Friday, July 29, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Killers On The Loose

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week is a killer. Three killers, to be precise, and a wine pairing for each.

Back when I was a music director for a radio station, I would get a call every week from a record promoter who told me the same thing each time - "This record is deadly, Randy. Deadly. You gotta add it right away." I usually told him that we had few enough listeners as it was - I didn't need to be killing off any of them with a "deadly" record. Most of those records would probably only bore you to death, anyway. Our three movies this week all have a killer on the loose - and he's deadly. 

The 1956 film noir, The Killer is Loose, features Joseph Cotten, Rhonda Fleming and Wendell Corey. Cotten is a cop while Corey is a banker who is the inside man in a robbery of the institution where he works. Fleming is the cop's wife, who becomes the target of revenge after the bank teller escapes from the prison term he was serving for the heist.

The cop was no fool, except maybe for shooting the banker's wife dead by accident. The banker vowed revenge, killed a guard to break free and hightailed it to the cop's neighborhood. At this point, the cop was possibly a fool for leaving his desk job when the force asked him to help find the killer. He put his wife in hiding, to which she somehow took exception (fool) and came out into the open, acting as beautiful bait to lead the criminal to John Law.

The film was viewed rather favorably by critics of the day, and who can argue about the casting? I'll watch anything with Joseph Cotten in it, not to mention Fleming and Corey.

I ran across a photo from the '90s, showing Cotten and his real-life wife tasting sparkling wine at Henkell in Weisbaden. Today, the outfit is known as Henkell Freixenet, maker of German bubbles (sekt) as well as Spanish (cava) and Italian (Prosecco). These international sparklers are less expensive than Champagne, but just as much fun, if you ask me. Be careful where you aim that cork, killer.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, from 1976, was written and directed by John Cassavetes, so you know you're getting a work that is a little bit off the wall. Ben Gazzara stars as the owner of a Sunset Strip nightclub. Gazzara says the character has a deep appreciation for the art of his establishment, while the customers are mainly there for the naked ladies. He says the character has a lot of Cassavetes in him.

Gazzara’s Cosmo falls into a big debt while playing poker with the wrong crowd. The mobster to whom he owes the money assigns him to perform the task of the title, a job he's not supposed to survive. He does survive, however, although he takes a bullet for his trouble. Back at the club, he is inspired to give his troupe a pep talk, urging them to live their roles while giving the patrons a means of escape from their own troubles. Bullet or no bullet, the show must go on.

You may want to stop into Gil Turner's liquor store for a wine to pair with Bookie. Turner was once known as Mr. Sunset Strip, so the ad blurb says. The store stocks a ton of cult wines that would be welcome at the Riot House, many of which can be had for less than a hundy. 

1964's The Killers is a remake of the 1946 film noir classic of the same name. It was made for TV, but TV didn't want it. NBC deemed it too violent to air, so it was sent to movie theaters. What a cast: Lee Marvin, Clu Gulager, Angie Dickinson, Ronald Reagan, John Cassavetes, Claude Akins, Norman Fell - it's easy to see why people still like it, despite the violence. Or maybe it's because of the violence.

The story revolves around a robbery, a handful of killings, a double-cross, some brutal mistreatment of Dickinson's character and a suitcase full of missing money. If you can stomach it, it's a killer film.

Killer Drop wine owes more to surfing and snowboarding than actual killing, but let's pop a cork. The northern California Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah blend sounds like a killer combination. 

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Monday, July 25, 2022

Rosé From - Where Else? - The South Of France

Chateau des Sarrins took its name from the Saracens, who ran this part of southern France in ancient times. A Saracen big shot is said to have died on what is now this estate. They say that somewhere on the property he is buried in his gold suit of armor. 

The 2021 Les Sarrins Rosé is made from grapes that were, maybe, grown right next to that burial site. It makes a nice backstory idea, at least. The grapes in this wine are 60% Grenache, 25% Cinsault, 10% Rolle (Vermentino) and 5% Mourvèdre. It is imported by Terlato Wines, hits 13% abv and retails for $25.

