Friday, March 10, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - More Movies You Never Heard Of

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, we examine three under-the-radar films which more than likely escaped your notice.

Uzmaki is a 2000 horror film based on a manga (Japanese graphic novel) which was still being created while the movie was being made. Hence, the two stories ended up with different endings. The plot centers on a town's obsession with spirals, and the tendency of its inhabitants to turn into snails. The real horror? There is no French restaurant around to take advantage of the suddenly plentiful supply of king-sized escargot. 

Beware if you see this in a theater and one of the patrons leaves a slimy trail as he exits. 

The film was released as the lead picture of a double feature - which leaves us to wonder why the second half was left out of this Blood of the Vines article. Certainly, if you have never heard of Uzmaki, you can't be expected to know its second banana.

There can be no finer wine pairing for Uzmaki than The Holy Snail, a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Don't get hypnotized by the lovely spiral contained in the picture of the snail on the label.

2018's Overwhelm the Sky is the creation of TFH guru Daniel Kremer. His story - updating an 18th-century novel - concerns a radio personality. Finally, one about me! Just kidding. My radio career wasn't all that exciting, and with movies like this one and Play Misty For Me, I'm glad it wasn't. 

Do you recall the old vaudeville bit in which a man complains to a doctor that he doesn't sleep at night, that he just walks around all night long? The doctor says, "Oh, you're a somnambulist." The man replies, "No, I'm a night watchman." It just goes to show that things are not always what they seem.

Overwhelm does just that, with a black-and-white dreamscape that has been lauded for its cinematic inventiveness. Our golden-throated radio guy stays up nights exploring the death of one of his friends. It's no substitute for a warm glass of milk before bedtime - or a stiff drink for that matter - and if you end up losing sleep over the film, Kremer will no doubt feel that he has done his job.

Some folks feel overwhelmed when trying to choose a wine. One survey says 23% of wine shoppers feel overwhelmed by the choices before them. South Africa's Easy Choice Winery tries to take the angst out of buying wine, with labels like "The One With the Berries" and "The One That Grows on You." Is it a real winery or just a kooky branding idea? I'm still looking for their actual website. There are plenty of articles available, though, on what a kooky branding idea it is. If we can simplify your wine pairing search with a Herzogovenian recco, here it is: Mjesečar, from Brkic Winery. It translates as "sleepwalker," and it's also the perfect gift for the night watchman in your life. The Žilavka grapes were aged in Bosnian oak barrels. Who said choosing a wine is hard?

A movie title like Don't Worry We'll Think of a Title throws up a ton of red flags, and offers a reason why you may have missed this one the first time around. The 1966 comedy stars Morey Amsterdam, Rose Marie and Richard Deacon. To sweeten the deal, they throw in some uncredited cameos from the likes of Steve Allen, Milton Berle, Carl Reiner, Irene Ryan, Danny Thomas, Nick Adams, Cliff Arquette and Forrest Tucker. But wait! Order before midnight and get Moe Howard, not as a Stooge. Now we're talkin’.

Welll, not so fast. Amsterdam - the co-writer, by the way - plays an ordinary Joe, or actually an ordinary Charlie with the last name of Yuckapuck. That's a name only a Catskills comedy writer could love. The humor here gets better the more borscht you have under your belt. The script is maybe a little light on bald jokes aimed at Deacon's invisible hairline, or maybe it's just a little light all the way around.

For Don't Worry, let's uncork a bottle from the Catskills.  Tannerville's Hudson-Chatham Winery has a wine made from the hybrid Baco Noir grape.  Morey might have said, "didja hear the one about the vitis vinifera that got crossed with a vitis riparia?"  Okay, so maybe he would have thrown in a bald joke instead.  This juice is a far cry from the old berry wines of the mid-60s Catskills resort era.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

A Twist On The Super Tuscan Recipe

San Felice is an Italian wine estate situated a half hour from Siena, in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. Their flagship wine, Vigorello, has grown and matured along with the winery. It started off in 1968, as a 100% Sangiovese wine. It was the first wine from Tuscany to incorporate international wine grapes, making Vigorello the first Super Tuscan wine. 

Today, Vigorello is crafted from 35% Pugnitello grapes, 30% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. Pugnitello is a grape native to Tuscany. Once thought to be Montepulciano, but DNA research showed that it is its own grape. Pugnitello languished almost forgotten for years before being resurrected by studies at the University of Florence. 

The grapes sprouted early in the 2018 vintage for San Felice. A warm March and April were followed by a rainy May and the usual mix of heat and showers for the summer. September brought about sunny days and cool nights, which helped the grapes along to their proper maturity.

The fruit was vinified and aged for 24 months in French oak barriques, then aged another eight months in the bottle. Alcohol tips 14% abv while the wine retails for around $60.

Vigorello is a dark wine, allowing almost no light to pass through it. The nose holds a savory shield over the fruit aromas of plum, blackberry and raspberry. The palate is a complete joy - full of dark fruit which is colored by a rustic earthiness. The wine isn’t afraid to flex its muscles. The tannins are firm, but fine. That, plus the refreshing acidity, makes for a wine which is literally made for the dinner table.

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Monday, March 6, 2023

A Red Wine From Sicily's Volcanic Soil

Duca di Salaparuta is one of the oldest wineries in Sicily, producing fine wines since 1824. Their  Vajasindi Estate - in northeastern Sicily, on the slopes of the Etna volcano - has given the Reina family two native grape varieties for a pair of new wines. Lavico Etna Rosso DOC 2020 and Lavico Etna Bianco DOC  2021 are made, respectively, from Nerello Mascalese and Carricante grapes. The winery says that these wines exhibit "the grace of the mountain, the warmth of the sea, and the minerality of the volcano." The wines of Duca di Salaparuta are sustainably grown.

The 2020 Lavico Etna Rosso DOC is aged partly in concrete tanks and partly in French oak barrels, for a total of 12 months. Alcohol hits 13% abv and it sells for $34.

The color of the wine is a very light ruby, very elegant looking. On the nose, there is a beautiful bouquet of cherry candy, ripe strawberry and roses. The palate offers more of the same - delicate red fruit flavors are tinged with minerals and the tannic structure is very fine, almost dainty. The finish leaves a lovely impression of the fruity side of this wine, with enough of the savory side present to make one wish for more.

The 2021 Lavico Etna Bianco DOC is aged in stainless steel tanks for four months, on the lees, before getting another three months in the bottle. Alcohol tips only 12.5% abv and the wine retails for $34.

The pale wine has a nose that screams savory - salinity and minerals abound. Despite that, there is plenty of fruit to go around - stone fruit, lemons and mango. The palate is where that minerality really lives, with a taste of the ocean meeting all that citrusy fruit. Acidity is in full force, while the finish is lengthy and memorable. 

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Friday, March 3, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Border Incidents

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 examine some films which border on the border.

The stars are here in The Border - Jack Nicholson, Harvey Keitel, Valerie Perrine, Warren Oates - in a noirish 1982 film about the southern US border. You know, the one that's leaking like a sieve? Lie. The one that needs a big, beautiful wall? Big lie. The one that's actually a river for about 2,000 miles? Truth.

Nicholson is an INS agent, one of the guys who patrols the border to keep us safe from those tired, poor, wretched huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Keitel, well, he and Oates are the dark side. You probably saw that one coming. 

The soundtrack is really worth a listen, with a score by Ry Cooder and other borderesque tunes by the likes of Freddy Fender and Sam The Sham. I recall that it made for some great listening while grilling hot links on the patio in the Texas summer sun. 

Remember when some tan seekers would slather themselves in baby oil before draping their bodies over a poolside chaise lounge? Popular radio stations would air a loud "ding" in their top 40 mix to let listeners know when it was time to turn over. If a woman wanted to sauté herself for me, I personally preferred that she used cocoa butter and some Chardonnay. 

That's a good pairing idea for The Border, a nice, buttery Chardonnay. There is one called Butter which you can pick up at the supermarket for less than $15. It also comes in a box, if that's how you roll in your double-wide. If you want to step up your game, Edna Valley Vineyards makes a great buttery Chardonnay for about $40.

Border Incident is an actual film noir, from 1949. Ricardo Montalbán and George Murphy star, along with Howard Da Silva, in a tale of two undercover agents trying to stop the smuggling of migrant workers from Mexico into California. It was done on a shoestring budget, and it shows in the lighting. So many shadows! Oh, I'm being told that cinematographer John Alton shot it that way on purpose. So that's where the noir comes in.

Montalbán, from Mexico by the way, said this was one of the few movies he made in which he was allowed to portray a Mexican. The narration that opens and closes the picture gets a bit jingoistic, but if you can get past that, the rewards are there with a story that is before its time, a visual presence that is stunning and acting that surpasses what might have been expected from MGM's tight purse strings.

Mexico's L.A. Cetto Winery offers a wide range of wines from the Valle de Guadalupe, just across the border. They make a nice Nebbiolo that sells for around $20 and is readily available in the U.S. 

One, Two, Three deals with a different border - that which existed in 1961 between the two halves of Germany. Directed and co-written by Billy Wilder, it's what the blurb writers used to call a Laff Riot, but you'd expect nothing less from Wilder. 

The film is set in West Berlin, before the wall between east and west was built. James Cagney delivers a tour de force performance as a big wig with the Coca Cola Company. He is called upon by his boss in Atlanta to play host to the big guy's teenage, southern belle daughter - who gets hitched to a card-carrying commie while vacationing in the Rhineland. Horst Buchholtz turns in a stellar job as the Red Devil from the East, while Pamela Tiffin scores as the impressionable Lady Coke. 

Spätburgunder is the German version of Pinot Noir, even though it sounds like Jimmy Cagney responding to a sneeze. Rudolf Fürst is considered a "magician" with the grape, and his wines run in the $30 range. One: buy the movie! Two: buy the wine! Three: enjoy your evening! Go!

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Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Alternative Wine Packaging

Most wine lovers have a working familiarity with the economics of wine, and with Earth Day approaching it is worth taking a look also at the ecology of drinking wine. Sarah Trubnick is the co-founder and wine director of San Francisco's The Barrel Room. She is also deeply passionate about the effects of climate change on the wine industry and wine regions, and the world of alternative packaging.

Trubnick says research shows that packaging contributes over 40% of wineries' emissions worldwide, mostly due to the production, recycling, and packaging of glass bottles. She says 73% to 83% of consumers express willingness to pay more for wine that has been packaged sustainably. Also, 90% of these consumers drink wine they purchase within a week, so it seems that wine drinkers would embrace less costly packaging even if the containers are not meant to age wine.

Glass bottles are probably not the ideal packaging for wine, anyway. Trubnick cites figures which show the production, use, and shipping of glass bottles accounts for 68% of the carbon footprint of the wine industry. She says the manufacture of new bottles absolutely guzzles energy. From the smelting of sand to the melting of recycled bottles, temperatures of around 1,700 degrees are required. Also, recycling of glass doesn’t happen as often as you might think. Only about 25% of glass bottles are recycled in the US. The rest end up in landfills. Glass bottles are also heavy and oddly shaped, which makes shipping them cost more and require protective padding.

Trubnick offers some alternative packaging options. Canned wines are very costly to produce, but are extremely recyclable - and usually, they actually are recycled. She says that 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today. Cans are lightweight, easy to stack, and not fragile, making shipping much more efficient.

Kegs are fantastic options, if the situation allows for them. PET bottles - a type of plastic that can be recycled infinitely - and paper bottles tend to reduce carbon footprint 80-90% over glass bottles. They aren’t great for long-term storage, but most wine is drunk pretty much immediately.

Hands down, Trubnick says, the best option on the market today is the bag-in box - "BIB" for short. The bad image BIBs got from low-quality wine, improper filling and premature oxidation are issues that have been rectified, she says and BIBs are now being used for high-end wines. Jason Haas of Tablas Creek in Paso Robles recently put out a $95 boxed wine, and it sold out almost instantly. 

Trubnick says BIBs have low production energy cost, are lightweight and stackable (leading to lower transportation energy cost), can store wine for 8 weeks after opening and can last on a shelf for 12 months without any detectable quality change. They are extremely recyclable and reduced cost all around is generally passed on to the consumer. Also, there is very little product wasted.

Here is Trubnick's breakdown of actual carbon footprint in terms of grams of CO2 equivalent per liter of wine in each package:

- Glass bottle: 675g CO2e/L

- PET bottle: 245g CO2e/L

- Can: 190g CO2e/L

- BIB: 70g CO2e/L

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