Friday, December 30, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Carquake

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, our three movies concern L.A.'s favorite obsession - after movies, of course - cars. There is a wine pairing for each. Let's get revved up.

Gumball Rally is a 1976 laffer about a coast-to-coast auto race with no rules - rather like Can-Am racing with less horsepower. A rich candy manufacturer, overcome with ennui, gets his car enthusiast pals together for the rally - which he hopes will liven up his humdrum life. 

It's a car-chase movie, so you know there is a hitch. In this case, the hitch is a bumbling L.A. cop who has made a career out of trying to apprehend the racers. You can bet your greasy camshaft that he will try and shut down the race at any cost. Never mind that there must be an infinite number of more pressing matters for the police to handle - this cop has a one-track mind.

The Gumball Rally was won by the AC Cobra, so a snake wine might be the pairing temptation here - a bottle of wine with a snake in it. Really. However, after reading multiple accounts of people being bitten by snakes which came back to life upon opening the bottle - really - we are going to discard that idea. 

In honor of the film's lead actor - Michael Sarrazin - let's go with a namesake wine from Burgundy. Domaine Michel Sarrazin et Fils has a great range of Bourgognes - we can call them Pinot Noirs - from $25. The reds are recommended to match the color of Sarrazin's AC Cobra.

That same bicentennial year, Ron Howard starred in Eat My Dust. Producer Roger Corman agreed to let Howard direct a movie of his own if he took the lead in Dust. It proved to be a good move for all concerned, since the payoff picture was Grand Theft Auto, and who doesn't wish they had a piece of that pie?

Dust has Howard as the son of a lawman who does not make papa proud. He steals a race car and leads dad and his deputies on a pursuit that would be the envy of the reporter in the Channel Two Traffic Copter. Trivia fans will note that the film features Dave Madden and Corbin Bernson in smaller roles. Nepotism fans will note that Howard's dad Rance and brother Clint also had roles. It is, indeed, who you know.

Napa Valley's Flora Springs Winery makes a Howell Mountain Cab called Dust and Glory, so at your Eat My Dust viewing party you can invite guests to drink yours. You'll want to keep the invitees to a select few, since this Dust sells for $175 a bottle.

In 1977's Smokey and the Bandit, Burt Reynolds starred alongside Jackie Gleason, Pat McCormick, Paul Williams, Jerry Reed and Sally Field - whom he first met on the set. The story is as flimsy as a fiberglass fender. A truckload of Coors beer has to make it from Texas to Georgia no matter how many police cars get wrecked along the way. All that car carnage for Coors beer? There's no accounting for taste. 

Smokey started out as a cash-in on the CB radio fad of the 1970s, but ended up being a big part of the trend. It also helped crown Reynolds as the king of the box office for a while. Jerry Reed wrote his biggest hit for the picture - "East Bound and Down" - which is good enough hick-pop for my money but is certainly no "Amos Moses."

Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T. Justice was an over-the-top revelation, recasting the mold of the Fat Southern Cop while adding Sumbitch - or Scum Bum in the edited for TV version - to a Gleason lexicon which includes "How sweet it is," "And awaaay we go" and "To the moon, Alice." 

This wine and movie pairing is a no-brainer. Bandit Wines was co-founded by Joel Gott. The super-eco-friendly Tetra Pak cartons don't scream "box wine" so much as they do "milk," and they are depicted as being portable enough to slip into your cargo shorts for a hike. Just remember that drinking and hiking don't mix. Y'all hike careful, now, heah?

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, December 26, 2022

Sweet Wine For The Sweet

Bella Winery is a small, family-run outfit in Sonoma County which places their focus on Zinfandel wines, made in small lots. Today, we sample a dessert style Zin.

The 2019 Bella Late Harvest Zinfandel Special Release is made from 93% Zinfandel grapes and 7% Petite Sirah, from the hillsides of Lily Hill Vineyard - first planted in 1915. The folks at Bella say Lily Hill "has become synonymous with zinfandels of elegance and substance."

The wine's appellation is Dry Creek Valley, always a good spot for Zinfandel. This dessert vintage carries alcohol at 14.8% abv and residual sugar at 10% by weight. The retail price is $34 for the 375 ml bottle.

In the glass, this wine is dark and viscous. The nose of cassis has layers of sage and eucalyptus over it, with a streak of black pepper right down the middle. Thick, rich and juicy in the mouth, the palate shows a sweetness that is not cloying. In fact, it borders on tart. The red fruit is dominant and there is an acidity which is lip-smacking, along with a tannic grip that demands your attention. This will be great with cheesecake - in fact, a little thicker, it would be great poured over cheesecake. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, December 23, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Silents Please

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ There are no words for this week's movies. They're silent. Well, two of them are. We have corks to pop for each.

The Man Who Laughs is from 1928 and was one of the first Universal silent films to be gussied up with that newfangled gimmick, "sound." In addition to the sound effects, they even threw in a love song.

Paul Leni directed the movie in the dark fashion that typified German Expressionism. The lead character, Gwynplaine, was disfigured with a surgical grin across his face, and became known as the laughing man - and other, more cruel taunts in the schoolyard, no doubt. The Victor Hugo character had the last laugh, though, as the template for the Batman villain The Joker.

The grin is so macabre and the mood so glum that many moviegoers of the day figured The Man Who Laughs for a horror flick instead of a romantic drama. That sickening smile also explains why he wore his turtleneck pulled up so high.

As one who likes to sample wines from across these United States, here is one from Kansas - yes, that Kansas - that should bring a twisted smile to your face. Purple Grin is a sweet wine - not dessert sweet, but the opposite of dry - from the Sunflower State's Prairie Fire Winery

Lon Chaney was slated to play Gwynplaine, but a rights issue kept him out of the role. The studio gave Chaney his pick for his next movie, and it turned out to be 1925's Phantom of the Opera, a wise choice, and the most famous of the thousand faces for which he would be known.

You know the story - a disfigured man has a thing for an opera singer and penchant for melodrama. Chaney reportedly made up his own makeup for the role of the Phantom, which was shocking enough to justify the character wearing a mask and hanging out in the shadows. Masks are a barrel of laughs until someone rips the veil off the disfigured man's face. Then it's get-the-hell-out-of-the-opera-house time.

Bogle makes a "hauntingly delightful" pair of wines called Phantom - a red one and a white one. Pick your favorite or have both. They cost only about $15 each.

When Comedy Was King came from 1960, but it is a compilation of some of the great comedy scenes from the silent era. You get a heaping helping of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, the Keystone Kops and, as they say in the commercials, "many many more."

The cover for the DVD screams that we "never dreamed a film could be so funny," which is rather over-the-top even by show biz standards. Sure, there are some very funny clips included in the picture, from some very funny people. However, I don't need anyone telling me how funny I dream. I dream funny enough without making a contest out of it. 

For a film about comedy, Let's pair a wine which supplied one of the best laughs about wine - to wine nerds, anyway. In Sideways, Miles makes no bones about his disdain for Merlot. The wine he is saving for a special occasion, however - a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc - is actually a Merlot blend. Miles pours his from a paper bag, paired with a hamburger. Hopefully you can find better accompaniment for yours, since that vintage runs in the thousands of dollars. Plan to spend 500 bills for a 2021 bottle.

note:  From the standpoint of a wine guy dabbling in movies, it would have been nice to have King Vidor's silent exploitation film, "The Wine of Youth," included in this piece. Maybe it will surface when "Still More Silents Please" comes around.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Dark, Complex Pinot Noir From Russian River Valley

Healdsburg winery Ten Acre made a "strictly limited production" of their 2019 Twenty Leaf Pinot Noir. The grapes were grown in Sonoma County's heralded region for Pinot, the Russian River Valley, where the afternoon breeze blows in the fog along the banks to give the fruit the cool climate it craves.

