Friday, January 28, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - The Devil You Say

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 devil made us do it.

The Devils is a 1971 British film taken from actual events of the 17th century - ripped from the headlines of a French gazette, if you will.

Urbain Grandier was a Catholic priest accused of calling up evil spirits to possess a group of nuns.  This may seem far-fetched by today's standards, but I have friends who went to Catholic school and they think it's pretty much on the nose for the nuns who served as their teachers.

Spoiler alert here - Grandier was tried for witchcraft, found guilty and burned at the stake.  But these days people think he was railroaded by Cardinal Richelieu.  A French cardinal as the bad guy?  Hey, it worked for Alexandre Dumas. 

If you think that a movie which puts violence and sex in a religious setting sounds like a job for Ken Russell, award yourself ten bonus points and skip right to the wine pairing.  Russell wrote the screenplay and directed the film.

San Antonio Winery was the only Los Angeles wine producer to survive the thirteen year torment we now call Prohibition.  They did it by grabbing a loophole by the lapels and making sacramental wine for churches.  They have a much broader appeal today and still base their operation on Lamar Street, just across the tracks from the L.A. River.

We shall now remain in 1971 for another British scary story.  The Blood on Satan's Claw has 18th century England as its setting.  A farmer digs up a skull with fur on it and, well, you know how teenagers get when something like that happens.  All of a sudden it's devil this and fur that.  They can't wait to get over to the abandoned church and call up some furry evil.

Townsfolk start growing claws - furry claws, of course - until it starts to look like a bad night at Red Lobster.  Some deaths occur throughout the tale, as you might expect, and the farmer - remember him? - finds his leg has grown fur.  It's a regular epidemic.  Sure hope someone with a sword gets involved, and fast.

This pairing gets a little too deep into devil imagery for my comfort level, but here goes.  The Wine of Satan - Vinnum dei Satanas - is a Greek Syrah sold by an outfit that likes heavy metal music at least as much as they like wine, probably more.  A bottle will run a man 30 euros, and it's almost as much to have it shipped from Greece. 

Satan Met a Lady was a 1936 adaptation of The Maltese Falcon, sandwiched five years apart between the two other versions of the Dashiell Hammett detective yarn.  This one had no Sam Spade, no falcon, nothing from Malta and a different title.  It did have Bette Davis, however, and you'll have to guess whether she's the devil or the lady.

Davis hated the film, telling Mr. Warner in no uncertain terms that she would not appear in it.  After a few days without pay, though, she returned to the soundstage and resumed working.  You know, mortgage payments on a mansion were high in Los Angeles even back then.  The critics of the day mainly figured that the cast should be put into a witness protection program.

The Velvet Devil Merlot comes from Washington's Charles Smith Wines.  The velvet is smooth, but the pitchfork is gonna leave a mark.  Despite the rather cheesy label, the wine is actually pretty good.


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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A Big Value Wine From Spain

The value wine Borsao comes from Aragon, Spain, which the winery labels as "the birthplace of Garnacha."  The Campo de Borja D.O. in northeastern Spain is where these Garnacha and Tempranillo grapes originated.  Borsao is actually a cooperative, encompassing some 375 winegrowers who contribute to the greater effort.

I discovered Borsao a number of years back, when it was my go-to $5 wine.  Everyone else adopted it as such, and so its popularity grew, along with its price.  Now it's everyone's favorite $10 wine.  Borsao also makes a wonderful Garnacha called Tres Picos.

The separate grapes for Borsao were fermented in stainless steel tanks before being blended.  There is no notation from the winery on aging, except to say that they use new and neutral oak "moderately to tame and add complexity to the wines, rather than impose its presence."  Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and my bottle was $8 on sale at one of my local grocers.

This is a very dark wine, and its nose comes through with lush blackberry and plum aromas, draped in a savory earthiness.  The palate brings that dark fruit along with a strong sense of minerality.  The acidity is racy, while the tannins are firm but not too forceful.  I cooked with it, but also enjoyed a glass or two in the process. 


