Friday, February 3, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Going Aloft

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, we look up, up and away for a trio of flying films. Of course, there are wine pairings for each.

Test Pilot, from 1938, stars Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy, who were three of Hollywood's top box office draws of the day. The film was directed by Victor Fleming, who also directed another movie featuring flying, but in this one the house stays on the ground and there are no munchkins in the script. However, a farm in Kansas is involved. 

The script, by the way, was based on a story by a real-life pilot who also served as a co-writer. The tale has Gable and Spencer as flyboy buddies with a woman between them. As you might expect, only one of the buddies makes it out alive. I mean, it's a romantic drama, not a romantic comedy.

The movie was a big hit with critics and paying customers alike. The flying sequences are still lauded today due to their realism and use of the latest aircraft of the era. There is a certain cachet to watching a film in which the B-17 bomber was considered cutting-edge. 

George Cooper was an actual NASA test pilot who turned to winemaking with his wife, Louise Garrod. The Garrod Farms Test Pilot wines are named after all the planes Cooper flew, including his description of them on the back label. Try the F-104 Starfighter, a Côtes-Rôtie-style co-fermentation of Syrah and Viognier. There are six wines in the line, so a half case would be fine, especially if you plan to watch Test Pilot repeatedly.

Someone must have thought airborne romance was a good idea, because a year later, in 1939, Howard Hawks helmed Only Angels Have Wings. Hawks was involved in Test Pilot, so his head stayed in the clouds awhile. 

This time around, it's Cary Grant and Jean Arthur who provide the earthbound sparks, while the flying scenes again drew kudos from those who appreciate a good shot of an airplane doing its thing. The next time you're at an air show, look around. The people closest to the action are the audience for this film.

These pilots deliver air mail over the Andes Mountains, which seems like a more dangerous occupation to settle for than for most flyers of that ilk. Today, they would probably be flying a rocket full of gaskets to the space station. The planes are once again co-stars, with a Ford Trimotor serving as a dramatic vehicle. "Engine number one is on fire!" "Engine number two is on fire!" "How many engines did you say this crate has?"

Cheval des Andes is the South American branch of Château Cheval Blanc, the great Bordeaux estate. Their blends utilize Argentine Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon mainly, and run on the high or low side of $100, depending on the vintage. 

These days, a title like The High and the Mighty might be taken as an ad for cannabis delivery. Back in 1954, it was taken as Big John Wayne's most recent action flick. It was also a precursor to all those disaster films which would come decades later - and to the spoofs of said films. This was the first movie in which Robert Stack picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue, although this time as the pilot, not the ground crew, as in Airplane.

The flight takes off from Honolulu, headed for San Francisco, and endures engine failure, a fuel leak, a passenger with a gun, and the looming prospect of ditching the DC-4 in the ocean. All-in-all, there is considerably more trouble than just running low on peanuts.

The flight attendant has to deal with a multitude of personalities, which make those scenes look like Airplane by way of Gilligan's Island. There's an actress, a millionaire, a former beauty queen, a giddy tourist, and a guy with a terminal illness and a pocket watch. There is no record of The Professor and/or Mary Ann on board.

An airliner really is not the best place for drinking wine. The higher altitude robs us of our sense of taste, while the dry air in the cabin saps our sense of smell and further inhibits our taste buds. How else do you think they get away with that airline food? The best bet for a wine for the Mile High Club is one with higher alcohol and lower acidity, so the diminished senses still have something to work with. Try a Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay or Viognier for a better tasting experience. 

Wine Enthusiast magazine says Cathay Pacific has the best in-flight wine program, followed by Etihad Airways, Qatar Airlines, LAN Airlines, Singapore Airlines, ANA, SWISS, Virgin-Atlantic, Qantas and British Airways. I generally get a martini while flying first class to Saint-Tropez, but it's entirely up to you. 


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment