Monday, May 30, 2022

A Côtes du Rhône Villages Cheapie

This Côtes du Rhône Villages 2019 red blend is labeled as a Grand Vin from the southern Rhône Valley. The grapes are Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, making this a GSM, if you switch a couple of the words around. While researching the wine online, I found that a large number of America's supermarket chains carry it, so I feel justified in calling it a grocery store wine. I mean no disrespect by that, as I make a lot of my wine purchases at the market. Alcohol tips in at 14.5% abv and it sells for less than $15. Mine cost $10 on sale.

This medium dark wine shows plum and blackberry on the nose, with hints of black pepper and herbs. The palate brings those dark flavors amid a somewhat watery mouthfeel with medium-firm tannins. On the medium-long finish, those savory spice and herb notes come forward. I bought this for cooking, for which it was fine. It was decent as a sipper, but a little disappointing in aromas and flavors. 

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Friday, May 27, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Shaken Not Stirred

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 find some wines to pair with a trio of Bond films - James Bond films.

One of my favorite moments in the TV series, The West Wing, is when the topic of James Bond arises and the president complains that Bond likes his martini "shaken, not stirred."  He points out that the act of shaking the cocktail chips the ice and creates a drink that is watered down.  The character opines that Bond is "ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it."

In 1967’' You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery as Bond is offered a martini the other way around, "stirred, not shaken," by mistake.  He courteously accepts the offer rather than point out the error.  He also courteously accepts the offer of a tricked-out car, a bunch of cool gadgets and the chance to bed several beautiful women in the film.  Courteous guy, that Bond.

The movie is set in Japan as Bond tries to keep World War III from breaking out in space.  Besides getting to see Bond cavorting in a new, exotic setting, we also get to meet Blofeld.  Donald Pleasence plays the villain who is trying to turn the Cold War hot.  We were this close to getting Toshiro Mifune as Tiger Tanaka, but he was already contracted to do another film.  Too bad.

Bond courteously accepts a bottle of Dom Perignon 1959 - "Well, if you insist" - a wine that shows up repeatedly over the course of the spy series, although he also had an affinity for Bollinger bubbly.  The latter can be had for around $50, the former for a couple hundred.  For a vintage that would impress Bond - you couldn't actually be thinking of a non-vintage bottle - the price escalates quite a bit.

From Russia With Love was the second Bond film, from 1963, following the big success of Dr. No.  Connery gets more fantastic locales - Istanbul and Venice - more great chase scenes and a suitcase full of those fancy specialty items from Q.  

Dr. No's success prompted the desire for a sequel, with double the budget.  Was it worth the money?  Well, if you insist.  Bond movies typically get lukewarm response from scribes, but the paying public always has Bond money burning a hole in their pockets on opening day.  Popcorn is an additional charge.

Russian wine?  In this political climate?  Nyet.  Let's go to Ukraine for some Angel Bomon Rosé sparkling wine.  It utilizes a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, so I'll let you tell me how it tastes. It might be easier to locate a Ukrainian vodka for your martini - but stir it, no matter what Bond says.  

Let's jump ahead to 1987 for The Living Daylights, the first of a pair with Timothy Dalton as Bond.  Pierce Brosnan almost took over for 12-time Bond Roger Moore, but he was involved with NBC's Remington Steele.  Ratings were flagging, so Brosnan was interested.  However, the Bond talk sort of resurrected the show and Brosnan's contract got in the way.  After the talk died down, Steele lost the hearts and minds of viewers and Brosnan got only a handful of additional episodes before the axe fell.  In Hollywood, as in the old USSR, it was "death to spies" time.

Dalton certainly has his fans, but "favorite Bond?"  Connery and Moore make for tough competition.  Dalton probably gets a run for his money from the '80s pop band A-ha, the Norwegian group who did the synth-drenched theme song for The Living Daylights.  It takes all kinds, so I'm sure there are those who think Dalton is the best Bond and A-ha's take is the best Bond theme.  I'm just as sure, however, that if that entire fan club got together all at once they could hold the meeting in a phone booth, assuming they could still find a phone booth.  Make me choose, I'm taking Dalton's Bond over A-ha's Bond theme every day.

In this film, Bond gives a defecting KGB general a bottle of Bollinger’s RD, which stands for recently disgorged in English.  It means that the removal of the yeast collected in the bottle's neck after the secondary fermentation happens late in the aging process.  It is said to preserve the freshness of the wine.  At several hundred dollars per bottle, it had better be fresh.  As Steve Martin said in The Jerk, "No more of this old stuff."  They must not know who they're dealing with.