This product of Provence delivers as expected from the region. The light pink color gives way to a nose of strawberries and cherries with a hint of lemon peel also showing up. The palate shows all the ripe red fruit, citrus minerality and a damn fine acidity. Salads for sure, but get some oysters for this one. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Stooges, Three And Otherwise

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 wine pairings for stooge movies, two of which would be better served by a seltzer bottle.

I'll warn you ahead of time - this trio of movies is held together with the flimsiest thread - two films from the Three Stooges and one about The Stooges, the punk outfit from Michigan which blew the doors off of rock'n'roll in the late 1960s. I'm certain that somewhere, sometime, someone had to have written about these Stooges and the comedic threesome in the same article, maybe in Impossible Matches Monthly or Non Sequitur Weekly. We, however, have wine pairings to go along with them.

We'll start with the outlier, Gimme Danger, the 2016 Jim Jarmusch film about the musical Stooges. Jarmusch was Iggy Pop's choice as director if a film was made about the band, and I suppose that was all Jarmusch needed to hear. If you are a fan of punk rock, this movie pays tribute to the band who laid the groundwork for the genre. Conversely, if you hate punk rock, this film shows you who to blame. Something for everybody.

A punk rock type of movie calls for a punk rock type of winemaker. Booker WinesEric Jensen fits the bill - at least he curses a lot, which may be a habit he picked up as a concert promoter. His Ripper Grenache comes in a magnum bottle - the better for fighting with once it's empty - for close to $200. 

In 1962's The Three Stooges Meet Hercules, the Stooges - Moe Howard, Larry Fine and "Curly" Joe DeRita - the team appeared in their third and most successful full-length feature, following decades of short films. The plot has them employed at a drug store - why not? Someone should compile a list of jobs held by the Three Stooges over the years for which they were completely unsuitable. In this film, they help a neighbor build a time machine in their spare time - again, why not?

Stumbling through time, they find themselves in ancient Greece, where they somehow manage to overthrow the mean King Odius. The Three Stooges were no strangers to lending a hand to the unfortunate and unlucky, while finding a way to fix the wagon of the bad guy. The slapstick is rampant here. In fact, the slap stuck a bit harder than expected during filming when heavyweight DeRita fell on top of Fine, knocking him out cold.

Hercules is the name of a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Jason's Vineyard on New York's Long Island. Strong and brawny? Not exactly. It's sweet and relatively cheap. Kinda like Three Stooges movies.

The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze came along the following year, 1963, with the same post-fifties stooge lineup. This time around, they are servants of Phileas Fogg III, a descendant of the round-the-world traveler in the Jules Verne classic. There is danger at every turn, avoided by the bumbling of the comedy trio. They even escape a Communist brainwashing in Asia by not having a "brainee" to "washee." That line played a lot funnier before everybody got woke.

It's not really a spoiler alert to say that in the end the good guy wins, the bad guy loses and a perfectly good balloon gets wrecked.

If you want to take a trip to the Eiffel Tower and dine at Le Jules Verne, you'll have your pick of France's finest offerings - Grand Cru Champagne, Premier Cru Burgundy, Chablis and more. Or you can crack open whatever is left over from your Bastille Day celebration.

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Monday, July 18, 2022

Chinon Cabernet Franc Wine

Les Luthines Chinon 2019 is a 100% Cabernet Franc from the French region of Chinon, which is so closely associated with that grape. The grapes are grown in the clay and sandy soils of the vineyard near the Loire River. 

The destemmed grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks, and no sulfites are used. Alcohol is 13.5% abv and this bottle cost about $18 at my neighborhood Whole Foods Market. 

