Showing posts with label England. Show all posts
Showing posts with label England. Show all posts

Friday, December 8, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - A Clambake Of Queens

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 screen three films with the word "queen" in the title while wondering where a clambake fits in. Oh, and we have wine pairings for each film. And maybe for the clambake, too.

Let's start with the top queen in the deck, Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. There was a British sparkling wine released for her 70th anniversary on the throne. It was a 2016 vintage blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, of which Her Highness was presumably quite fond. Not that the royal public information officer was at liberty to release any such information. Let's get to the movies.

Barbarian Queen is a 1985 action-packed film from Argentina. I've seen it referenced as a classic, so it must be so. It is also hiding in some places under a different title, Queen of the Naked Steel. The one sheet for Barbarian shows off plenty of naked and plenty of steel. Roger Corman went to Argentina in the 1980s and they wouldn't let him leave until he had made ten pictures. This is one of them.

The film is a sort of female version of Conan the Barbarian. A group of women set out for vengeance against marauders who attacked on the day of a wedding in the village. There is plenty of violence involved in their revenge, both by and against the ladies. As you might guess, several of the women are subjected to sexual assault and torture. This movie may have its legion of fans, but you won't find it screening at Wokefest2024.

Australian producer Fowles has a line called Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch. This collection of styles, from Pinot Gris to Shiraz, gives a gentlemanly tip of the hat to the female hunter/gatherers from the land down under. 

1951's The African Queen pairs Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn as a boat captain and a British missionary. Their trouble-plagued trip down a river in German East Africa would make Colonel Kurtz green with envy. The film earned Bogie his one and only Academy Award. No statue for Kate? How did that happen? Oh, Vivien Leigh won it for Streetcar Named Desire. Okay, I guess I'll let it go. It still doesn't seem right, though.

The steamboat which bears the name African Queen was reportedly once owned by actor Fess Parker. Parker's name is also on a Santa Barbara County winery. How convenient. 

Fess Parker Winery makes a Syrah from Rodney's Vineyard, their main estate plot. Just a suggestion, as they offer a lengthy line of wines which capture the terroir to near perfection. 

Zsa Zsa Gabor stars in 1958's Queen of Outer Space. The film is set waaay in the future (cue the theramin and zoom the camera in and out) in 1985! Yes, the year when mankind would travel to Venus, the female planet. What a disappointment to get there and find that it is ruled by a cruel dictatrix. That's not Zsa Zsa, by the way. 

There is little to no surprise in finding out that it all works out well in the end. Zsa Zsa's character even gets a nice promotion, from beautiful tour guide to… well, I'll not spoil it for you, except to say that the tiara fits her to a T. 

Zsa Zsa reportedly taste-tested some California wines on The Tonight Show in the late 1960s, and found them to her liking. Did she single handedly catapult Napa Valley to wine world dominance with her blessing? More likely that credit goes to the Judgment of Paris, but it's nice to know that Zsa Zsa was on the right side of history. 

Hahndorf Hills Winery of Australia's Adelaide Hills region makes a Zsa Zsa Zweigelt. They say they were the first to grow the German grape in Australia, so they must know what they're doing. Do they know that Zsa Zsa was Hungarian? Who cares? How often do you get a chance to drink a Zweigelt wine?

If you are intent on having a clambake, or any sort of party-oriented meal featuring shellfish, try a Muscadet. The Loire Valley bottling is sometimes labeled as Melon de Bourgogne, even though it is not from Burgundy and has nothing to do with melons. You'll be pleased with it as a crisp accompaniment to a clambake, crabwalk, lobster party or crawfish boil. Well, actually, have a beer with the crawfish.  

Friday, February 10, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - The Kitchen Sink Movement

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, three movies from the early 1960s which make a close examination of some harsh realities. We have wine pairings for each, to take the edge off. 

The Kitchen Sink Movement came about in British arts in the late 1950s. It was an antidote to the prim, fussy attitudes of plays and movies at the time, giving viewers a super-realistic look at life from the seedy underbelly of UK society, whether they wanted it or not.

In 1962's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, the British version of reform school gets a long look. Tom Courtenay takes the lead in his Borstal training and discovers that the lead is something he can choose to give up. Courtenay's character finds out that there is little else to do while running long distances than obsess over the poor life choices that put him under lock and key. Dead dad? Tough. Caught stealing? Too bad. Legs feel tired? C'mon, lad. 

In their Ooh La La album, the Faces made Borstal life sound more like an adventure than the penitential slap in the face it was. "We're up here boy, and you're down there, and don't you forget it." Maybe a good long run will help him forget. Or, maybe not. Forgetting isn't easy. 

Ghostrunner makes only one blend - Cab and Petite Sirah from the Central Coast. But, no matter how far you run - there you are. Drink up, but allow a half hour before undertaking a 5k.

In 1963, Tom Courtenay took the lead again in Billy Liar. His character has a sort of Thurberesque way of dealing with the unpleasantness of his mundane life. He imagines himself to be a hero in some more consequential scenario. Imagining is the extent of his bravado, however, which is underscored when he falls for a gal who seems to have the gumption to actually reach for the fruit that is higher up in the tree.

Does Billy Liar have what it takes to bring himself into full sociopathic bloom? No. He daydreams when he could think, shrugs when he could act. Even when presented with the prospect of the marvelous Julie Christie. He's doomed to live his life in the shadows of what he imagines himself to be. And that's probably good for all concerned if Alex from A Clockwork Orange is seen as the result of his natural evolution. 

Red 55 Winery has White Liar Chardonnay available for less than $20. The song of that name was a big hit for Miranda Lambert in 2009, in case you had forgotten. Red 55 is run by the family of that Texas songstress. If it makes you feel any better about purchasing from a celebrity winery which features Valentine's Day party packs, a wine called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and an Electric Pink White Zinfandel, it was named after Miranda's first pickup truck, a red '55 stepside. 

Sidney Furie's The Leather Boys is about a gay biker in London's rocker subculture. The film was pretty steamy for its time and has been hailed as a watershed moment in queer cinema. Everybody seems to be sleeping with everybody else, and no one is really all that happy about it. Ah, life in the south London suburbs - all the grit, at no extra charge.

There is an unhappy marriage, a fake pregnancy, a motorcycle race, a homosexual encounter and a dream of a better life in America dashed on the rocks by the gay pub. 

I was tempted to pair a wine from the southern Rhône Valley with this film, due to the hint of leather one would expect on the nose. Then I found this Paso Robles Zinfandel from Four Vines, The Biker. The label shows a young lady biker who has limited the leather to her head and feet, opting for lace elsewhere.

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout

There is a brewery in northern England that produces some great beer, sends it down the road in horse-drawn carts and around the world in more modern shipping conveyances.  Samuel Smith's Brewery lays claim to being the oldest in Yorkshire, established in 1758.

They brew a number of beers using natural ingredients, sometimes even organic.  The Samuel Smith's fermentation process happens in large containers which they call stone Yorkshire Squares, made from solid blocks of slate.  The same yeast strain has been used since the 1800s. 

The grist - malted barley - is mixed with heated well water from the original well on the property.  This happens in copper mash tuns, then sent on to antique boiling coppers where English hop varieties like Fuggles and Goldings are added for bitterness and aroma.  Next up, the copper hop backs, where the spent hops are removed from the wort.

Samuel Smith's uses handmade oak casks for all its ale. The casks are made and repaired at the Old Brewery by their cooper, who is employed full-time.

All this care and attention come to fruition in Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout.  Brewed using organic chocolate malt and organic cocoa, it blends the best of both worlds - stout and chocolate.  Alcohol is a session-sized 5% abv.

I had the brew over the holidays, a great time for anything chocolate.  The chocolatey sweetness mixes beautifully with the bitterness of the beer.  It is not too heavy, so it makes a great after-dinner stout.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Martini Time: Boodles Gin

Boodles is a British, London Dry gin that has been around since 1845. The company was named after Boodles gentlemen's club, run by one Edward Boodles. This is the gin that was reputedly served there and is believed to have been a favorite of Winston Churchill, although other gins also make that claim. Who wouldn't? This "proper British gin" is now made at the Greenall's distillery

The Boodles crest offers "labour and patience" as two of the gin's ingredients. The company claims Boodles is a "clean spirit distilled from British wheat and then infused with a number of traditional herbs and spices, including nutmeg, sage, and rosemary." The PR department says Boodles is known for its "distinctive floral nose and lingering juniper flavor, with a clean finish," and that sounds fairly accurate. Nine botanicals make up Boodles -  it's just fun to say - and contribute to its aroma and taste. Juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and seed, cassia bark, caraway seed, nutmeg, rosemary and sage are all blended together to make Boodles. They claim they are the only gin to contain nutmeg, rosemary and sage in its recipe.

There are some piney notes on the nose, from the juniper, and a floral element, but both are quiet. The gin tastes very elegant and smooth, at 45.2% abv. No citrus botanicals are used, unlike other London dry gins. They figure you’ll put a slice of lemon or lime in your cocktail, so there's no need. Boodles also makes a Mulberry gin, which I gather is like a sloe gin, except made with mulberries.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Plymouth Gin

Plymouth Gin comes from the seaport town of Plymouth, England, and there is only one distillery there making it. It has changed hands a few times since its birth in the 18th century, but the recipe has remained a prize of British history.  I was invited to an interesting evening in Los Angeles in which the atmosphere of their Refectory Cocktail Bar was created at a pop-up at the Lost Property bar on Vine Street in Hollywood.  Master Distiller Sean Harrison and International Brand Ambassador Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge were on hand to give the joint an even more British flair.  The fleet of bartenders were creating and pouring all 32 drinks from the Refectory Bar menu, and I sampled a few of the more definitive ones.

Plymouth Gin is slightly less dry than the London style and has a more herbal quality to it along with a juniper flavor. I'm not an expert on gin, but on this evening I didn’t have to be. I just had to like it. Easy.

Gin is actually Dutch, not British. In fact, British soldiers discovered the spirit while in Holland and brought it back home with them. If you are ever going to use the phrase "for medicinal purposes" as an excuse to drink, it had better be with gin. British sailors used gin mixed with lime juice to prevent scurvy while on long sea voyages. Gin and bitters help settle an upset tummy. Quinine fights malaria, so have a gin and tonic.

The "Marguerite" is made from Plymouth Gin, French dry vermouth and orange bitters.  It is stirred chilled and served straight up in a gimlet glass. The lemon spray leaves a vigorous citrus aroma and the drink shows off its herbs to the fullest. Light and smooth, it's a great "anytime" cocktail.

The "Pink Gin" comes three different ways. The Modern Long is mixed in a tall glass with soda, on the rocks.  The Gin Pahit apparently originated in Britain's colonial days in India, with more Angostura Bitters. I ordered the Classic, which is like a very dry martini, served in the same type of glass. Citrus spray again makes a refreshing nose and it’s quite a bit more dry than the dirty martini I favor.

The "Gin Pennant" adds Plymouth Sloe Gin to orange and lemon juice, syrup, soda and a dash of apricot liqueur to the Plymouth Gin base.  It's built in a very unusual glass and served on the rocks. It's a sweet and easy cocktail with a straw. You get a nose full of mint when you go for the sip. It reminds me of the sweet drinks I would concoct in my college days, only far, far better.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011


Wine News

The British royal family has certainly consumed enough sparkling wine - now they plan to make their own.  TheTelegraph reports that the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, is closely involved in a project to plant new vines of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier in a section of Windsor Great Park.  The intention is to produce a royal sparkling wine.

The English wine industry is looking at this development as a huge boon.  According to the article, English wine had a banner year in 2010 with more than four million bottles of wine produced in England.

Master of Wine and viticultural consultant Stephen Skelton is also involved in the project, according to the Telegraph.  He planted the first vines at Chapel Downs in 1976.  Chapel Downs is now Britain's biggest wine producer.

Vineyards require three years to produce wine grapes, so there will be a wait for the royal vintages to start rolling out.  The Telegraph observes that many hope it will be a royal sparkling wine which is hoisted in toasts at the next royal wedding.

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