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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Friday, July 14, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Alan Arkin Week

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 wring our hands and rip our shirts, for we have lost another great one - Alan Arkin. We will feature three of his films and have an appropriate wine to pair with each.

When it comes to Mr. Arkin's work, 1970's Catch 22 is a great place to start. It is a dark satire which comments on the absurdity of America's militaristic heritage. Arkin plays Captain John Yossarian, who pilots a bomber in WWII. It's his job, and he does it well, but that sort of work gets to be a grind after awhile. 

Contemplating the idea of getting out of the Air Force due to insanity, Yossarian runs into the bit of military intelligence known as Catch 22. You'd be crazy to want to fly a bomber, but that craziness is proof that you're not insane. For further demonstration, see Corporal Klinger of the 4077th.

What a cast! A lesser actor than Arkin would get lost among the likes of Martin Balsam, Martin Sheen, Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss, Bob Balaban, Bob Newhart, Norman Fell, Jack Gilford, John Voight and Orson Welles. Oh, and Catch 22 gave Art Garfunkel his film debut. We'll leave it to you to determine if that was a good thing or not.

Catch 22 Vineyards is Australia's version of the hook: "You can't be a winemaker until you get experience, but you can't get experience until you make wine." Their Barossa Valley red blend is red enough to be reminiscent of the ball turret gunner who was your friend.

In 1966, when The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming was playing at one of my hometown's movie theaters, lightning struck the building. The front brick facade was reduced to a pile of rubble, looking very much like the place had been bombed. A photographer from the local newspaper captured the destruction, with the marquee in front emblazoned with, "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming." The caption read, "It looks like they're already here."

That anecdote is my big memory of the movie, despite the incredible job that Arkin does with his role as a sailor on a Russian submarine. When the sub runs aground near a New England island, the farcical story spins out as the Russians try to find a way to unstick their ship and keep the Cold War from getting hot.

It was not a universally loved movie, but it captured my 11-year-old imagination. For weeks after seeing the film, my favorite expression was "Ee-mare-zhency. Everybody to get from street." And Alan Arkin was my new favorite actor.

You can't go wrong with a Russian wine for The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. Well, you actually can. You can go very wrong. However, if you can find the Kuban-Vino Château Tamange fortified white wine, I'm told it is a fine example of the Rkatsiteli grape. Alternatively, you know, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

Little Murders, from 1971, has Arkin directing for the first time. He also plays a NYC cop who seems to be having a tough time dealing with the spiraling violence in his city. 

This black comedy is blacker than black, blacker than Catch 22 had been just a year earlier. You will laugh, but you will have a tough time dealing with the fact that you did. 

Elliot Gould is a dysfunctional man, in a dysfunctional world, who joins a dysfunctional family and becomes even more dysfunctional. The urban violence that surrounds him draws him in until he becomes a participant in it. It's like a Catch 22 - the more one rejects the dysfunction, the more one becomes a part of it.

All that dysfunction screams for a wine from Sonoma County's Dysfunctional Family Winery. They make a nice Sagrantino, and there are no reports of violence breaking out there during a tasting.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2023

South African Chenin Blancs

When we think of South African wine, we may think of Pinotage, Cab or Shiraz for red grapes, but the white grape that leads the way on the Cape is Chenin Blanc. They like to call it Steen, but it goes by both names there. I have been given the opportunity to sample three examples of South African Chenin Blanc. 

Noble Hill Chenin Blanc Sur Lie 2021 

The grapes for this Chenin came from "the granite slopes of the Simonsberg Mountains" between Stellenbosch and Paarl, where wine fruit has grown for three centuries. The wine was left on the lees for nine months and aged in concrete vats. Alcohol hits 13.5% abv and the retail price is $19.

This wine has a clear looking gold-green tint. The nose offers plenty of minerals, a healthy dose of citrus fruit and an herbal angle which comes off as an earthy note. The palate showcases the citrus and minerality, while the acidity nearly rips through the sip. This is a very food-friendly white wine, one that will also serve well as a simple sipper. 

Monday, July 10, 2023

South African Chenin Blanc

When we think of South African wine, we may think of Pinotage, Cab or Shiraz for red grapes, but the white grape that leads the way on the Cape is Chenin Blanc. They like to call it Steen, but it goes by both names there. I have been given the opportunity to sample three examples of South African Chenin Blanc. 

Lievland Vineyards Old Vine Chenin Blanc Paarl 2021

Lievland's head winemker Riaan Möller says despite the view of South Africa's wine as "new world," he thinks there is enough of the "old world" there to say that it is at least a blend of both worlds.

The 2021 Lievland Vineyards Old Vine Chenin Blanc was partially barrel fermented, has alcohol at 13% abv and a retail price of $19.

This wine is tinted golden-green, has a very clear appearance and shows some slight bubbles upon the pour. The nose is mineral-laden, with a huge influence from the slate soils in which the grapes grew. There is also a citrus note in the aroma package. On the palate, minerals abound still. Citrus fruit joins the flinty flavors while a near-ripping acidity provides incredible freshness and food friendliness. 

Friday, July 7, 2023

A Pink Wine To Remember

While the spring and summer are seen as prime Drink Pink times, people seem to forget about rosés after Labor Day. It's a shame, because most rosés are great pairing with pork, foods on the Thanksgiving table, or foods on the table for Black Friday. Ham and turkey sandwiches, f'rinstance. 

Here is another rosé wine you should try to track down while the summer is here. And don't forget about it when the summer fades. La Chapelle Gordonne makes this 2022 Côtes de Provence pinkie from organic grapes grown in what they call their most beautiful vineyards. This rosé is called, on the label, a tête de cuvée. That is a term usually used in reference to Champagnes, which means top blend. 

The blend combines Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault grapes, a fairly common cuvée in Provence. Alcohol hits only 12.5% abv and the wine sells for around $27. 

This wine has a pretty salmon pink color. Its nose is subdued to the point of being nearly absent. The flavor is all there, though. Strawberry, cherry and lemon notes are delicious, while the acidity is as fresh as you would expect from the south of France. Pair with seafood, pair with salad, pair with a ham sandwich. Or a quiche. You will have no worries. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Man, This Is Good Chenin Blanc

When we think of South African wine, we may think of Pinotage, Cab or Shiraz for red grapes, but the white grape that leads the way on the Cape is Chenin Blanc. They like to call it Steen, but it goes by both names there. I have been given the opportunity to sample three examples of South African Chenin Blanc. 

MAN Family Wines Free-Run Steen Chenin Blanc Cape Coast 2022

First of all, a bit about the winery's name. MAN comes from three women. It was named after Marie, Anette and Nicky, who started the business along with their respective spouses. The spouses did not get their names embedded on the label. The company's motto is "Everyday wines for wine geeks."

The 100% Chenin Blanc grapes were grown in the Agter-Paarl area of South Africa's Cape Coast wine region. They were harvested from old, dry-farmed bush vines. The primarily shale soil gives the wine a wonderful minerality.

They use only the free-run juice in this wine - no pressing of the grapes. They say that practice preserves the wine's character, acidity and flavor. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the wine retails for $12. That is a bargain. 

This wine carries a pale yellow tint in the glass and shows small bubbles as it pours up slightly frizzante. The nose is amazing, dressed in a citrus minerality that evokes not only a sidewalk after a rain, but a minty eucalyptus note as well. There are traces of smoke and pineapple in the aroma package, too. The palate is flinty and full of acidity. A plate of oysters will go nicely with this bottle. 

Monday, July 3, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Independence Day

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 pair wines with three movies which examine the American experience for Independence Day.

1776 hit movie screens in 1972, preceding America's bicentennial by four years. The producers didn't miss the mark, they simply got a running start on the festivities. The film was adapted from the Broadway hit musical. The fictionalized account of what led to the Declaration of Independence is dressed up with a lot more singing than I expect there was in real life. Ben Franklin getting tuneful I could see, especially after a couple of drinks. John Adams, not so much.

As you may have learned in school, unless you went to the schools that Trump attended, the beloved document describes the will of the colonies to break free from Great Britain and it serves up a lengthy list of grievances against the British throne. If they'd had Twitter back then, the colonists could have canceled King George without throwing a single teabag into Boston Harbor. 

Speaking of despots, Nixon didn't like the movie. He felt one of the songs in the score reflected badly on conservatives, as if conservatism needs any help finding the bad light. It is worth remembering today that nearly all of the founding fathers were slave owners themselves. That includes Thomas Jefferson.

Mr. Jefferson loved his Bordeaux, but not until later in his life. For decades, he was a Madeira man, as were the other founding fathers who imbibed. The Rare Wine Company has a Special Reserve Madeira with TJ's name on it. 

What would July 4th viewing be without a war picture? Here is a dandy from 1945, They Were Expendable, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. Is there anything more American? The movie - taken from a bestselling book - tells the story of the US Navy's PT boats. It is fact-based fiction, and is supposedly very close to how Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three was actually introduced into WWII.

President John F. Kennedy, you may remember, served on a PT boat while he was in the navy. Movie costar Robert Montgomery actually commanded one, something that film buffs say former Navy officer Ford really liked about him. John Wayne was reportedly in Ford's doghouse because he was turned down for military service. The film was shot in the Florida Keys, moviedom's version of the Philippines.

The Tackitt Family Vineyards in Paso Robles is veteran-owned. Leon was a military ordnance guy in the Navy. Now he blows up people's expectations with his fruit of the vine. The Vintner's Reserve Zinfandel was a gold medal winner, and it's only $40. 

The Red Badge of Courage, from 1951, brings Stephen Crane's 19th century book to life. Director John Huston thought his two-hour cut was the best work he had done, but MGM thought differently. They slashed the film to 70 minutes and put in narration to explain what was happening. MGM, apparently, decided that nobody ever went broke underestimating the audience.

It is a Civil War tale about a young man who deserts the battlefield in fear, only to return in hopes of getting his war wound - the titular red badge. It is fitting to watch a Civil War movie for Independence Day, as it was that bloody confrontation that declared the nation's independence from slavery. 

For a Civil War pic, what could be better than a wine from the first battlefield? The Winery at Bull Run is located at the entrance to Manassas Battlefield. From that historical locale, they produce Virginia wines that echo the Civil War era. Back in that day, the wines were probably made from Muscadine grapes, but the Virginia wine scene has grown exponentially since then. 

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