The wine - named to showcase the 20th vintage of the Jenkins Vineyard - is oak-aged in both French and American barrels, new wood. Several clones of Pinot Noir grapes went into the fermenter, mostly 115 and 667, for the grape nerds among us. The winemaker says the original floral notes on the wine are colored darker and earthier by the oak treatment. Alcohol sits at 14.4% abv and it sells for $68. 

There is a medium-dark tint to this Pinot and a complex nose that intrigues from the first sniff. In addition to the expected aromas of cherry, cola and tea, much darker, earthier tones arise. Sage is particularly noticeable, with leather, trampled leaves and nutmeg also appearing. The palate is somewhat muscular - to be expected, it seems, in California Pinot - but not so much that its elegance is obliterated. The acidity is fresh and invigorating and the tannins are gentle. The finish is lengthy and has a hint of eucalyptus in it.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, December 19, 2022

Sonoma Zinfandel Specialists Make Four-Grape Bubbly

The small, family-run Zinfandel specialists Bella Winery make a sparkling wine, too. The Ru Blanc de Noirs utilizes a fairly standard grape recipe, with a twist. In addition to the main component of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier - 73% and 17% respectively - and a splash of Chardonnay, there is a 6% helping of Pinot Gris grapes. I don't believe I have ever had a sparkling wine with Pinot Gris grapes in it, but there is a first time for everything. All the fruit was grown in Sonoma County.

Ru Blanc de Noirs is a Traditional Method sparkler, a non-vintage bubbly from one of California's top wine regions. Alcohol sails in at 12.1% abv and the price is $48, but it is listed as being sold out on the Bella website.

This wine pours up bubbly and with a very slight copper-tinted hue. The nose offers a wealth of cherry, apricot and lemon aromas, but in a savory framework of salinity. There is a yeasty touch as well. On the palate, the fruit leads the way, but an amazing acidity really steals the show. This wine is as fresh and lively as they come. Pair it with just about anything - that's the real beauty of a sparkling wine, its versatility. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, December 16, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - The Devil Made Me Do It

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week's trio of films are a hell of a good time to watch. There are appropriate wine pairings for each, of course.

Demons is a 1985 Italian horror film, which we know because nearly everyone involved with the production has a name ending in a vowel. The story concerns a movie theater full of people who were invited to a free screening. Inside the cinema they are attacked by horrible creatures - let's just call them demons. It's a case of life imitating art, as the real demons seem to spring forth in the same way as those in the movie. 

Demon zero is a girl who was scratched by a dangerous relic on display in the lobby. Let's all go to the snack bar, indeed - just don't get too close to that graveyard artifact while you're buttering your popcorn. One moviegoer after another gets infected by the attacks until the only remaining safe place to hide seems to be the balcony. What a way to spoil a good make-out session.

Lamberto Bava directed the pic, which earned well over a billion Italian lire at the box office. That's about four dollars and 98 cents in US currency, so cash those residual checks in a hurry.

For Demons, we could drink some Casillero del Diablo wine. However "diablo" is Spanish for "devil." There is a winery in New Mexico, Vivac, which makes a rather expensive red blend called Diavolo - the Italian word we are seeking. It does have the Spanish grape Tempranillo in it, but there is also Aglianico, an Italian variety. Vivac is a good place to hang out, by the way, if you find yourself south of Taos with some time on your hands. 

The director of Demons had a family history of horror, as his father Mario Bava directed Lisa and the Devil in 1974. The elder Bava was known as the master of Italian horror, a nickname that had to be hard to live up to. Imagine you are a CPA and people went around calling you the master of Earned Income Tax Credit. You can see how quickly that might turn from an honor into a burden.

Telly Savalas and Elke Sommer star in the film, which actually had several different lives and titles. New scenes were even shot for a version which was released in an attempt to cash in on the success of The Exorcist. After The Exorcist, everybody wanted some projectile vomiting in their movie.

