Showing posts sorted by relevance for query naked. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query naked. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday, November 19, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - There Are 8 Million Stories...

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 head to the East Coast to take a bite out of the Big Apple.  Here are three films which deal with NYC's gritty, noirish image - with wine pairings for each.

Just one of those famously mentioned eight million stories was this one, 1948's The Naked City.  The film follows around a New York detective as he tries to solve a murder.  The famously mentioned tag line - "There are eight million stories in the naked city.  This has been one of them" - was also used in the television series adapted from the movie.

Like any good police procedural, The Naked City mixes in some exciting cops'n'robbers action with the tedium that is detective work.  Jack Webb would later boil out most of the excitement for Dragnet, which centered on the boredom of a police officer's workaday life.

The Naked City was directed by Jules Dassin, who would later be a victim of the Hollywood blacklist.  He exiled himself to Europe, where his career continued.  Today he is noted as a top director of crime drama.  The Naked City was well received at the time of its release, a box office hit - and is regarded now as a fine example of film noir.

If you are ever in Seattle, you can stop in to the Naked City Brewery and Taphouse, which borrows a noirish gangster silhouette for its logo.  An Australian Naked City Wine has left us, unfortunately, letting its trademark lapse into bureaucratic red tape.  The Naked Wines club may get you a little too involved, but it does sound like a good deal.  However, when have you heard a sales pitch that makes the product sound like a bad deal?

The Killer That Stalked New York came out in 1950, a couple of years after a magazine article scared everybody stiff about the possible effect of a smallpox outbreak in the Big Apple.  A diamond thief returns from Cuba and starts infecting everyone she encounters.  Officials try to get everyone vaccinated - uh oh - but the demand is so high they run out of doses.  Wait, what?  Everyone wanted the vaccine?  This movie must have been mislabeled as film noir instead of fantasy.  The guvmint ain’t gonna tell me whether I can have smallpox or not!

There were some stories a few years back that resveratrol - an ingredient in red wine - might be able to stem the growth of pox viruses.  That, along with all the other wonderful effects supposedly found in resveratrol is, for me, a good enough reason to raise a glass.  

If you have a hard time swallowing the idea of a vaccine that is universally desired, maybe you'd like Pessimist, from Paso Robles' Daou Vineyards.  The blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Syrah and Grenache probably has enough resveratrol in it to give a semi-medical benefit to the sipper.  Hold on, there - now ya tryin’ ta put the vaccine in mah wine? Imma have to switch back to Bud Light - or mebbe try that White Claw that I stumble over in the store.

1960's Blast of Silence was a movie of many hats.  The director also wrote it and starred in it; the producer was the cinematographer.  I heard that the gaffer also gave his opinion on the lighting, which may be a union problem.  

The movie is about a hitman with mental problems - as opposed to a normal, well-adjusted hitman.  He has a job to do in NYC, but he rambles around his hometown for awhile before getting down to business.  I always thought hitmen tried to lay low, but this guy makes new friends, runs into old flames and generally gets around town a lot for a man who wants to be invisible.  He also tries to get his bosses to release him from the gig - good luck with that, buddy.

If you are a gamer, you might enjoy Hitman 3, the highest level of which is called Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina.  Seems that many not-so-well-adjusted players are using the game to put people in the wine press.  Now that makes a full-bodied red.  There are a number of urban wineries in New York, but how many of them could be called "gritty?"  Not many, I'm guessing.  At least Brooklyn Winery is said to have a "speakeasy vibe."  

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Naked Wines: Crowdfunding Meets Wine Club

Crowdfunding has become a prime way to raise money these days for just about any project - even winemaking. marries the crowdfunding aspect to the wine club concept in an online wine service that not only sells wine, it gets it made, too.

Naked Wines founder, Rowan Gormley, calls his company "a privately funded online wine company that helps everyday wine lovers drink like the rich and famous." They also help to crowdfund promising winemakers in the process. "Over 200,000 customers - called Angels," says Gormley, "invest directly in winemakers by setting aside $40 per month, all of which goes toward their next purchase. The company invests these funds in top-tier winemakers around the world to make wine exclusively for"

One such vintner funded by these Naked Wine Angels is Spanish winemaker Tomás Buendía, making wine in the land of his heritage, the Castile region. "I have always wanted to create wines that reflect a sense of place," Buendía says. "The wines of my homeland are worth discovering and deserve a place in the world market, and I’m excited about the opportunity to produce honest, authentic wines so people can enjoy a glass or two of good, healthy wine every day."  Thanks to Angel investors, Buendía has the funds to create his own label and share it with the world.  

"Tomás produces fantastic wines in one of the largest winemaking regions on the planet," Gormley says. "We’re looking forward to the big, bold wines he’ll deliver to Angels under his new label to provide a premium taste of Spain at a price a new generation of wine drinkers can afford."

Naked Wines spokesman Ryan O’Connell answered a few questions about the company by email:

  • Naked Wines looks like a wine club, but is branded as a crowd funding venture. Is that accurate?

"Naked Angels aren't getting automatic shipments like most wine clubs. Nor are they forced to buy wine at a certain rate like most wine clubs.

"Angels put $40 a month into their Naked piggy bank. That's like a savings account that they can use to buy wine (whatever wine they want, whenever they want). If they decide they don't want any wine, they can withdraw money from their piggy bank for free (even if they want to leave us and close their Angel account permanently). So it's significantly different from the wine clubs I've seen.

"And it's not just branded as crowd-funding; it really is funding hundreds of winemakers around the world. Winemakers like my parents and me get funded long in advance of bottling day and it wouldn't be possible without the Angels."

  • So it's sort of like a flex account for wine? You put $40 into your account each month and when you have enough banked, you can order a case?

"That's very accurate - and you can also spend more than what you've saved up just like a flex account. The big difference here is that you still have to pay the tax man. We sure wish we could make wine tax-deductible!"

  • There is a waiting list to become an angel. Why is that?

"In 2014, we came dangerously close to running out of red wine. Exponential growth is great in most silicon valley startups, but it takes over a year to produce a bottle of wine from scratch and we were growing so fast that our loyal Angel customers were starting to feel the repercussions. This is the kind of business that really relies on treating customers like royalty - we have no business without our Angels. So we implemented a waiting list to help us time the release of new winemakers with the induction of new Angels.

"Now we know every thousand or so Angels on the waiting list will fund one new wine from a talented, independent winemaker."

  • How are winemakers selected to be funded? Do they apply on their own? Can Angels nominate a favorite?

"Winemakers regularly apply on their own. Angels also nominate their favorite wines, and we'll try to track down the winemakers behind those labels. It's been pretty organic as we gain steam and momentum, more and more indie winemakers find out about us and join our ranks."

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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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Monday, January 27, 2014

Snoqualmie Naked Riesling 2010

We had a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas for Christmas - it's just not the holidays without an opportunity to double down on eleven a few times.  After a couple of successful double downs, I left the table with my windfall and headed for the 221 wine bar in Summerlin's Rampart Casino.

There, I ordered a Merryvale Starmount Chardonnay, which I was told had run out.  Okay, let's try the Hogue Riesling.  Nope.  Can't seem to find that either.  Well, gimme the Snoqualmie Naked Riesling.  At this point, I wasn't really expecting to get a glass of wine.  Sure enough, the kid behind the bar couldn't locate it, either.  After a little poking around and an admission that he was beginning to think I was looking at a wine list from some other restaurant, he did finally come up with a bottle of the Snoqualmie.

Snoqualmie Naked Riesling 2010 is a Washington state wine from the huge - 11 million acres huge -Columbia Valley.  It is produced using organically grown grapes and hits only 12.3% in alcohol, but shows three percent of residual sugar.  The wine cost $11 by the glass and retails for about that much by the bottle.
Snoqualmie winemaker Joy Andersen has done a good job with this bargain wine.

It has quite a nice golden tint for an "unoaked" wine, although the word seems to refer to the organic grapes, not a lack of oak.  The nose displays earth, petrol and plenty of minerals.  I'm happy so far.  The sip reveals off-dry shades of petrol, which are noticeable immediately. The palate is earthy with pear and peach flavors, and vibrant.  Acidity is very nice even when served too cold, as they do at 221.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival

The first annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival, which was scheduled for January 26, 2013, has been postponed until April 20, 2013. In an email release on January 25th, event host Reyes Winery sent this message:

"Last night, the Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Association announced the postponement of their 1st Annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival and Early Morning Vineyard Hike benefiting the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital that will now be held on Saturday, April 20, 2013."

Winemaker and event organizer Robert Reyes said, "We must put our guests’ safety first. The ground is deeply saturated from the recent storm, which is predicted to continue for the next couple of days including the day of the event. These conditions pose too great a risk for our guests and make the much anticipated Vineyard Hike next to impossible. We will look forward to seeing everyone in April. I am certain we will have some very special additions to announce in our exciting lineup of activities.”

The email continues, "The Festival will honor all tickets and exhibition fees collected for the event from exhibitors and guests. Those wishing to retain their tickets for admission into the April 20, 2013 event can do so, and all requests for refunds will be honored."

This missive about the 1st annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival may cause you to wonder, “Where is this wine festival, and how do I get there?”

In case you don’t know - don’t worry, lots of folks don’t - the Sierra Pelona Mountains are not only a scant 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles, they are home to one of California’s more recently established American Viticultural Areas.

The Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Association will hold their very first wine festival on Saturday January 26, 2013.  The festivities will occur at Reyes Winery, 10262 Sierra Highway in Agua Dulce, CA.  The official hours are 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but if you feel like making a real day of it, there’s an early morning hike organized.  Winemaker Robert Reyes will lead you up to the 4,000-foot level for a hawk’s eye view of the valley and the vineyards.

Reyes is not only hosting the event, leading the hike and pouring his wines - he will also have some of his own artwork on display, along with the works of several other local artists.

Robert Reyes is making some impressive wines at his frog farm-turned-winery - read about a few I tasted at last year’s Beverly Hills Wine Festival.

The Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival provides a great reason to get out of town for awhile on a beautiful Saturday - but it also provides a great way for Los Angelenos to explore the wine that’s right in their own backyard.

Here is the reason for the postponement, taken from the Reyes Winery website.

Who will be pouring:
Agua Dulce Winery
Alonso Family Vineyards
Antelope Valley Winery
Bacelar Wines
Coruce Vineyards
Chavez Vineyards
Diosa Tequila
Donna Harris Wine Biz
High Desert Cellars
Mike Rinn Wines
Mascari Vineyard in Bouquet Canyon
Mi Rancho Tequila
Montalvo Tequila
Naked Rebel Winery
Oreana Winery
Pulchella Winery
Reyes Winery
San Antonio Winery
Steve Hemmert Vineyards
Two Hearts Vineyards
Vampire Winery
Winehouse Vineyards
88 Tequila Co.

There will also be gourmet food samples:
California Bakery
Cheers At All Corked Up
Gourmet Blends
Dove Chocolate Discoveries
Gourmet Tamale Factory
Le Chene French Cuisine
Naked Juice
Mario’s Catering
Natcheryl Organic Café
PKs Chocolates
Pinch Me Seasonings
Roman Holiday Wine Lounge
Salt Creek Grille Catering
Truffles n Toffee
The Whole Wheatery

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Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Organic And Naked Cabernet Sauvignon From Argentina

Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a fair price. They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

They also distribute Art of Earth, a global vintner which makes wine from organic vineyards the world over. Their line includes bottling from Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Argentina. They claim their wines are "true to their origins and winemaking traditions without the use of pesticides or herbicides."

The organic grapes for the 2021 Art of Earth Cabernet Sauvignon were raised and harvested in the central-east valley of Mendoza, Argentina. Winemaker David Gargantini vinified the wine in steel, and there was no oak aging. Alcohol sits at just 13% abv and the retail price is low, too, at only $12. 

The wine's color is medium dark. The nose is bright and fruity, full of ripe red raspberry, cassis and red vines. On the palate that fruit really shines, with no coloring from oak treatment. The tannins are quite firm and the acidity provides a fresh blast. A pairing with steak is okay, but this wine might be better suited to salmon, marinara or an earthy bean dish. 

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Versatile, Stylish Wine

My wife tells me that a little black dress is perfect for any occasion. That’s something you learn in Girl School, I guess. I took shop class and learned how to make an ugly key rack that looks like an oversized wooden key, walnut stain.  Perfect for no occasions. I grew up to wear my shirttail out whenever possible and comfortable shoes with all outfits. I think girls were probably given much more useful information in their youth.

Little Black Dress wine is intended to be the booze equivalent of that garment, a no-brainer, easy choice that solves problems on the spot. As they say, "Good taste is your call. It's something you wear proudly and pour boldly. It's your own personal flavor. And it looks amazing."

Margaret Leonardi is the winemaker in Mendocino County. I don't know if she wears a little black dress or a pair of old jeans, but she certainly knows how to make a wine that’s right for all occasions.

The winery likes to say that "a good bottle of wine is the best accessory," and I will concur. It's certainly a much better accessory than a tiny black purse that only holds a couple of credit cards. It's better than a belt that's six inches wide and shiny. It's better than shoes that hurt your feet. Of course, pretty much everything is better than shoes that hurt your feet.

California is the region, shown on the label, which doesn't narrow it down much. I'm guessing that either there were several regions from which the grapes gathered, or one rather undesirable region. A multitude of sins can be obscured with just the word "California" on a wine label.  This Chardonnay has no need to hide its upbringing in shame, though.

It sits at 13.5% abv and sells for around ten bucks. The Chardonnay grapes make up the bulk of the wine, with the rest noted only as "complementary white wine grapes."

It looks yellow-gold in the glass and smells of citrus, mainly. Meyer lemon, grapefruit and tangerine mix in with tropical stuff like guava and pineapple. Mmm. On the palate, we have a fairly delicious wine here. There is maybe a touch too much oak for me, but that's just me. Those austere, naked Chardonnays are good in the summer, but they're like white slacks. November is way past time to give them a rest.  A little extra wood fits in nicely with the holiday season.

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Friday, July 29, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Killers On The Loose

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week is a killer. Three killers, to be precise, and a wine pairing for each.

Back when I was a music director for a radio station, I would get a call every week from a record promoter who told me the same thing each time - "This record is deadly, Randy. Deadly. You gotta add it right away." I usually told him that we had few enough listeners as it was - I didn't need to be killing off any of them with a "deadly" record. Most of those records would probably only bore you to death, anyway. Our three movies this week all have a killer on the loose - and he's deadly. 

The 1956 film noir, The Killer is Loose, features Joseph Cotten, Rhonda Fleming and Wendell Corey. Cotten is a cop while Corey is a banker who is the inside man in a robbery of the institution where he works. Fleming is the cop's wife, who becomes the target of revenge after the bank teller escapes from the prison term he was serving for the heist.

The cop was no fool, except maybe for shooting the banker's wife dead by accident. The banker vowed revenge, killed a guard to break free and hightailed it to the cop's neighborhood. At this point, the cop was possibly a fool for leaving his desk job when the force asked him to help find the killer. He put his wife in hiding, to which she somehow took exception (fool) and came out into the open, acting as beautiful bait to lead the criminal to John Law.

The film was viewed rather favorably by critics of the day, and who can argue about the casting? I'll watch anything with Joseph Cotten in it, not to mention Fleming and Corey.

I ran across a photo from the '90s, showing Cotten and his real-life wife tasting sparkling wine at Henkell in Weisbaden. Today, the outfit is known as Henkell Freixenet, maker of German bubbles (sekt) as well as Spanish (cava) and Italian (Prosecco). These international sparklers are less expensive than Champagne, but just as much fun, if you ask me. Be careful where you aim that cork, killer.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, from 1976, was written and directed by John Cassavetes, so you know you're getting a work that is a little bit off the wall. Ben Gazzara stars as the owner of a Sunset Strip nightclub. Gazzara says the character has a deep appreciation for the art of his establishment, while the customers are mainly there for the naked ladies. He says the character has a lot of Cassavetes in him.

Gazzara’s Cosmo falls into a big debt while playing poker with the wrong crowd. The mobster to whom he owes the money assigns him to perform the task of the title, a job he's not supposed to survive. He does survive, however, although he takes a bullet for his trouble. Back at the club, he is inspired to give his troupe a pep talk, urging them to live their roles while giving the patrons a means of escape from their own troubles. Bullet or no bullet, the show must go on.

You may want to stop into Gil Turner's liquor store for a wine to pair with Bookie. Turner was once known as Mr. Sunset Strip, so the ad blurb says. The store stocks a ton of cult wines that would be welcome at the Riot House, many of which can be had for less than a hundy. 

1964's The Killers is a remake of the 1946 film noir classic of the same name. It was made for TV, but TV didn't want it. NBC deemed it too violent to air, so it was sent to movie theaters. What a cast: Lee Marvin, Clu Gulager, Angie Dickinson, Ronald Reagan, John Cassavetes, Claude Akins, Norman Fell - it's easy to see why people still like it, despite the violence. Or maybe it's because of the violence.

The story revolves around a robbery, a handful of killings, a double-cross, some brutal mistreatment of Dickinson's character and a suitcase full of missing money. If you can stomach it, it's a killer film.

