Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts

Friday, November 17, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - More Movies You Never Heard Of With Larry Karaszewski

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, TFH guru Larry Karaszewski will turn over a few stones and expose movies you never knew existed. While he is doing that, I will try to expose some nice wines to pair with the films.

I have always been a fan of things nobody else knew about. It's fun to feel like you have some inside knowledge. I remember, before everyone could sing along with Van Morrison's Moondance, dropping it onto a party tape now and then. I would put the cassette in the machine and just wait for the oohs and aahs to start. I was a lot like the John Cusack character in High Fidelity, but without the Top Ten lists.

Today, I do that with wine grapes. Everyone already knows about Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. My wheelhouse is something like Picpoul. I can bore you to death with some etymological nonsense about how the grape's name comes from the French phrase meaning "lip stinger," but you’ve been kind enough to read this far, so I'll spare you.

I may suggest to you what to drink, but I won't hold it against you if you opt for a White Zinfandel instead. Just don't hold it against me if I've never heard of your favorite movies and choose to watch Blake Edwards’ S.O.B. Again.

I Start Counting is from 1970. It is described as a coming-of-age thriller in which a teen suspects her brother of being a serial killer. That sort of thing makes you come of age real fast. I'm sure we’ve all suspected a family member or two of being serial killers. No? Too soon? For me it was a distant cousin, and the more distant, the better.

I wouldn't say Counting has a happy ending, unless structural demolition is your thing. At least the ending is merciful.

They say that years of age and glasses of wine should never be counted. That should go double for an old guy who is an actual Hungarian Count. For I Start Counting, let's pair Count Karolyi Grüner Veltliner. Now there is a snobby grape. And a good one, one of which you have possibly never heard. Hear me now, thank me later. Count on Grüner Veltliner. 

From 1970, Sunflower is a sad movie about sad people during a sad time. It is set in WWII. Sophia Loren plays Giovanna while Marcello Mastroianni plays Antonio. The war separates them for longer than either of them could have predicted. It's a real tearjerker, so try not to let your tears fall into your wine glass. It dilutes, adds salt, not a good thing.

Turkovich Winery is in Winters, CA, about midway between St. Helena and Sacramento. That ensures that you'll get the right blend of vineyards and state government. And, those Yolo County sunflower fields are something else. Their top shelf Chardonnay sells for about 40 bucks, but their Roussanne is only $23. You know my choice. 

Shoot First Die Later 1974 was directed by Fernando Di Leo. It is an Italian crime noir, or Spaghetti crime movie, if you will. And we know you will. The story involves a cop who tries to stay mostly on the right side of the law, but ends up on the wrong side of the bad guys. If it were only him at risk, he would be okay with it. But, naturally, other people start dropping like flies around him. Looks like he needs to holster up. 

We want a blood-red Italian wine for Shoot First, and why not look to Sicily? The Donnafugata Floramundi is a Nero d'Avola with a dark undercurrent. Made by a nice Sicilian family. You gonna like it. Buy some. Capiche?

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Friday, November 10, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Bela/Boris Halloween Hangover

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 serve up some leftover Halloween candy in the form of three films featuring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Oh, and we have wine pairings for each as usual.

The Invisible Ray came from 1936, just 38 years after Marie Curie discovered radioactivity. The movie stars both Bela and Boris, with Lugosi as a scientist who tries to cure his friend, Karloff, of radiation poisoning. Script says, a meteorite Karloff touched made him glow in the dark. Ha ha, pretty funny, you say. Well, he also kills anyone he touches, if that toughens up the story line for you. 

No doubt, you expect me to come up with a radioactive wine for The Invisible Ray. Well, grab a bottle from the rack. There. That's radioactive. Scientists say that wine grapes pick up trace amounts of isotopes and are therefore radioactive. So are eggplants, and tomatoes, so don't freak out. Any wine bottled since the 1940s is likely to have those trace amounts of radiation. 

However, I am contractually obligated to provide a specific wine to pair with this movie. Make it an atomic wine. The Atom Half Life Chardonnay won’t give you Karloff's "touch of death," but the California concoction will likely have a nice, buttery flavor.

Karloff starred in 1944's House of Frankenstein, along with Lon Chaney, Jr. and John Carradine. You also have Count Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein's monster in the mix here, so there is no shortage of Universal monster properties. 

Karloff plays Dr. Gustav Niemann, who escapes prison and jumps right into a plan to make a new body for his assistant. A parole officer would have been proud. The assistant has a hunchback, by the way, which is the cherry on top of this horror movie sundae. 

And it is the connection to our wine pairing. From Victor Hugo Winery in Paso Robles, Hunchback. You read that right. A wine called Hunchback, from a winery called Victor Hugo which has absolutely nothing to do with the author of the same name. It is a blend of Merlot, Tannat, Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel, so there's that

1932's White Zombie is credited with being the first zombie movie. Lugosi stars as a zombie master. Listen, if you have to be around a bunch of zombies, it is best to be their boss. His character's name is Murder Legendre, and you three guesses as to whether he is a good guy or a bad guy. The first two don't count. Clue: his name is murder. 

Bela's family keeps his name alive with Bela Lugosi Wines. They happen to make the perfect pairing for this film, White Zombie Chardonnay. It is crafted from Santa Barbara County grapes, which doesn't matter at all to a zombie, but should be important to you.  

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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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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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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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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.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Star Struck

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 put stars in our eyes. 

I have a friend who puts on wine tasting events. He calls his shows, "Stars of" events. Stars of Napa Valley, Stars of Santa Barbara, Stars of Pinot Noir, Stars of Temecula. I think he may have missed that last one, actually. The point is, and there is one, that wine has tremendous star power. It is seductive and everyone wants a piece of it. Let's find out which wines we can pair with Stars of the Silver Screen.

From 1968 comes Star! I have to make sure the title of the movie is the last word in the sentence, so that the punctuation mark is in the right place. It is a biopic, featuring a star playing a star. Julie Andrews has the role of noted stage actress Gertrude Lawrence. She had a life of laughs, loves and liver cancer. You know you were living the high life when your organs throw up their imaginary hands and say, "uncle!"

La Maialina makes a Super Tuscan red blend called Gertrude which sells for under $20, and while I don't think Lawrence would have turned it down, she probably would have preferred something a little livelier. Let's pop the cork on a sparkling wine from, of all places, Michigan. M. Lawrence makes a brut rosé called Sex, which I'm sure would have met with Gertrude's approval. 

The version of A Star Is Born which hit the screens in 1976 was a remake of the 1937 original. It was the second of three remakes, but who's counting? The story has Janet Gaynor, er, Judy Garland, er, Lady Gaga… I'm sorry, I've got my remakes mixed. The well-trod story has Barbara Streisand as the up-and-coming singer who hooks up with a big star and passes him on his way down. 

There is a Barbara Streisand wine, a Chardonnay offered by Celebrity Cellars. The fact that it is a 1996 vintage is puzzling. Either they were incredibly judicious about doling it out over the decades or it didn't sell well at all. You can find out which it is for $40. Or, you can pick up a wine from Barbara's neighborhood, Malibu. Saddlerock Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is available in the 2013 and 2014 vintages for less than $60.

Battle Beyond the Stars is a 1980 space opera. Of course, the term space opera refers to stories told in outer space in the same way horse opera refers to westerns. There are no arias, coloraturas or librettos here, but every movie set has to have a prima donna on it somewhere. 

The movie reworks the story of The Magnificent Seven, which itself reworked The Seven Samurai. So this tale has come from ancient Japan, through the American West, and into outer space. Try doing that with Citizen Kane.

The film provided big breaks for James Cameron, John Sayles and Bill Paxton, although Paxton's contribution was working on the set as a carpenter. Early days, yes.

A futuristic movie deserves a futuristic wine. Future Perfect Wine is located in Los Olivos, and they make wines from some of Santa Barbara County's best vineyards. The 2022 Dry Riesling hails from Gainey Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley and sells for $45.

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Friday, September 22, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Funny, You Don't Look Noirish

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 movies from the film noir department. 

Noir is a word which is near and dear to the hearts of movie lovers and wine lovers alike. Film noir puts the accent on that which is dark and maybe a bit mysterious. The movies in this category are generally moody, brooding, temperamental sorts. They aren't always black and white but they always depict a world that is made up of shadows.

In wine, noir is most commonly associated with the Pinot Noir grape. These wines are generally moody, brooding, temperamental sorts, too. They depict a wine world that is dark and mysterious, but they often lean into elegance. 

In Sideways, Miles describes Pinot Noir as "thin-skinned and temperamental," a grape that needs "constant care and attention," one that can't grow just anywhere or be grown by just anybody. Of course he is actually describing himself. 

You can also find Grenache Noir, although the noir there is used only to differentiate it from Grenache Blanc. Baco Noir is a North American hybrid grape from which wine is made largely in the Northeast and Canada. 

Johnny Eager is a 1941 film noir of the finest kind, full of treachery, lies and lust, coming at you from every angle. There is even a cruel twist of fate thrown in, just to underscore that what happened simply had to happen. That's film noir, Jake. Robert Taylor, Lana Turner and Van Heflin play off of each other like they were born to do so. 

A Pinot Noir to pair with Johnny Eager has to be as dark and brooding as the grape can get, with the slick panache of Taylor and the smoldering beauty of Turner. Migration Winery is in Napa but they drove south to pick grapes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria. That patch of ground is as close you get to a grand cru vineyard in the US of A. Their 2016 Pinot goes for $75, but they have already sold out of a handful of vintages so don't wait.

2011's Drive features Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood Jack-of-all-trades, one of those trades being a getaway driver for bad guys. When Gosling was a teenage Mouseketeer, more people probably pegged him as the future star of La La Land and Barbie rather than a moody criminal cohort. So much for typecasting. He plays dark really well. As an added bonus, Albert Brooks finally gets to play a guy who gets nobody's sympathy. 

Drive Wines started as a hobby, in a garage in Sonoma County. They were not driving getaways in their spare time, they were too busy making wine. Their $38 Quan Vineyard Pinot Noir hails from Los Carneros grapes. Drive, a garage, CARneros, this is fitting together too perfectly. 

The Big Sleep has Bogie and Bacall in their 1946 noir splendor. Everyone in this movie is running from someone else, except of course hard-boiled private eye Philip Marlowe. He's probably the man you see when you look over your shoulder. Humphrey Bogart makes murder and intrigue look about as hard as leaning against a wall and flipping a coin. Lauren Bacall sings "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" with just the right amount of hair-flip I don't care. 

Try The Big Sleep Cocktail: cognac, champagne, sugar and a squeeze of lemon. I hear it's pretty good. But we need something a bit darker, don't we? Talbott's Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir brings the magic of the Santa Lucia Highlands to us for a bit less than $40 a bottle. That AVA name, Santa Lucia Highlands, always makes me want to hear "The Happy Wanderer" on bagpipes, even though I know it's in Monterey County.

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Friday, September 15, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Getting Dark

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 dealing in darkness. 

Darkness is a hallmark of a good wine. Red wine, anyway. If you have a dark white wine, you may have a rosé. Or you may have one of Bill Pullman's Chardonnays from Bottle Shock

Red wines should be dark, I think, and the darker the better. That goes for the smell, too. Some folks don’t feel that a smell can be dark, but I disagree. Blackberry? Blueberry? Cassis? Pepper? All dark, and all perfectly good descriptors for perfectly good red wines. 

The 2019 film, Dark Waters, stars Mark Ruffalo, the guy who should play me in my biopic if Bill Pullman is unavailable. It covers the legal action after the discovery in the 1990s that DuPont was killing cattle with a dump of its toxic leftovers. Toxic leftovers is what we call the menu at the food truck down the street. 

This poisonous dreck was a byproduct of making Teflon, and was not only killing cows in West Virginia but also giving the good people of The Mountain State cancer. Teflon or not, the court challenges did stick, costing DuPont hundreds of millions of dollars. And that was back when hundreds of millions of dollars was real money.

For Dark Waters, we could look to West Virginia for a nice red wine, if it were more of a wine-friendly state. The top wineries in the WV do use some traditional wine grapes, but they rely a lot on varieties like Vidal Blanc and Noirette, when they aren't going with blackberries or vegetables. I am told the garlicky Kirkwood Appalachian Ramp Wine is great for cooking, but I'm going to let you find out about that.

 Let's pair Cosentino's The Dark, a $25 Lodi red wine described in the blurb as "dark and brooding," which also probably describes the mood of someone choking down a wine made from ramps. Or the boardroom at DuPont after Dark Waters hit the screens. 

The Dark Crystal is from 1982. This dark fantasy was directed by muppet masters Jim Henson and Frank Oz. It is one of those fantasy stories where every third word is a made-up person, thing, activity or place, so there is no making sense of it unless you buy into it and watch.

The action hinges around the Crystal of Truth, which is broken and needs to be fixed before the three suns merge. Leave it to some cute little animatronic Gelflings to save the world, whichever world it is that they are in. 

Pair Apothic Dark with The Dark Crystal, a red wine bearing the California appellation. If you've ever had the regular Apothic, you probably thought that was the dark one. Apothic Dark is frightfully dark, enough so that we can just go ahead and call it black. As in a black hole, as in no light gets through. As in the pot and the kettle are green with envy.

For those who feel that Westerns don't have nearly enough vampires in them, there is 1987's Near Dark. It features the late Bill Paxton, the guy who would have played me in my biopic if Mark Ruffalo and Bill Pullman were both unavailable. He gets a rare chance in this film to portray a psychotic vampire, no doubt the only such role on his IMDB page.

The movie-going public found a lot to like in the wedding of the Western and horror genres, with a little biker movie action thrown in for good measure. Near Dark was Kathryn Bigelow's debut as a director back in the '80s, when all things vampire were really hot. She has made some very popular films since then, including Point Break, The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty

For Near Dark, here is VDR - Very Dark Red. It's a Monterey County blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah. All those magical grapes for right around $20. And no one gets bitten on the neck. 

Friday, September 8, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Dunaway Went Thataway

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 a trio of Faye Dunaway films. 

It is tempting to just skip the wine and make a pitcher of Faye Dunaway cocktails instead. However, with six ingredients and muddling involved, it is far too complicated for me to make. Half of those ingredients are vodka, mango juice and jalapeño peppers, none of which are cocktail faves for me, so I'll be in the wine aisle.

In the 1970 drama, Puzzle of a Downfall Child, Dunaway plays a former fashion model who whiles away the hours of the day at a beach house. Nice work if you can get it. She looks back on her life of debauchery, a composite of sex, drugs, deceit, and probably a glass of wine here and there, and cannot find any good memories to pluck from it. Well, that is certainly puzzling. All that debauchery, and no good memories? Very puzzling.

It is puzzling enough to send me into the word association vault, where only the finest wine pairings for movies reside. In there, I spied a dusty bottle from Napa Valley, from a producer named Newton. The Puzzle is a red blend which brings together the big 5 Bordeaux grape varieties with no regrets at all. If you are looking for debauchery, The Puzzle is a good place to start. I saw the 2018 vintage going for $150. 

Would Faye herself like a glass or two of it? Maybe. Her character in Puzzle most certainly would. But she wouldn't enjoy it. Her character in Barfly would just take a bottle of vodka. 

The 1974 neo-noir classic, Chinatown, features Dunaway in what was instantly hailed as one of the best films ever made. It was recently described in The Offer, offhandedly, as possessing the winning combination of incest and water rights. Well, it goes to show, you never know what people will pay to see. 

Chinatown is a puzzle of its own. Why is that water gushing from the reservoir every night? Who killed that guy? Why did this guy cut my nose? Is she really her? My sister? My daughter? So many questions, too many answers. Riddle me this: what wine will we pour for Chinatown?

Let's try some pink wine from France. Hampton Water rosé comes from the Languedoc, from winemaker Gerard Bertrand. It is actually the brainchild of Jesse and Jon Bon Jovi, and Hampton Water contributes to the It Gets Better program, which supports LGBTQ+ youth around the world. 

Mommie Dearest had 1981 Dunaway cast as Joan Crawford. It seems I remember a trailer for the movie, probably a spoof, selling Mommie as a horror film. The "no wire hangers" line played into that concept significantly. Mommie Dearest did sell Crawford as an abusive drunk, which pushes a wine pairing for the movie out of the realm of comedy and into tragedy. 

Sometime between then and now, the idea of "mommy wine" was born. It isn't difficult to find online offers of clothing, wine glasses, decor items, mouse pads, and shower curtains emblazoned with the notion that "Mommy needs a glass of wine." Conceivably, there are a few items with Crawford's face emblazoned on them as well. We are in toxic territory with the mommy wine culture. There are many out there who feel that if Mommy is so stressed out from being a parent, a glass of wine may not be the proper method of dealing with that stress. 

Anyway, Mommy's Time Out Pinot Grigio is our pairing here, for better or worse. It's a bottom shelf bottling which sells for less than ten bucks, so mommy can afford all the stress relief she needs. It also comes in other "flavors."

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Friday, September 1, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Pre Code Follies

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 go back… way back… back into time… to an era when there was no Hays Code. 

It seems so unfair that a short time after movies learned to talk, someone came along to try and make them shut up. The Hays Code may not have taken the words from the actors' mouths, but it often gave them different words to speak. What Prohibition was to booze, the Hays Code wanted to be to movies.

In the 1931 classic, Safe in Hell, a woman accused of murder runs away to what is described in some places as a "South Pacific paradise." The place where she actually sought refuge was Tortuga, an island in the Caribbean, specifically Haiti. 

Haitian wine is tough to find, because the grape industry in the Caribbean has found it difficult to get a toehold. The climate just doesn't cooperate. Anyway, why make wine with all that sugar cane growing? Rum is the export from Haiti and their neighboring nations. But occasionally a winemaker gets away. Bertony Faustin makes wine in Oregon. He was born to Haitian immigrants and says he does not drink alcohol. He thinks of himself as a farmer first, raising Pinot Noir grapes in one of the Pinot Noir-iest places in America. He is also on the books as the first black winemaker in Oregon. His Pinot goes for $50 and up. Pair his wine with Safe in Hell and let the Hays Code be damned. 

1933's International House features a who's who of radio and vaudeville performers of the day, complete with some blue humor, since there was no Hays Code to worry the producers. There are a few songs along the way, like Cab Calloway and his Harlem Maniacs doing Reefer Man. Try that with Mr. Hays looking over your shoulder. 

At the top of the bill is W. C. Fields, a guy who I paraphrase every time I cook with wine. You know, "...sometimes I even add it to the food." My wife tells me that joke never gets tiresome. Never. Not even a little bit. Burns and Allen do their thing, Bela Lugosi is on hand and Rose Marie livens up the proceedings in her special way.

A movie this wild deserves a wild wine pairing. Pop the cork on a nice bottle of Champagne. The good stuff gets pretty rich pretty fast, but a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte Reserve Exclusive Brut Blue Label can be yours for the wild price of two $20 bills. Or fire up a reefer and enjoy. 

Wild Boys of the Road, another one from 1933, is a teen movie of the most depressing kind. The kind from the Great Depression, in fact. A group of kids wind up in dire straits and jump a train to try and find a better life in hoboville. There's no better life there. It actually gets worse before it gets better, with rape, murder and a disfiguring accident. But, it does get better. 

The year this movie was made, the national nightmare of Prohibition was repealed. However, most wineries had been forced to board up the windows if they couldn't swing a deal making sacramental wine. That was the only booze legally being made for those dark 13 years. And a winery right here in lil' ol' Los Angeles stayed open thanks to the blood of Christ, simulated as it may have been. 

Back in the day, the San Antonio Winery vineyards were right around the building - steps from the L.A. River, just a cork's throw from Chavez Ravine. Now, the grapes come from their vineyards in Napa Valley, Monterey County and Paso Robles. The winery is still just southeast of Dodger Stadium. Depression or no depression, the Riboli family not only survived, they thrived. 

You can hardly go anywhere these days without seeing a billboard advertising their Stella Rosa brand, wine made in Italy and brought to our shores in big ships. San Simeon brings a taste of Paso Robles to the table and Windstream comes from the Santa Lucia Highlands. All of the wines carry the thread of Depression Era America through them. Lift a glass to the teenaged hobos of Wild Boys of the Road

Friday, August 25, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Waterlogged

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 don our snorkeling gear for a dip in the cool waters of celluloid. Wine pairings for those flicks await you onshore.

The 2020 thriller, Underwater, has no exclamation point after the word, which helps, along with many other things, to differentiate it from the 1955 movie that does have the exclamation point. Usually it is overuse of commas that gets me into trouble with the punctuation police. 

Wine is not, despite what some people think, alcohol with water in it. That's called scotch and water, or gin and tonic, or a wet martini. These days, some folks are putting their wines under the water for aging purposes. They feel the gentle movement of the waves will offer some assistance in getting the wine to its senior years.

One wine seller recently had to pour out two thousand bottles of their wine which had been gently swaying in the waters off Santa Barbara. They put those cases below the waves without the permission of the California Coastal Commission, which branded the wine "unfit for human consumption." That also describes some wines I've had in the past, and some movies I've seen.

In Underwater, an earthquake hammers an undersea drilling facility and the crew has to escape. Making it difficult are a lack of escape pods, a long underwater walk to another facility, and monsters. I guess the monsters are probably their biggest hurdle.

Let's pair a wine with Underwater which has actually spent some time underwater, but with the proper permits. Croatia's Edivo Vina Winery is above ground along the Adriatic Sea, but their Navis Mysterium wine is aged for a couple of years below the waves. A bottle of this seafaring vino can run up to $400, but it comes in a nice wooden box. Use that for burying your wine budget.

She Gods of Shark Reef livened up 1958 for B-movie fans. Director Roger Corman says he doesn't remember any She Gods in the picture, but there are some beautiful hula dancers in it, who are given considerable time in a movie that is only seconds more than an hour long.

There are sharks in the movie, and that makes a wine pairing easy. Look for a golfer whose nickname is "The Great White Shark." Greg Norman Estates has good stuff from California, Australia and New Zealand. None are named "Shark" but each has the telltale fin on the label. 

What story there is follows a shipwrecked pair of brothers in a tropical paradise populated with beautiful hula dancers. One of the brothers is a good guy and the other is a bad guy. That's how it goes in adventure films. By the way, you won't see many other movies in which the shark is a good guy, at least comparatively. 

1954's Creature from the Black Lagoon has probably influenced more pop culture than any other man-in-a-suit movie. The Gill-man turns up in video games on the casino floor, a Dave Edmunds song was written about him, and he even stars in homoerotic literature, not to mention the raft of movie monsters that were inspired by or patterned after him.

When it comes to instinct-driven characters in the movies, the creature has primal motivation. Does Gill-man want to kill? No. Does he want to destroy? Not really. Does he want to find a way back home? Hell no. He wants the girl. I've already got a girl, so I'll be happy with a bottle of wine.

Black Lagoon Carignan has no doubt been waiting for just this pairing. The wine comes from the south of France - Languedoc-Roussillon, to be precise - and has a depiction of the creature on the label. At least, I’m guessing it is the Gill-man. It looks like it could be a pair of frog's legs, which is not a bad idea for what to nibble on while watching and imbibing. 

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Friday, August 18, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - The Friedkin Connection

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 say goodbye to another great. Director William Friedkin has left us these films by which to remember him while we drink.

When we think of Friedkin, we naturally think of The Exorcist, from 1973. That's a film that prompted a lot of people to drink, if only to try and forget the pea-soup vomiting scenes. Of course, there were plenty of things we tried to drink away that year. Vietnam. Nixon. Watergate. Match Game '73. Just to name a few. Hey, maybe the devil made that 18-minute gap in the White House tapes!

Back to pea-soup vomiting. That makes us think of excessive consumption of green beverages. Or is it just me? Chartreuse, Midori and crème de menthe are perfectly good spirits to effect a green remembrance of the night's boozing, but absinthe is my favorite green meanie. If you are skipping the viewing of The Exorcist, these verdant cocktails might come in handy on St. Patrick's Day. 

The film offered several other moments of fright, like Linda Blair's head spinning, bed levitation, the crucifix scene, and one of the more gut-wrenching medical procedures outside of the dental sequence in Marathon Man.

Friedkin was not the first choice to direct The Exorcist. Or the second. Or the third. In fact, a good chunk of the roll call at the DGA had first crack at it. Friedkin got it, however, with a little help from the book's author, William Peter Blatty. He thought Friedkin's documentary background would bring an element of realism to the film. He was right.

Two sequels to The Exorcist were made, along with a short-lived television series, and now three new sequels are planned for the near future. I don't know about you, but sequels usually drive me to drink. Get those green cocktails ready to pour.

Now, when we think of France we think of wine, right? But The French Connection is an American movie, so let's not rush to Bordeaux. The French Connection Winery, in the Texas Hill Country, produces wines using Texas-grown Rhône grapes. Syrah, Roussanne and Viognier all grace their wine list, of course. But this winery also slaps a cowboy hat on Counoise. That's ballsy. Their slug line, "Santé, y'all," is a registered trademark, so be careful how you use it in your everyday life.

New Mexico's Gruet Winery makes a highly respected sparkling wine using in-state grapes and fruit from Washington and California. It was started by a Bordeaux winemaker who apparently thought just making wine wasn't hard enough. "Let's do it in New Mexico!" Gruet is another French connection in American wine.

Friedkin directed The French Connection all the way to an Oscar for Best Directing. That is a bit like a wine lover becoming a Master Sommelier. It looks very good on a résumé, but once it is on your résumé, you probably don't need a résumé anymore. They'll be calling you.

In the 1971 classic, Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider play a couple of cops who are just trying to keep the streets of the Big Apple clean. Their dream of a drug-free NYC is way out of reach, and they know it. But Popeye Doyle will wave goodbye to that little Frenchman if it's the last thing he does. 

The pursuit of that French drug smuggler is the most tenacious thing ever put on celluloid. Friedkin has said that the car chase scene was a last-minute addition to the script and was a real seat-of-the-pants production where his documentary skills paid off. The car reportedly covered 26 blocks at high speed with nary a city permit in hand. He later said it was so dangerous that he would never stage that sort of stunt again. 

Friedkin and Scheider would work together again in 1977 on Sorcerer. Do you want to talk about a bad beat? Friedkin's Sorcerer came out in the same year as Star Wars. Consider your thunder stolen. Some say Sorcerer is a remake of 1953's The Wages of Fear, although that "some" does not include Mr. Friedkin. He should know - he made the movie.

If Sorcerer is a forgotten classic, let me refresh your memory. Four desperate men are assigned to haul some nitroglycerin somewhere in South America. Do they have any special training for this? Of course not - if they did, it's a documentary.  If you are watching and wondering, "Hey, where da Sorcerer at?" have no fear. It's the name of one of the nitro-hauling trucks.

I had the pleasure of seeing Sorcerer in a beautiful 35-millimeter print, with plenty of inexpensive popcorn at the concession stand. Thank you, New Beverly Cinema! Sorcerer shows that desperate, untrained men handling explosives rarely end up in a positive situation, but usually they make a great story.

I simply didn't have the heart to pair a Bulgarian wine called Explosion with Sorcerer. I took a similar hard pass on any wine-related item which featured Mickey Mouse in a sorcerer's hat, and I urge you to do the same. 

Família Geisse makes some of the top sparkling wines in the America from the southern hemisphere - in big, bad Brazil, in fact. If you're feeling reckless, shake up a bottle and let it rip.

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Friday, August 11, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Hill Country

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 comes up with wine pairings for three films directed by Hill, Walter Hill. It's Hill Country.

Hill is known as something of a cowboy, a rough-hewn writer in a cowhide director's chair. He brought his bravado in 1984 to Streets of Fire, a rock and roll musical that melded together the MTV '80s and the High School Confidential '50s. 

Everyone involved with the picture was excited about the prospect of a trilogy featuring the hero character Tom Cody, until the film tanked at the box office. Then, it was a race to see who could distance themselves from it the fastest. The critics of the day seemed to be rooting for Streets to be a good picture, while admitting that it just didn't cut the mustard. 

Hill says he found that shooting music was tougher than he thought it would be. He may have come away with a newfound respect for directors of those MTV music videos, which his film tried to emulate. 

It was reported that Hill also found it tough to work with a cast full of "kids" - nobody in the film was over 30. One actor remembered Hill saying, "Don't ask me how to act! I'm a director!" Those "kids" - Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Amy Madigan, Bill Paxton, Rick Moranis - who would want that bunch of toddlers asking their questions and making you late for happy hour? 

I don't know if anyone calls Walter Hill "Walt," but maybe they will after this pairing. Sonoma's WALT Wines specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. That may be a little fancy for a rawhide guy like Hill, but he might drink it if there was no bourbon laying around. 

Hard Times was Hill's 1975 debut as a director. The casting gods gave him a lot to work with in his inaugural outing. Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Jill Ireland and, as if those names weren't enough, Strother freaking Martin. The names look great on a marquee or a one-sheet, but as with music and younger actors, Hill managed to find some difficulty. Bronson got along with him great, until after the film. The he-man was reportedly upset with the way Hill edited scenes involving Ireland, Bronson's wife. Hill says that Coburn and Martin provided some difficult days on the set. 

The Depression-era, bare knuckles streetfighter portrayed by Bronson in Hard Times struck a good nerve with people. The south Louisiana setting worked well and critics liked the film enough to scrawl out some kind words about it. The general public was even kinder, giving up their hard-earned dollar bills to see it. 

How could we not enjoy a good ol' Temecula wine with Hard Times, particularly when it is a Bare Knuckle Malbec? Don't sell Temecula short. There are some high quality wines being made in Riverside County.

Hill went back to the Bayou State in 1981 for Southern Comfort, an action film set in the swamp. The story is a military version of Deliverance. A squad of National Guardsmen are slogging through bivouacs and get on the wrong side of some of the locals. Watch Southern Comfort and Deliverance for a textbook lesson on what happens when you and your dumbass friends antagonize the hicks. Squeal like a pig, indeed. Squeal like a nutria rat.

Hill says he is proud of the movie, even though it failed to attract an audience. Looking back, it is hard to understand how people didn't flock to see Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Fred Ward and Peter Coyote. Even the music, by Ry Cooder, was outstanding. Hill remembers that he would have been happy had Southern Comfort found fans somewhere, anywhere. He probably exaggerates when he says that nobody liked the film, anywhere. 

The movie was shot outside of Shreveport, Louisiana. There is little to justify going into Shreveport, unless you are particularly fond of meat pies. Never mind finding something to do outside of Shreveport. Keep in mind that this crew spent close to two months in Shreveport. I'll bet they consumed a fair amount of Southern Comfort in their off hours, and maybe in their on hours as well.

The pairing for Southern Comfort? It would be so easy to grab a bottle of Southern Comfort and start swigging. Too easy, even if you do as the maker suggests and craft a Manhattan from it, using bacon slices for garnish. Let's dig a bit deeper, even though it is tough to dig in the swamp. 

Wines produced in Louisiana are a little hard to come by. There are only a small handful of wineries, and shipping is a problem. If you are in a beer mood, Abita Brewery makes a number of mighty fine ones which are available all over the nation. The brewhouse is located just down the road from Bogalusa, across the lake from a little place called New Orleans. If you happen to find yourself in Shreveport for some reason, stop in for a sample of the wines at On Cloud Wine. My feeling is their Pinot Noir probably grew somewhere else, but I'll bet the Muscadine is a Cajun original. 

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Friday, August 4, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Double Acts

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 has double vision - three movies in which deuces are wild. Just one wine pairing for each film, though.

David Cronenberg's 1988 weirdness was Dead Ringers, starring Jeremy Irons, an actor who excels in every genre he chooses. The weirdness? Irons plays a dual role of identical twin brothers who are gynecologists. Where did Cronenberg ever get that idea? From two actual twin brother gynecologists. I kid you not. You could look it up. The script, however, is described as "highly fictionalized." It is, but not as much as you might expect.

Law & Order fans will note that Jill Hennessy got her big break in Dead Ringers, appearing, she and her twin sister, as double-your-pleasure prostitutes. 

Twice as nice is the Double Eagle Cabernet, from the Grieve Winery. Let's not focus on naming a company Grieve, even if that is your name. Let's focus on the $90 Napa Valley cult wine lookalike. Double your pleasure by making it a magnum, 1.5 liters instead of 750 milliliters. 

The 1947 film noir A Double Life stars Ronald Colman in the role that netted him an Oscar. He plays an actor who leans a little too heavily into his characters. That's not so bad when he plays a well-meaning but befuddled man of the people. But when he plays, say, Othello - look out. He's a method man who is actually schizophrenic. 

His double life gets derailed by the double of a woman he is seeing. That is a perfect way to divide and conquer a split personality. Maybe he should have taken a part in A Midsummer Night's Dream instead of Othello.

Double Trouble is a Washington state blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from Charles & Charles. You probably won't get into as much trouble with this wine as Colman got into as Othello. 

The Black Room, a 1935 Boris Karloff film, has the horror king playing two roles - twin brothers in an Austrian castle. Oh, and there is a family curse which states that one of the brothers would kill the other in the castle's black room. That would be caution enough for me to stay away from it, hide out in the green room or the blue room. Or here's an idea: repaint the black room. But you know that's not where we're headed. 

Karloff made this film after scaring the nation witless with Frankenstein, The Mummy and Bride of Frankenstein, so he was on a bit of a major roll.

With the brothers as twins, it is no spoiler to mention that the killer twin assumes the identity of the other one. He is exposed in a way that reminds me of the Dr. John song, "How Come My Dog Don’t Bark When You Come Around." Except, of course, the dog does bark. Evil Karloff ends up hoist by his own petard, as it were. And if you look up the origin of the word "petard," you'll find out why Shakespeare was such a funny guy.

Pichetti Winery - in Cupertino, of all places - has a Brother's Blend which will be a lot kinder to you than evil Karloff was to his bro. Petit Verdot, Malbec and Syrah grapes join together to form a bridge from Bordeaux to the Rhône Valley, by way of California's Central Coast. It's a $43 petard. 

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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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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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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