Lisa and the Devil is a convoluted tale involving a pretty traveler in Spain, a haunted house, a crazy matriarch, a weird butler, gaslighting, gruesome deaths and just about any other horror movie trope in existence. Reactions to the film have run the gamut from "unwatchable" to "required viewing." Let us know where you fall in on that scale.

The wine pairing here is for Patagonia's Bodega Noemia and their A Lisa Malbec, equally suitable for Noemia, Lisa and the devil.

The Exorcist III came out in 1990, written and directed by William Peter Blatty. The story follows the investigation of a serial killer who is tying in his murders with the late Father Damien Karras, the priest from The Exorcist. It's no shock that the devil from that movie is behind it all, of course, still pissed about being exorcized and looking to get even with someone - anyone. 

George C. Scott does a nice turn as the investigator and Brad Dourif plays the serial killer as someone straight from the cuckoo's nest. Praise ran hot and cold for the movie, which was a bit of a box-office flop due to the stink-bomb known as The Exorcist II. Blatty has said that he begged the studio not to name it after the previous sequel, but they did it anyway - then acted surprised when III fell over dead. 

Here's a nice devil-bashing wine pairing for you - a vino that got its name through exorcism. Italy's Scacciadiavoli Wine Estate - it literally means "cast out the devils" - was derived from a 16th century case of a girl being possessed until the priest had her drink some of the local wine. That did the trick. There was no word about how it worked on the altar boys.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Not Your Usual Dessert Wine

Chateau de Beaulon has been a family-owned estate since 1712 and is now under the direction of Christian Thomas. The gothic château itself dates back a further couple of centuries, to the era of Louis XI. 

Pineau des Charentes is a style of dessert wine made in special areas of Bordeaux. It is widely known as an aperitif, but the folks at Beaulon say that's too restrictive for the many uses of their Pineau. 

The Beaulon Pineau des Charentes Rouge, made available to me, is made from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It was aged for five years in oak barrels. Alcohol is fortified to 19% abv and the retail price is $25, cheap for a wine of this style and quality.

They make a white version, too, from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The Château is also known for its cognac, made from estate-grown Folle Blanche, Colombard and Montils grapes.

This dessert wine is a deep reddish brown in color, almost a chestnut hue. The nose is aromatic and quite beautiful - brown sugar, raisins, espresso and a hint of orange peel aromas rise up from the glass. On the palate the wine is very viscous and shows distinct legs. Flavors of coffee, caramel and citrus dominate the sip. The acidity is fresh and bright, and the overall savory feel helps make this a wine that can be paired with more than just sweets.

Monday, December 12, 2022

The Darker Side Of Sherry

Bodegas Dios Baco is a Spanish sherry house dating back to 1765, with growth milestones in 1848, 1960 and 1983. The winery is owned now by José Páez Morilla, a sherry-loving businessman who purchased the property in 1992.

Baco Imperial Oloroso is a sherry which has aged for 30 years. The wine is made entirely from Palomino grapes. Alcohol hits a fortified 19.5% abv, with the retail price up close to a hundred bucks.

Oloroso is Spanish for "odorous."  Google Translate shows it as "smelly," but I think I prefer "pungent." It just hits me the wrong way to see a wine website showing a bottle with the name underneath it "Smelly."

Baco Imperial is labeled as VORS, Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum - that's Latin for "great and singular wine." You can also see it as Very Old Rare Sherry, if you have a phobia against Latin. Oloroso sherry is a style that is oxidized through many years, so you get a very complex wine as opposed to the lighter Fino style.

This is a darker white sherry - chestnut brown, in fact - and it has a wondrous nose which boasts raisins, molasses and a whiff of caramel up above the rim of the glass. The palate is savory and dry, but can we talk about the acidity? It is fresh and invigorating and lasts on the sip all the way down. I would pair this with butter cookies or something sweeter in a heartbeat. It's pretty good with a ham and cheese sandwich, too. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, December 9, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Biohazard!

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week's wine and cocktail pairings are for three films which require hazmat suits in the screening room. 