Monday, January 24, 2022

Bubbles From Italy - Valdo Prosecco

Bubbles are often leaned on for special occasions, to make them more special - remember New Year's Eve?  You shouldn't need any help making Valentine's Day more special, but if you do, try something bubbly.  Let’s say you've already broken the bank on a gift for your sweetheart, and you need bubbles that are a little more reasonably priced than Champagne, but still festive and fun.  Meet Prosecco, Italy's favorite sparkling wine.

Valdo was founded in 1926, in Italy's Veneto region, the town of Valdobbiadene, then bought by the Bolla family in 1938.  Winemaker Gianfranco Zanon makes some really nice Prosecco there.

Valdo Marca Oro Brut Prosecco DOC  

This wine was made from 100% Glera grapes, grown in the Prosecco DOC in Veneto, in the northeastern part of Italy.  Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks and the wine got three months of Charmat aging, one month in the bottle.  Alcohol is at the typical 11% abv and the retail price is $15.

The fine bubbles sit on the straw-yellow wine and dissipate rather quickly.  The nose gives aromas of apples, candied apricots and peaches.  The palate offers delicious citrus, apple and mineral flavors, with a hint of custard on the finish.  Delightful. 


Valdo Marca Oro Prosecco DOC Rosé

A mix of 90% Glera and 10% Pinot Noir grapes, this Prosecco Rosé has a lovely pink hue and persistent perlage, those tiny bubbles.  Alcohol is no higher than 11% abv, while the retail price is $15.

This pink bubbly shows nice, fine bubbles and offers a beautiful nose of cherry, strawberry, pear, apple and a hint of citrus.  The palate carries those same fruit flavors, with a bit more lemon than on the nose.  The acidity is perfectly juxtaposed against the wine's sweetness.  Have it with anything, but it will pair best with Mediterranean dishes. 


Friday, January 21, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Sidney Poitier Week

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 actor Sidney Poitier.

I opened the door to my home and heard my wife crying.  Out loud.  As she is not one who finds herself openly weeping all that often, I was concerned.  With tears streaming down her face she said, "Sidney Poitier died."  She did not know him personally, had never met him, but, for her, it was as if a close relative had been struck down.  Browsing through social media posts, it is apparent that many feel that way.  My wife has met a number of celebrities during her time in Los Angeles, but never Poitier.  That will always live within her on the minus side of her life's ledger.

A Raisin in the Sun appeared in 1961, two years after the Broadway play of the same name was acclaimed as one of the best ever written.  The film went on to garner a handful of awards, but was skipped over by the Oscars.  Besides Poitier's screen-filling presence, the movie also starred Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil and Louis Gossett, Jr., in his first film.

In the movie, we see the Younger family's struggle to get ahead in Chicago amid personal tragedy, money troubles and race discrimination.  Unlike TV's The Jeffersons, they never make it to a "deluxe apartment in the sky."  They do, however, manage to maintain the family's dignity while "movin' on up" to a modest home.

A raisin wine is the perfect pairing here.  Don't shrug it off - making wine with grapes which have dried into raisins dates back around 6,000 years.  Vin Santo is usually a deliciously sweet wine, although it can be found in a dry style.  The Vin Santos from Tuscany, especially Chianti and Valpolicella, are a real treat.

In 1958, Stanley Kramer directed The Defiant Ones.  Poitier co-stars with Tony Curtis as two escaped convicts who are chained together.  They don't like each other much at first - they're on a deep-South chain gang in the 1950s - but through their struggle for freedom comes a mutual respect.  

The story of two opposites shackled together has been borrowed repeatedly over the years.  In a Warner Brothers cartoon, Sylvester the Cat is chained to a bulldog, while in The Thing With Two Heads, Ray Milland and Rosy Grier end up in the same body.