Killer Drop wine owes more to surfing and snowboarding than actual killing, but let's pop a cork. The northern California Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah blend sounds like a killer combination. 

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Friday, August 31, 2018

SLO Wine Chardonnay: Edna Valley Vineyard

Edna Valley is a beautiful area of San Luis Obispo's wine country.  The rolling hills, the nearby Pacific Ocean, the vineyards.  When there has been a decent amount of winter rain, I'm tempted to orate.  "This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this Edna Valley."  Okay, maybe that's a little overboard.  However, the place is beautiful.

Edna Valley Vineyard boasts land that was once a seabed and what they say is the longest growing season in California.  The chalky terroir comes forth most forcefully in white wines, notably Chardonnay, which the winery says was the first grape planted in the valley, presumably in modern times.

The grapes for this wine were grown on 45-year-old vines in the winery's Heritage Block.  They are the Tepesquet clone of Chardonnay, and the winemaker credits them, the climate and the vine age for the low-yields and concentrated flavor. 

The Edna Valley Vineyard Winemaker Series Heritage Chardonnay 2015 clearly got a lot of oak, but they know how to handle wood at Edna Valley.  The wine sells for $40.

This golden Chardonnay really is a heritage.  Old-style Cali Chard lives in this bottle.  The nose knocks one over with vanilla, butter, cedar, butter, popcorn butter and butter in which to dip a lobster claw.  That translates to lots of oak, no compromise, so if you like your Chardonnay naked, keep moving.  I generally enjoy this style best in winter, the holidays specifically.  For August, I turn up the A/C, flex alert be damned. 

The palate shows great heft, awesome acidity and a creamy mouthfeel.  How do they get all that into one wine?  The flavor is rich and apple-y and peachy and oaky and… buttery.  That lobster's not such a bad idea.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Pinot Grigio You Can Really Love

Alto Adige Valley is where some of the best white wines in the world come from, if you ask me. I realize that you didn't, but it's my article so I'll continue.

While Alto Adige holds a very high place of esteem for me, Pinot Grigio does not. I have no major problem with the grape, I just don't happen to find the wine made from it to be terribly interesting. I don't "heart" Pinot Grigio. Usually.

The Giovanett family runs the Castelfeder Winery as they have for four generations now. The area is in the Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT, which also encroaches a bit on Veneto. But it is mainly in Alto Adige, in far northern part of Italy, in the shadow of the Alps.

Their vines in the hillside vineyards have to work harder for water, which means they produce grapes that are more concentrated in aroma and flavor. They grow there in the north, under the Alpine sun and under the naked moon. The Luna Nuda tips the hat to the lunar influence on growing things.

Luna Nuda Pinot Grigio 2015 is fermented all in steel tanks and reaches a 12.5% abv alcohol content. The winemaker notes say, "This is not your standard Pinot Grigio" which means it may actually have some interesting qualities, if you can take a little more Pinot Grigio-inspired snark. Insert smiley face emoticon here. The website claims that the wine tastes "the way Pinot Grigio used to taste before it became so popular." That statement probably lost something in the translation from Italian, but I get their drift.

This Pinot Grigio is, in fact, "not your standard" stuff. The pale golden wine is aromatic enough, with a floral sensibility and a prominent overlay of minerals. A smoky character clouds those flowers and a basket of limes joins the aroma of wet rocks. The palate is pretty exciting, and I don’t have to qualify that statement with "for a Pinot Grigio." It’s loaded with lemon and lime zest and strident acidity with a delicious salinity on the finish.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Wine and Food Pairing: Hamburger

If you’re about to dig into a big ol’ hamburger and would like to pair a wine with it, think about what’s there besides the burger!

If you like a burger with bacon, try ZinfandelSyrah or Tempranillo. All three are fruity red wines with either a spiciness or tartness which will pair well with the pork element.

For a burger adorned with ketchup, you can go jammy and spicy with Syrah, full and earthy with Cabernet Franc or fruity and spicy with Zinfandel.

If your burger is dressed with with Mustard or Relish, you might find Merlot's smokiness a good match. Cabernet Sauvignon might pair well, but it might be overkill, too.  A Beaujolais Cru orBeaujolais Villages will bring some light berry flavors along with the spice.

Burgers with onions and mushrooms call for Chianti or another Sangiovese-based wine.  Those Italian reds will bring cherries and peppers to the table.  Tempranillo's tart edge will hit the mushroom notes just right.

Your cheeseburger will find paradise with a Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir.  Both fit the profile for beef and cheese, but Beaujolais will score again with this meal in a wrapper.

Plain ol’ hamburger likes Merlot's fruity earth notes, while the black cherry flavors of a niceBarbera will also liven up the naked burger.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Countercultural Appropriation

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 a-hunting for wines to pair with three filmfuls of countercultural appropriations.  

The Trial of Billy Jack was one of 1974's worst films, to hear the critics tell it.  Movie goers opened their wallets and made it a big success, but the critics of the day seemed to have a contest going amongst themselves to find out who could pan it the most.  Scribes strung stinging superlatives together at length to describe the movie's politics, message, incoherence and length - almost three hours.  They sharpened their knives and dug in like it was a plate of brisket.  Someone wrote a book about the 50 worst movies of all time, and Trial is in there.

In the movie, Billy Jack is on trial for involuntary manslaughter stemming from the series' first film - Billy Jack.  He is convicted and sent to prison, which probably would have made a good ending, but he is unfortunately released and kills someone else.  The story involves a lot of action set on an Arizona Native American reservation, at a school for kids who are apparently on the same track that Billy Jack lives on.  The National Guard gets in on the body count by killing four students.  Where have we heard that before? 

The Trial of Billy Jack didn’t fare well internationally, which star, screenwriter and director Tom Laughlin reportedly blamed on U.S. government efforts to have the movie banned in other countries.  Hey, Tom, it's not a ban if people simply don't want to see it. 

For The Trial of Billy Jack, perhaps an applejack will do - a whiskey made from apples.  The scenery on the screen is from Utah's Monument Valley, but let's look to Arizona for a wine pairing - at least you can get a decent drink there.  Arizona Stronghold Vineyards has a red wine for the occasion - Lozen, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, for $48.  Lozen was a real person, an Apache woman warrior who the chief called his right hand.

1970's The Strawberry Statement was taken from a non-fiction book about the 1968 student protests at Columbia University, transplanting them to the West Coast.  The film's good intentions did not overcome what critics saw as naked opportunism, and tickets didn't sell either.  The soundtrack album, however, was one of the coolest movie records of the era.  

The National Guard gets some play here between scenes of college radicals and radical wannabes - knocking heads and shooting teargas at student demonstrations.  Gee, how'd they ever get that bad rap?

For The Strawberry Statement - how about a jug of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill?  I drank plenty of that stuff back in my non-radical college days, and not because I had a fine, discerning taste for the grape.  Shop around a bit and you might find it for three bucks.  Aah, still priced right.

In 1969's Changes, a guy named Kent travels along the California coast.  Kent is what we call a drifter, but in the '60s his aimless wandering was called "looking for his head."  We don’t know if he ever found it, but it's hard to care about it when even he doesn't seem too interested.  

Kent's wanderlust seems fueled by an attempt to escape the squares - parents, establishment, Nixon voters - but they are harder to shake than the IRS in April.  He is driven by memories of a girlfriend who committed suicide and he can't seem to find any real meaning in his existence.  This guy's introspection makes Kierkegaard look like a party hound.  

To balance Kent's indifference, let's go the other way for the wine pairing - anything but boredom.  That is how Domain Mada's Tout Sauf L'Ennui translates.  It's a $35 Carignan from the Laungedoc-Rousillan in the south of France, and it's sure to help you find your head.

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Monday, February 27, 2012


Beverly Hills Wine Festival

It was Academy Awards Sunday in Los Angeles on February 26, 2012, so making it through the limousine-heavy traffic to the Beverly Hilton was a little more difficult than usual.  Once there, the reward was a few hours of pleasure at the Beverly Hills Wine Festival.  Braving the traffic was worth it.

The organizers put on a great show.  The layout looked a little fancier than last year's event.  The room in which the festival was held was decked out in chandeliers while a big screen - make that huge screen - monitor allowed those interested in the Oscar red carpet action from Hollywood to keep abreast of all the arrivals.  A big band (right) provided sets of entertainment throughout the afternoon and there was even a psychic on hand with an array of tarot cards spread out.  Maybe some tasters were getting a little last-minute help in filling out their Oscar pools.

Beverly Hills Wine FestivalOn the down side, a funky numbering system and a lack of identifying signage made it a bit difficult to find specific wineries one might be looking for, but most people seemed to enjoy just making their way from table to table, sampling whatever came their way.

TGIC Importers poured mainly from their international collection, with Ironstone's Obsession being the only domestic I spotted on their table.  The semi-sweet wine made from the Symphony grape has a nice sweetness with a streak of citrus acidity.  Omaka Springs New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc shows grass and grapefruit, while the '09 Montes Alpha Carménere from Chile's Colchagua Valley has gobs of black cherry in an extremely smooth setting. 

Andrew FiggeMy first taste of Malibu's Malibu Rocky Oaks, was provided by distributor Andrew Figge (left), owner of Central California Wines.  Figge poured a very nice rosé of Pinot Noir, a fruity and steely Chardonnay, a dark and peppery Syrah and a Cabernet Franc with great fruit and oak spice.  All the fruit is estate grown 2,000 feet up in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Field Vineyards is situated on the Russian River in the Alexander Valler AVA of Sonoma County.  They poured a vertical tasting of their Katarina Cabernet Sauvignons from 2003, 2004 and 2006.  All three have wonerful, rich bouquets and the '04 is my favorite with a darker fruit expression than the other two.
Robert ReyesThe Reyes Winery table was enlightening for me.  I had not been acquainted with this winery in Agua Dulce, north of Los Angeles an hour or so.  I also was unaware they have an appellation now, the Sierra Pelona Valley AVA.  Reyes Winery is only about a year old, and they're already winning awards with their wines.  Robert Reyes (right) turned a former frog farm into a vineyard, and he has produced a prince of a Chardonnay.  Its color is so rich and golden - like a Sauternes - and has such an array of spicy flavors, I was surprised to learn it was produced unoaked, in stainless steel.  Their rosé is a blend of Chardonnay and Muscat, with Syrah for color.  The Cabernet Sauvignon has supple tannins, the Syrah tastes bigger and the Merlot is bigger still.  It's worth a trip up the Antelope Valley Freeway to explore Reyes Winery.
The Pacific Coast Vineyards table was staffed by Tammy and Todd Schaefer.  Winemaker Todd said, "I'm a little nervous about pouring the newly-bottled 2010 Pinot Noir."  With a history of awards and high scores behind him, it seemed his jitters were unneccessary.  The thrilling acidity and brilliant tart cherry flavor of his most recent Pinot supported that feeling.
It's all Italian varieties at Sunland Vintage Cellars, a Ventura County winery.  Proprietor Michael Giovinazzo told me they source their fruit from a variety of great California growing regions.  He cited Lodi, Santa Barbara County and Pixley, California as some of his fruit sources.  I drew a laugh when I asked if Pixley was near the Hooterville AVA, but Giovinazzo is an easy audience, as affable as they come.  He explained, "if you take the 99 and hit Fresno, you've missed it."  Giovinazzo's Tre Ragazzi is a non-vintage blend of '08 Nebbiolo, '09 Barbera and '10 Sangiovese.  His '07 Dolcetto shows great acidity and a strong tannic structure.  The '07 Nebbiolo has a nose which is almost port-like in its intensity.

Rancho Ventavo Cellars' owner and winemaker George Gilpatrick poured some of his wines, produced at his winery in Oxnard.  The '07 Lodi Zinfandel shows nice, dusty tannins, while the '08 Mourvèdre from Santa Barbara County is full of bright, red fruit.  "Since we don't make any whites, that's our fish wine," quipped Gilpatrick.  He says it goes great with grilled mahi mahi.  The '06 Petite Sirah is a 50/50 blend from a vineyard in Paso Robles and one in Santa Barbara County.  It's rich with a tart undercurrent.

Mike StanMike Stan (left) of Ritual Wine Company was thoroughly enjoying his return engagement at this event.  He happily poured his '09 Paso Robles Viognier with its fruit salad nose and tropical palate culminating in a nice, tart finish.  High marks for acidity on his '09 Grenache and '09 
Cabernet Franc.  "This Franc is the first 100% single varietal wine we've made," he said.  His '08 GSM is a light and breezy red produced using whole-cluster pressing.  "The big crowd pleaser today is The New Black," said Stan, referring to his blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache blend.  The tasters at the table with me certainly seemed pleased to be sampling it.  Stan invited me to come back later for a vertical tasting of Mourvèdre, but the traffic in the room delayed me.  Hey, that's L.A. for you.  There's even traffic inside.

Beverly Hills Wine Festival 2012 crowdNaked Grape poured their full line of unoaked wines.  I liked their Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon just fine.  Both have a lively acidity and the fresh flavors of the fruit leap out, unencumbered by the influence of oak.

D'Anbino Vineyards & Cellars of Paso Robles shows the time the owners spent in the recording industry.  Their '07 Quadrophonic is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah.  The '07 Orchestration is a Syrah blend, while the '07 Portamento is a Cab-based port-style wine.  It's lush, with a great acidity.

Blue Plate Wines is practically brand new, and they showed their only offering so far, a Clarksburg Chenin Blanc which also sports some Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.  The grapefruit and other citrus notes are abetted by a razor blade acidity.  The wine already has a "Best In Class" award to its credit.

Beverly Hills Wine Festival 2012 cakeAlthough the wine was the focal point of this event, there were some very tasty treats on display.  Sweets from the Pacific Cheesecake Company,  Randy's Brownies and Desserts and Amella Artisan Cocoa Butter Caramels were a delight, and Marcus Cavalier of Deuvo Gourmet Swets had two pralines to sample.  His sea salt and espresso pralines were both pretty awesome.  A cliché, to be sure, but it fits here.  

Wine and dessert intersected at Chocolate Shop.  They infuse red wine with chocolate in the bottling process.  The result is a dry red wine with an overwhelming chocolate experience added to it.  It's quite a decadent mixture of two great joys.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Unexpected Napa Valley Wines On Social Media

The Napa Valley Vintners Association teamed up with The Daily Sip and the Sip’s editor-in-chief Karen MacNeil for a virtual wine tasting event which featured a sextet of “Unexpected Napa Wines.” What, exactly, are unexpected Napa wines? @TheDailySip tweeted the answer during the event. “We looked for classic estates making unexpected wines,” they chirped. “The #Napa Valley is a hotbed of American innovation,” they continued. “Traditions thrive and evolve while winemakers explore the new.”

The six wines tasted ranged from a mildly unexpected unoaked Chardonnay to quite unexpected California Albarino, Chenin Blanc and Petit Verdot to Fumé Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon - which I would say are far from unexpected in Napa Valley.

The #SipWithKaren wines:

  • Alpha Omega 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay
  • Artesa 2014 Albarino.
  • Cornerstone Cellars 2013 Chenin Blanc
  • Robert Mondavi Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Robert Mondavi Winery 2013 Fume Blanc
  • St. Supery 2010 Dollarhide Petit Verdot

I was invited to join this party and was provided samples of the wines for that purpose. I will cover them separately here in the coming weeks on Now And Zin Wine.

Alpha Omega 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay

Robin Baggett founded San Luis Obispo producer Tolosa Winery in 1997, and moved to Napa Valley in 2006 with his wife to found Alpha Omega. He has been a grape grower for years and now dabbles in cattle, too. Alpha Omega winemaker Jean Hoefliger is Swiss. His wine education took him from the Alps to Bordeaux and South Africa before landing in Napa. Michel Rolland is the consulting winemaker.

The Alpha Omega Chardonnay Unoaked Napa Valley 2013 prompted plenty of early comment on twitter during the first part of the tasting session. @TheAlcoholProf liked that the wine is "pleasantly acidic with caramel apple & citrus." Our fearless leader, @KMacWine, tweeted, "I like the Unoaked #Chardonnay a lot. It’s a wine that’s effortless to drink all day long." @DrinkWhatULike thought the wine "brings it with texture! Pear and baked apple for days." @timlemke Typed that "Unoaked Chardonnay is not unexpected to me. I expect to see more in the future, because it's awesome." He's right, too. @FeelingDuckie messaged "Must be #summer! All I can think about when I smell this #chardonnay are lemon-lime popsicles." Do I hear the good humor man's music? @TheDailySip cited "Ripe banana, yellow apple, cantaloupe, and a savory touch of squash blossom." On the unoaked aspect, @myvinespot said, "I'm totally expecting to see "Tree Free" on a wine label now instead of un-oaked, naked, or stainless."

The light yellow tint of the Alpha Omega '13 Unoaked Chardonnay foretells the nose of apples and apricots with a touch of Meyer lemon. There is lemon and tangerine on the palate with just a hint of dark earthiness. An excellent acidity and a crisp clean finish carries the fruit a long way. More than simply "clean" or "refreshing," which the wine is, this is a rather complex white that calls for a bit time to ruminate on its attributes.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Argentine Wine: Norton Malbec Reserva

The Malbec grape grows all over the world, but nowhere as in Argentina.  They grow about three-quarters of the world's Malbec grapes.  If Cab is king in the U.S., Malbec is monarch in Argentina.  Poorer wine producers in the country sometimes can't afford enough French oak barrels to go around for all their wines.  If a wine has to go naked, or unoaked, to stretch the peso, it'll be Cabernet Sauvignon that does without, not Malbec. 

Often relegated to the status of "blending grape" in France, Malbec is revered in Argentina and used most often in varietal wines.  The Argentines sometimes mix it with Bonarda, a South American treasure that has yet to break out globally, but watch out when it does.  It's a beautiful grape, too.  Malbec grows better and maintains its acidity in higher elevations, so you find it often in mountainous regions.

Bodega Norton sits in the foothills of the Andes in Mendoza's Lujan de Cuyo region, a place known for its Malbec plantings.  Their five vineyards in the First Zone of quality are planted with vines that average 30 years old, but some are as old as 80 years.  They were reportedly the first winery in the area some 120 years ago.  Norton is possibly the most familiar Argentine label for American wine lovers. 

The 100% Malbec wine is aged 12 months in French oak, then more in the bottle.  Alcohol is restrained, at 13.5% abv.  It retails for $19.  The Reserva Malbec consistently gets high ratings from those who attach numbers to wines and made a leading "Best Of" list last year.  It's one of Norton's new line of signature wines, and they also are unveiling a Privada Family Blend line which reportedly were once reserved for their private cellars.

This Norton is pitch-dark with a red rim and carries dark aromas on its nose.  Blackberry, blueberry and currant are predominant, with smoke and a rack full of holiday spices completing the scene.  On the palate, rich bold fruit comes forward on a wave of pepper and minerals.  The acidity is bright and the tannins are perfect, enough for a meat feast but not too much for sipping.  It’s a delightfully smooth quaff.  The savory aspect lingers medium-long on the finish.  It drinks like a youthful wine that is beginning to take on the character of its few years.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Hollywood Sleaze

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week we dig deep, for the sleazy side of Hollywood. We also ignore those asking "There’s another side?" and pair appropriate wines with these inappropriate films.

 Hollywood 90028 comes from 1973 to show the soft underbelly of filmmaking - porn. This film makes the Boogie Nights depiction of the porn world seem positively glamorous. A fellow by the name of Mark lands in Hollywood with dreams of becoming a movie cameraman. Things go south for him when the only gainful employment he finds is in the porn industry. A gal by the name of Michele is also riding the skids of her career dreams, on the other end of Mark's lens - which, it turns out, is not a very nice place to be.

Missing out on the career of one's choice doesn't necessarily make one a homicidal killer - but Hollywood 90028 indicates that sometimes it does. Ask Mark, or any of the women with whom he has slept. And try not to yell too loudly at the screen when Michele's turn to go off-camera with him comes around.

Googling "wine" and "porn" together brings some awfully sleazy responses. The website featuring "wine bottle porn videos," I don't want any part of that. However, Sexy Wine Bomb has not only a sleazy name, but a sleazy label, too. They say the flavor stays with you, as will the aroma if you spill it on your shirt.

In 1960's Sex Kittens Go to College, forget the cast - even though it features Mamie Van Doren, Tuesday Weld, John Carradine, Jackie Coogan, Louis Nye, Vampira (not as herself) and Elektro the Robot as Thinko the Robot.  Check out the character names - Admiral Wildcat MacPherson, Legs Raffertino, Woo Woo Grabowski (pretty much his real name) and Tallahassee Tassel Tosser, among them.  That last name is a tipoff that strippers are involved, but don't get too excited unless you have the version which was released to adult theaters, featuring a lengthy dream sequence starring those exotic dancers.  Hollywood sleaze?  You be the judge.

Going with the title pairing, here is a wine for actual kittens: White Kittendel Cat Wine has real catnip in it for $10 a bottle. Hey, if you have that kind of money to throw away, just send it to me. I'll spend it on real alcohol. Oh, a wine pairing, right. Meiomi sounds like something a sexy kitten would say. For twice the price of that catnip, they have a good Chardonnay for sale. Don't give any to your cat.

Star 80 is from the 1980s - the decade of sleaze. The story of a Playboy Playmate's murder at the hand of her husband is ripped from the proverbial headlines by writer/director Bob Fosse. It's an adaptation of the book about Dorothy Stratton's all-too-short life. Yes, it is a disturbing film.

Depending on when you were born, the decade of the '80s could be a fun childhood, an MTV-fueled adolescence, or a bitter disappointment for one who came from an era of better music, better movies and better TV. I'm still working on getting past that. 

Mariel Hemingway is the playmate and Eric Roberts is her sleazy husband. If anyone plays sleaze better than Roberts, please let us know. We may be able to come up with an award for that.

For a nude photo shoot, what better pairing is there than a Naked Wine? The wine club business model promises to put great wines on your doorstep at affordable prices. The various winemakers are mostly small producers who work fully clothed.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Blood Of The Vines

Wine Goes To The Movies
with and
"Rosemary’s Baby" gives us a glimpse of just how far an actor will go to get a role.  Make a deal with the devil?  Okay.  Pimp out your wife to Satan?  Hey, residuals are residuals.  The conflict between God and the devil really boils down to artistic differences.  They're both directors, and they each want a different ending.  Considering all the devil-worshiping in "Rosemary's Baby," some may want to watch it while drinking sacramental wine - naked.

John Cassavetes as struggling actor Guy Woodhouse displays a lack of moral character usually reserved for agents, or so they say.  Mia Farrow as his wife, Rosemary, shows once and for all that it's not paranoia if they really are out to... well, you know, screw you.

There's a lot of drinking in the movie, so you should feel right at home uncorking a bottle and having a hell of a good time.  Raise a special toast when Hutch says, "Have some more wine," this movie's "Hi, Bob" moment.

The Swingin' Sixties tone of "Rosemary's Baby" is set with Mia Farrow's groovy fashions and Vidal Sassoon haircut, and it gets kicked up a notch when Roman Castevet brings out that tray of Vodka Blush cocktails.

It can be argued that no woman in movie history ever needed - or deserved - a drink more than Rosemary.  After all,  the devil got to know her - in the biblical sense.  She needed a real drink, not that homebrew made from tannis root that Minnie Castevet kept pushing on her.  Tannis root, by the way, is not to be confused with the tana leaves that brought The Mummy back to life.

On to the pairing. Napa Valley's Stone's Throw Winery has a Cabernet Sauvignon called Rosemary's Baby, but it doesn't even have any devil imagery on the label.  There's a Rosemary's Baby India Pale Ale, but I don't see a craft beer working, either.  There’s no sin in having a beverage with a head - but what’s wrong with its eyes!!

As long as we're dealing with the devil's apartment, how about going downstairs to the devil's cellar?  The Chilean winery Concho Y Toro makes a wine by that very name, albeit in Spanish.  Casillero del Diablo celebrates the legend of the winery's founder.  They say he discovered some of his primo wine missing from the cellar, so he put out the word that the devil lived there.  That kept everybody away, except the ambitious actor who sublet it.

7 Deadly Zins, though, is my choice of wine to pair with "Rosemary's Baby," for obvious reasons.  It's actually named for the seven Lodi vineyards from which the grapes were harvested, not the seven deadly sins which can probably be repeated - chapter and verse - by anyone with a Catholic school background.

Before we close the page to resume our sinnin' and movie watchin', let's have a little fun.  I have one more wine to suggest for "Rosemary's Baby" - Tell Tom Evil Revved.

"The name’s an anagram."

If you're stumped, or just hate puzzles, come back next Thursday for the answer in Blood Of The Vines.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Naked Michigan Chardonnay

The locals call it paradise on a peninsula.  Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula wine region sticks out of the northwestern edge of the state's main body into Lake Michigan.  Situated on the 45th parallel, about the same latitude where you'll find Bordeaux, it's a 19-mile spit which juts northward and forms the east and west sides of Grand Traverse Bay.  It's only four miles wide at its broadest point. 

They grow wine grapes there.  The blue waters surrounding the land are some 600 feet deep, that produces what they call a "lake effect" which I am told protects the vines with snow in winter, slows bud break in spring to avoid frost damage, and extends the growing season by up to four weeks.

There's a thriving wine AVA on the strip of land, along with breweries and distilleries.  I've tasted Michigan wines before and found them to be of very high quality, so I had high expectations when the OMP reps sent some of their wines to me for review.  I was not disappointed.

The Bowers Harbor wine business was established in 1991, four years after the Old Mission Peninsula was granted AVA status.  The estate sits on a former horse farm, with 20 acres of grapes now growing.  The vines include Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.  The property is owned by Linda Stegenga and her son, Spencer.

The 2017 Bowers Harbor Unwooded Chardonnay presents the grape unadorned by the effect of oak barrels.  The stainless steel fermentation includes full malolactic creaminess at a very reasonable alcohol level of 12% abv.  The wine sells for $16, and is a steal at that price.

This straw-colored Michigan Chardonnay smells of nothing but fruit, since it was never introduced to oak.  Meyer lemon, stone fruit and tropical notes rise up from the glass.  On the palate, that's where it really takes off.  The fruit flavors jump right out, but it's the full malolactic fermentation that steals the show.  The wine is so full and creamy, you'd swear there had to be some oak barrels somewhere along the way.  Racy acidity adds to what is already an embarrassment of riches.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Edna Valley Paragon Vineyard Chardonnay 2008

California Chardonnay- big, bombastic white wines full of oak and all that implies - is a style many wine drinkers have been shying away from in recent years.  The swing toward unoaked - naked, if you will - Chardonnays which emphasize the flavor of the fruit and the effect of the earth has left many old-line California Chardonnays holding the oak.

I’ll admit, I love the purity and minerality expressed in an unoaked or low-oaked Chardonnay.  Burgundy found long ago how much was to be gained by letting the terroir do the talking.  There are times, though, when you want a Chardonnay to get all hedonistic on you.  For me, the holiday season is that time.

After months of austere whites and fruity, bone-dry rosés, the arrival of that lip-smacking prelude to the Thanksgiving feast puts me in the mood for a big, creamy, buttery Chardonnay.  And I look to Edna Valley.

A place responsible for many of those austere whites which refreshed me through the summer, Edna Valley is also home to one of my favorite over-the-top Chardonnays, Edna Valley Vineyard.

A San Luis Obispo County favorite, the ‘08 Paragon Vineyard Chardonnay has a nose full of vanilla spice, richly layered flavors and a near-bracing acidity to make it a more than capable holiday choice.  It’s great with food.  Turkey is a snap for this wine, which even turns a handful of peanuts or almonds into a gourmet delight.

I had a bottle early in the spring, and it put me in mind of a holiday spread even then.  “The wood comes through in healthy fashion,” I wrote, “with strong notes of vanilla and traces of holiday spice.  This would be a great white on the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table.”

The wine shows a golden straw color in the glass, one that suggests there may be some oak at play.  The nose further reveals that influence with the spiciness.  Pears and some of those Edna Valley minerals also are apparent.”

The incredibly full palate is dripping with the sweet fruit flavor found in a can of fruit, like pineapple, pears or peaches in heavy juice.  There's more than a trace of lemon zest, too, and a razor-sharp acidity despite the creaminess of the mouthfeel.  So big is the taste, it may make you think there's an extra portion of something on your plate.

My bottle was on sale at a discount store for $13.  Its 13.9% abv, is a fairly moderate number, something many of us like to keep in mind during holiday entertaining.