Friday, March 29, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Still 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 dig around in the depths of our streaming platforms to find some forgotten films. We likely won't have to dig too deep to find wine pairings for the movies.

Here is another round of movies you probably don't know about, selected by the TFH gurus specifically for their insider cachet. Wine people also have a deep love for stuff which they feel only they know about. It's why you see so many nerds standing around the intersection of film and wine. 

Giants and Toys is a 1958 Japanese satire on corporate greed. The battle between competing candy conglomerates centers on a young lady who is chosen to be the face of one of these companies. Think "Gerber baby, older with a less winning smile."

She also gets to don a space suit and play around with a ray gun. I suppose she is armed in case of a surprise Godzilla attack, although Megalon and Mothra could be lurking in the shadows, too. Turns out the gig is not for her because, ya know, what she really wants to do is direct. 

While searching for a wine pairing for Giants and Toys I came across a giant wine glass offered on eBay, which is really a wine bottle with a glass affixed to its neck. Any number of cheap wines are likely available at Giant Foods, although you're probably better off with their beer selection. But, let's get serious. 

Here is a Japanese wine, made from a Japanese grape. Well, Koshu is actually a cross of Vitis vinifera and several East Asian varieties, but it is grown in Japan. Ajimu Budoushu Koubou Koshu is a white wine offering lemon, lime and almond notes. It should pair well with certain candies, too.

In 2018's Standoff at Sparrow Creek, members of a small vigilante group are holed up overnight in a warehouse while they try to figure out which one of them shot up a police funeral. The group is described as a militia, but for Second Amendment fans, let's be real. You and five of your well-armed friends do not constitute a militia. 

Standoff is a well respected film, a taut and suspenseful thriller, according to some critics. There is a big twist at the end and a lot of shooting leading up to it. Maybe the guy who was in charge of buying the body armor got mixed up and contacted Under Armor by mistake. There should be a refund due to those who remain alive. 

I could not find a winery named Sparrow Creek, but I found some wines bearing that moniker. It's an old trick in California bulk wine to devise a name for the label through a formula. You choose an animal, then a geographical feature, and put them together. Sparrow Creek Merlot is a natural from this type of branding. How many wines have you seen on supermarket shelves bearing names like Rabbit River, Moose Mountain or Hare Hollow? That formula is the reason why. 

When you want to show off your knowledge of unknown movies, citing a couple of foreign films is always a good idea. The Last Judgment was made in Italy in 1961. It starts with a voice coming from the heavens, announcing that the day of judgment has arrived and will happen at 6:00 that evening. That leaves a matter of hours in which you can repent, or not, or get in a few last good times before it's all over. The film examines how several locals handle the news that it's the end of the world as we know it. 

The movie has an all-star cast of international proportions. Jack Palance and Ernest Borgnine represent the U.S. and give us a great reason to watch. From Greece, France and Italy come Melina Mercouri, Fernandel, Anouk Aimée and Lino Ventura.

Just for fun, let's pair The Last Judgment with bottles from the wineries that rocked the world in the Judgment of Paris, the 1976 wine competition. The highest scoring red and white wines at the event were from Stag's Leap and Chateau Montelena, which beat out an array of highly-touted French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. 

The 2021 Stag's Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon tastes just as good as it did 50 vintages ago and sells for $70. Chateau Montelena's 2021 Napa Valley Chardonnay costs $75 these days. It's the modern vintage of the wine which was featured in the movie, Bottle Shock.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

A Great Grenache Blend From Spain

From the D.O.P. Cariñena of Spain comes a wine called Oxte The Silence. It is a red blend of Grenache, Syrah and Tempranillo. The wine was aged for only two months in French and American oak barrels which had been used before. Another two months is spent in stainless steel before being bottled. Alcohol sits at 14% and it sells for around $6 at Trader Joe's.

This wine is tinted medium dark. The nose is jammy and oaky, with plenty of blackberry, clove and currant notes. The palate brings no surprises. It is full of fruit and oak spice, but not as much as I found in the bouquet. The flavor of anise hides amongst the berries and staves. I bought it for cooking, but did enjoy the leftover sips. It was cheap, but serviceable. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Bargain Primitivo On The Bottom Shelf

The bottom shelf of the wine aisle at your grocer is probably not a good place to find a wine you'll love and want to share with guests. It can, however, be a good place to find an everyday wine, or one with which you can cook.

The bottom shelf is where I found Grifone Primitivo at Trader Joe's. For a store which features so many rock-bottom prices on wine, it is worth noting that they do a fine job of curating those shelves, from top to bottom.

Grifone is made from 100% Primitivo grapes, grown in Puglia, in the heel of Italy's boot. In case you are unfamiliar with the Primitivo grape, it is the same as the Zinfandel grape. It just has an Italian name. Alcohol is reasonably light at 13% abv and the price is only $5 at Trader Joe's

This wine is dark ruby in the glass and offers a beautiful nose that is full of dark fruit aromas and a good bit of oak. Tar also appears, adding a very earthy angle to the bouquet. On the palate, big, jammy blackberry, blueberry and cassis flavors are joined together by oak spice and a healthy dose of tannins. Despite the oak mentions, the wine tastes clean and fresh. The winery recommends pairing it with aged cheeses. I like it with spaghetti and meatballs. I used the wine in my sauce.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Magic And Madness

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 call on the magical properties of the grapevine for wine pairings to go with a trio of films that dabble madly in the mystical.

Wine is its own kind of magic. Through a process known only to shamans we call "winemakers," actual fruit is transformed into something that is much more than a simple beverage. It is similar to cinema, an art form which also produces magic from recording devices, scripts and people who like to pretend for a while that they are someone else. Here's to movie magic and the wines that go with them.

The Shout is from 1978, a year that really needed a horror movie. Let's see, the Jonestown massacre, the Pacific Southwest Airlines crash in San Diego, a terrible Iranian earthquake… nothin' to see here. Let's put some horror on celluloid. 

The bad guy in The Shout learned a trick from an old Aborigine, and it was something more substantial than how to make his boomerang come back. It was a shout that, delivered properly, would kill. I have fantasized about having a shout that would make drivers hit the gas when the light turned green. I have yet to make that work, but I'm still trying.

Location shots were done along the incredible Devon coastline, which added a bit of the spectacular to a film that didn't need much help in that department. 

For a movie set in beautiful Devon, UK, let's grab a sparkling wine from Heron Farms, a bubbly made from the Seyval Blanc grape. Great, another horror. Just kidding, Devonians. Seyval Blanc is a perfectly good wine grape, although it is a French hybrid. If you can't nab a $40 bottle from Devon, you can probably find one from an East Coast winery in the US. 

1973's The Wicker Man tells the tale of a detective who goes to a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides in search of a missing child. Scotland, huh? I'm already feeling that this wine pairing will be another tough one. However, if anyone should know about the taste of the blood of the vines, it should be Christopher Lee. He was tailor made to play The Wicker Man’s cult leader. 

On the island, the cop finds a culture that has given up on Christianity and opted for Paganism, complete with sacrifices made by way of fire. The unlucky offerings are placed in a giant titular wicker man, then set ablaze. That's how the Druids dispensed with their prisoners of war, back before there was a Geneva Convention. This movie is horror times ten. 

Since The Wicker Man was set in Scotland, it makes perfect sense to pair a Scottish wine with it. There must be some wineries in Scotland, somewhere amid the distilleries and golf courses. But after wearing out my Google finger, I have it on good authority that there are only a handful. Dr. Liz Thatch, a Master of Wine, scoured the countryside there when she went to play a few rounds and drink a few fingers. 

If your wine allowance is gone on that sparkler from Devon, or just want something a bit easier, try a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa's Wicker Vineyards. Or, grab an old school Chianti that comes in a wicker basket.

If you like your horror with a dash of dark humor, take in a viewing of Cemetery Man, a 1994 Italian film. Don't try to make heads or tails of it, just watch as our hero fails to get an investigation of zombie appearances because the paperwork is too dense. He is advised to simply shoot the zombies, so that's what he does. Over and over. You know, once you start shooting zombies it becomes second nature. And all my life I have believed that you couldn't stop a zombie by shooting it. Well, you learn something new in every Italian horror comedy. 

Woodbury Winery of Fredonia, NY makes something called Zombie Red, which is a sweet, cherry flavored wine. First off, I won't insult your wine intelligence by recommending it. Second, it is sold out. There must be a shortage of White Zinfandel in Fredonia.

While searching for an Italian Zombie Zin, it occurred to me that Primitivo is the Italian name for Zinfandel. The Apollonio Primitivo di Manduria is as dark as Cemetery Man's humor. And it's a damn good wine, maybe good enough to justify shooting corpses that rise from the grave. 

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

White Tuscan Wine Two Ways

If you have never heard of the Pomino Bianco DOC in Italy's Tuscany region, you should get acquainted now. Then you'll be ready for spring and summer with a white wine that'll knock everyone's socks off. Of course, if the weather is warm enough, they may be off already.

The two wines I was given the opportunity to sample are from Frescobaldi. They note that the Pomino Bianco DOC is one of the areas of Tuscany most suited to white wine production. Altitudes reach 2300 feet up against the Apennine Mountains, and those lofty vines produce highly refined and elegant white wine blends.

The Frescobaldi 2022 Pomino Bianco is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, with splashes of the region's complimentary grapes. The wine was aged partly in oak, partly in steel, which allows complexity while maintaining freshness. 

The 2022 vintage was a long one, with an early budbreak and summertime temperatures starting in May. Alcohol sits at 12.5% abv and the retail sticker reads $21. 

This wine has a light golden tint to it. The nose is fully aromatic with minerals, white fruit and a salinity that runs through the entire experience. The palate is chock full of minerals, too, along with green apple and light citrus notes. The acidity is fresh and lively while a slight trace of oak adds depth. The finish is medium long and highlights the grapefruit aspect of the palate. 

The Frescobaldi Benefizio 2021 Pomino Bianco Riserva is a Chardonnay that was aged completely in French oak barrels. When it was first produced, in 1973, it was the first white wine in Italy to be fermented and aged in barriques. The wood is 50% new and 50% second use. Alcohol is a bit higher than the previous wine, clocking in at 13.5% abv. The list price is $35.

This wine also has a nice yellow tint and a nose that shows the restrained use of oak. The aromas also have an earthy salinity about them, with a fruity undercurrent draped in apple, almond and dried apricot notes. On the palate, there is a more noticeable oak effect, but still within reason. The mouthfeel is full, while the acidity is bracing. It is a savory wine which brings the fruit almost apologetically. Delicious, and a great match for dishes from seafood to chicken to pork. Anything with a creamy sauce will pair beautifully with the Benefizio Riserva. 

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Monday, March 18, 2024

Sherry, Dry As A Bone

We can paraphrase the old saw, "dying is easy, comedy is difficult" into wine terminology: "Wine is easy, sherry is difficult." I have written, or at least attempted to write, many times about the intricacies of sherry. It is always a treat to taste one of the finer sherries, but even the bargain basement varieties offer plenty of fascination. Here is one I picked up on the cheap to use in cooking.

The Doña Luisa Fino Sherry is reportedly made by Barbadillo, a huge sherry producer in the home of sherry, Jerez, Spain. Fino indicates the driest type of sherry. The grapes are Palomino, the alcohol clocks in at 17% abv and the wine cost about $6 at Trader Joe’s. 

This wine is pale in color and has a very expressive nose. Aromas of almonds, lemon peel and slightly candied apricot are not at all shy about leaping from the glass, along with a healthy minerality. The palate is as dry as a bone, with a ripping acidity. A strong sense of salinity runs through it. I bought it for cooking, but I will enjoy sipping while the food cooks. 

Friday, March 15, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Death Wishes

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 raise our glasses to three films which point out that, though comedy may be difficult, death is a bitch.

2002's Death to Smoochy was directed by Danny DeVito, who also appeared in the film, along with Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Jon Stewart and a host of immediately recognizable character actors. Despite the wealth of talent, Smoochy died a thousand deaths. To say that nobody liked it would be inaccurate, but not too far off the mark. 

Williams plays the host of a TV kiddie show who suffers a debilitating scandal and loses everything he holds dear. How could a comedy with that premise not find an audience? Well, you could ask Bobcat Goldthwait. He did Shakes the Clown a decade before Smoochy, to a similar absence of ticket purchasers. Obviously the general public doesn't see the humor in these movies like I do. 

The disgraced kiddie host funnels his anger towards his replacement, a guy who plays the character of Smoochy the Rhino. Even though Smoochy is the target of numerous failed attempts to get him off the show, it's his cousin Moochy who ends up at the morgue. I'm not worried about this spoiler paragraph. It's not like knowing who dies is going to spoil it for you.

Monterey County's American Vintners has a line called Smooch. I know we're one letter short, but I couldn't resist. The Valentine box features a Cab, a Pinot, a red blend and a rosé for just $69. Value smooching at its finest. 

Death Wish came about in 1974, a time when the crime rate in big American cities was on the rise. The nation wanted a hero, one who was handy with a gun and could get over his non-violent stance with a little push. Enter Charles Bronson

I know he had good reason to adopt his vigilante stance, but this guy couldn't go to the grocery store without killing a couple of muggers on the way. I am reminded of the comment by a comic who spent part of his routine talking about the movies Taken, Taken 2 and Taken 3. The comment was, "Now you’re just being careless."

There were numerous sequels to Death Wish, as well as a whole subgenre of vigilante films that emulated it. 

Bounty Hunter makes a wine called The Vigilante and sells it for around $150 a bottle. It looks to be a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon made from grapes grown in Beckstoffer Vineyard, which earns them that top shelf price.

In 1975's Death Race 2000, a slightly futuristic America is consumed with a road race that is pure blood sport. The Roger Corman production shows a nation where, as the one sheet says, "hit and run driving is no longer a felony. It's a national sport." Think of it as America's Got Bad Drivers or America's Bloodiest Videos or Survivor, For Realz

The drivers are famous, they all have distinct personas and are followed by their fans the way a sports icon might be. In my teen years, when the ink on my driver's license was still wet, my cousins and I jokingly referred to a "points system" in driving. We would sarcastically mention how many points we would get for running down different types of pedestrians. Death Race 2000 removes the joking aspect from the scoring. 

Sonoma County's Adobe Road Winery has a line of racing themed wines, although they are intended to represent more serious racing than that of DR2000. The Racing Series features SHIFT, Apex, Carbon and Redline. They run from $50 and up and get a bit pricey if you buy the four- and six-bottle boxed sets.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

A Spanish White Wine For Spring, Or Anytime

It is late February as I write this, but here in Southern California it feels like spring. Today was gorgeous, if a little cloudy, with temps in the mid 60s and barely a breeze. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m baiting you folks who live in the north and Midwest. I’m not, really. We love our winter weather in L.A., but we pay for it in earthquakes and brush fires, believe me. 

As the weather was right, I thought it would be a good day for a white wine, and I had recently picked up a Spanish white I was interested in trying. Spanish wines are what put me on my path of wine tasting, wine writing and wine loving, so it’s always nice to have a wine from Spain.

The La Granja 360 Verdejo Viura 2022 contains two of my favorite Spanish grape varieties. The blend is 75% Verdejo and 25% Viura. Alcohol resides at 12.5% abv and the price was only about $5 at Trader Joe’s, where I understand it is exclusively available.

La Granja 360 is a proud supporter of Farm Sanctuary, and their grounds are home to many animals, mostly domesticated. Their wines are vegan, using no animal-derived ingredients.

This wine has a nice, yellow-gold tint to it. The nose explodes with flowers, then again with fruit, namely citrus. On the palate, lemon notes are bathed in salinity and an herbal note, maybe bell pepper, comes through. The acidity is nice, but it’s not going to rip off your taste buds. 

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Monday, March 11, 2024

Another Classic From Chianti Classico

If Chianti still makes you think of a lackluster table wine more valuable for the straw-encased bottle that contains it, you should sample some wines from that Italian region, especially from the subregion known as Chianti Classico.  There's not a straw basket to be found.  No candle wax drippings down the side of the bottle, either.  

Ruffino has been around for years.  Here's the way they tell their story: "In 1877 when cousins Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino embraced their passion for winemaking by establishing a small winery in the town of Pontassieve near Florence, the region already had a centuries-old tradition of growing exceptional wine grapes.  Even so, the two Tuscan natives felt certain that much of the area's greatness had yet to be revealed.  Tuscany had been heaped with good fortune: mineral-laden soils, the cooling influence of the Mediterranean Sea, the dry summers that wine grapes favor.  And all those luscious, sun-drenched hills."

Ruffino was one of the first major wineries with vineyard estates in Italy's three most renowned wine-producing regions – Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

The Riserva Ducale was first released by Ruffino in 1927, and it only gets released in vintages that are deemed special.  This Chianti Classico wine is named to honor the Duke of Aosta, who traversed the Alps to try the Ruffino wines.  He liked them so much he named Ruffino as the official wine of the Italian royal family.

The Ruffino website claims that this wine was aged for 24 months in oak, stainless steel and concrete gates, but the label says it was 36 months. An additional three months of bottle aging took place. Oro is mostly estate-grown Sangiovese, with 10% Merlot and 5% Colorino, which is used basically to color the wine darker. Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and it cost me $35 at a hotel gift shop. That seems to be about the going price online, too. 

This wine is colored dark purple, almost inky. The nose is wonderful, with an earthiness leading the way for plum, cherry and tar. The palate is loaded with dark fruit, earth and black pepper. The tannins are fairly smooth, but they work well against a Bolognese sauce. There is a nice acidity and a wonderful herbal finish. 

Friday, March 8, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Spoofery

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week is all about the laffs, as we come up with wines to pair with a trio of films that take a comedic look at other genres. No fooling.

The 1999 sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest pokes fun at TV's Star Trek and the fan base that grew up around it. The cast of the titular fictitious series apparently did such a good job of acting their parts that real aliens took it as a documentary. Is it comforting to know that if aliens attack Earth, TV stars would save us? Maybe if it were Ted Danson. Actual Star Trek actors and their massive fan base gave Galaxy Quest their seal of approval. 

I can't resist pairing this wine with an Official Star Trek Wine. Yes, there is such a thing. I'll pass on the Chateau Picard and go for the Klingon Bloodline Cabernet Sauvignon. It is produced in the fine tradition of the great Klingon vintners. Wait a minute, it's 50 bucks? Nuh uh. I don’t care if the cork does have a Klingon saying on it. It probably translates to, "Sucker!"

Mel Brooks cast a hush over the film industry in 1976 with Silent Movie, a slapstick comedy about a movie producer trying to get a silent film made in the 1970s. Wait, what? Wasn't that what he was actually doing? 

In true Brooksian fashion, fun was poked at all the big names of the silent era, with title cards to describe the action. His regular gang served as the mainstays, while a host of big-name actors appeared in the film that was being made. There is only one spoken word in the movie, and it is delivered by Marcel Marceau. Classic Brooks.

We will have to go with Harumph Wines Napa Cab here, even though the name was taken from another Brooks film, Blazing Saddles. And, even though the wine is apparently only available through allocation. Really. Harumph, indeed. Mel Brooks says it's one of the best California Cabs he has ever tasted. I'll take his word for it.

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is a 2001 spoof of 1950s B-movies. In my teenage years I would watch this sort of thing late at night on the weekends. Back then, you had to actually wait for a crappy movie to be shown on TV. 

There is a scientist in this film whose idea of a good date is to take his gal to look for a meteorite. There is an element called Atmosphereum. There is a device called a transmutatron. There are aliens who pose as humans to steal the meteorite containing Atmosphereum. Even as I write this, I feel tired of this movie, and I'm not watching it at the moment. There was a sequel made, believe it or don't, and a third movie was planned. I don't know if their Kickstarter ever got off the ground. 

Listen, I have a soft spot in my heart for the hopelessly bad. I was a regular viewer of Houston Wrestling, for the lovvagawd. But even movie nerds who rate the films on those online sites can't find it within themselves to give Cadavra three stars. 

There is a wine bar in Madrid called Cadavra, but there are no skeletons reported there. A $10 Cabernet Sauvignon called Kadabra is too far a reach, even for me. Let's go with Sovereign Brands, who bring us a Grüner Veltliner from Austria that's only $10 for the 1L bottle. That's one skeleton I won't mind having in my closet. 

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Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Washington Syrah For My Pot Roast

I was shopping for the goods needed for a pot roast when I spied a wine for less than ten bucks on the top shelf at the market. That's unusual placement, so I picked it up and found that it was a Vintage Upper Left Syrah. The grapes for this wine were grown in Washington's Columbia Valley, which encompasses an enormous portion of the state. I figured I could hardly go wrong by using this wine in my slow-cooker roast.

Winemaker Hal Landviogt has made wines for some three decades, so he knows a thing or twenty about it. He is billed as an unpretentious winemaker who likes to make unpretentious wines. Alcohol in this one resides at 14.2% abv and it was on sale for just $9 at Whole Foods Market.

This wine has a deep purple color, very dark. Aromas of blackberries, leather, tar and black pepper dominate on the nose. The palate follows suit with extremely savory notes of pepper, cardamom, anise and allspice to adorn that dark fruit. The medium length finish is tasty and the mouthfeel is full and round. The tannins are firm enough so that I can pair the wine with the pot roast into which it went.  

Monday, March 4, 2024

Bubbles From Burgundy

You likely know that Crémant is a French sparkling wine made in exactly the same way that Champagne is made, only in a region other than Champagne. That's not the only difference, though. Crémant also often utilizes different grapes than those favored in Champagne: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. 

A Crémant from Alsace may use Pinot Blanc, while one made in the Loire Valley may use Chenin Blanc and one from Burgundy may use Gamay. Here, though, is a Burgundian Crémant which relies on the tried and true grapes of Champagne.

The Albert Bichot Crémant  de Bourgogne Brut Reserve has a blend of 60% Chardonnay grapes and 40% Pinot Noir. The fruit was grown in Beaune, in the areas of Châtillonnais, Côte Chalonnaise & Mâconnais. 

Fifteen percent of the cuvée was aged for six months in oak and the remainder in stainless steel tanks. That’s the standard for reserve sparkling wines at Bichot. The regular stuff only needs 10% of the cuvée aged in wood. After the tank or barrel aging, the wine rests for another 18 to 20 months in the bottle. Alcohol sits at a very Champagne-like 12.5%, but it sells for around $25.

This wine offers plenty of bubbles, which dissipate quickly. The golden wine that remains has aromas of various citrus fruits, dried apricots, minerality and yeasty notes. The palate is savory and toasty, with a good level of acidity. The finish is lengthy, which is a good thing since is tastes so good. 

Friday, March 1, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Road Warriors

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 movies featuring that iconic thing that goes on forever. The Road, and those who love it, travel it, live it.

Freeway, from 1996, is a dark take on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, complete with a very strange visit to Grandma's house. It stars Kiefer Sutherland, Reese Witherspoon, Brooke Shields, Dan Hedaya and Amanda Plummer. Those who love Freeway always mention Witherspoon's performance as the main reason why.

California 12 may not be a freeway, but it is a highway, and it's where Sonoma's Highway 12 Winery got its name. They have road-themed wines like The Highwayman, Camino de Sonoma and, if you don't mind a little Dukes of Hazzard reference, The General.

The 1986 bloodbath known as The Hitcher is the one film to watch if you don't think picking up a hitchhiker is dangerous. Rutger Hauer is the hitcher, so right away you get a bad feeling about nice guy Jim giving this dude a lift. 

The traveling murderer stalks the kid relentlessly along West Texas highways and byways. As the body count spirals upward, you wonder if anyone will be left alive at the end. The Hitcher is not for the squeamish, especially if you think of French fries as finger food. 

I've been "hitching" to find a movie to pair with Hitching Post wines, and it looks like this is the one. Buellton's Gray Hartley and Frank Ostini have been making Santa Barbara County wine since way before this movie was made. Just pick one at random, you can't lose. It's a nice drive to The Hitching Post II restaurant for dinner. Just don't pick up any hitchers along the way.

When Grand Theft Auto was made, back in 1977, I thought great wine was the Spanada my mom kept in the fridge. It was not a great wine year for me, but it was a good vintage for Miller Genuine Draft. Just as there are some occasions that simply call for a can of beer, there are times when all we really need in a movie is a lot of action.

GTA - the movie, not the video game - is a white-knuckle ride featuring car chases, a souped-up Rolls Royce, a police car, of course, and a lot of stuff getting blown up. It's only natural that those stolen cars end up in a demolition derby climax.  

For a wine to pair with Grand Theft Auto, you may want to try some that's made in a place where those cars might have gone to fill 'er up at one time. Calistoga's Tank Garage Winery calls a repurposed gas station home. Try the red blend named Stunt, which features Bordeaux grapes and an old-timey photo of a genuine car stunt on the label.

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