The wine has a dark purple color and a fruity nose laden with black currant and plums. There is a sense of roasted vegetables as well. On the palate, the fruit stands out and a thrilling brace of acidity and tannins makes the mouth water. The peppery finish is a delight. Give it a chill, especially if you're having it for outdoor sipping or a barbecue. It pairs great with chicken or pork and it lifted my pasta sauce to another level. 

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Friday, July 15, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Trippin' Out

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, trip out with some movies that might mess with your head, with wine pairings for each.

If you remember the TV series Then Came Bronson, you may also remember the Mad Magazine parody of it. Bronson is sitting astride his motorcycle at a traffic light when the driver of the car in the next lane asks, "Takin' a trip?" He replies, "No, this is a regular cigarette I'm smoking." With that in mind, and with no apologies to Dick Dale, let's go trippin'.

The 1978 horror film, Blue Sunshine, does for LSD what Reefer Madness did for pot - sensationalizes it, fictionalizes its effects and builds a weird story into a sort of cautionary tale. Past users of a brand of LSD known as Blue Sunshine suddenly start turning up with psychotic breaks from reality which sends them into a homicidal rage. 

As the body count mounts, one guy seems to find himself at the center of the killings and has to prove that he is innocent. How is that gonna sound down at headquarters? "So, like, it was years ago and a guy gave us all some Blue Sunshine and now we’re all going bald and killing dudes…" Your cell is right this way, sir.

The movie landed with a thud in the '70s but has become a bit of a cult item, with a legion of fans, including TFH head guru Joe Dante.

Skip the Blue Nun and pair a blue California sparkler with Blue Sunshine. Blanc de Bleu is really blue, and really sweet, so they say. There's a pic on the website which shows a group of youngstahs drinking the stuff out of blue Solo cups. Proceed with caution.

Any compilation of movies about hallucinogens has to include 1967's The Trip. Written by Jack Nicholson, directed by Roger Corman and featuring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, the movie delivers exactly what one might expect from that group, at that time. In addition to Corman's, er, trippy direction you get some nice 1960s views of L.A. locales like Laurel Canyon and the Sunset Strip.

Fonda plays a guy who drops acid for the first time after a divorce. What could go wrong? The trip turns a bit sour as he envisions hooded figures chasing him along the Pacific shore. I'll paraphrase Diner here and say, "I’ve been to Malibu a hundred times and never saw death walkin' a beach."

Australian producer St. John’s Road makes a Barossa blend called LSD. It does not stand for lysergic acid diethylamide, by the way. The letters are for the grapes - Lagrein, Shiraz and Durif. We call Durif Petite Sirah, but LSPS clearly does not have the same ring to it.

Nicholson was busy the following year with Psych-Out, a 1968 movie that had him billed with Dean Stockwell and Bruce Dern. The psychedelic cash-in was produced by Dick Clark, who, as the square-in-residence, insisted on the film's anti-drug message.

The story centers on a deaf runaway in San Francisco. The Haight-Ashbury setting perfectly captures the squalid nonchalance of the hippie lifestyle there. There is a search for a lost brother, helpful hippies, live music, a freak-out and a good trip turned bad - all the ingredients for late '60s psychedelia wrapped up in an 82-minute ball of celluloid.

For Psych-Out, let's try a Washington state wine, from Sleight of Hand Cellars. Psychedelic Syrah is such an alliterative delight it's a wonder no one had thought of it before. Critics like the wine, too.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Muscadet From France's Loire Valley

The Jardin d'Edouard winery is located in Château-Thébaud, France, a short drive south of Nantes. Their website explains that vines have been cultivated on the property for well over a century. They produce a full range of wines, but are known for their three styles of Muscadet, which are aged in glass-lined tanks for anywhere from seven to 72 months. 

The Melon de Bourgogne grapes for the 2017 La Roche Aux Loups were grown in the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine area, which lies in the Loire Valley between the Sèvre Nantaise and Maine rivers. The grape is sometimes known simply as Melon. My bottle shows 12% abv and cost $22 at the French market near my home.

This white wine is five years old now and is showing some wonderful signs of its age. The fruitiness of its youth is becoming more complex and savory. Aromas of wet sidewalk, citrus and salinity come forward on the nose, while the palate is driven by minerals and earth. Muscadet wines are universally thought to be good pairings with oysters, shellfish or any sort of seafood, and this is certainly no exception. 

Monday, July 11, 2022

Offbeat Champagne

The Monthuys Pére et Fils Rèserve Brut Champagne is an unusual blend of Champagne varieties - 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Meunier grapes - gives this sparkler a special nose and palate. Maybe this Marne Valley product isn't for everyone. My wife's judgment: "I hate it." Me, I like wine that is a bit offbeat, so it's right in my wheelhouse.

The Baron family owns the estate, relative newcomers in the Champagne biz. They've been at it for only a couple of decades, according to the website translator. Alcohol rests at 12.5% abv and the wine retails for less than $30.

This wine's golden hue owes something, no doubt, to the three years of bottle aging it underwent. Its nose is rather brash, probably owing to the Meunier-heavy blend. Apricot aromas dominate, with apple and toast following. Apple comes across strongest on the palate, with an earthy sensibility layered over it. The finish returns the apricot flavor. 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Americana

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, in lieu of fireworks leaping from these digital pages, we have wine pairings for three films which concern the good ol' U.S. of A.

Paul Newman stars in WUSA, along with Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins, Laurence Harvey, Cloris Leachman, Pat Hingle and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. That's a stellar cast, but the critics were not impressed - despite Newman saying it was his most significant film. Of course that was in 1970, well before Slapshot, which gets my vote.

The story revolves around a conservative radio station in New Orleans - we call them right-wing media, now - and its owner's plan to stage a white supremacist rally. There are, as you might expect, bitter personality clashes, gunfire from a catwalk, a change of heart for a cynical host and an antihero who leaves town after all is said and done. 

The movie appeared at a time long before the AM radio dial was co-opted by GOP talking points. One has to wonder, with all the good music on the radio in NOLA in 1970, who was wasting their time on talkers? 

Louisiana's Landry Vineyards has a wine called Bayoutage, but don't worry. It's not made from Louisiana grapes, it hails from Lodi, California. I suppose that's why it's available for shipping. Of course, it could be a right-wing conspiracy.

Coming along in 1975 was Nashville, just a year before the Bicentennial but equipped with enough red, white and blue to get the party started early. The Robert Altman spectacular ran nearly three hours, featured an hour or so of music, starred about half the actors who had a SAG card and spawned a hit record which took the Best Original Song Oscar that year.

Nashville took a satirical look at politics and the country music industry, two fixtures that lend themselves easily to satirical looks. The film got varied reactions from critics - from "superficial" to "brilliant" - and the public wasn't exactly beating a path to the box office, although the movie did rake in enough cash to rank it in the top 30 that year. 

Did Altman's take on politics and country music have enough gravitas to put Jimmy Carter in the White House the following year? Just wondering.

What better pairing could we find than a winery that's a half-hour south of Nashville and co-owned by a country music star? Arrington Vineyards has Kix Brooks on its corporate ledger and offers a nice rosé called Celebration, although the label goes easy on the stars and stripes.

Medium Cool, from 1969, centers its action in 1968 Chicago. With the Democratic National Convention and the associated riots as a backdrop, the film calls TV news on the carpet for dispassionately covering events without a contextual framework. Shot in documentary fashion, the movie originally got an X rating, for language and nudity, but director Haskell Wexler said it was "a political X." Later, the rating was changed to R.

The title of the movie comes from terminology coined by Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian philosopher. Canada's Jackson-Triggs Winery has an estate in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, and their Proprietors' Selection Shiraz is a great choice - unless you'd prefer an icewine for Medium Cool.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Bubbles, Italian Style

Valdo Winery is located in Italy's Valdobbiadene region, in Veneto, founded in 1926. The winery has long been a leader in Prosecco production, and now they catch consumers' eyes with special edition packaging which is backed up by the quality sparkling rosé inside the fancy bottle. 

The bottle art for the Valdo Floral Rosé Brut: Special Jungle Edition was commissioned from Italian designer Fabrizio Sclavi. This is the fourth special edition by Valdo, devoted to the world of flowers and the wild. The bottle is redesigned each year with an original illustration and a different theme. 

Inside the bottle: a blend of two native Italian grape varieties, Glera and Nerello Mascalese. The former is the white variety used in the production of Prosecco, while the latter is a red variety which thrives in the warm seashore climate of Sicily. The skillful blending of the two varieties creates a rosé with an intense fruity and floral bouquet, low alcohol, and exuberant bubbles. Alcohol sits at 11.5% abv and the wine retails for $19.

This lovely pink sparkler carries a nose of ripe strawberries and flowers, while the palate has loads of fresh acidity and flavors of red fruit. The bubbles are numerous, but enjoy them before they disappear. This is a festive bubbly, suitable for any occasion that calls for some fun. 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Yet More Movies You've 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 once again delve into the bottomless pit of movies close to the hearts of the TFH gurus, but of which you may not be aware. This time around, I fear the gurus have struck out on their game of "stump the audience."

Three Into Two Won't Go is not a math problem from your kid's homework. It is a 1969 British film starring Rod Steiger, Claire Bloom and Judy Geeson. A younger woman enters a middle-aged couple's life as the old guy's lover. Oh, and she's pregnant. Sounds like it's a tougher problem than long division with a repeating decimal. 

As is expected in British domestic dramas of that era, there is a lot of turmoil and talking for an hour and a half or so, and nobody really ends up happy. That sounds a lot like watching the news lately, so I'll put this one on the back burner until I really need to have my mood blown to bits. Assuming, of course, that I am ever in that position.

Since we started with a division problem, the natural pairing would be Division Winemaking Company. Kate Norris and Thomas Monroe started the outfit in the Pacific northwest about twelve years ago. They are pictured on their website, sitting on a tailgate enjoying the fruit of their labor. They use grapes from Oregon and Washington to make wine in their Portland facility. Their juice will keep your spirits up while the movie tries to drag you down.

1977's A Special Day stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni and is set in 1938 Italy. She is a housewife and he is a gay man who is just waiting for the fascist cops to bust down his door and cart him off to jail. The two of them are neighbors, and they spend a day together - the day when Adolf Hitler visits Benito Mussolini.

Her family - being the good fascists that they are - trot out to take in the parade. The apartment dwellers stay home and gain a bit more insight and end up with a new view of fascism, the flavor of the day at that time. However, it's rather like continuing to work after winning the lottery. You're still on the job, but with a completely different attitude.

Mastroianni's character fears being deported to Sardinia for being gay. I can think of worse places to be exiled than a beautiful Mediterranean island full of wine, but I suppose the fascists had a way of spoiling even that sort of paradise. Sella & Mosca make a wonderful Vermentino, which is the go-to white wine from the isle. It's known for its sense of the sea in its aromas and flavors, and might make you stand up and holler, "Salinity now!"

Chocolate, from 2008, bears no resemblance to Chocolat from a few years earlier despite the similar titles. This one is a Thai martial arts movie. There are no snacks included in it, save for one severed toe which is sent as a message. The message is, "Don’t eat it just because it's bite-sized."

Not only is there a decided lack of chocolate in Chocolate, there are mother-daughter characters named Zin and Zen. That's going to play havoc with auto-correct when they text each other.

A wine to pair with chocolate? Really? Is there such a thing? Yes, it’s called "red wine." But opt for one from France's Rivesaltes region and you'll be glad you did. The sweet wines are made from Grenache grapes, which pair notoriously well with chocolates. You can pick your level of delight, as Rivesaltes wines run anywhere from 20 bucks to 200.

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