made. Look for Jackie Gleason, Harry Morgan and even Dale Evans in uncredited performances where Gleason, especially, steals the scene. 

Miller broke up the band in 1942 so he could volunteer to join the U.S. Army Air Force. A plane that was carrying him from London to Paris in 1944 disappeared over the English Channel and he was never heard from again. It was a national catastrophe for such a beloved entertainer to be killed - especially in a time of war. Speculation on why the plane vanished has run the gamut, from pilot error to frozen fuel lines to friendly fire to assassination. 

Legh Knowles was a trumpeter with the Glenn Miller Orchestra back in the day, and he went on to become chairman of Napa Valley's Beaulieu Vineyards. Their Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon tops out at $150, but we will opt for "Maestro," their $35 Sauvignon Blanc, in honor of the great Glenn Miller.

Rhapsody in Blue is the 1945 biopic about the life of composer George Gershwin. It's a fictionalized account - Gershwin's actual life must not have been exciting enough for Hollywood. Critics have slammed the movie for that, and - oddly - for having too much music in it. Nearly complete versions of "Rhapsody in Blue" and "An American in Paris" are featured in the film, along with "Summertime" from "Porgy and Bess," so it is a treasure trove for Gershwin fans.

Like Miller, Gershwin also died young. It was a brain tumor that got him when he was just 38 years old. If you want even more of Gershwin's music in a movie, try Woody Allen's 1979 film, Manhattan. It is brimming full of Gershwin originals, if you haven't yet canceled Allen and his works from your life.

Opolo Vineyards has the perfect wine for Rhapsody. In fact, it is named "Rhapsody," a Paso Robles Bordeaux blend described as plush and lush, a lot like Gershwin's music.

Footlight Parade, from pre-Code 1933, features the sort of racy jokes and scanty costumes that disappeared for decades after the Hays Code "cleaned up" moving pictures for America's tender sensibilities. James Cagney pressed hard for the lead role, and got it. The former vaudeville hoofer plays a guy who makes short live musicals - prologues - which were shown in big movie houses before the film. It was Cagney's first chance to dance on the big screen, an opportunity that dwindled as he took on his more well-known gangster persona.

Joan Blondell co-stars as Cagney's secretary and love interest. The action concerns the creation and presentation of three spectacular show-openers over a span of just three days. Some of the dialogue is risqué, but seems quaint by today's standards.

Cagney once owned a summer estate on Martha's Vineyard - way before it became a haven for immigrants looking for work. Right across Buzzard's Bay is Westport Rivers Vineyard and Winery. They make a wide range of tasty wines, including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, which are worthy of a Cagney pairing.


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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Have You Tried A Marawi Wine?

I love to get the opportunity to try grapes that are new to me. The Marawi grape is one that I had not even heard of before my introduction to it. The ancient white grape variety is indigenous to the area of the Middle East which roughly covers Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Marawi is also known by another name, Hamdani. It was likely a wine much like this which was used in sacred services in the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem a couple of millennia ago.

The Segal Winery has been around since the 1950s, when the Segal family gave up their distillery and moved into wine. Today it focuses on its Israeli heritage and produces a range of wines that are well respected in the region.

The 2019 Segal Native Marawi was made by winemaker Ido Lewinsohn, a Master of Wine. Alcohol is low, at only 11% abv, and the retail price is $25. The wine is labeled as kosher for Passover and non mevushal. 

I'm guessing that this wine was given some sort of oak treatment, as the color is quite golden and the nose shows some oaky notes. There is also a strong sense of mango and other tropical fruits on the nose, along with an almond nuttiness. The smell puts me in mind of a cross between an old-style California Chardonnay and a Roussanne. The palate shows a lot of savory salinity, a somewhat subdued acidity and a rather full, oily mouthfeel. It's a fairly complex wine, and a delicious one, too. 


Monday, October 3, 2022

Kosher Cab From Oxnard, Via Paso

If you are looking for a good kosher wine, a reliable place to start the search is always Herzog Wine Cellars of Oxnard. Oxnard may not spring to mind immediately when you start riffing through your mental Rolodex of California wine regions. The Ventura County town is home to Herzog Wine Cellars, under the umbrella of the Royal Wine Corporation. The winery's story is one of immigrant grit and determination. 

The Herzog website says the company goes back to "Philip Herzog, who made wine in Slovakia for the Austro-Hungarian court more than a century ago. Philip's wines were so appreciated by Emperor Franz-Josef, that the emperor made Philip a baron."

Philip's grandson Eugene had to move his family around quite a bit during World War II to hide from the Nazis, only to be run out of Czechoslovakia by the communists. He brought his family to New York in 1948 and started working for a kosher winery that paid him in company stock. Within ten years all the other stockholders had given up on it, leaving Eugene as the last man standing. He and his sons then formed Royal Wines as a tribute to Philip. 

Expansion to Southern California happened in 1985, but it was a couple of decades before they would build their present state of the art facility. Head winemaker Joe Hurliman leads the kosher facility and produces wines in the tradition of the Jewish people. 

The Herzog Variations Be-leaf Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 was made from Paso Robles organically grown grapes. It's a kosher wine, as are all the Herzog selections, and it has no added sulfites. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the retail sticker reads $25.

The wine is a deep, dark red color with an herbal note on the nose to go along with the cheerful red fruit. I always like the chalkiness of Paso Cabs, but in this selection that effect is somewhat muted, shoved aside by that herbal note, which takes center stage on the palate. The effect of oak aging is plain, but not overdone. The freshness of the wine speaks to its youthful character and the tannins are firm. The chalky note makes itself more noticeable on the finish. 


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Friday, September 30, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Asian Explosion

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, we have three films which bring a container ship of action from the Far East, and a wine pairing for each of them.

Shogun Assassin is a 1980 mashup of a pair of popular samurai flicks. Like the rest of that year's pop culture, things go from great to lousy in a heartbeat. For every M*A*S*H there's a Dukes of Hazzard. For every Squeeze, there's an Air Supply. For every "Call Me" there’s a "Keep On Loving You." Caught on the fence? There's "Whip It."

"Meet the greatest team in the history of mass slaughter," screams the movie poster for Shogun Assassin. The picture shows a samurai warrior wielding blood-soaked swords, with a little kid in tow. For every "Awww" there's an "ewww." "Sword and sorcery … with a vengeance," the sales blurb goes on. But, ultimately, words fail to capture the magic of a blood stained killer holding a baby. 

Koi Pond Cellars has a red and a white in their Samurai line - a Merlot and a Chardonnay from central Washington. I have no idea why the Parkers dedicated a line of their wines to samurai, but they also have a set of Geisha blends.

1975 - the year that tried to tell us how crappy the '80s were going to be - gave us Inframan. This Hong Kong superhero show pits the Super Inframan against Demon Princess Elzebub. The actual translations of those names are more like "Chinese Superman" and "Princess Dragon Mom," but I think the producers were wise to change them. The DC universe alone is loaded with lawyers, and who knows who takes care of dragon mom copyright infringement?

This bionic-man-meets-kung-fu tale is spun from the same cloth that made Ultraman, so you see a lot of pose-striking. That's how the Thunderball Fists come flying out, silly! Speaking of which, did the James Bond franchise sign off on naming those fists after one of their movies?

Dragonette Cellars makes incredible Sauvignon Blanc wines in Buellton, with a Los Olivos tasting room. Dragon moms and dragon dads alike should find them to be enjoyable pairings with Inframan.  

From 1989 came Tetsuo the Iron Man, a Japanese body horror film that looks like low-budget Cronenberg. When Tetsuo's characters may feel the effects of iron-poor blood, they don't take Geritol - they eat a toaster or stick a piece of rebar in their leg. What happens with a power drill is the stuff from which snuff was made.

Descriptions cannot do this film justice, much like Eraserhead a dozen years before. You may not understand it, but you'll sure as hell never forget it.

That opens the door for a pairing with a South African Pinotage wine. The grape got a bad rap back in the day when people said Pinotage tasted like a rusty nail. Not the cocktail, an actual rusty nail. Improvements were made, and nowadays Pinotage has more wine-like descriptors attached to it, like tar, bacon fat, pipe tobacco and herbal tea. Beeslaar Wines makes a high-end, single-vineyard bottling. 


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