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Monday, May 23, 2022

White Wine From Bordeaux

Dry white wines are in their prime spot now that spring is here and summer is upon us.  Places like Spain's Rias Baixas region or France's Rhône Valley come to mind immediately.  However, the Bordeaux region is also becoming as known for its white wines as for its reds.

There are 12 AOCs for dry whites in BDX, with eight main grape varieties in use.  Two recently approved varieties - Alvarinho and Liliorila - coming into play thanks to climate change.  The Portuguese Alvarinho grape is known in northwestern Spain as Albarino, while Liliorila is a cross of Baroque and Chardonnay.  Both have strong aromatics, which is an area that suffers as the climate warms.

Château Moulin de Launay produces a great white wine at a very reasonable price.  It is from the Entre-Deux-Mers area of Bordeaux, situated between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers.  Red wines are made here, too, but only the whites carry the Entre-Deux-Mers AOC.  

Moulin de Launay's Entre-Deux-Mers Les Ailes d'Or is made from five different grapes - 35% Sémillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Muscadelle, 20% Sauvignon Gris and 5% Ugni Blanc.  Alcohol tips in at 12.5% abv and a bottle can be had in most places for around $15.

This white Bordeaux wine has a subdued nose, but traces of stone fruit and citrus do come through the mineral curtain.  The palate is also laced with minerals and citrus, with a nice touch of salinity to add to the waterside connotation of the region's name.  The acidity is fresh and zippy enough for a salad, some vegetables or a seafood dish.  

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Friday, May 20, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Future Shock

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 gaze backwards into our crystal balls to see what moviemakers of yesteryear thought the future would be like.

If you have yet to see it, we'll start with a spoiler: 1973's Soylent Green is people.  "It's people!"  This sci-fi touched on ecological issues while Earth Day was still wet behind the ears.  Pollution, global warming, dying oceans and overpopulation have turned the earth from a big blue marble into a living hell, where the lack of food has caused the Soylent Corporation to make plankton a taste treat.  But those dying oceans have stopped giving forth with the plankton, and that green food has to come from somewhere.

Charlton Heston plays a cop who, in the course of investigating a murder, discovers what the poor people are eating.  Soylent Green also features Edward G. Robinson's last credited appearance in a movie.

Some say Champagne pairs well with anything, but expecting it to elevate Soylent Green may be asking too much.  However, let's get a sparkler from a lower shelf to go with this film.  Portugal's Vinho Verde region produces what is called "green wine," but that’s a reference to its young age.  The effervescent white should go nicely with a plankton salad, especially if you’re a "people person."

Things to Come, from 1936, was written by H.G. Wells - who had a way with envisioning the future.  This vision looks at the span of time from 1940 - barely the future at that time - to 2036 - a century down the road.  In Wells' story, world war drags on for decades as civilization crumbles, only to find rebirth after guys in fantastic flying machines arrive to save humanity from itself.  There's even a moon shot, which almost doesn't happen when the Luddites decide to stand in the way of what they consider to be unnecessary progress.  Damned Luddites, anyway.

Nearly a dozen different cuts of Things To Come were made, of varying lengths, ranging from a little over an hour to two hours.  The movie did okay with critics and paying customers back in the '30s, but it has evolved into what is considered by many to be a masterpiece of science fiction.

Santa Barbara County's Future Perfect Wine certainly has the market cornered on optimism, especially with the experts saying that climate change presents a bleak future for California wine.  Future Perfect has a 2021 Sauvignon Blanc which they call a "breakfast wine."  That’s right - in the future we'll have wine for breakfast, in case you aren't already doing that.

Canada's 1983 entry into the world of body horror, Videodrome, is David Cronenberg's vision of a future of mind control by television.  The chief suit of a Toronto TV station happens upon snuff films on a satellite signal.  Being a broadcast executive, he naturally figures that this is the future wave of his medium and he begins to rebroadcast the shows.  The situation gets political pretty fast, as the suit delves deeper and deeper into a real-life battle for the minds of the viewers.  Videodrome is a trippy, creepy whiff of the future from 1983 - a future which, like things in a rear-view mirror, may be closer than they appear.

Certainly films that feature the torture and killing of human beings fall into the category of deadly sin.  So, let's grab a 7 Deadly Zins for Videodrome.  Lodi Zinfandel has not been associated with eternal damnation since the 1970s, but we'll make an exception for this Cronenberg cult classic.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Paso Robles Cab Challenges Napa Juice

You could call Paso Robles California's "forgotten" wine region - if it weren't for Temecula.  Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, for my money, gives Napa Valley a good deal of competition.  The limestone influence in the Paso dirt plays wonderfully in red wines, as well as white.  And, while Napa Cabs may be elegant, Paso offerings have a more rustic approach which I find compelling.