The ones who are defiant, Poitier and Curtis, wind up singing their way back to prison, where they probably are enlisted in the Friday night talent show.  That sounds like a setup for a riot in the cell block, but Kramer left that up to our imaginations.

Defiance Vineyards of the Paso Robles area offers a decidedly defiant Petite Sirah.  They say they have tamed the tannins, so you may find yourself singing your way back for another bottle.

In The Heat of the Night came out in 1967, in the wake of several major race riots and in the same year as a handful of others.  Poitier's performance may have been a bit more inspired, coming in that environment, and it no doubt served as a touchstone for black Americans of that day.

Poitier plays police detective Virgil Tibbs, and he plays the hell out of the role.  However, it was co-star Rod Steiger who grabbed the Best Actor Oscar that year.  A Philadelphia cop, Tibbs stands his ground in Mississippi as he grinds out the catchphrase of his career - "They call me Mister Tibbs!”" Heat, indeed.  

A Tibbs wine would make a perfect pairing.  How about that?  There's a Mayhall Tibbs Winery that puts out a $10 Pinot from Santa Barbara's Sta. Rita Hills!  I don't know what kind of Pinot you're getting for ten bucks, but it's a cheap way to drink local with your movies.


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Friday, January 14, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Peter Bogdanovich Week

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 director and actor Peter Bogdanovich.

1968's Targets gave Bogdanovich his start as a director.  Boris Karloff plays a retiring horror actor while Tim O'Kelly serves as a sniper.  Karloff's character is quitting the monster movie business because he feels the actual news events of the day are much more horrific than anything he could ever act out on celluloid.  As fate would have it, the movie was released shortly after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, boosting its topicality.

Fans of L.A. location shooting will want to see the finale, filmed at a Reseda drive-in movie.  Spoiler alert:  The climax is terrific, when Karloff's character disarms the shooter by hitting him with his cane.  So much for the scary sniper - defeated by an old man with a walking stick.

For a wine pairing with Targets: no, not a box of wine from Target, although there will be no judging from me if you choose to go that way.  There is a gun club in North Carolina which sports a "Shoot Then Sip" night for ladies.  Let's hope they keep the shooting before the sipping.  For Californians, Sonoma's Wing and Barrel Ranch brings gunplay and drinking together.  The ranch offers both shooting and hunting, so you can opt for clay pigeons or, I guess, real pigeons.  Turley Cellars is one of their vintner partners, so get one of Turley's great Zinfandels and shoot out the cork.

In 1971, Bogdanovich painted a heartbreaking portrait of hopelessness in The Last Picture Show.  The film takes place in a small, desolate Texas town.  I grew up in a slightly larger, slightly less desolate Texas town, but the movie rings true to me.

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

Just a year later came What's Up, Doc?  Bogdanovich called it a "screwball comedy, something like Bringing Up Baby: daffy girl, square professor, everything works out all right."  The daffy girl was Barbara Streisand, the square professor was Ryan O'Neal and all was well in the end - as it always is in the land of the romantic comedy.

The San Francisco chase scene reportedly cost a million dollars to shoot - a quarter of the film's budget.  The title was borrowed from the Warner Brothers cartoons.  "What’s up, Doc?" was Bugs Bunny's signature line.  Look it up, youngsters.

The sorely missed Los Angeles restaurant, Cube, had on its marquee the phrase "what’s up D.O.C.?"  Their partiality to Italian wines spawned that little vino pun.  D.O.C. means Denominazione di Origine Controllata, a classification of wine regions in Italy.  So let's pair a wine from the Veneto D.O.C. with What’s Up, Doc?.  Just pick a red Valpolicella or a white Soave, you can't miss.


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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A Bucking Bronco From Italy

The Bronco Wine Company is widely known as a purveyor of inexpensive wines - think "Two Buck Chuck" and others.  The winery has thousands of acres of vineyard land in California's Central Valley, which is not on the list of great places in the Golden State for grape growing.

I have been aware of Bronco Wines for quite some time, but I never realized they sold wines from other countries.  This one is made in Verona, Italy, the 2019 Poggio Della Robinie Superiore Valpolicello Ripasso.

This wine is a blend of four rather unusual grapes.  The corporate website shows that the breakdown is 60% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 10% Corvinone and 10% Negrara.  I have seen other sites dropping the last two grapes and substituting 20% Molinara.  Whatever grapes they were, they were vinified using the Ripasso technique.  The Ripasso method of making wine involves fermenting on the dried skins of the grapes, then putting the wine away for a year in oaken barrels.  The dried grapes bring a rich and deep flavor to the wine.  Alcohol tips in here at 13.5% abv and I paid $20 for a bottle at my neighborhood Whole Foods Market.

The winery offers tasting notes that give wild cherry as one of the flavors.  That assessment is right on the money.  The red fruit - cherry, red currant - is bright and complex, with a dark, earthy edge pushing in from the side.  It's a darkly tinted wine, with a smooth mouthfeel.  I paired it with a beef tenderloin for our New Year's feast, and it was great.  I also used it in a wine sauce for the meat, and it was superb.


Monday, January 10, 2022

Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout

There is a brewery in northern England that produces some great beer, sends it down the road in horse-drawn carts and around the world in more modern shipping conveyances.  Samuel Smith's Brewery lays claim to being the oldest in Yorkshire, established in 1758.

They brew a number of beers using natural ingredients, sometimes even organic.  The Samuel Smith's fermentation process happens in large containers which they call stone Yorkshire Squares, made from solid blocks of slate.  The same yeast strain has been used since the 1800s. 

The grist - malted barley - is mixed with heated well water from the original well on the property.  This happens in copper mash tuns, then sent on to antique boiling coppers where English hop varieties like Fuggles and Goldings are added for bitterness and aroma.  Next up, the copper hop backs, where the spent hops are removed from the wort.

Samuel Smith's uses handmade oak casks for all its ale. The casks are made and repaired at the Old Brewery by their cooper, who is employed full-time.

All this care and attention come to fruition in Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout.  Brewed using organic chocolate malt and organic cocoa, it blends the best of both worlds - stout and chocolate.  Alcohol is a session-sized 5% abv.

I had the brew over the holidays, a great time for anything chocolate.  The chocolatey sweetness mixes beautifully with the bitterness of the beer.  It is not too heavy, so it makes a great after-dinner stout.


Friday, January 7, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Even More Movies You Never Heard Of

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 are letting the turmoil of the holidays get to us, with another hodgepodge of movies that probably escaped your attention.  Let us inform you, hopefully while entertaining you.

 The Steagle is a 1971 comedy starring Richard Benjamin.  He plays a mild-mannered professor who uses the angst of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 to justify a cross-country road trip in which he out-Mittys Walter Mitty.  He stops in several cities on his way from New York to Hollywood and lives out a different fantasy in each one.

The critical response to this forgotten film ranged from "genius" to "trash," and most agree there is a bit of both to the movie.  By the way, the movie's title refers to an NFL team during the 1943 season.  WWII took so many football players for the war effort that in Pennsylvania the Steelers and the Eagles actually merged for the year, becoming the Steagles and earning a place in sports trivia.

It's a reach, but you could pair a German radler beer from Stiegl with The Steagle.  A radler sounds like a shandy - a beer and lemonade concoction - and the pronunciation of Stiegl is probably all wrong.  Let's score a touchdown with former Eagles head coach, Dick Vermeil.  He took the Eagles to the big game the year after the Steelers went.  He now makes wine in the Napa Valley, fulfilling his daydream.

1970's Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker is shortened to simply Pigeons in some places, to the great joy of headline writers everywhere.  It's a movie about a rude taxi driver who kicks pigeons in the park.  Rudeness we can abide in a taxi driver, but let the birds be, dude.  They just walk around on their disfigured little feet, picking at cigarette butts in the dirt.  They don't need you kicking them, too.

The movie is a comedy, which centers on a guy who has taken disillusionment to another level.  You think Richard Benjamin had trouble in The Steagle?  This taxi driver's fantasy is to be a truck driver.  Honk when you're happy.

Portland, Oregon's Clay Pigeon Winery has a Syrah called Croze, after the Croze-Hermitage region of the northern Rhône Valley.  It has a fistful of flavor and will pair well with pigeon, if you so desire.

The Working Man carries its laughs in deception and mistaken identity.  The 1933 film concerns two rival shoe manufacturing companies and the various charades put on by George Arliss and Bette Davis.  They get most of the credit for adding their prodigious talents to an otherwise lightweight effort.  What happens when the boss man becomes a working man?  Well, hilarity ensues.

There was once a working man's wine fountain for the 15th century shipbuilders of Venice.  It poured wine continuously, all day, which was carried in buckets to the workers.  The wine figured out to two and a half liters a day for each man, leading one to wonder how any ships ever got built.  

A working man's beverage these days may be beer or bourbon, but we're giving this movie a wine, just like those shipbuilders except it's not free and it doesn't run all the time.  Washington state's Kana Winery makes their Workingman's Red for everyone, employed or not.  They spin the wheel and come up with seven international grapes for the blend - Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise, Cinsault, Tempranillo and Barbera, in case you're interested.


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Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Paso Robles Winery Shapes Up Nicely

There is a long list of winery tasting rooms in Paso Robles which are fun to visit, but there's one you really have to see.  Sculpterra Winery pours some great wine, but they also show off some dandy visual arts to go with it.

Sculpterra's property is adorned with beautiful iron work from master blacksmith Bob Bentley and sculptures in bronze and granite by John Jagger.  It provides a real treat for the eyes, while the wines will gladden other senses.

The Sculpterra Maquette is made from four Bordeaux grape varieties - 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Cabernet Franc, 26% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot - all grown in the Frankel Family Estate Vineyard.  The wine was fermented in new oak barrels and one-ton macro bins, then aged in oak for 18 months, 14% of which was new French.  Alcohol tips in at 14.5% abv and it sells for just under $50.

This wine is medium dark, with a brilliant ruby edge while pouring.  The nose brings red fruit - cherries, plums, raspberries - and a nice toasty vanilla note.  The palate offers plenty of fruit and a nice dollop of tannins, just right for pairing with some good meat.  I had it with my holiday filet of beef, and it was fine.  


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Monday, January 3, 2022

Big Syrah From Paso Robles

Alta Colina winery is based in Paso Robles' Adelaida District at a nice elevation.  In fact, their name translates as "high hill."  The show is run by the father-daughter team of Bob and Maggie Tillman, with winemaking handled by relative newcomer Molly Lonborg.  Bob calls Alta Colina his "retirement program run amok."  He has been at it for 18 years now.  He says he just started making wine, "and it got out of hand."

The Tillmans grow Rhône grapes on their estate, organically farmed.  The grapes are not organic, Bob says, because he has never gone for accreditation.  Says Molly, "Organic is a philosophy, not a marketing tool."

The 2018 Alta Colina Toasted Slope Estate Syrah is composed of 97% Syrah - two different clones - along with 2% Viognier and 1% Grenache.  It was aged for 21 months in oak and another 15 in the bottle.  The wine's alcohol level checks in at 14.5% abv and it retails for $58.

Dark fruit dominates the nose while some savory notes play through.  The aromas of black and blue berries, plums and cassis define the bouquet, which is shaped by shades of anise and earth.  The palate is really a delight, as fruity as you want it to be while maintaining the Prince of Darkness title.  Tannins are firm but not feisty.  The wine drinks quite smooth, even upon recent pouring.  I liked it paired with a Spencer steak seasoned with salt and pepper, and a side of chimichurri.  I make mine with parsley, cilantro and a Fresno pepper cut up in it.