Showing posts with label wine pairing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wine pairing. Show all posts

Friday, February 23, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Happy Birthday, Sidney

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 celebrate the fact that Sir Sidney Poitier walked the earth with us regular humans for 94 years. His birthday of February 20th is a great reason to pair wines with a few of the films in which he starred.

Sidney Poitier sought out roles that challenged society's norms and he became a loud voice in the fight for civil rights. That, right there, is reason enough to lift a glass in his memory. But on top of his contributions to film, and life in general, the Queen of England made him a knight. An actual knight. I never heard him talk about that, though. If it were me, I would never stop talking about it.

Brother John premiered in 1971, a damn good year for the big screen. The French Connection, Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, The Last Picture Show, Harold and Maude, they were all great films that made a mark. Unfortunately, Brother John didn't make anyone's "Best Of" list. The critics didn't exactly welcome it with open arms. Some of them were downright rude about it. Vincent Canby got a little bit cranky about it.

Brother John is an enigmatic character who has answers to questions no one's asked, answers no one really wants to hear. This puts him at odds with southern law enforcement, a very popular Poitier theme.

Let's choose a wine from a city in France called Poitiers. It is in a region known as Haut-Poitou, and it is a bit of an outlier from its Loire Valley kin. Domaine La Tour Beaumont produces a Cabernet Franc which has a price tag of $10. Incroyable, non?

The real Sidney Poitier vs Southern Law Enforcement movie hit the front burner in 1967 with In the Heat of the Night. Just as the civil rights movement was reaching a riot-stoked peak in America, this film shows a white, racist southern sheriff and a black northern detective learning to work together despite their extreme differences. 

Poitier as Virgil Tibbs has one of the most memorable lines in movie history when he answers Rod Steiger's question about what they call him in Philly. The tense reading of "They call me Mister Tibbs" gave Poitier a career catchphrase. It was so good that it was used as the title for one of the film's sequels. 

There is a Tibbs wine on the market for about $10, and it's a Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County's Sta. Rita Hills. You're thinking, "Right, a $10 Pinot Noir. Pick up a gallon jug of Gallo while you’re at it." People say the Mayhall Tibbs Pinot Noir is a decent little wine. Still, it is a $10 Pinot Noir. Hey, gamble a little. They call me Mayhall Tibbs.

In 1967, Poitier also starred in To Sir With Love, a pop culture smash that once again left the critics unconvinced. But, it's a fairy tale, innit?  Everyone wanted a teacher like Sir. Social, racial and sexual inequality ended up on a level playing field, thanks to his nurturing hand. South Africa banned the film, so they must have been doing something right. 

Pop star Lulu made her first film appearance in Sir and also sang the title song, which was one of the biggest hits of the year on the charts. The Mindbenders also appeared as the dance band.

Let's lift a glass of British sparkling wine to Sir, with much love. Hattingley Valley Wines makes a classic reserve brut which goes for just $60 a bottle. It is a happy mix of Chardonnay, along with Pinots Noir, Meunière and Gris. Is it as good as Champagne? After you've plunked down the $60, you tell us. 

Happy birthday Sir.


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Friday, February 16, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Creature Comforts

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we pair wines with three creature features, the stuff we stayed up late to watch on Friday nights. Maybe we still do.

Oh joy! Three monster movies are on the menu this week. Peeps who were old enough to go into theaters by themselves will remember sitting in the icy air conditioning, soaking up the scares from the likes of Gill-man. Younger folks *ahem* will remember the Friday night Fear Theater presentations on TV, or the double features on the Saturday kiddie show at the movie house down the street. The former always featured popcorn in a big bowl, while the latter always featured Raisinettes and M&Ms bouncing off our heads. 

Revenge of the Creature was surely one of the highlights of 1955, along with The Honeymooners and "Speedoo" by the Cadillacs. It was a three dimensional fright fest, which also went under the names Return of the Creature and for those who didn't get the connection, Return of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. You have to really spell it out for some people. If there had been any more rereleases, they would have had to put the title in all capital letters.

In Revenge, Gill-man has apparently recovered from the hail of bullets he suffered in the original film and is incarcerated in an oceanarium to be studied by scientists. They make the critical mistake of bringing in a beautiful female researcher, and Gill-man falls in lust again. He can't help it, he's a sucker for a pretty face. It's terror in the city this time around, as nobody wanted to go back to the Amazon to shoot this sequel. 

Look for a fresh-from-Central-Casting Clint Eastwood here, as a young scientist trying to explain why there's a missing rat in his labcoat pocket. "You were going to try and blame the cat. Well, weren't ya, punk?"

Here is the perfect wine for Gill-man: Gillman Vineyard Clairet. Okay, so there's no hyphen, and it's from New Zealand, and it's pink. Any other complaints before we move on? This blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot runs about $60.

From the previous year, Creature from the Black Lagoon got to the 3D party a little late. It was shown only in some theaters with that technology. It is the movie where the Gill-man got his start. When it comes to instinct-driven characters in the movies, that 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. And, as we just mentioned, he keeps jumping into Love Lagoon webbed feet first. 

Not only is Gill-man the ultimate man-in-a-suit movie monster, he has also inspired countless other creatures, a song, a casino slot machine and homoerotic literature. Pretty good for a creature who just crawled out of a river.

You've seen Black Lagoon Carignan in this space before. 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. 

1961's Creature from the Haunted Sea is a Roger Corman special that was shot in a week for probably only a little more than the money you have in your pockets right now. The horror genre gets played for laughs, with several other genres du jour thrown in. One of the stars of the picture was Robert Towne, who would later win an Oscar for writing Chinatown. Corman may have been the B-movie king, but he knew how to surround himself with talented people. 

The plot centers on a scheme to rob Cuba's national treasury, placing the blame on the mythical Creature from the Haunted Sea. But, guess what? The creature isn't mythical, it's real, and it doesn't like being used as a beard for robbery. Never mind that it looks like an overgrown muppet, payback is a puta. 

A wine from a haunted sea would be perfect here, but is the water off Santa Barbara haunted? Only the creature knows for sure. However, the folks at Ocean Fathoms Wine say they know that their bottles age better than others because they are underwater. At least they were underwater. The company never got the proper permits from the California Coastal Commission to sink those cases, and the agency made them pour out the wine. Every last drop. Will they have more? That depends on who is handling their paperwork, I suppose. Their website looks kinda haunted right now, but if they do start selling wine again, be ready to spend $500 for a bottle with barnacles on it.


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Friday, February 9, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Soul Music

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 put on the headphones/earbuds and let the music wash over us. Are we high? If not, we have some wine pairings to go along with the musical movies.

This is one of those weeks where music and movies merge, a happy affair, for me at least, even when the sound and the pictures are not of the highest quality. The beach party movies come to mind, as do Elvis flicks. Somewhere, there is probably a home movie of the legendary 30-minute version of "Louie Louie" recorded at a Hell’s Angels party. That would fall into this category as well. But on we go to the films that reach loftier heights.

The 1986 film, Crossroads, was inspired by the legend of blues pioneer Robert Johnson. The legend says he went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil to get his guitar prowess. If that's how it's done, what did Carlos Santana have to give up? Eric Clapton? Stevie Ray Vaughn? Well, that last one doesn't need answering. We know what he gave up. 

For authenticity, guitar god Ry Cooder provided a lot of music for the movie, but he was passed over to play the guitarist in the film's climactic guitar battle. Ry was reportedly a little bit pissed that Steve Vai ended up shredding the hot licks. If anyone else wants to carp about the choice, Vai could easily say, "Hold my beer" while showing you a thing or two. 

Napa Valley's Crossroads Wines are made by Samantha Rudd and utilize grapes with a pedigree, from places like Oakville and Mt. Veeder. You may have to shop around to find them, and you will spend $80 or more for a Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. Their Sauvignon Blanc runs quite a bit less. 

Honeydripper was written and directed by John Sayles for a 2007 release. The plot deals with the owner of a blues club in rural Alabama and his effort to save the place by hiring a hot, young guitar man, played by Gary Clark, Jr. Keb’ Mo also appears and R&B great Ruth Brown would have had a starring role, had she lived long enough. She was replaced by Mable John.

The movie ran hot and cold for critics, with one scribe taking issue with caricatures like a "blind guitar picker, redneck sheriff, revival meetings, cotton-picking, fights in juke joints and the like." Having grown up in the American South, I can attest that blind guitar pickers, redneck sheriffs, revival meetings, cotton-picking and fights in juke joints are not so much caricatures as they are the actual stuff of everyday life. 

The story is great, and the music mixes old classics like "Good Rockin" Tonight," "Move It On Over" and "Why Don’t You Do Right" with stuff penned in more modern times. Having Gary Clark, Jr and Keb’ Mo on hand certainly doesn't hurt the soundtrack's street cred.

I ran across a recipe for a cocktail called Honeydripper, but there's no booze in it. What are they thinking? Since we are safely clear of Dry January, try Batch Mead, located in Temecula. It's honey wine. Their Smokin Hickory Barrel Aged Mead doesn't sound like it would get you into a fight in an Alabama roadhouse in 1950. Well, actually, it does. Try it anyway. 

Charlie Parker's brief life was directed for the big screen by Clint Eastwood. The biopic Bird showed the saxophonist's connection with his wife, Chan, and trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Red Rodney. Red and Bird were drug buddies of a sort, and the heroin no doubt contributed to Parker's fatal heart attack at the age of 34. As for Rodney, he lived to be 66, although he was plagued by heroin addiction, stroke and lung cancer for many of those years.

Despite the fantastic performance by Forest Whitaker as Parker, the movie stands as one of Eastwood's least successful films. It has a solid following these days, particularly among jazz fans. The soundtrack features re-recorded tracks with Parker's sax work extracted from original takes and cleaned up through the magic of modern audio technology. 

How can we not give at least a cursory glance to Jazz Cellars? They are in the Sierra Foothills village of Murphys, California, the town that needs to either drop the S or add an apostrophe. Their Grenache Rosé is a $24 bottle of Calaveras County grapes, jazzed up to a beautiful pinkish hue. 


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Friday, February 2, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Tortured Artists

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 examine three films dealing with the downside of being a fine artiste.

The 1986 biodrama, Caravaggio, is an interpretive account of the life, and death, of Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. His name was shortened for the movie title likely because the original wouldn't fit on a marquee. 

Caravaggio was what one might call "ahead of his time," in that he ran through his 17th century life, and the art world, with little regard for how others viewed him. His childhood was tough, his adult years even tougher. Those years ended before they numbered forty, and his death is still a matter for speculation. The movie opts to believe the, ahem, lead poisoning theory, while fever and murder are still getting good odds. 

Murder wouldn't seem out of bounds, as this tortured artist led a violent life that included killing a man, an act for which he was given a death sentence. He managed to evade that fate while seeking a pardon from the Pope. 

Malta winery Marsovin has a Merlot called Caravaggio, presumably after the artist since one of his paintings is depicted on the label. It should have been the one featuring Bacchus, if I had been asked. But it's not, and no one did. If you can find it, Caravaggio the wine costs about ten bucks.

The Music Lovers, from 1971, is a Ken Russell film that concerns the life of Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. His name was, again shortened for the movie title, because who the hell ever called him anything but Tchaikovsy? 

If you want a real tortured artist, this Tchaikovsky guy is the real McCoyvski. He sees his mother die a horrible death, marries a nymphomaniac who turns out to be just a plain old maniac, and hides his homosexual identity for his entire life. It's enough to drive a tortured artist to drink.

Fortunately, that's what we're here for. Vinoterra’s Saperavi is from Georgia, which is close enough for a Russian wine for me. You could also go with a Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, and no one will take points off your grade for the easy reach. Either way, plan to spend around $30. 

1972's Savage Messiah was about 20th century French sculptor and painter Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. The film was directed and produced by Ken Russell. Hey, didn't we just hear from him? Yes, he liked making movies about artists. 

This artist, Gaudier-Brzeska, did not get a lot of time to become tortured. He was killed at the age of 23 by the Germans in WWI as a member of the French army. That is a pretty big drag, but he did cram a lot into his short life. Gaudier-Brzeska left his native France for London while he was still a teenager and managed some (pre-war) studies in Germany. I would imagine that there aren't many people who died as young as he who are still remembered for their accomplishments. 

For any of these films about tortured artists, this is the wine to have. Tortured Artist Albariño is made by a Paso Robles outfit called League of Rogues. This refreshing white was made from grapes that were yanked from an Edna Valley vineyard and tortured until they became wine. They are okay with it now. 


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Friday, January 26, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Hauntings

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 hope you are ready for some ghost stories. We have wine pairings for three movies featuring spirits, which are easier to come by than spirits pairings for movies featuring wine. 

We also have wine pairings from ghost wineries for these films. These are winemaking outfits which were doing good business in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Then came phylloxera, or fire, or Prohibition, or The Great Depression. Some wineries were able to trudge through the bad times and come out on the other side. Some were not so lucky. Some are back in business today, having been resurrected by an angel who had the money, time and inclination to care for a field of neglected grapevines. 

A Haunting in Venice is another Kenneth Branagh take on Hercule Poirot. The movie is an adaptation of an Agatha Christie book, one that fell short of many Herculean fans' expectations. Mr. Branagh: Please leave Dame Christie alone. 

In this film, the great detective pays a visit to an opera singer's Venice palazzo for a Halloween party. Perfect timing, since the place was once an orphanage where children died of neglect. What's that? Is that a little child ghost I hear? 

Buena Vista Winery is the second oldest winery in California. Founded in 1857 by a wily Hungarian immigrant named Agoston Haraszthy, the winery went bankrupt 20 years later, after his death. This is one ghost winery which really does have a ghost, so they say. The founder's apparition reportedly still roams around the barrel room when it thinks no one is looking. Their 2021 Sheriff of Buena Vista will pair nicely with the Belgian detective at a cost of $55. 

1982's The Entity was directed by Sidney Furie and starred Barbara Hershey. The story - of a woman who is assaulted repeatedly by an invisible entity - was based on actual events. Sort of like The Exorcist with clippings. There was a ton of backlash at the time, with women's groups railing against the depiction of the violence. Since then, it has attracted a cult following and is now seen as an allegory of the way women are victimized. It's not a pleasant movie to view, and it's hard to write something snarkily funny about it, so pardon this paragraph's lack of laughs. There simply aren't any there.

Freemark Abbey was one of the first wineries in California that was founded by a woman. Her name was Josephine Tychson, and she started the business in the 1880s. Today, the wine is made by a woman as well. Their Restoration blend of Bordeaux grapes costs just a bit more than a Benjamin. 

The Uninvited, a 1944 Ray Milland classic, features a story about a woman who is haunted by her mother. A lot of women can say that about mom even though she's still alive. 

A brother and sister buy a house with an ocean view, and the ocean view proves to be the only good thing about the property. A young woman becomes a frequent visitor after being drawn in by the memory of her mother, who fell off the cliff years ago and got an even more close-up view of the ocean. Excitement? There's a ghost, a seance, a heart attack, a psych ward stay, an identity switcheroo and, well, there's that cliff again. Plus, it is my wife's favorite ghost movie. So, it is also mine. 

Did someone say cliff? Vine Cliff Winery is on Napa’s Silverado Trail. Most of what you see there today is reconstructed. Fire consumed the original winery, which was built in the 1870s. Vine Cliff goes full blast today, with a $125 Oakville Cabernet Franc as one of their more enticing offerings.


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Friday, January 19, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Bad Marriages

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 take a lighthearted look at some cinematic unions that should have been fixed in post-production.

Marriages start out with wine, generally. A toast with Champagne at the reception is one of the first things people do as an officially married couple. But, perhaps her father tried to save a few bucks. Prosecco instead of Champagne just flat-out jinxes a marriage, if you ask me. Spring for the good stuff. 

Hollywood has depicted marriage in a less than flattering light. Realistic, maybe, but not always picture perfect. Streetcar Named Desire, The Godfather and The Odd Couple spring to mind. As it has been written, things do fall apart. This week our trio of films deals with marriages that were doomed from the words "fade in."

I Married a Monster from Outer Space, from 1958, pretty much spills it in the title. A newlywed bride discovers that her husband is actually, well, a monster from outer space. The happy couple is shown toasting their marriage, presumably with a nice sparkling wine. Obviously, some things are beyond a Champagne fix.  

In Monster, they borrowed a page or two from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The bride in question wasn't the only woman in town whose husband suffered an alien takeover. Body snatching was a big thing in the late '50s.

If you have been wondering when we would pair a movie with a wine from Beaujolais that is not red, although I don't know why you would wonder that, here it is. Alien, from Domaine Saint-Cyr is 100% Aligoté, which is more than we can say about the husband in Monster. It comes highly recommended, as it should at $50 a bottle.

Then there is The Bride and the Beast, from 1958. This guy gets married, his pet gorilla tries to make it with his wife, and she kinda digs it. If you guessed that storyline to be from a script by Ed Wood, you are correct.

The story unfolds around a newlywed couple who discover that she was a gorilla in a previous life. He happens to have a pet gorilla in the house. A recipe for disaster. The one-sheet cries out, "Human mate for jungle brutes." Oops, gave it away. I can't seem to think of another film which centers on a husband losing his wife to an ape, but maybe there is one in the porn world.

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.

1951's Bride of the Gorilla works the same turf as the previous B-movie, but with a different plow. Raymond Burr plays a guy who has a curse thrown onto him by, well, it doesn't matter. It's a curse. It turns him into a gorilla-like beast, but the wife doesn't dig it. Maybe she should have met the ape from the other flick. 

Gorilla comes from Jason Oliva Wine in South Africa's Stellenbosch region. It is a Bordeaux-style blend which is heavy on the Cabernet Franc. The price is listed at just under $100 a bottle. 


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Friday, January 12, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Happy Birthday Irving Rapper

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 pairing for three films directed by Irving Rapper.

Irving Rapper was born on January 16th, 1898. He passed away less than a month before he was to turn 102 years old. That in itself is reason enough to lift a glass to the memory of the man. Hopefully you will find the celluloid legacy he left behind as fascinating as we do.

The Brave One, from 1956, is the story of a boy and his bull. The young Mexican lost ownership of Gitano and the animal ends up in a bullfighting ring with darts in his back and a guy dressed in funny clothes about to stab him to death. The kid watches in tears as his pet bravely confronts the matador. Inspired by the bull's courage, the crowd calls for Gitano to be given a pardon, which I didn't even know was a thing in bullfighting. They should tell more bulls about that loophole. 

The promoter wants to give the people what they want, and awards the bull the rest of the day off. The crowd watches in horror as the child runs into the ring, toward Gitano. They think he's done for, but we know better. It's a Hollywood ending.

Speaking of Hollywood, The Brave One was the final recipient of the Oscar for Best Story before the category was given the axe. That award went to a nobody who had his name placed on the script by Dalton Trumbo, who was still blacklisted at the time. The Academy reissued the award in Trumbo's name in 1975. Quite a story for a movie that unfortunately did almost nothing at the box office.

Brave & Maiden Estate in Santa Ynez puts me in mind of the 1960 Johnny Preston hit, "Running Bear." He was the young Indian brave in search of the maiden, Little White Dove. Their meeting was seriously impacted by a raging river, but we will choose the Brave & Maiden red blend called Rule of Thirds for The Brave One. It is actually two thirds Grenache and one third Syrah, with a splash of Mourvèdre. The 2020 vintage goes for $75, so put on your brave pants and pony up. 

The 1958 film, Marjorie Morningstar, was taken from the Herman Wouk book of the same name. Both show the titular young Jewish woman faced with a dilemma. Should she settle for the doctor her family wants to see her marry, or follow her heart and go with the man in show biz? It is a classic red pill/blue pill scenario. 

In the book, she makes the practical decision, while the film has her chasing her dream. Dreams are much more cinematic than marrying a doctor. Of course, doctors might argue that point. Dr. Kildare, Dr. Detroit and Dr. Zhivago, f'rinstance. 

Doctor's Orders Natural Wine Company delivers that sort of wine pleasure from vineyards in Ojai and the Central Coast. Their Santa Ynez Valley Grenache is only $21, while the really adventurous will want a prescription for their Ventura County Sangiovese. Yes, that's what I said.

Rhapsody In Blue came along in 1945, bringing the subtitle, The Story of George Gershwin, with it. Rapper wanted Tyrone Power in the title role, but he got Robert Alda instead. Other than that, he said he was happy with how the movie turned out.

Music historians may want to take note that making appearances as themselves are Gershwin cohorts Oscar Levant, Paul Whiteman and Al (Mammy!) Jolson. All those riches, and Rapper still had the gall to complain about Alda! Oh, he also thought there was too much music in the film. Ha. 

There is a Right Bank red called Soutien Georges Gershwin, so why not? Merlot and Cab Franc are two of my favorite red grapes, and here they are in a bottle together. What could be better? It comes from winemaker Nicole Tapon, fit for a rhapsody of any color.


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Friday, January 5, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Hawks In Action

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 a trio of films directed by Howard Hawks, and some hopefully Hawksian wine pairings to match.

If you are one of those people who just watches movies without paying attention to the director, and surely you're not, it may surprise you how many of your favorite films were made by Howard Hawks. Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, The Big Sleep, Ball of Fire… and those are just my favorites. 

If you are one of those people who orders wine as "Red," "White" or "Pink," and surely you're not, even you would have been impressed by Lauren Bacall's rendition of "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" in The Big Sleep. Bogie orders Champagne, but is advised to have it with "about three ponies of brandy under it." So advised. But I'll have mine on top of a Guinness, please, a Velvet Glove.

The less drinking the better in 1962's Hatari! John Wayne stars as the leader of a bunch of big game hunters who drive through the scrub brush at top speed to capture animals so they can be shipped off to zoos. At least they didn't kill them for a head to stick on the man cave wall. But nowadays, zoos are not seen in the same light as they were 60 years ago. Make that movie today, I dare ya. 

In Texas Hill Country, there is a winery called Rhinory, which is just a bad pun. They not only have a winemaking facility there in Fredericksburg, but also a rhinoceros preserve. Some consider that to be simply an open-air zoo, but that is a discussion for another time. They promise that you can get up close and personal to the rhinos, close enough to touch them. Let's hope the rhinos like being touched, or you could end up like the guy in Hatari! who was gored in the leg. Rhinory offers Texas-grown Cabernet Franc and a line of South African wines, to make the rhinos feel at home.

El Dorado came from 1966, or 1967, depending on whether you were in Japan or the U.S. at the time. In this one, Hawks featured the always cinematic element of water rights. It is more exciting than that makes it sound. 

Hawks used The Duke again as his star, playing a hired gun who gets involved in the water dispute. There is a lot of shooting and a lot of dying along the way to saving a man's ranch, a man's life and a man's reputation. That was Hawks in a nutshell: moralistic tales that were more character study than story. Real men doing real man things.

If you seek the wines of El Dorado, the California wine region, here is what you do. Drive, boldly drive, to the area roughly between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. There are around 40 wineries to choose from, but Lava Cap is generally regarded as one of the best in the world. Try a Zinfandel, as real California men do.

In 1939's Only Angels Have Wings, we have an airborne romance with Cary Grant and Jean Arthur providing the earthbound sparks, while the flying scenes drew kudos from those who appreciate a good shot of an airplane doing its thing. Hawks had a background in mechanics, so was always ready to cast machines as characters in his films. The next time you're at an air show, look around. The people closest to the action are the audience for this film.

These pilots deliver air mail over the Andes Mountains. Today, they would probably be flying a rocket full of gaskets to the space station. The planes are the co-stars, with a Ford Trimotor serving as a dramatic vehicle. "Engine number one is on fire!" "Engine number two is on fire!" "How many engines did you say this crate has?"

Cheval des Andes is the South American branch of Château Cheval Blanc, the great Bordeaux estate. Their blends utilize Argentine Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon mainly, and run on the high or low side of $100, depending on the vintage. 


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Monday, December 25, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Holiday Cheer

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're working our streaming platforms as if they are pack animals. Christmas movie after Christmas movie after Christmas movie, only pausing for refills, bathroom breaks and an occasional viewing of Die Hard. We have wine pairings, too, so don't say we didn't give you anything for Christmas. Happy holidays!

The original film version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is from 1938. That's 85 years ago and, yes Virginia, there were movies then. With talking and everything. A Christmas Carol has been remade a number of times over the years, notably in 1951, with Alastair Sim in the lead role. Yes, Virginia, it was filmed in black and white. Colorized later, for your protection. Sim was a great Scrooge, but has there been a bad one? My fave? Jim Backus, from Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

Dickens let Ebeneezer Scrooge's nephew Fred describe Port to Bob Cratchit: "It's wine, Bob.  A cheery, warming, goodly wine.  A wine that'll race through your veins with little torches.  It's port, Bob.  The fifth essence of the Christmas spirit." Well, way to bring it, Fred.

Quinta de la Rosa's vineyards are on the slopes above Portugal's Douro River, and the grapes are crushed by foot. Ruby Port is usually the least expensive of the many different styles of the wine. The de la Rosa Ruby Reserve Lot No. 601 tends to be slightly drier than the norm. The fruit flavors are bold, while the acidity rips and the tannins exert their will, with little torches. 

Christmas in Connecticut was released in 1945 to great success.  The end of the war left people hungry for a screwball comedy about food, romance and a hero returning home from the conflict.  Usually, characters who are far from home and dream of "a steak that thick" are marked for death.  But Dennis Morgan's wounded warrior escapes the worst and actually gets his meal, in the form of Barbara Stanwyck.  

Actually, he gets his meals from those around her who can cook. She provided the love interest, all-important in a holiday movie.

In addition to the seasonal setting, a sleigh ride adds to the holiday flavor.  Me, I've never even seen a real sleigh, but apparently back then, in Connecticut, they were left unattended outside barn dances, just there for the taking.  Understand that not only will you spend a Christmassy night in jail, but Grand Theft Sleigh is sure to land you on Santa's naughty list.

A wine from Connecticut would be fine here, but how about one which was made in a WWII-era airfield?  The Nutmeg State's Saltwater Farm Vineyard has a Cabernet Franc with enough fruit and spice to tempt Santa before he's finished assembling the kids' toys.

1940's The Shop Around the Corner is a wonderful movie, one of the best ever made about the holiday season. There is Christmas shopping, shopping for food for Christmas dinner, more Christmas shopping, talking about Christmas dinner, shopping again, and decorating the shop for Christmas. Isn't anyone going to put on a play showing us the real meaning of Christmas? Anyone? Charlie Brown? And how about some Christmas music instead of Ochi Chernye? "And look, the music box plays 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' when you open it!" 

Here it is in a nutshell: He can't stand her. She can't stand him. Then, they fall for each other anonymously. Swipe left in person, swipe right on the internet, which was called writing letters back then. It's the love story version of "Well, I guess there won't be a Christmas this year… but wait!"

Okay, so the store employees are a family unit like no other, the love that runs among them is the fabric of this movie and the fact that they literally save the life of their boss, the store owner… well, isn't that the kind of love that Christmas is all about?

If the shop around the corner from your home is a wine shop, that's good news wrapped in bad. The good news is, you can browse there any time you want. The bad news is, you'll go broke buying wine everyday. As long as we're going broke buying wine, let's buy the best. Hungary's Tokaji Aszu is generally regarded as the best dessert wine in the world. It is expensive, and it is worth it.


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Friday, December 22, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Ryan O'Neal 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 remember another star who has left our galaxy. We will also pair some wines with his movies.

In the early 1970s, the National Lampoon Radio Hour skewered Ryan O'Neal with a bit about showtimes for the fictitious "The Ryan O’Neal Story." The Movie Phone voice rattled off the showtimes: "2:47, 2:49, 2:51, 2:53…" Of course, Mr. O'Neal was soon to add enough to his story to fill out a feature-length picture. 

I will stay away from taking cheap shots while making wine pairing suggestions for the films of a man who struggled with addiction. It is always a tough spot for me, especially when the actor had so much else to offer the world. 

O'Neal shot to stardom in 1970's Love Story, and he was a bona fide movie star by the time 1973's Paper Moon rolled around. As the song says, "It's only a paper moon…but it wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me." That sentiment sits at the heart of the father-daughter buddy film. Tatum grabbed an Oscar for her portrayal of Addie, a feat which would elude her dad for the length of his career.

Director Peter Bogdanovich came up with the title for the movie, which was seen as a big improvement over the title of the novel from which the script was adapted, Addie Pray. Orson Welles reportedly liked the name so much that he advised Bogdanovich to release just the title, not the movie. That suggestion was said either in jest or after downing a couple of jugs of Paul Masson wine.

Paper Moon Vineyards is located near the shores of beautiful Lake Erie, in Vermilion, Ohio. Plan a visit there the next time you're in Cleveland. They do a Riesling if you're not in the mood for a North American grape variety. They also do mead and cider if you're not in the mood for wine. Surely, I jest. If Ohio grapes, apples or honey don't turn your crank, try a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir from Sonoma County's Valley of the Moon Winery.

Flash forward to 1987's Tough Guys Don't Dance for a look at over-description. It is billed these days as a crime mystery comedy-drama, which is a few too many moving parts for me. In the same way a clock-radio is usually a good clock or a good radio but not both, a movie title benefits from the fewest descriptors as to its style. For me, comedy-drama always conjures up the choice of inappropriate laughing or jokes that are not funny. 

My wife feels that O'Neal had the good fortune to be catapulted to fame in a big hit movie, Love Story, but the misfortune to have been saddled with one of the worst lines in the history of movies, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." As we all know, love means constantly having to say you're sorry. It is both literary and cinematic drivel, since the line was in the book and the movie. But O'Neal’s read of "Oh man, oh God" in Tough Guys will give that line a run for its money.

Washington winery Efesté produces Tough Guy wine, named for one of the younger family members who fought off leukemia. They intended for it to be a couple of barrels per vintage, but things, you know, got out of hand.

There was once a nice little restaurant on La Brea called What's Up D.O.C., which is one of the better wine puns to make it onto the top of a building. I doubt that Peter Bogdanovich or Bugs Bunny had Denominazione di Origine Controllata in mind when they used the phrase, but here we go.

What's Up Doc brightened movie screens in 1972 with O'Neal playing alongside Barbara Streisand. Bogdanovich went back to the O'Neal well for this screwball comedy which emulates the great comedy films of the 1930s and '40s. Aside from a sparkling script, co-written by Buck Henry, the film gives O'Neal the chance to say what he really thought about "Love means never having to say you’re sorry."

D.O.C. in Italian wine is a classification which endeavors to combine the region of production with a guarantee of quality. I like the great wines in the Primitivo di Manduria D.O.C. I especially like Felline's Sinfarosa. The label calls it a Zinfandel as well as a Primitivo because the vines grew from a cutting taken out of Ridge's Geyserville vineyard. 


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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, December 1, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Hollywood Babylon

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 a trio of movies that expose the soft underbelly of Tinseltown, our own private Hollywood Babylon. And what Babylon would be complete without a wine to go with it? We suggest pairings for each of these films. 

Blake Edwards earned a place in my heart with his 1981 film, S.O.B. I believe it has brought me as much laughter as Blazing Saddles or Fargo, or One, Two Three, which is saying a lot. The movie pokes deliciously dark fun at the workings of Hollywood. There is the director, who goes nuts while making a movie. There is the studio, which wants to salvage what they see as a flop coming down the road. There is the editor, who can't wait to take his scissors to the film. There is the doctor, who, well, opens the next fifth of vodka. 

Robert Preston is a revelation in S.O.B. My history with doctors is checkered. Dr. Whitepockets never wrote a prescription. He just pulled a sample pack of pills from his labcoat and handed it to me. Dr. Insult never saw an infirmity that didn't make him laugh. His hallmark line: "Yeah, it sucks getting old." Dr. Dental finagled insurance companies like a body shop owner. They were practically paying me when he was through with them. But Preston, as Dr. Irving Finegarten, delivers a career performance and steals nearly all the best lines in the script. 

Oh, right, like some desperate winemaker would dare to slap the letters S, O and B on their wine label. Wait a minute. There happens to be one right here. SOB is a kosher wine from Israeli winemaker Ya'acov Oryah. He blended Carignan, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Grenache grapes into a wine which, he must have felt, could only be described by those three letters. Maybe they mean something else in Israeli. Anyway, it’s a $60 bottle. Standard Operational Business.

The 1950 classic, Sunset Boulevard, shows us how cruel Tinseltown can be. Fading silent star Norma Desmond lived in the fantasy that she was still the greatest movie star of them all. She hired people to tell her that she was still all that and a tub of popcorn. Her world view was summed up with, "No one ever leaves a star. That's what makes one a star." If you leave the wrong star, you could end up face down in the swimming pool. Warren Zevon wrote about Hollywood. "Heaven help the one who leaves."

Norma Desmond would accept nothing less than a good Champagne for her good times. When she’s ready for her close-up, she’ll take a bottle of Moet AND a bottle of Chandon, thank you kindly. The Imperial will do, if you have nothing better. 

From 2019 we have Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. You know it's a fairytale from the title, so there is little surprise that one of the more tragic events of Hollywood history gets rewritten for a happy ending. Not to spoil, but the baddies get theirs in true Tarantino fashion, with one going out in a real blaze of glory. 

I would like to have known TV Bounty Hunter Rick Dalton. He seems like he would have been a great guy to have a beer with, even if the "beer don't need no buddy." His pal, driver and body man Cliff Booth, I'm not so sure about. He seems like a guy on whose good side you want to stay. I don't think I would go spear fishing with him. 

There is a fair amount of drinking in this movie. For the pairing, Rick will have a Whiskey Sour and Cliff will down a Bloody Mary. But a wine pairing for Once Upon is a tough call. The film was set a few years before Napa Valley found its way onto the world wine map, and there was still something called California Burgundy. But maybe Rick picked up a Barolo or Chianti while he was off doing Spaghetti Westerns and brought some home on the spacious jet airliner. 1969 vintages will run upwards of $150. Or, you could just make a blender of frozen margaritas. It's a long movie. 


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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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