Virus - known in Japan as Fukkatsu No Hi - is a 1980 sci-fi from the nation that gave Godzilla to the world. This time, nature points out the folly of men via a deadly virus, created by accident in a lab. Stop me if you've heard this one before. The bug - someone dubs it the Italian Flu, but I swear Trump is not in the picture - makes other viruses more deadly by increasing their power. But, this new virus - MM88 - doesn't work in sub-zero temperatures. Looks like it's time for an Antarctica vacation.

There are a few big-name Japanese actors in the cast for Virus, alongside Glenn Ford, George Kennedy, Robert Vaughn, Chuck Connors and a raft of other stars. The film has two different endings, one for the Japanese release and one for American audiences. 

Well, Virus Vodka looks to me like a product that must have sprung up during the pandemic. If it didn't, it should have. The website for the Dallas-based company urges us to "get infected" and "spread the virus." Next they'll be suggesting bleach as a mixer. 

In 1971's The Andromeda Strain, it's an extraterrestrial organism - stowed away in a satellite that crashes to earth - that kills nearly everybody in a small town. How small a town? "Now Entering" and "Now Leaving" are on the same post. Every time a baby is born, someone else has to leave. Second Street is in the next town over. You get the idea.

Anyway, the town doctor has enough time on his hands that he can poke around on crashed satellites. He ends up with crystallized blood, which is even worse than pixelated video. The two people who survived the crash provide a clue for what quickly blossomed into a team of elite virologists - the kind of folks for whom Trump had little use. I mean, why go to science when there's plenty of fiction available? 

The labcoats get things figured out, but can they act in time to save the world? The cliffhanger ending went to waste, as no sequel ever materialized, to my knowledge. The film's special effects were masterminded by Douglas Trumball, whose work you may have gotten high with in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Andromeda Rare Wine and Whisky promises to track down anything that tickles your fancy, the rarer the better.  They are not a bargain option, and they are based in Hong Kong, but then there's always the corner liquor store if price or promptness are an issue. You might also try an Andromeda cocktail - Amaretto, Grenadine, Triple Sec and orange juice. The juice is there to help ward off illnesses caused by stray alien lifeforms.

The 1965 sci-fi The Satan Bug brings bio-terror to the front row.  The complicated story line is full of scientific intrigue, double- and triple-crosses, test tubes to end the world and some daredevil helicopter footage.  Who said laboratory work was boring?  Are these guys handling coronavirus test kits?  Wash your hands!  Wear a mask!  You can't even pick up litter off the street anymore without donning some nitrile gloves!

The movie stars George Maharis, Anne Francis, Richard Basehart and Dana Andrews. And a few actors better recognized from other performances - Frank Sutton (Gomer Pyle's Sgt. Carter), Ed Asner (MTM's crusty boss at WJM TV) and, one of my personal favorites, James Hong (every Asian professional or criminal you've ever seen on screen).

Any film which uses devil imagery in its title deserves a pairing with Velvet Devil Merlot from Charles Smith Wines.  It's from Washington state, by the way, one of the early hotspots for COVID-19.  

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Another Bone Dry Sherry

Álvaro Domecq bought this bodega in the late 1990s, adding wine to his horse ranching empire. This Fino La Janda is one of more than a dozen wines in his line of sherries. It is made from 100% Palomino grapes, grown in Jerez, Spain.

The website in one place shows nine years of aging, then references six to seven years in another. The aging is done in American oak casks, in the solera method. Alcohol hits 15% abv and the wine retails for around $10. 

This wine has a golden yellow color and a very expressive nose. There is quite a bit of a yeasty aroma, with bread and citrus notes following. Hints of brown sugar and raisins are also present. The palate is very dry and somewhat bitter, in a good way. The taste is a savory experience, with barely a trace of the citrus fruit that appears on the nose. The acidity is fresh, almost bracing, and allows for a wide range of pairing options. 

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.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

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.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

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. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

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. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

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. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

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.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

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.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter 

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. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

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.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

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. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

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.   

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter