Friday, September 22, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Funny, You Don't Look Noirish

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 will pair wines with three movies from the film noir department. 

Noir is a word which is near and dear to the hearts of movie lovers and wine lovers alike. Film noir puts the accent on that which is dark and maybe a bit mysterious. The movies in this category are generally moody, brooding, temperamental sorts. They aren't always black and white but they always depict a world that is made up of shadows.

In wine, noir is most commonly associated with the Pinot Noir grape. These wines are generally moody, brooding, temperamental sorts, too. They depict a wine world that is dark and mysterious, but they often lean into elegance. 

In Sideways, Miles describes Pinot Noir as "thin-skinned and temperamental," a grape that needs "constant care and attention," one that can't grow just anywhere or be grown by just anybody. Of course he is actually describing himself. 

You can also find Grenache Noir, although the noir there is used only to differentiate it from Grenache Blanc. Baco Noir is a North American hybrid grape from which wine is made largely in the Northeast and Canada. 

Johnny Eager is a 1941 film noir of the finest kind, full of treachery, lies and lust, coming at you from every angle. There is even a cruel twist of fate thrown in, just to underscore that what happened simply had to happen. That's film noir, Jake. Robert Taylor, Lana Turner and Van Heflin play off of each other like they were born to do so. 

A Pinot Noir to pair with Johnny Eager has to be as dark and brooding as the grape can get, with the slick panache of Taylor and the smoldering beauty of Turner. Migration Winery is in Napa but they drove south to pick grapes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria. That patch of ground is as close you get to a grand cru vineyard in the US of A. Their 2016 Pinot goes for $75, but they have already sold out of a handful of vintages so don't wait.

2011's Drive features Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood Jack-of-all-trades, one of those trades being a getaway driver for bad guys. When Gosling was a teenage Mouseketeer, more people probably pegged him as the future star of La La Land and Barbie rather than a moody criminal cohort. So much for typecasting. He plays dark really well. As an added bonus, Albert Brooks finally gets to play a guy who gets nobody's sympathy. 

Drive Wines started as a hobby, in a garage in Sonoma County. They were not driving getaways in their spare time, they were too busy making wine. Their $38 Quan Vineyard Pinot Noir hails from Los Carneros grapes. Drive, a garage, CARneros, this is fitting together too perfectly. 

The Big Sleep has Bogie and Bacall in their 1946 noir splendor. Everyone in this movie is running from someone else, except of course hard-boiled private eye Philip Marlowe. He's probably the man you see when you look over your shoulder. Humphrey Bogart makes murder and intrigue look about as hard as leaning against a wall and flipping a coin. Lauren Bacall sings "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" with just the right amount of hair-flip I don't care. 

Try The Big Sleep Cocktail: cognac, champagne, sugar and a squeeze of lemon. I hear it's pretty good. But we need something a bit darker, don't we? Talbott's Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir brings the magic of the Santa Lucia Highlands to us for a bit less than $40 a bottle. That AVA name, Santa Lucia Highlands, always makes me want to hear "The Happy Wanderer" on bagpipes, even though I know it's in Monterey County.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Mendoza Malbec

Back in the 19th century, cuttings of Malbec grape vines were brought to Argentina. They thrived there. Malbec is now the king of grapes in the South American country. If a Mendoza winery can afford to age only one grape in oak, it will be Malbec.

The 2021 Diseño Malbec is a young, simple wine but a tasty one which is lacking a bit in the area of tannic grip. Alcohol hits only 13% abv and it sells for less than $10.

This wine is medium dark purple with a very youthful appearance around the rim. The nose displays plenty of ripe dark fruit, mainly blueberries, augmented by oak spice. Vanilla, clove, coffee, lavender and a hint of perfume. The palate has dark fruit as well, but an earthy savoriness accompanies it. Tannins are easy-going and the acidity is refreshing. This is a good match for a burger or hot dog or pizza, foods with which I typically don't want a red wine. This one is mellow enough to go along with them. 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Why Is This Wine Mr. Pink?

This rosé wine comes from the Underground Wine Project, which began as a “collaboration between Washington winemakers Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery, Trey Busch and Jerry Solomon of Sleight of Hand Cellars. Their And Why Am I Mr. Pink? Is presented as a cult classic.

Mr. Pink is a 2021 Columbia Valley rosé wine which takes its name from Steve Buscemi's line in Reservoir Dogs. All the other criminals had a cool color name. The grapes are 58% Sangiovese and 42% Syrah.

Why is it pink? Because of skin contact in the winemaking process. A little less skin contact and it might have been Mr. White. A little more, Mr. Orange. A lot more, Mr. Purple. Alcohol resides at 12.5% abv and I paid $12 at Whole Foods Market.

This wine really shows more of a light copper color than pink. Its nose is full of ripe strawberries and an herbal note. On the palate, big time fruit again, this time featuring citrus. There is a strong mineral angle, too, and plenty of wonderful acidity. This will pair easily with the usual pink wine fare, but it will also be able to handle a pork chop or some sausage. 

Friday, September 15, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Getting Dark

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 will pair wines with three films dealing in darkness. 

Darkness is a hallmark of a good wine. Red wine, anyway. If you have a dark white wine, you may have a rosé. Or you may have one of Bill Pullman's Chardonnays from Bottle Shock

Red wines should be dark, I think, and the darker the better. That goes for the smell, too. Some folks don’t feel that a smell can be dark, but I disagree. Blackberry? Blueberry? Cassis? Pepper? All dark, and all perfectly good descriptors for perfectly good red wines. 

The 2019 film, Dark Waters, stars Mark Ruffalo, the guy who should play me in my biopic if Bill Pullman is unavailable. It covers the legal action after the discovery in the 1990s that DuPont was killing cattle with a dump of its toxic leftovers. Toxic leftovers is what we call the menu at the food truck down the street. 

This poisonous dreck was a byproduct of making Teflon, and was not only killing cows in West Virginia but also giving the good people of The Mountain State cancer. Teflon or not, the court challenges did stick, costing DuPont hundreds of millions of dollars. And that was back when hundreds of millions of dollars was real money.

For Dark Waters, we could look to West Virginia for a nice red wine, if it were more of a wine-friendly state. The top wineries in the WV do use some traditional wine grapes, but they rely a lot on varieties like Vidal Blanc and Noirette, when they aren't going with blackberries or vegetables. I am told the garlicky Kirkwood Appalachian Ramp Wine is great for cooking, but I'm going to let you find out about that.

 Let's pair Cosentino's The Dark, a $25 Lodi red wine described in the blurb as "dark and brooding," which also probably describes the mood of someone choking down a wine made from ramps. Or the boardroom at DuPont after Dark Waters hit the screens. 

The Dark Crystal is from 1982. This dark fantasy was directed by muppet masters Jim Henson and Frank Oz. It is one of those fantasy stories where every third word is a made-up person, thing, activity or place, so there is no making sense of it unless you buy into it and watch.

The action hinges around the Crystal of Truth, which is broken and needs to be fixed before the three suns merge. Leave it to some cute little animatronic Gelflings to save the world, whichever world it is that they are in. 

Pair Apothic Dark with The Dark Crystal, a red wine bearing the California appellation. If you've ever had the regular Apothic, you probably thought that was the dark one. Apothic Dark is frightfully dark, enough so that we can just go ahead and call it black. As in a black hole, as in no light gets through. As in the pot and the kettle are green with envy.

For those who feel that Westerns don't have nearly enough vampires in them, there is 1987's Near Dark. It features the late Bill Paxton, the guy who would have played me in my biopic if Mark Ruffalo and Bill Pullman were both unavailable. He gets a rare chance in this film to portray a psychotic vampire, no doubt the only such role on his IMDB page.

The movie-going public found a lot to like in the wedding of the Western and horror genres, with a little biker movie action thrown in for good measure. Near Dark was Kathryn Bigelow's debut as a director back in the '80s, when all things vampire were really hot. She has made some very popular films since then, including Point Break, The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty

For Near Dark, here is VDR - Very Dark Red. It's a Monterey County blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah. All those magical grapes for right around $20. And no one gets bitten on the neck. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

An Italian Red From The Heel Of The Boot

The Susumaniello grape is a rarity. It is found growing only in the southern reaches of Italy, in Apulia, Puglia, the "heel of the boot" if you are looking at Italy on a map. It is a grape which is usually used for blending, but this bottling offers a full varietal version of it.

The 2021 Ruggero di Bardo Susumaniello came from Trader Joe's in a squatty bottle. As with many of the wines I have tried from that store, it is surprisingly good. Maybe I should stop being surprised after shopping at TJ's for decades. 

There is not a lot of information out there about this wine, or at least I didn't find much. It is reportedly aged in both steel tanks and oak barrels and it definitely shows the oak effect, although not to distraction. Alcohol sits at 4.5% abv and the bottle costs $12.

This wine is as dark as ink in the glass. It smells dark, too, with notes of black cherry, blackberry, clove, cinnamon, forest floor and hints of vanilla and cedar. The palate is bold and fruity, with cherry flavors hitting the tongue first. The sweet oak spice is enjoyable, not overdone. Tannins are firm and the wine has a good tannic grip. The overall feeling of sweetness is beautiful, but don’t expect a dessert wine. This is a truly enjoyable red wine at a truly affordable price. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

Zinfandel Wine From Lodi and Amador County

The Bogle family has been farming in the California delta for six generations, 50 years now in the effort of growing wine grapes. Like a lot of farming families in the area, the started out selling their fruit to others. Then they got wise and started turning their grapes into wine themselves. 

Bogle's 2021 Old Vine Zinfandel is made from grapes that were grown in Lodi and Amador counties, in vineyards of longtime growing partners. The wine was aged for only seven months in American oak barrels. Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and I paid $10 for the bottle.

This wine is dark in color and hearty in all other areas. The nose is dark and complex, full of blackberry, blueberry, raspberry and cherry aromas. A full complement of oak spice is on hand, too - clove, cedar, cigar, allspice, nutmeg and anise all battle for attention. On the palate, big fruit flavors hit first with an earthy undercurrent that follows. Tannins are firm, but not bothersome. Acidity is fresh and zippy. 

I paired the Zin with an ancient hummus that I made from chickpeas and roasted walnuts, and it was fantastic. If I do say so myself. I also used it in a pasta sauce I made, which my wife praised to the heavens. Was it the wine, or the oregano? 

Friday, September 8, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Dunaway Went Thataway

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 a trio of Faye Dunaway films. 

It is tempting to just skip the wine and make a pitcher of Faye Dunaway cocktails instead. However, with six ingredients and muddling involved, it is far too complicated for me to make. Half of those ingredients are vodka, mango juice and jalapeño peppers, none of which are cocktail faves for me, so I'll be in the wine aisle.

In the 1970 drama, Puzzle of a Downfall Child, Dunaway plays a former fashion model who whiles away the hours of the day at a beach house. Nice work if you can get it. She looks back on her life of debauchery, a composite of sex, drugs, deceit, and probably a glass of wine here and there, and cannot find any good memories to pluck from it. Well, that is certainly puzzling. All that debauchery, and no good memories? Very puzzling.

It is puzzling enough to send me into the word association vault, where only the finest wine pairings for movies reside. In there, I spied a dusty bottle from Napa Valley, from a producer named Newton. The Puzzle is a red blend which brings together the big 5 Bordeaux grape varieties with no regrets at all. If you are looking for debauchery, The Puzzle is a good place to start. I saw the 2018 vintage going for $150. 

Would Faye herself like a glass or two of it? Maybe. Her character in Puzzle most certainly would. But she wouldn't enjoy it. Her character in Barfly would just take a bottle of vodka. 

The 1974 neo-noir classic, Chinatown, features Dunaway in what was instantly hailed as one of the best films ever made. It was recently described in The Offer, offhandedly, as possessing the winning combination of incest and water rights. Well, it goes to show, you never know what people will pay to see. 

Chinatown is a puzzle of its own. Why is that water gushing from the reservoir every night? Who killed that guy? Why did this guy cut my nose? Is she really her? My sister? My daughter? So many questions, too many answers. Riddle me this: what wine will we pour for Chinatown?

Let's try some pink wine from France. Hampton Water rosé comes from the Languedoc, from winemaker Gerard Bertrand. It is actually the brainchild of Jesse and Jon Bon Jovi, and Hampton Water contributes to the It Gets Better program, which supports LGBTQ+ youth around the world. 

Mommie Dearest had 1981 Dunaway cast as Joan Crawford. It seems I remember a trailer for the movie, probably a spoof, selling Mommie as a horror film. The "no wire hangers" line played into that concept significantly. Mommie Dearest did sell Crawford as an abusive drunk, which pushes a wine pairing for the movie out of the realm of comedy and into tragedy. 

Sometime between then and now, the idea of "mommy wine" was born. It isn't difficult to find online offers of clothing, wine glasses, decor items, mouse pads, and shower curtains emblazoned with the notion that "Mommy needs a glass of wine." Conceivably, there are a few items with Crawford's face emblazoned on them as well. We are in toxic territory with the mommy wine culture. There are many out there who feel that if Mommy is so stressed out from being a parent, a glass of wine may not be the proper method of dealing with that stress. 

Anyway, Mommy's Time Out Pinot Grigio is our pairing here, for better or worse. It's a bottom shelf bottling which sells for less than ten bucks, so mommy can afford all the stress relief she needs. It also comes in other "flavors."

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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Another Bargain Chardonnay

The Whole Foods Market site shows a variety of wines by Three Wishes - Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a blend of Colombard and Pinot Grigio. That last one sounds interesting enough that I wish I had found it when I bought the Chardonnay. Oops, there goes one of my three wishes.

The product page shows, in addition to wine, a grain-free, gluten-free breakfast cereal under the Three Wishes name. I was not so interested in the cereal, but the wine really was pretty good, especially for one that cost only $4. There is not a lot of information out there on Three Wishes. I can tell you that the back label shows it as an "American Chardonnay," which is not something I've ever run across on a wine that is apparently from California. The non-vintage wine runs alcohol at 12.5% abv.

This wine has a golden hue in the glass. It smells quite nice, with Meyer lemon, cantaloupe, minerals and a heavy wash of apricot nectar. The palate is crisp and not as oaky as I would have expected. The effect of the barrel aging is noticeable, but not overdone. The other Three Wishes varieties are in the same price range. If you have to buy lots of bottles for a party or meeting, Three Wishes would seem like a good choice.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Chardonnay From Spain At A Bargain Price

I thought I would do a little bargain hunting and spied a Spanish Chardonnay on the bottom shelf. This was a day after Spain defeated England to win the Women's World Cup, so I thought I would celebrate for them with a wine from España.

Spain does not make me think of Chardonnay. Verdejo, yes. Albariño, absolutely. Hondarrabi Zuri, sure, why not? Chardonnay is more in line with France, or California, for me. But I am always up for something new, even if it is something old from an unexpected place.

The Don Simon Chardonnay is produced by the Carrion company, run by Jose Garcia Carrion. The Chardonnay grapes for this wine were grown in Spain's La Mancha region, reported to be the largest vineyard in the world. It is possible that Google lost the meaning of that phrase in translation, I suppose. Anyway, Carrion is reputedly the largest wine producer in Europe. 

The wine - apparently non-vintage - was fermented in stainless steel and separated from the lees. Aging took place in oak, but for only three months. Alcohol rests low for this Chardonnay, at 11.5% abv, and the price was only $5 at my local Whole Foods Market. I'll bet you didn’t think you could get a $5 wine at Whole Foods. I know I didn't. 

This wine has a pretty golden straw color to it. Peach aromas arrive first on the nose, with mineral, apricot and cantaloupe notes following. Sweet oak spice adds another dimension, but it stays in the background. The palate brings some very nice stone fruit, apricot and citrus to the sip. Acidity is fairly fresh and the wine tastes crisp and clean. The finish is long and pleasant. You can pair this wine easily with seafood or salad. It won't make you forget about the Santa Maria Valley or white Burgundy, but for $5, it is a nice bargain. 

Friday, September 1, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Pre Code Follies

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 go back… way back… back into time… to an era when there was no Hays Code. 

It seems so unfair that a short time after movies learned to talk, someone came along to try and make them shut up. The Hays Code may not have taken the words from the actors' mouths, but it often gave them different words to speak. What Prohibition was to booze, the Hays Code wanted to be to movies.

In the 1931 classic, Safe in Hell, a woman accused of murder runs away to what is described in some places as a "South Pacific paradise." The place where she actually sought refuge was Tortuga, an island in the Caribbean, specifically Haiti. 

Haitian wine is tough to find, because the grape industry in the Caribbean has found it difficult to get a toehold. The climate just doesn't cooperate. Anyway, why make wine with all that sugar cane growing? Rum is the export from Haiti and their neighboring nations. But occasionally a winemaker gets away. Bertony Faustin makes wine in Oregon. He was born to Haitian immigrants and says he does not drink alcohol. He thinks of himself as a farmer first, raising Pinot Noir grapes in one of the Pinot Noir-iest places in America. He is also on the books as the first black winemaker in Oregon. His Pinot goes for $50 and up. Pair his wine with Safe in Hell and let the Hays Code be damned. 

1933's International House features a who's who of radio and vaudeville performers of the day, complete with some blue humor, since there was no Hays Code to worry the producers. There are a few songs along the way, like Cab Calloway and his Harlem Maniacs doing Reefer Man. Try that with Mr. Hays looking over your shoulder. 

At the top of the bill is W. C. Fields, a guy who I paraphrase every time I cook with wine. You know, "...sometimes I even add it to the food." My wife tells me that joke never gets tiresome. Never. Not even a little bit. Burns and Allen do their thing, Bela Lugosi is on hand and Rose Marie livens up the proceedings in her special way.

A movie this wild deserves a wild wine pairing. Pop the cork on a nice bottle of Champagne. The good stuff gets pretty rich pretty fast, but a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte Reserve Exclusive Brut Blue Label can be yours for the wild price of two $20 bills. Or fire up a reefer and enjoy. 

Wild Boys of the Road, another one from 1933, is a teen movie of the most depressing kind. The kind from the Great Depression, in fact. A group of kids wind up in dire straits and jump a train to try and find a better life in hoboville. There's no better life there. It actually gets worse before it gets better, with rape, murder and a disfiguring accident. But, it does get better. 

The year this movie was made, the national nightmare of Prohibition was repealed. However, most wineries had been forced to board up the windows if they couldn't swing a deal making sacramental wine. That was the only booze legally being made for those dark 13 years. And a winery right here in lil' ol' Los Angeles stayed open thanks to the blood of Christ, simulated as it may have been. 

Back in the day, the San Antonio Winery vineyards were right around the building - steps from the L.A. River, just a cork's throw from Chavez Ravine. Now, the grapes come from their vineyards in Napa Valley, Monterey County and Paso Robles. The winery is still just southeast of Dodger Stadium. Depression or no depression, the Riboli family not only survived, they thrived. 

You can hardly go anywhere these days without seeing a billboard advertising their Stella Rosa brand, wine made in Italy and brought to our shores in big ships. San Simeon brings a taste of Paso Robles to the table and Windstream comes from the Santa Lucia Highlands. All of the wines carry the thread of Depression Era America through them. Lift a glass to the teenaged hobos of Wild Boys of the Road

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Orange Wine Of The Earth

The Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Orange 2022 is labeled, unofficially, as "skin contact wine of the earth." The orange color comes from fermenting white wine grapes on their skins, which has become a fairly trendy trick for winemakers in recent years. 

The "le cigare" in the name refers to the French term for UFO. The back label tells an abbreviated version of the story about legislation put on the books in the Rhône Valley back in the 1950s. The law banned UFOs from landing in the vineyards. It appears to have worked.

This orange wine was made from 80% Grenache Blanc grapes, 10% Grenache and 10% Orange Muscat. The grapes were grown in a handful of Central Coast vineyards: Beeswax, Windfall, Loma del Rio and Carrasco. The label says that Le Cigare Orange is vegan friendly and gluten free, carries alcohol at 10.5% abv and cost about $15 at my local Whole Foods Market a couple of weeks ago. 

This wine has a beautiful copper color in the glass. The nose is laden with minerals and stone fruit, as one would expect from a white wine. The mouthfeel leans a bit toward red wine territory, or at least a crisp rosé. Red fruit appears in the flavor profile, along with apricots and peaches. There is quite a bit of acidity and freshness to the sip. The finish is long and clean. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Summer With Sauvignon Blanc From New Zealand

Summertime is the heyday for white wines and rosés. Maybe the most appreciated white during the heat of summer is a cool and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. Nobody does SB like NZ, and the Appellation Marlborough Wine is where some of the most satisfying New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are made.

Babich is a family owned winery which was established in 1916. If a company is successful for more than a century selling wine, they must be doing it right. The 2022 Babich Family Estate's Sauvignon Blanc is a single vineyard wine, Headwaters Vineyard, in Wairau Valley. The organic grape varieties used were Sauvignon Blanc (86%), Pinot Gris (9%), Grüner Veltliner (5%) and a splash of Albariño. That makes for an interesting blend.

The wine saw stainless steel tank fermentation with a quarter of the wine receiving malolactic fermentation, to smooth out the flavor and add some creaminess. Alcohol hits just below 13%, at 12.9% abv, and the retail price is around $14, but I see it for a couple dollars less online. The sustainably produced wine is bottled under a screw cap.  

This wine appears in the glass with a light green-gold hue. The nose gives a great citrus aroma, with lemons, limes and oranges in play. There is also a strong mineral note and a fairly intense herbal smell, but with a bit of a sweet edge to it. The palate has acidity that is fresh and invigorating. The flavors follow the tropical/citrus slant established on the nose. The mouthfeel is on the creamy side, despite the ripping acidity and the finish is lengthy. This wine will be a great match for a plate of oysters. 

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Friday, August 25, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Waterlogged

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 don our snorkeling gear for a dip in the cool waters of celluloid. Wine pairings for those flicks await you onshore.

The 2020 thriller, Underwater, has no exclamation point after the word, which helps, along with many other things, to differentiate it from the 1955 movie that does have the exclamation point. Usually it is overuse of commas that gets me into trouble with the punctuation police. 

Wine is not, despite what some people think, alcohol with water in it. That's called scotch and water, or gin and tonic, or a wet martini. These days, some folks are putting their wines under the water for aging purposes. They feel the gentle movement of the waves will offer some assistance in getting the wine to its senior years.

One wine seller recently had to pour out two thousand bottles of their wine which had been gently swaying in the waters off Santa Barbara. They put those cases below the waves without the permission of the California Coastal Commission, which branded the wine "unfit for human consumption." That also describes some wines I've had in the past, and some movies I've seen.

In Underwater, an earthquake hammers an undersea drilling facility and the crew has to escape. Making it difficult are a lack of escape pods, a long underwater walk to another facility, and monsters. I guess the monsters are probably their biggest hurdle.

Let's pair a wine with Underwater which has actually spent some time underwater, but with the proper permits. Croatia's Edivo Vina Winery is above ground along the Adriatic Sea, but their Navis Mysterium wine is aged for a couple of years below the waves. A bottle of this seafaring vino can run up to $400, but it comes in a nice wooden box. Use that for burying your wine budget.

She Gods of Shark Reef livened up 1958 for B-movie fans. Director Roger Corman says he doesn't remember any She Gods in the picture, but there are some beautiful hula dancers in it, who are given considerable time in a movie that is only seconds more than an hour long.

There are sharks in the movie, and that makes a wine pairing easy. Look for a golfer whose nickname is "The Great White Shark." Greg Norman Estates has good stuff from California, Australia and New Zealand. None are named "Shark" but each has the telltale fin on the label. 

What story there is follows a shipwrecked pair of brothers in a tropical paradise populated with beautiful hula dancers. One of the brothers is a good guy and the other is a bad guy. That's how it goes in adventure films. By the way, you won't see many other movies in which the shark is a good guy, at least comparatively. 

1954's Creature from the Black Lagoon has probably influenced more pop culture than any other man-in-a-suit movie. The Gill-man turns up in video games on the casino floor, a Dave Edmunds song was written about him, and he even stars in homoerotic literature, not to mention the raft of movie monsters that were inspired by or patterned after him.

When it comes to instinct-driven characters in the movies, the creature has primal motivation. Does Gill-man want to kill? No. Does he want to destroy? Not really. Does he want to find a way back home? Hell no. He wants the girl. I've already got a girl, so I'll be happy with a bottle of wine.

Black Lagoon Carignan has no doubt been waiting for just this pairing. The wine comes from the south of France - Languedoc-Roussillon, to be precise - and has a depiction of the creature on the label. At least, I’m guessing it is the Gill-man. It looks like it could be a pair of frog's legs, which is not a bad idea for what to nibble on while watching and imbibing. 

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Wednesday, August 23, 2023

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc From Marlborough

Summertime is the heyday for white wines and rosés. Maybe the most appreciated white during the heat of summer is a cool and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. Nobody does SB like NZ, and the Appellation Marlborough Wine is where some of the most satisfying New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are made.

Greywacke - pronounced grey-wacky - refers to the bedrock under which a good part of New Zealand lies, the stones of which are found in Marlborough's rivers and soils. Winemaker Kevin Judd specializes in Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, using grapes grown in several vineyards of particularly high quality in Marlborough's Southern Valleys and the central Wairau Plains (specifically Woodbourne, Renwick and Rapaura). 

Most of the 2022 Greywacke Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in stainless steel tanks, while a portion was allowed to ferment spontaneously in old oak barrels. The wine spent a good deal of time on the lees as it waited for bottling. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and it can be found for around $20.

This wine is a very pale yellow in the glass. The nose offers aromas of Meyer lemon, lime, guava, tropical fruit, a bit of grassiness and a touch of nectarine. That massive cornucopia of fruit tends to mask the mineral aspect, but it is there. The palate is a bright and zesty fruit stand as well. Big, ripe flavors burst forth on the sip, while a gentle acidity gives freshness in an almost creamy setting. The time spent sitting on the lees did wonders for the wine. 

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Monday, August 21, 2023

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc For Summer

Summertime is the heyday for white wines and rosés. Maybe the most appreciated white during the heat of summer is a cool and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. Nobody does SB like NZ, and the Appellation Marlborough Wine is where some of the most satisfying New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are made.

Spy Valley's 2022 Satellite Sauvignon Blanc is all Marlborough fruit, overseen by viticulturist Adam McCone for winemaker Wendy Stuckey. The Sauvignon Blanc grapes were plucked mainly from the Johnson Estate vineyard. Alcohol is easy to take, at 12.5% abv, as is the $17 retail price. Spy Valley works closely with the New Zealand conservation group Forest & Bird. 

This pale wine shows mineral and herbal qualities on the nose. The wine smells much grassier than the previous two New Zealand SBs I sampled (Babich and Greywacke). The palate shows a boatload of citrus minerality, too, with a racy acidity. Crustaceans and mollosks are welcome here. 

Friday, August 18, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - The Friedkin Connection

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 say goodbye to another great. Director William Friedkin has left us these films by which to remember him while we drink.

When we think of Friedkin, we naturally think of The Exorcist, from 1973. That's a film that prompted a lot of people to drink, if only to try and forget the pea-soup vomiting scenes. Of course, there were plenty of things we tried to drink away that year. Vietnam. Nixon. Watergate. Match Game '73. Just to name a few. Hey, maybe the devil made that 18-minute gap in the White House tapes!

Back to pea-soup vomiting. That makes us think of excessive consumption of green beverages. Or is it just me? Chartreuse, Midori and crème de menthe are perfectly good spirits to effect a green remembrance of the night's boozing, but absinthe is my favorite green meanie. If you are skipping the viewing of The Exorcist, these verdant cocktails might come in handy on St. Patrick's Day. 

The film offered several other moments of fright, like Linda Blair's head spinning, bed levitation, the crucifix scene, and one of the more gut-wrenching medical procedures outside of the dental sequence in Marathon Man.

Friedkin was not the first choice to direct The Exorcist. Or the second. Or the third. In fact, a good chunk of the roll call at the DGA had first crack at it. Friedkin got it, however, with a little help from the book's author, William Peter Blatty. He thought Friedkin's documentary background would bring an element of realism to the film. He was right.

Two sequels to The Exorcist were made, along with a short-lived television series, and now three new sequels are planned for the near future. I don't know about you, but sequels usually drive me to drink. Get those green cocktails ready to pour.

Now, when we think of France we think of wine, right? But The French Connection is an American movie, so let's not rush to Bordeaux. The French Connection Winery, in the Texas Hill Country, produces wines using Texas-grown Rhône grapes. Syrah, Roussanne and Viognier all grace their wine list, of course. But this winery also slaps a cowboy hat on Counoise. That's ballsy. Their slug line, "Santé, y'all," is a registered trademark, so be careful how you use it in your everyday life.

New Mexico's Gruet Winery makes a highly respected sparkling wine using in-state grapes and fruit from Washington and California. It was started by a Bordeaux winemaker who apparently thought just making wine wasn't hard enough. "Let's do it in New Mexico!" Gruet is another French connection in American wine.

Friedkin directed The French Connection all the way to an Oscar for Best Directing. That is a bit like a wine lover becoming a Master Sommelier. It looks very good on a résumé, but once it is on your résumé, you probably don't need a résumé anymore. They'll be calling you.

In the 1971 classic, Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider play a couple of cops who are just trying to keep the streets of the Big Apple clean. Their dream of a drug-free NYC is way out of reach, and they know it. But Popeye Doyle will wave goodbye to that little Frenchman if it's the last thing he does. 

The pursuit of that French drug smuggler is the most tenacious thing ever put on celluloid. Friedkin has said that the car chase scene was a last-minute addition to the script and was a real seat-of-the-pants production where his documentary skills paid off. The car reportedly covered 26 blocks at high speed with nary a city permit in hand. He later said it was so dangerous that he would never stage that sort of stunt again. 

Friedkin and Scheider would work together again in 1977 on Sorcerer. Do you want to talk about a bad beat? Friedkin's Sorcerer came out in the same year as Star Wars. Consider your thunder stolen. Some say Sorcerer is a remake of 1953's The Wages of Fear, although that "some" does not include Mr. Friedkin. He should know - he made the movie.

If Sorcerer is a forgotten classic, let me refresh your memory. Four desperate men are assigned to haul some nitroglycerin somewhere in South America. Do they have any special training for this? Of course not - if they did, it's a documentary.  If you are watching and wondering, "Hey, where da Sorcerer at?" have no fear. It's the name of one of the nitro-hauling trucks.

I had the pleasure of seeing Sorcerer in a beautiful 35-millimeter print, with plenty of inexpensive popcorn at the concession stand. Thank you, New Beverly Cinema! Sorcerer shows that desperate, untrained men handling explosives rarely end up in a positive situation, but usually they make a great story.

I simply didn't have the heart to pair a Bulgarian wine called Explosion with Sorcerer. I took a similar hard pass on any wine-related item which featured Mickey Mouse in a sorcerer's hat, and I urge you to do the same. 

Família Geisse makes some of the top sparkling wines in the America from the southern hemisphere - in big, bad Brazil, in fact. If you're feeling reckless, shake up a bottle and let it rip.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Organic And Naked Cabernet Sauvignon From Argentina

Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a fair price. They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

They also distribute Art of Earth, a global vintner which makes wine from organic vineyards the world over. Their line includes bottling from Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Argentina. They claim their wines are "true to their origins and winemaking traditions without the use of pesticides or herbicides."

The organic grapes for the 2021 Art of Earth Cabernet Sauvignon were raised and harvested in the central-east valley of Mendoza, Argentina. Winemaker David Gargantini vinified the wine in steel, and there was no oak aging. Alcohol sits at just 13% abv and the retail price is low, too, at only $12. 

The wine's color is medium dark. The nose is bright and fruity, full of ripe red raspberry, cassis and red vines. On the palate that fruit really shines, with no coloring from oak treatment. The tannins are quite firm and the acidity provides a fresh blast. A pairing with steak is okay, but this wine might be better suited to salmon, marinara or an earthy bean dish. 

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Monday, August 14, 2023

Organic Chardonnay From Argentina

Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a fair price. They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

They also distribute Art of Earth, a global vintner which makes wine from organic vineyards the world over. Their line includes bottling from Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Argentina. They claim their wines are 'true to their origins and winemaking traditions without the use of pesticides or herbicides.'

The organic grapes for the 2022 Art of Earth Chardonnay were grown in Argentina's central-east valley of Mendoza. Winemaker David Gargantini vinified the wine in steel, so it not not oak aged and it allows the true nature of the fruit to shine. Alcohol sits at 12.5% abv and the retail price is only $12.

This wine has a beautiful, yellow-gold hue. The nose is clean and fresh smelling, with floral notes joined by citrus, mineral and a hint of pineapple. The palate brings a crisp assortment of flavors - lemon, peach, pear - in a mineral-laden scene which is graced with a fresh acidity. 

Friday, August 11, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Hill Country

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, Blood of the Vines comes up with wine pairings for three films directed by Hill, Walter Hill. It's Hill Country.

Hill is known as something of a cowboy, a rough-hewn writer in a cowhide director's chair. He brought his bravado in 1984 to Streets of Fire, a rock and roll musical that melded together the MTV '80s and the High School Confidential '50s. 

Everyone involved with the picture was excited about the prospect of a trilogy featuring the hero character Tom Cody, until the film tanked at the box office. Then, it was a race to see who could distance themselves from it the fastest. The critics of the day seemed to be rooting for Streets to be a good picture, while admitting that it just didn't cut the mustard. 

Hill says he found that shooting music was tougher than he thought it would be. He may have come away with a newfound respect for directors of those MTV music videos, which his film tried to emulate. 

It was reported that Hill also found it tough to work with a cast full of "kids" - nobody in the film was over 30. One actor remembered Hill saying, "Don't ask me how to act! I'm a director!" Those "kids" - Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Amy Madigan, Bill Paxton, Rick Moranis - who would want that bunch of toddlers asking their questions and making you late for happy hour? 

I don't know if anyone calls Walter Hill "Walt," but maybe they will after this pairing. Sonoma's WALT Wines specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. That may be a little fancy for a rawhide guy like Hill, but he might drink it if there was no bourbon laying around. 

Hard Times was Hill's 1975 debut as a director. The casting gods gave him a lot to work with in his inaugural outing. Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Jill Ireland and, as if those names weren't enough, Strother freaking Martin. The names look great on a marquee or a one-sheet, but as with music and younger actors, Hill managed to find some difficulty. Bronson got along with him great, until after the film. The he-man was reportedly upset with the way Hill edited scenes involving Ireland, Bronson's wife. Hill says that Coburn and Martin provided some difficult days on the set. 

The Depression-era, bare knuckles streetfighter portrayed by Bronson in Hard Times struck a good nerve with people. The south Louisiana setting worked well and critics liked the film enough to scrawl out some kind words about it. The general public was even kinder, giving up their hard-earned dollar bills to see it. 

How could we not enjoy a good ol' Temecula wine with Hard Times, particularly when it is a Bare Knuckle Malbec? Don't sell Temecula short. There are some high quality wines being made in Riverside County.

Hill went back to the Bayou State in 1981 for Southern Comfort, an action film set in the swamp. The story is a military version of Deliverance. A squad of National Guardsmen are slogging through bivouacs and get on the wrong side of some of the locals. Watch Southern Comfort and Deliverance for a textbook lesson on what happens when you and your dumbass friends antagonize the hicks. Squeal like a pig, indeed. Squeal like a nutria rat.

Hill says he is proud of the movie, even though it failed to attract an audience. Looking back, it is hard to understand how people didn't flock to see Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Fred Ward and Peter Coyote. Even the music, by Ry Cooder, was outstanding. Hill remembers that he would have been happy had Southern Comfort found fans somewhere, anywhere. He probably exaggerates when he says that nobody liked the film, anywhere. 

The movie was shot outside of Shreveport, Louisiana. There is little to justify going into Shreveport, unless you are particularly fond of meat pies. Never mind finding something to do outside of Shreveport. Keep in mind that this crew spent close to two months in Shreveport. I'll bet they consumed a fair amount of Southern Comfort in their off hours, and maybe in their on hours as well.

The pairing for Southern Comfort? It would be so easy to grab a bottle of Southern Comfort and start swigging. Too easy, even if you do as the maker suggests and craft a Manhattan from it, using bacon slices for garnish. Let's dig a bit deeper, even though it is tough to dig in the swamp. 

Wines produced in Louisiana are a little hard to come by. There are only a small handful of wineries, and shipping is a problem. If you are in a beer mood, Abita Brewery makes a number of mighty fine ones which are available all over the nation. The brewhouse is located just down the road from Bogalusa, across the lake from a little place called New Orleans. If you happen to find yourself in Shreveport for some reason, stop in for a sample of the wines at On Cloud Wine. My feeling is their Pinot Noir probably grew somewhere else, but I'll bet the Muscadine is a Cajun original. 

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Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Bordeaux Grapes From Israel's Coolest Climate

Galilee is a highly respected wine region in Israel. Golan Heights Winery says it's the best area, and they also push their sub-region as tops. Well, it is the northernmost in the nation, and it is the coolest region. That is where the grapes for the 2022 Mount Hermon Red wine were grown. 

Golan Heights Winery's rocky volcanic soil, cool climate and high altitude estate yielded the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec grapes that went into the 2022 Hermon Mount Hermon Red Galilee. It is kosher for Passover, has alcohol at 14% abv and sells online for less than $20.

This wine is medium dark in the glass. It has a nose which puts ripe fruit up front, with cherry, raspberry and red currant dominating. Some spice rack is present, but oaky notes are not overwhelming here. Earthiness comes on in a co-starring role, however. Red fruit is the leader on the palate, too. There is a bit more oak influence in the flavor profile, but not to a great degree. Earth and mineral notes support the fresh, fruity aspect of the wine. Tannins are medium firm and the wine is very tasty and drinkable.

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Monday, August 7, 2023

Summertime sippers - A Rioja Red

Summertime - especially this one - calls for wines that like to be served with a chill. The winemakers of Rioja want you to know that they craft many wines that go very well with hot weather - whites and rosés for sure, but even a few red crianzas like to be iced down before braving a barbecue. 

El Coto Crianza 2019 

Yes, a red wine can appear next to the BBQ grill and serve a thirsty crowd well on a hot day. To get the most from chilling a red wine, look for one that is low or moderate in alcohol, one that hasn't been aged in oak for more than a year or is oakless altogether, and one whose tannins are easy on the tongue. 

This youthful 2019 El Coto Crianza was aged in oak for 12 months and in the bottle for another half a year, which earns the wine its name of "crianza." This is a full varietal wine, 100% Tempranillo. The alcohol level sits at a comfortable 13.5% abv and the retail price is cozy, too, just $17.

It is a dark wine, one which lets very little light pass through. The nose displays more fruit than oak, which is a good sign if you plan to chill it and serve it outside. Blackberry, raspberry, cassis, anise all shine brightly, with light notes of clove and cinnamon. The palate is clean and fresh, with the dark fruit taking a bow. The tannins are maybe a little firm for an outdoor meal under the sun, but the acidity is brisk and refreshing. 

Friday, August 4, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Double Acts

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, Blood of the Vines has double vision - three movies in which deuces are wild. Just one wine pairing for each film, though.

David Cronenberg's 1988 weirdness was Dead Ringers, starring Jeremy Irons, an actor who excels in every genre he chooses. The weirdness? Irons plays a dual role of identical twin brothers who are gynecologists. Where did Cronenberg ever get that idea? From two actual twin brother gynecologists. I kid you not. You could look it up. The script, however, is described as "highly fictionalized." It is, but not as much as you might expect.

Law & Order fans will note that Jill Hennessy got her big break in Dead Ringers, appearing, she and her twin sister, as double-your-pleasure prostitutes. 

Twice as nice is the Double Eagle Cabernet, from the Grieve Winery. Let's not focus on naming a company Grieve, even if that is your name. Let's focus on the $90 Napa Valley cult wine lookalike. Double your pleasure by making it a magnum, 1.5 liters instead of 750 milliliters. 

The 1947 film noir A Double Life stars Ronald Colman in the role that netted him an Oscar. He plays an actor who leans a little too heavily into his characters. That's not so bad when he plays a well-meaning but befuddled man of the people. But when he plays, say, Othello - look out. He's a method man who is actually schizophrenic. 

His double life gets derailed by the double of a woman he is seeing. That is a perfect way to divide and conquer a split personality. Maybe he should have taken a part in A Midsummer Night's Dream instead of Othello.

Double Trouble is a Washington state blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from Charles & Charles. You probably won't get into as much trouble with this wine as Colman got into as Othello. 

The Black Room, a 1935 Boris Karloff film, has the horror king playing two roles - twin brothers in an Austrian castle. Oh, and there is a family curse which states that one of the brothers would kill the other in the castle's black room. That would be caution enough for me to stay away from it, hide out in the green room or the blue room. Or here's an idea: repaint the black room. But you know that's not where we're headed. 

Karloff made this film after scaring the nation witless with Frankenstein, The Mummy and Bride of Frankenstein, so he was on a bit of a major roll.

With the brothers as twins, it is no spoiler to mention that the killer twin assumes the identity of the other one. He is exposed in a way that reminds me of the Dr. John song, "How Come My Dog Don’t Bark When You Come Around." Except, of course, the dog does bark. Evil Karloff ends up hoist by his own petard, as it were. And if you look up the origin of the word "petard," you'll find out why Shakespeare was such a funny guy.

Pichetti Winery - in Cupertino, of all places - has a Brother's Blend which will be a lot kinder to you than evil Karloff was to his bro. Petit Verdot, Malbec and Syrah grapes join together to form a bridge from Bordeaux to the Rhône Valley, by way of California's Central Coast. It's a $43 petard. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Summertime Cooler From Rioja

Summertime - especially this one - calls for wines that like to be served with a chill. The winemakers of Rioja want you to know that they craft many wines that go very well with hot weather - whites and rosés for sure, but even a few red crianzas like to be iced down before braving a barbecue. 

El Coto Rose 2021

Hot weather always cries out for a nice, cool rosé. The 2021 El Coto Rosado is made from estate grown grapes - 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha - from the Los Almendros Vineyard.

Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the retail price is about $12.

It is a pretty, pink wine with a color maybe a bit deeper than salmon. The nose is beautiful - full of ripe, red fruit aromas like strawberries and cherries - with a bit of lemony citrus in there for a show of minerality. The palate is incredibly fresh and juicy, with all the fruit you smell plus a zippy acidity that will serve salads and seafood extremely well.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Summer Sipper From Rioja - White Wine

Summertime - especially this one - calls for wines that like to be served with a chill. The winemakers of Rioja want you to know that they craft many wines that go very well with hot weather - whites and rosés for sure, but even a few red crianzas like to be iced down before braving a barbecue. 

El Coto Blanco Rioja 2022

El Coto de Rioja was founded in 1970. With more than 1800 acres of vineyards all over Rioja, they are the largest winery in the DO. A new winery facility was built in 2014, which specializes in white wines. 

The 2022 El Coto Blanco features 93% Viura, 4% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Verdejo grapes from their Rioja Alta vineyard, Finca Carbonera. It is the highest elevation vineyard they own. The wine has an alcohol level of 12% abv and retails for about $12. 

While I expected a really sharp and racy nose from this yellow tinted wine, what I found was much softer. A floral note shares space with a lovely citrus component which smells more like tangerine than lemon. There is also a hint of honeydew melon. On the palate, the mineral-driven flavors lean more heavily into citrus while the acidity is zesty at best, not razor sharp. It is a very drinkable wine, one that probably fits in better as a sipper or an aperitif than a partner for seafood. 

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Friday, July 28, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Hellscapes

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, Blood of the Vines goes to hell in a handbasket for three films straight outta Hades. There's a hot wine pick for each Damned movie.

Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight is a 1995 blend of horror and comedy, two styles that marry together better than one might imagine. Demon Knight unfortunately didn't make the scribes of the day get all weepy. Critics said that the general problem with the film was that it presented itself as being scary and funny, but fell a bit short on both counts. 

The Crypt Keeper himself - itself? - opens and closes the movie, delivering a sample of mid-90s entertainment. He - it? - may have been the inspiration for the talking skeletons you'll find in the market section of Cracker Barrel around Halloween time.

For a Crypt Keeper movie, let us pair Crypt of the Wizard wines, which are also a headbanger's delight. This Greek Merlot promises to open "the iron gates of the Mortiis Kingdom." It's kinda like Lord of the Rings meets Judas Priest. Schlagers! 

The Brits gave us Curse of the Demon in 1957, possibly a delayed revenge for us leaving the loving arms of King George. The film was called Night of the Demon overseas, and we got the cursed title, along with a shorter running time.

The story pits a couple of runic experts against each other, with a demon thrown in to make things more interesting. There was a big fight over whether to show the demon onscreen or leave it to the "theater of the mind." It was felt by some that leaving the demon unseen was "too British." The two sides generated so much animosity that one would think they had all forgotten they were working on a movie destined for the American drive-ins. 

Enticement's Demon Dance Shiraz promises to bring out your "devil-may-care" side, and we are just hoping that it is not an actual demon which emerges. 

The 1987 British horror film Hellraiser was written and directed by Clive Barker. He did okay with this movie, spawning from it nine sequels and a reboot. Of course half of them went straight to video. 

Forget the story line, forget the gore - what you'll remember is Pinhead. He's the guy who looks like acupuncture gone wrong. I recently discovered that he bears a strong resemblance to a guy wearing an 18th century bear hunting outfit. A bear won't mess with a porcupine, I guess.

The wine for Hellraiser should probably come from the netherworld, but how about Georgia? Is that close enough to the netherworld for you? Farmer's Daughter Vineyards produces a wine called Hellraiser, which is made from the Blanc du Bois grape. That is a fruit which is typically grown in warm, humid climes. It generally ends up as a bubbly, but this appears to be a still, semi-sweet wine. I don't think the name of the movie matches the grape. Saying "Oh, boy. Blanc du Bois. Let's watch Hellraiser" is a bit like yelling "Imma get ripped on Riesling and tear this place apart!" But your mileage may vary. 

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Wednesday, July 26, 2023

A Syrah From Galilee

The 2019 Yarden Allone Habashan Vineyard Syrah Galilee is one of the more prized wines from Yarden, which operates under the Golan Heights Winery umbrella.

This delicious - and kosher - Syrah was produced and bottled from grapes grown in the historic Allone Habashan Vineyard at an elevation of 2,000 feet. The plot was one of the first vineyards in the Golan Heights, and the winery restored it to its original state a dozen years ago. The volcanic soil is largely basalt and clay, with great drainage.

The wine was aged for 18 months in French oak, and only 19 of those barrels were produced for the 2019 vintage. Alcohol sits lofty, at 15% abv and the retail price is up there, too, at $96. 

This wine carries a dark purple hue and a rather complex nose of clove, tobacco, cassis and anise. On the palate, dark fruit comes forward first, with a spice rack in tow. Earthy notes arise perhaps from the volcanic soil. The wine has firm tannins, but it is elegant first and foremost. 

Monday, July 24, 2023

Buying A Rosé In PA

This 2021 Famiglie Rosé was purchased at Wegman's grocery, in Pennsylvania. They do a pretty good imitation of Whole Foods Market there, right down to a generous wine selection. This marks a huge step forward for the Keystone State, from the old state stores where wine lovers used to have schedule an extra shopping stop to get a bottle of vino. 

This store, however, still had some odd rules concerning wine sales. "I can’t check out wine at this register - you have to go to 14 or 15." Maybe the checker wasn't old enough to consume alcohol, and therefore wasn't old enough to sell it, I don't know.  And I was carded. I'm 67 years old. But I get it - "laws is laws."

Anyway, the Famiglie rosé was made in Italy's Veneto region from the Corvina grape. Alcohol is nice and easy at 12% and it sold for $12.

The color is a fairly rich salmon, with a beautiful nose of cherries, strawberries, citrus and slight spice. The palate shows a mineral-driven lemon/cherry/earth pattern that paired quite well with a plate of Italian cold cuts and stuffed artichokes. 

Friday, July 21, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Big City Blues

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 three movies about major metropoli. Well, two about The Big Apple and one about… Portland. Portland? 

There are plenty of films set in the exciting locales of L.A., Chicago, Philly or Phoenixville. That last one is the Pennsylvania burg where some of the shooting happened for The Blob. Well, we'll give NYC its due and try to imagine Portland as a concrete jungle.

Ah yes, the film so nice they named it twice. New York New York hit movie screens in 1977, with the answer to the question, "Can Martin Scorsese do no wrong?" The answer was yes. Wait, it was no. Ah, the syntax is so twisted I can't get a grip on it. Let's just say that movie-goers were less than wowed and critics were even less than that.

We have Di Niro and Minnelli, a pretty great theme song which was made even greater by a guy named Sinatra a couple years later, and a pretty grand version of Opus Number One. It may not be a great film, but you can sure have a good time watching it with a big barrel of over-buttered popcorn. And a barrel-aged Chardonnay.

Try my go-to white wine, the one I go to when I'm in the mood for a good ol' fashioned Cali Chardonnay. Edna Valley spares nary a stave when it comes to aging their Chardonnay, and it will be a perfect match with that buttery popcorn. Or that buttery scampi. 

Okay, so maybe I was a little harsh on Portland earlier. Their population was only about 600,000 in 1957, when Portland Exposé came out. It is more than two million now - in the top 25 - so they are a legitimately big city. 

Exposé was ripped from reality as a story about two crime gangs fighting over who gets the unions. A bar owner decides to install some pinball machines for the pleasure of his clientele, and that starts things hopping. Because pinball starts with p, and that rhymes with t, and that stands for trouble - in the form of gambling, drugs and prostitution.

The nice thing is that the union plays the part of the cavalry, riding to the rescue when the bar owner and an innocent young thing are kidnapped. I would like to think that should I ever be in a similar situation, I would see law enforcement officers on the scene, armed to the teeth, rather than my SAG-AFTRA rep. I mean, she's nice and all, but guns are better when you are on the lam from the syndicate. So I've been told.

Seven Bridges Winery is in downtown Portland, just steps from the Willamette River. They do a nice Malbec and an even nicer Cabernet Franc, both of which will pair nicely with Portland Exposé.

While we’re noiring it, let's get back to the Big Apple, where they know how to make it dark. 1948's Naked City follows the cops as they investigate a homicide, decades before Law & Order made a cliche out of it. The persons of interest seem a little more engaged while being questioned than those on L&O. Those people find it hard to interrupt making toast for a police interrogation.

Naked City later squeezed its shadowy self into the small screen, giving America a weekly dose of those "eight million stories." They will never run out. Big cities are making new stories all the time.

We will strip down the wine pairing for Naked City. Naked Wines is a wine club of sorts which focuses on independent winemakers. They like to keep the quality high so you won't send any thugs out to break kneecaps in the middle of the night.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Red Blend From The Holy Land

Wine from Israel isn’t just for Jewish holy days, but here is a kosher wine from the holy land.  Carmel Winery was founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who was the owner of Château Lafite in Bordeaux.   Carmel is now under the Royal Wine Company umbrella.  The winery covers a lot of land in Israel - more than 3,000 acres of vineyards in some of the country's prime growing regions: Carmel Mountains, Upper Galilee and Judean Hills.

The 2019 Carmel Private Collection Winemakers Blend is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot made by Carmel's Chief Winemaker Yiftach Peretz. The wine aged for only eight months in French and American oak barrels, but it feels like a little more. The Winemakers Blend clicks 14% abv in alcohol and retails in the $15 range.

This wine is dark and offers up a nose of black cherry, cassis, licorice and a chalky, dusty note of earth. On the palate, the tannins bite a bit but the flavor is there. Dark red fruit leads the way with oak spice playing a minor role. There is a tingly acidity and the spicy finish is medium long. It is a serviceable wine, if not one to ruminate on very long.  

Monday, July 17, 2023

Pink Wine From Provence

If spring and summer are the times for rosé wine, then let us uncork and pour something pink. If it is to be pink wine you seek, your search probably starts in the south of France, in Provence, where rosé is the name of the game.

BY.OTT Rosé Côtes de Provence 2022 is made by Domaines Ott, crafting brilliant rosé since 1912. This pink wine utilizes grapes sourced from Château de Selle and Clos Mireille, two of Ott's three estates in Provence. The wine is made under the supervision of fourth-generation winemaker Jean-Francois Ott, blended and bottled in the de Selle winery cellar. BY.OTT is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grapes. It is imported by Maisons Marques & Domaines USA of Oakland. Alcohol sits at 13% abv and the retail price is $27. That price tag may seem a bit steep for a rosé, but you pay a little extra for a bottle of the Provençal sunshine. 

This pale pink wine shows aromas of lemon, strawberry, cherry and minerals on the nose. The palate is full of bright red fruit, citrus, watermelon and a hint of cinnamon. There is a racy acidity present, which puts this wine squarely in the "food friendly" category. The sip finishes on a slightly tart note, which plays into the food friendliness a little more.

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