Paso Robles winemaker Daniel Daou has his latest Cab out, the 2019 Soul of a Lion, the crown jewel of DAOU Family Estates, named in honor of his father. 


Soul of a Lion puts Paso Robles on the map for world-class Cabernet Sauvignon.  It showcases Daou's vision to produce Bordeaux-style wines that combine elegance, freshness, and power.  The 2018 vintage has all the hallmarks of its cooler growing season, revealing both the power and finesse.

The winery credits DAOU Mountain's "remarkable geology, microclimate, a 2,200-foot elevation and steep slopes" for creating what they call "a jewel of ecological elements."  Alcohol tips in at 14.8% abv.

The wine is very dark, so inky that light does not pass through it.  The nose is fresh, riddled with black and blue berries, clove, cinnamon and cedar.  On the palate, the rich fruit is out front with a savory backbeat trailing behind.  The tannins are firm, while the finish is long and extremely tasty.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

Fun, Yet Serious Prosecco

Fantinel was founded in 1969 by restaurateur and hotelier Paron Mario Fantinel.  He started with vineyards in the Collio area of northern Friuli.  A third generation of Fantinels, Marco, Stefano, and Mariaelena, now help get the wines made.

The Glera grapes for this bubbly were grown in the Friuli, Venezia and Giulia regions.  The wine was made sparkling in the Charmat method through carbonation in steel tanks.  Alcohol is restrained at 11.5% abv and a bottle usually be found for less than $15. 

This wine makes pretty bubbles which don’t last too long, so enjoy them while they are here.  The very pale sparkler offers a nose which carries floral notes along with citrus and minerals.  The palate is very dry and loaded with minerality and lemon-lime fruit flavors.  It comes off more like a "serious" sparkling wine than a "fun" Prosecco, but there is plenty there to please both camps.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - The Dark Side Of Hollywood

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 delve into the less glamorous side of Tinseltown, that side which is inhabited by murderers, con men and people who are just trying to make a living at this crazy business.

Star 80 came out in 1983, just a few years after Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten was murdered by her husband, who then killed himself.  Television actually beat Hollywood to the punch in this true-life potboiler, as a made-for-TV version of the story was aired in 1981.  In Star 80, Mariel Hemingway plays Stratten, with Eric Roberts as the sleazy husband and Cliff Robertson as Hugh Hefner.  

Roberts required some arm-twisting from director Bob Fosse to play Paul Snider, as he considered the role to be as unpleasant as Snider no doubt was.  Roberts gained several nominations for best actor, but not one from the Academy.  It was film critic Roger Ebert who pointed out that "Hollywood will not nominate an actor for portraying a creep, no matter how good the performance is."  However, for a guy who has appeared in about a million movies, his roster is noticeably short on award nominations.

Not a pleasant movie, Star 80, but hopefully we can find a wine to make the experience less debilitating.  How about the Playboy California Red Wine?  It was made a few years back by Lot 18 in a partnership with the magazine, as a limited release.  It cost about $25 a bottle then, and you may have to seek it out on Ebay today, at what price only Hugh Hefner knows.  But you know how crazy some folks get over bunny ears and a bow tie.

1992's The Player stars Tim Robbins amid dozens of other Hollywood names, directed by Robert Altman.  The story pokes at the soft underbelly of the screenwriting world.  Robbins is a studio mogul who is being stalked by a screenwriter.  He meets up with the guy he thinks it is, and ends up killing him.  Who knew pitching a movie could be so dangerous?

The movie has plenty of lines you can incorporate into your everyday life, like "Ghost meets The Manchurian Candidate - but with heart," "One of us, one of us" and "Traffic was a bitch."

Blackstone Paddock has a $20 Shiraz from Australia's Barossa Valley and it's called, wait for it, The Player!  It seems to be available at the Aldi grocery chain, so hopefully there's one near you.

The 1975 British film, Inserts, concerns silent movie directors and actors who ran into trouble when movies suddenly came with sound.  Set in the 1930s, these relics who found themselves on the technological trash heap turned to making pornography as a means of making a living.  Hey, at least they didn't sign up to be parking enforcement officers.  You must draw the line somewhere.  

Besides the unsavory profession considered by these Hollywood rejects, Inserts also deals with drugs and an overdose death.  That should be enough darkness to make this movie a welcome addition to this week's theme.

For a movie about 1930's porn, which was rated X initially, by the way, we have a wine named If You See Kay.  They actually have a back story about who Kay is, as if that were necessary.  There's only one reason you have this wine, and that is the name on the bottle.  Enjoy.  As Kay might say, C U Next Thursday.

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Friday, May 6, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Ethereal Romance

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 wine pairings don’t stand a ghost of a chance against this supernatural trio of films from the great beyond. 

Peter Ibbetson is a 1935 film starring Gary Cooper and Ann Harding.  The film was based upon a 19th century novel, which was recreated in a 1917 play, a silent film, an opera from just a few years before the movie's release, a radio play and a television version in the 1950s.  This story really got around.  

Cooper and Harding were childhood friends, separated by fate and drawn back together in their dreams.  In this way, Cooper's character overcomes a lifetime prison sentence and a debilitating injury.  Not to spoil it for you, but the pair end up together in the afterlife, as well.  If you believe in higher beings watching over you and guiding you to your intended purpose, this is the film for you.

Stokes' Ghost hails from Monterey County.  It is a Petite Sirah which is named for a phony doctor who killed more patients than he saved.  Interesting back story.

1948's Portrait of Jennie also comes from a novel, one that is highly acclaimed as a fantasy masterwork.  There was also a radio play taken from the script but, alas, no opera.  Dizzy Gillespie did have a 1970 album by the same title, but it has nothing to do with the movie.  It does, however, have a ten-minute version of "Diddy Wa Diddy," which is almost as enticing as the legendary half-hour-long version of "Louie Louie," recorded at a Hells Angels get-together.  A little something for your esoterica playlist.

Jennie stars Jennifer Jones in the title role and Joseph Cotten as an aspiring artist who meets her in the park.  He paints her portrait and develops a crush on her, but every time he runs into her, she seems to be getting older and older - and living a life from another time.  Pretty spooky.  The film was not received well at its release, but has aged well through the years, perhaps better than Jennie herself.

"So Jennie" is a non-alcoholic sparkling wine - and just how did France let that happen?  At $60 a bottle, you’re supposed to buy into the "luxury" aspect that’s touted in the ad copy.  Better to try Flora Springs Ghost Winery Malbec for the same price, a Napa red that keeps alive the spirit of the original winery, which fell victim to phylloxera, the Great Depression and Prohibition.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir appeared in 1947, with Gene Tierney as the lady and Rex Harrison as the ghost of a dead sailor.  He falls for her, as any ghost worth his salt would, and things go merrily along until she gets a hankering for a real, live man.  As it turns out, he is already married and has a family in another town.  But don’t give up on Mrs. Muir and the ghost.  True love has a way of drifting off into the ether when the time is right.

Muirwood Vineyards is in Monterey County, and their Chardonnay comes oaked and unoaked, for the pleasure of beautiful women or old seadogs, dead or alive.  Also, Santa Barbara County's Babcock Winery has an Ocean's Ghost Pinot Noir.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Prosecco, Extra Dry

Riondo Winery was founded fairly recently, by Italian standards, in 2008.  Under the arm of Collis Veneto Wine Group, the winery uses grapes from a collective which is some two-thousand strong.  The Prosecco production area is in the northeastern part of the country, with vineyards mainly in the Berici Hills and Padua areas of the hills of Veneto.  Glera is the main grape variety used in the making of Prosecco.

This sparkling wine carries alcohol at 11% abv and it sells in many places for less than $10, making it one of the more affordable Proseccos.  It is imported by Illinois-based Terlato Wines.

The Riondo Prosecco provides a nice bit of white froth at the top of the glass, along with beautiful aromas of fruit and flowers.  The palate is, as promised, bone dry and features minerals, lemons and limes in the flavor profile.  It has a wonderful level of acidity so it is completely fresh and refreshing.  I had mine with a grilled cheese, swiss.  Delicious. 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Sonoma-Cutrer Brings Another Astounding Pink Wine Forward

The 2021 Sonoma-Cutrer Rosé of Pinot Noir comes from Sonoma County's Russian River Valley region, where some of California's finest Pinot Noir grapes are grown.  The winery has been making acclaimed wine there since 1981.

Winemaker Mick Schroeter's signature is on the label, but the new rosé was produced by Pinot Noir Winemaker Zidanelia Arcidiacono.  Both of them speak in superlatives about their new wine.  As is the custom at Sonoma-Cutrer, the grapes were specifically grown and harvested to craft this bottling.  Separate lots were fermented in stainless steel tanks before being blended together.  Alcohol is a very restrained 11.9% abv and the wine retails for $25.

This wine has a beautiful and delicate salmon pink color.  The nose is extremely expressive, sporting huge whiffs of strawberry and cherry.  That big, red fruit appears on the palate, too, with a zippy acidity that refreshes.  It is a lean wine, with alcohol checking in just under 12%, so you can sip away - and you probably will.