Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Happy Halloween

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 find three scary wines to pair with three scary movies. No need to overthink this one.

'Tis the season to be scary. On October 31, when the sun, goes to rest, that's when drivers have to be extra careful not to run over the ghosts and goblins in the street. That's my POV as an adult, anyway.

Call me a spoilsport, but Halloween hasn't really meant that much to me since I was old enough to go outside without my parents. As a kid, it was all about the candy, that's about it. The Goobers, the Peanut Butter Cups, the Milk Duds, the Butterfingers, and of course, those delicious Candy Corn triangles, harvest editions with the brown middles. When I was old enough to use a knife without my parents' supervision, I cut them into their separate colors. Boy, was I disappointed to find that all the colors tasted exactly alike.

Then, as I got older and presumably wiser, Halloween became a time for those parties where the gals dressed as sexy witches. I only went to those parties for the costumes. And the candy corn.

Now, as an old guy, Halloween means seeing all those evergreen blog posts about which wines to pair with your kids' Halloween candy. They are so useless, those blog posts. I mean, it's Prosecco with candy corn, right? Apothic Dark with the chocolate stuff. Hey, that was easy. I could do this wine pairing thing for a living. 

Halloween has always been a time for scary movies.  What was the Friday night freakshow called on your local TV station? Thriller? Chiller Channel? Fright Night? Hankerin' For Horror? Whatever it was, there's a good chance it was hosted by the same guy who did the weather and Dialing For Dollars on the station.

It was 1978, on a dark and stormy October night, when John Carpenter unleashed Halloween into the world. It was popular, to say the least. The film spawned a dozen or so sequels, prequels and requels, while establishing the slasher film as a genuine genre and a goldmine for satirists. 

Donald Pleasence got the role of Dr. Loomis, after it was kicked to the curb by both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Lee later said passing on the gig was the biggest mistake of his career. Jamie Lee Curtis starred as the stalked pretty girl, a must-have in any slasher movie worth its blood. Carpenter reportedly said that she was cast even before he knew that her mom, Janet Leigh, starred in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. That family link proved to be a bonanza for the PR department.

What is a scared movie watcher supposed to drink while watching Halloween? Final Girl Wines is a tribute to the last girl standing in a slasher film. They have a great line of interesting wines made in Santa Barbara County. The silhouette of the girl on the label has a chainsaw in her hands, but she'll do just fine for Halloween. 

The slashing continued in 1986 with Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. There are a boatload of movies in this series, each one fully deserving of a big bowl of popcorn and a nice red wine. 

In this one, our hero accidentally resurrects Jason. I guess we are all well acquainted enough that we can be on a first name basis with Mr. Voorhees. If you are asking yourself how one accidentally resurrects a dead serial killer, you may have watched too many of the Friday the 13th series. Just go with it. 

Put on your hockey mask and get set for the selection offered by Crystal Lake Wines in Oregon. They have a variety of what they call "fan wines" for the Friday the 13th series. One is named after a fan movie, Jason Rising. You'll be comforted to know that there is no dead serial killer at the bottom of the bottle. 

The 1991 horror/comedy There's Nothing Out There attempts to satirize the horror genre. It does so with a story about alien frogs who come to earth to mate with pretty earth girls. That's the same reason many people use for moving to Hollywood. 

Critics of the day felt that the satire was okay, the horror was okay, but the execution was a little sophomoric. The film has been compared to 1996's Scream, sometimes favorably, but Scream got a lot more laughs and made a lot more money.

Well, this wine pairing has no horror in it, but it is hard to avoid. Arrogant Frog bills itself as "one of the most internationally known French wine brands." That may be so, as the name alone would tend to get a lot of attention. But, as they say on sports TV, "C'mon, man!" You may be French wine, but you were still on a Costco shelf going for 8 bucks American. 

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Monday, October 30, 2023

French Rosé At A Bargain Price

Here is a bargain rosé from the Perrin family. They have been making wine in the south of France for more than a century. They adorn the back label of the 2022 La Ferme Julien with a quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Is it really so simple? Stay away from chemical fertilizers, use natural nutrients in the soil to bring the vines to maturity, adopt a laissez-faire attitude in the cellar. Not so difficult, I suppose.

La Ferme Julien is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault grapes, it carries alcohol at a mere 12.5% abv and it sells for around $10.

This wine has a soft, light, onion skin pink hue. The nose is fresh and fruity. There is a bushel basket of strawberries in the aroma package, along with citrus minerality and that wonderful smell of rain on a hot sidewalk. The palate is dominated by the acidity, which is quite lively. Ripe red fruit is there, of course, as is a healthy dose of lemon and tangerine. The wine finishes long and the acidity keeps on working after the sip. 

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Friday, October 27, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Elementary My Dear Watson

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 different versions of the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. 

Sherlock Holmes pairs with wine very well. He was documented by his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as being quite fond of Burgundies. With meals, he liked reds from Beaune and whites from Montrachet and Meursault. After dinner favorites were Tokay dessert wine from Hungary and Port, especially vintage Port. He was also quite fond of smoking and injecting cocaine, but we will leave those addictions for another day. Today it is about the wine.

The 1971 film, They Might Be Giants, has George C. Scott as a man who believes himself to be the fictional detective. It is a Walter Mitty story, on steroids. Joanne Woodward is a psychiatrist who plays along with the gag. Is he Holmes or is he not? To quote Blake Edwards, "Is Batman a transvestite?" To paraphrase Don Quixote, he might be. 

In honor of those who tilt at Spanish windmills, let us pair Giants with a Tempranillo from La Mancha. Abadia Mercier has Tempranillo blended with Merlot and Syrah and priced for a song. If you're tipping five bucks per song, it is priced for two songs.

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, the 1959 version from (please don't hurt 'em) Hammer, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee star as Holmes and one of the Baskervilles, respectively. Holmes is enlisted to investigate a curse, only to find that someone is cursing the investigation. You gotta love Marmaduke-in-a-mask as the titular hound. 

Holmes liked a Port now and again, which is no surprise in a nation where the weather is often conducive to drinking Port. Don't wait for Port weather in Southern California. Just have it whenever you have Holmes on the home screen. Dow's 2012 Late Bottled Vintage Porto will do just fine.

1975's The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother was written and directed by the late, great Gene Wilder, who also starred as the smarter sibling. It is an amusing concept, Holmes having a jealous brother. Critics of the day figured as much, but felt it was probably funnier to think about than to watch. 

Actually, Holmes did have a brother, and Sherlock always credited him with being the smarter one. They were very supportive of each other - not a drop of jealousy between them. 

The actors cast as Holmes and Watson in Smarter Brother had experience playing those roles on other screens, both small and large. And what farce would be complete without Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise? Madeline Kahn as chanteuse Jenny Hill shows how cutthroat the opera biz can be. 

The Chateau Pommard Bourgogne Chardonnay would no doubt please a discriminating Holmes. Peaches and minerals are all over this wine, which was aged for two years in oak. It sells for about $30, not that Holmes ever worried about money. 

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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

It's Paso, It's Organic, And It's On Sale

Organic is such a big thing these days in wine that it even turns up in bargain brands. Paso Zinfandel, from Vine To Table Vineyards of Santa Maria, uses organic grapes in their 2021 Paso Robles Zin. There is nothing much on the label except the typical words touting Paso Robles" “long hot days and cool nights," the perfect climate for Zinfandel.

Alcohol stands at 14.1% abv and it was on sale for $13 at my local Whole Foods Market. I bought it primarily for cooking, but it turns out that it tastes pretty good on its own.

The wine is a medium-dark garnet. The nose gives off aromas of cherry, plum and a fistful of oak notes - clove, cigars, cinnamon, anise. The palate is dark and savory, with the plum and blueberry flavors joined by earth, white pepper and tomatoes. It is a complex wine, and it shows the chalky minerality for which Paso Robles is known. It also lent quite a lot to the roast I cooked with it. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Is A Cheap Chardonnay A Bargain?

Looking for a bargain in the wine aisle can be a daunting experience. Is a cheap wine necessarily a bargain? Not by a long shot. If you are not paying a lot for a bad wine, you got a good price, but at a cost. Good deals abound, though. It just takes a little discerning shopping. 

The 2021 Winemakers Selection Classic Series Chardonnay is cheap, real cheap. My expectations were not high while unscrewing the cap. But, in the interest of investigative reporting, I did unscrew and poured a glass.

On both the front and back labels of the bottle there are references to the fact that the wine was "California made," which is an unusual expression to find on a wine label. California is not given as an appellation, although the state is listed on the website as the "origin" of the wine. The verbal dancing makes me wonder where the grapes were grown. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the wine costs somewhere around $5. 

This wine has a nice golden color. It smells fruity, with lots of citrus, pear and peach notes showing. The nose also has a significant amount of oak on it. The palate bears out the oak treatment, with a hefty dose of wood. If that is not in your wheelhouse, you might want to steer clear. If oak is your jam, then this is a great bargain for you.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

A Great Wine For A Great Cause

Just when I think I could swear off Cabernet Sauvignon forever, along comes a wine that makes me scrap that fateful decision. 

It's not that I don't like Cab, it's just that I want to try all the grapes. Whenever I have a Cab, I feel that I am missing out on discovering some grape that is new to me. Plus, so many people are shortsighted where grapes are concerned. Cabernet Sauvignon gets enough attention, in my humble opinion.

But, here comes the tantalizing siren. A sustainably farmed, single vineyard Cab from the place that was built on that grape: the Napa Valley. The 2021 J. Lohr Carol's Vineyard Cabernet is from the St. Helena appellation, within the famed valley. It was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, a little more than half of which were new. Carol's Vineyard was named for Jerry Lohr's late wife, who fell victim to breast cancer more than a decade ago. Today, in her memory, each bottle of the namesake Cab which is sold makes a donation to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation. 

The vineyard contains gravelly, sandy loam soils which provide a great basis for the grapes. The wine carries alcohol at 14.5% abv and a retail price of $60. Red winemaker Brenden Wood says if you can hang onto it for a dozen or more years, you'll be well rewarded for your restraint.

This extremely dark wine is indigo in color. The nose features black fruit aromas, like blackberry, fig and plum. There are a ton of spices at work here, too, but in a very subtle way. Cinnamon, allspice, thyme and sage notes appear. The palate has some very firm tannins at work, while the black fruit shows itself again. The dark flavors align with the smells on the nose. This wine is a perfect mate for a juicy rib eye steak, or a nice pork chop hot off the grill. 

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Monday, October 16, 2023

California Sunshine In A Bottle

People who are looking for kosher wines should look into the lines offered by the Royal Wine Corporation. They import wines to the U.S. from all over the world and produce wines at their winery in Southern California. They have been in business for 175 years, dating back eight generations to their beginning in Europe. Their wines are top quality, as I have found through tasting a number of their bottlings through the years.

Royal's Director of PR and Manager of Wine Education Gabriel Geller says that this year "brings an abundance of exciting releases to complement every course" of holiday meals.

The 2022 Herzog Orange Muscat is one you'll save for dessert, most likely. It is a late harvest wine, meaning the grapes were picked after becoming super-ripe and loaded with sugary goodness. Head winemaker David Galzignato has reimagined Herzog's late harvest program, bringing a "fuller, more concentrated profile"  to both the Orange Muscat and the LH Zinfandel. They are calling their late harvest wines "California sunshine in a bottle."

The wine carries a low alcohol number of 8.5% abv, but a high residual sugar number or 7.3% by weight. The retail price is $25 for a full-size bottle.

This wine has a beautiful, soft orange color. The nose has notes of honey, candied apricot, and aromatic flowers. The palate is sensual and sweet, showing plenty of sugar but hardly any acidity. It is a viscous sip that rolls around in the mouth like a drink of cream. Have it with dessert, or even as dessert, really. 

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Friday, October 13, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Going Ape

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 go ape and find wines to pair with a simian set of cinematic celluloid.

How in the world, you may wonder, is he going to tie in wine with primates? It's going to be easier than you thought. Some monkeys have quite a taste for alcohol. There are scientists who make a living by studying chimps going ape over palm wine. Poor things can't get hold of any good stuff. 

There are some monkeys who actually come out of the jungle to nearby resorts and raid the bar when no one is looking. That's absolutely true, you could look it up. Do they crack open a bottle and watch movies about themselves? They probably would, if given half a chance. We certainly can.

Jungle Captive was released in 1945 as part of Universal's wave of horror films. It was the final film in the studio's Cheela, The Ape Woman series. Jungle Captive was the sequel to the previous year's Jungle Woman, which was a sequel to Captive Wild Woman. I am beginning to notice a theme emerging. It was re-released as Wild Jungle Captive, although there is no evidence that it was any wilder or more captive under that title. 

TFH's head guru Joe Dante once included this picture in his list of the worst horror films of all time. Joe tells me that he thought so little of Jungle Captive only because he hadn't seen Jungle Woman, which he says "makes Jungle Captive look like King Kong."

Denver's Infinite Monkey Theorem is a woman-owned winery named after the notion that if you turn an infinite number of monkeys loose in a vineyard, somehow wine would be made. Or something like that. They specialize in canned wine with inventive names like "White Wine" and "Red Wine." 

From 1943, Captive Wild Woman features Acquanetta as the Gorilla Girl. Acquanetta had nothing to do with Aquanet hair spray. John Carradine is seen in what is probably not one of his more memorable roles. If you like finding 1960s TV actors in movies that gave them a leg up, you'll love seeing Milburn Stone in a role other than "Doc" on Gunsmoke.

Gorilla Wines has a number of Italian bottlings, all of which contribute to the conservation effort to save the African Mountain Gorillas. They say there are only a thousand of them left, so it is a good cause. Try the Gorilla Primitivo, which is actually Zinfandel in an Italian disguise.

If you want some down-and-dirty, low-budget thrills, 1958's The Bride and the Beast should be number one on your program. The screenplay was penned by none other than Ed Wood. It shows. The movie gives new meaning to the phrase "low budget." 

The story follows a newlywed couple who discover that she was a gorilla in a previous life. He has a pet gorilla. I'm gonna let you turn your imagination loose to figure out how that marriage plays out. Here is a hint. The one-sheet cries out, "Human mate for jungle brutes." Oops, I gave it away.

Elgin Winery of Arizona has a Naughty Monkey wine that fits nicely with this movie. It is a sweet Moscato which would please an ape and the gorilla his dreams. 

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Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Kosher Barbera D'Asti

People who are looking for kosher wines should look into the lines offered by the Royal Wine Corporation. They import wines to the U.S. from all over the world and produce wines at their winery in Southern California. They have been in business for 175 years, dating back eight generations to their beginning in Europe. Their wines are top quality, as I have found through tasting a number of their bottlings through the years.

Royal's Director of PR and Manager of Wine Education Gabriel Geller says that this year "brings an abundance of exciting releases to complement every course" of holiday meals.

Geller says that the newly arrived Lovatelli wines are a treat. The line from Piemonte includes a Primitivo ($16.99), a Barbera d’Asti ($24.99), and an Orbaio Rosso blend ($29.99), as well as two vermouths ($24.99). The Lovatelli Barbera D’Asti clocks in with alcohol at 14% abv. It is mevushal. 

This wine is quite dark in the glass, almost indigo with a violet hue around the rim. The nose is heavy with black fruit - plums, blackberries, black raspberries. The palate is loaded with those fruit flavors, as well as savory notes of earth, leather, cigar and allspice. The tannins are firm and ready for a steak. The acidity is mouthwatering. 

Monday, October 9, 2023

A Dry, Kosher White Wine From The Greek Isles

People who are looking for kosher wines should look into the lines offered by the Royal Wine Corporation. They import wines to the U.S. from all over the world and produce wines at their winery in Southern California. They have been in business for 175 years, dating back eight generations to their beginning in Europe. Their wines are top quality, as I have found through tasting a number of their bottlings through the years.

Royal's Director of PR and Manager of Wine Education Gabriel Geller says that this year "brings an abundance of exciting releases to complement every course" of holiday meals.

Royal Wine has added kosher Greek wines to its portfolio, following the recent release of a white wine called Yamas Xynisteri ($18.99) from Cyprus. Todros offers three expressions made from Muscat grapes grown on the island of Samos: a dry Samena ($24.99), the off-dry High Peaks ($24.99), and Vin Doux ($34.99), a sweet dessert wine.

The name Todros is derived from the Greek word for "gift of God." The dry Samena is made from grapes grown on the island of Samos, actually much closer to Turkey than to Greece. The fruit came from the Samian vineyard. The $25 bottle carries alcohol at a restrained 13% abv. It is mevushal and kosher for Passover.

This wine shows a faint golden tint in the glass. The nose is floral and fruity, with perfumed scents of white flowers, pears, peaches and tropical fruit bursting upward. Those smells made me expect a boatload of fruit on the palate, but there is a surprise. This wine is very dry, and very savory. There is a strong salinity running through it and an earthy minerality which is joined by a racy acidity. I’d pair this with salads for sure, but chicken works, too.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Overlooked Indies With Josh Olson

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 that may have escaped your attention, but that caught the eye of TFH guru Josh Olson

While we breeze through the indie films that you may have missed but doubtless remember if you did see them, we will mull over some wine choices to go with them. Hopefully they will not go down as forgotten gems once you have sipped from the chalice, or even once you have guzzled from the bottle. Who am I to judge? 

Gas Food Lodging was written and directed by Allison Anders in 1992. It was a well-received movie, both by critics and by paying customers. I know it was well-received because I was one of those paying customers. It was so popular that I had to sit down front due to getting there late. 

Brother and sister Ione Skye and Donovan Leitch have featured roles in Gas Food Lodging. They are both offspring of the '60s guitar poet Donovan, in case you need some rock'n'roll genealogy before watching a film. Here's some more: Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis also appears in the film, but he is more noticeable on the soundtrack album.  

There is an indie winemaker in southern Oregon, Linda Donovan, who has a line of small-batch wines under the name LDonovan. If you want to visit, she can point you in the direction of Medford's finest food and lodging. 

Here's another nugget from 1992: In the Soup, a comedy directed and co-written by Alexandre Rockwell. Steve Buscemi plays a guy who is toting around a 500-page screenplay, looking for a sir or madam who might be interested in something like that. 

Turns out there is. A guy named Joe, whose day job is gangster. He is played by Seymour Cassel, who honed his indie chops while working with the master, John Cassavetes in the 1960s. 

When a gangster promises to turn your 500-pages into a movie, you should probably try to ease out of a doorway or window as quickly as possible and hope that you didn’t give him your card. 

Michael Franzese makes no bones about admitting that he was once a mob boss. In the Colombo family. He walked away from the position and didn't even have to give up his kneecaps. Now he makes wine using grapes grown in the Ararat region of Armenia. Man, that must be some no-compete clause. He offers a Pinot Noir, a Malbec and a Sauvignon Blanc, all for less than $30.

In 1996, Dan Zukovic wrote, directed and starred in The Last Big Thing. That's the title of a magazine devoted to heaping criticism upon the pop culture of the late 1990s. Yes, I know, it's an easy target. Zukovic shows just how easy over and over. Eventually, he becomes one of his detested icons. That is how it goes for a satirist in La La Land.

Magpie Estates makes an Australian Chardonnay under the name The Next Big Thing. That's quite a pronouncement for a $13 Chardonnay. They say it has enough oak so you'll know it's a Chardonnay even if you don’t know what Chardonnay smells like.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Bordeaux Grapes Via Israel

People who are looking for kosher wines should look into the lines offered by the Royal Wine Corporation. They import wines to the U.S. from all over the world and produce wines at their winery in Southern California. They have been in business for 175 years, dating back eight generations to their beginnings in Europe. Their wines are top quality, as I have found through tasting a number of their bottlings through the years.

Royal's Director of PR and Manager of Wine Education Gabriel Geller says that this year "brings an abundance of exciting releases to complement every course" of holiday meals.

Bin Nun is a new boutique Israeli winery. Winemakers Itzhak Lotan, Eddy Gandler and Danny Yaniv, under consulting winemaker Irit Boxer, work with grapes grown in well-drained clay loam soils above a limestone subsoil. Are you thinking of Bordeaux? So are they.

There is a quote from Benjamin Franklin on their website, in which he said that wine is proof that "God loves us, and loves to see us happy!" I like that thought.

The Bin Nun wines include Reserve ($39.99), Cuvée ($49.99), and Songs of Solomon ($79.99). Speaking of songs, they also have a strong connection with the world of jazz, with labels like Grappelli, Marsalis, Blue Note and Chanson. I was given a sample of the 2021 Bin Nun Judean Hills Reserve to try, which was made from 55% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 37% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Aging took place in French oak barrels for 12 months. This $40 bottle carries alcohol at 14% abv, it is non-mevushal and kosher for Passover.

This wine definitely feels like BDX. It is dark, it smells of the earth and it tastes like the best of the world. Aromas of black fruit are joined on the nose by tar, tobacco, vanilla, clove and cedar. The palate is also dark, boasting blackberry, blackcurrant and coffee notes. The tannins are firm and the acidity is fresh. Try it with any steak from your grill. Or just sip it. Either way, you'll be happy. 

Monday, October 2, 2023

German Riesling On A Budget

When I brought the Schmitt Söhne Riesling out of the grocery bag, the blue bottle caused my wife to say, 'What do you have there, Blue Nun?' No, but close. The wine is cited on the front label as being 'crisp and fruity,' and that is a fairly accurate description. 

The Schmitt Söhne winery has a line of five Rieslings, ranging from dry to quite sweet. This one falls in the middle. The Riesling grapes come from regions that will be familiar to fans of the grape - Mosel-Saar-Ruwer and Rheinhessen, mainly. This wine's alcohol level hits only 9.5% abv and the price sticker is less than $10.

This wine has a pale yellow tint once it's out of the blue bottle. The scent of stone fruit and honey dominates the nose, with traces of citrus minerality coming through. The palate has plenty of the fruit and enough acidity to make things interesting. The off-dry style is not a favorite of mine, but this wine would serve very well in a pairing with seafood or salad or as a sipper before dinner. 

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