Monday, August 30, 2021

Kosher Wine - Italy

The Jewish High Holy Days happen in September, which means you'll need some kosher wines.  Fortunately, Royal Wine Corporation provides what I have found to be high-quality kosher wines.  Royal is owned by the Herzog family, whose wine history dates back to the middle of the 19th century.  Royal imports and distributes kosher wines from all over the world, and the make their own at the Herzog winery in Southern California.

When we think of kosher wine, we may often think of those from Israel, but here is one is from Italy.  Terra di Seta is in Tuscany, near Siena in the Chianti Classico region.  Their winery is on a family-run organic farm, overseen by Daniele Della Seta and his wife, Maria Pellegrini.

The 2016 Pelegríni della Seta Chianti Classico Riserva is made entirely of Sangiovese grapes, harvested from the stony soil of a sunny, windy, low-yield vineyard at an elevation of more than 1,500 feet.  The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 18 months.  Alcohol sits at a lofty 15% abv 

This Sangiovese is a fairly dark wine which smells of cherries, plums and blackberries with a mineral-driven overlay and some sweet oak spice.  The palate has plenty of fruit, too, as well as a savory aspect that lingers on the finish.  The tannins are firm - pair it with meat dishes or sauces and aged cheeses.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Hands Of Death

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  For this week’s movies, look no farther than the end of your arm.  Let’s give the TFH gurus a hand for coming up with these choices.

If you ever sat around a campfire with your scouting brothers or sisters, you must have heard the story of that couple from "the next town over," who were haunted by a hand.  "It was still gripping the car door handle!"  Yikes!  What was that sound?  A hand crawling through the leaves?  Save us, camp counselor!  Never underestimate the power of a story about a disembodied hand.

1962's Hand of Death was also known as Five Fingers of Death, which has nothing to do with trimming your nails too close to the quick.  It's a low-budget horror film, which is underscored by the presence of Joe Besser in the cast.  He's the forgotten Stooge, the actor whose big shtick was the inability to pronounce the word "cinnamon."

The story hinges on a scientist who tries to take the killing out of war.  He develops a nerve gas which incapacitates and hypnotizes its victims.  Guess what happens when he is exposed to it.  Yup, monster time.  Let us simply say that the U.S. military did not pursue the invention and went on killing people in the usual ways.

Australia's Two Hands Winery has an entry that might help ward off the bad effects of nerve gas.  Of course, it might not, but it's worth a try.  Their Angel's Share Shiraz comes from the well-known McLaren Vale wine region.

The Beast with Five Fingers goes way back to 1946 for a dose of horror featuring Robert Alda and Peter Lorre.  A concert pianist dies, but his left hand - like the Energizer bunny - keeps on keepin' on.  Not only does it set about strangling folks, it won’t stop playing Für Elise.  No, wait, that was my kid sister who tortured the family by elongating that two-note phrase to intolerable lengths.  This hand has the bad habit of scaring the bejeezus out of everyone in the old mansion.  But, really, what do you expect in an old mansion?

Washington state's Sinister Hand wine is the perfect match for The Beast with Five Fingers.  You'll probably want to turn the label away from you while watching the film.  I don't promote shoplifting, but if ever there was a wine that begged to be taken at a five-finger discount, this is the one.

The Mummy's Hand would appear at first glance to be Universal's 1940 addition to the world of severed appendages.  The hand, however, is fully connected to the mummy, which stumbles around the various sets trying to get more tanna leaves.  Gotta have them tanna leaves.  Three for life, nine for motion, you know the drill.  

The hand of the mummy gets in some exercise along the way by doing the strangling thing.  That's what you get when you bogart the tanna leaves from a mummy.

Door Peninsula Winery - on that bit of Wisconsin which sticks up into Lake Michigan - has a Mummy Moscato, replete with mummy bandage label art.  They claim the wine will have you "walkin' like an Egyptian" before the mummy has a chance to get his hand around your neck.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Greek Moschofilero Grape

Greek wines are wonderful, especially the whites, which go with seafood like they were made for the job.  In fact, they were.  The Moschofilero grape has come into its own fairly recently.  Abundant in Greece's Peloponnese region, the peninsula at the bottom of the Greek mainland, the grape earned the nickname of "the Chameleon," according to Wine Enthusiast.  It can produce wines of varying styles and expressions.  WE offers this pronouncer for Moschofilero:  mow-sko-FEEL-err-oh.

Gai'a Wines makes a 100% Moschofilero wine they call Monograph.  I had the 2018 vintage at a Beverly Hills restaurant - Avra - which offers a number of Greek wines to pair with the cuisine.  The huge restaurant also offers indoor/outdoor seating, so you have a front row experience as Ferrari after Lamborgni race up and down that one block of Beverly Boulevard.  The Monograph on their list was $17 by the glass, but you can buy the bottle elsewhere at $13 retail.  That's quite a markup, even by Beverly Hills standards.

Importer Winebow gives this pronouncer for Gai'a:  Yay-ya.  The winery has been around since 1994 and is called a pioneer in "the modern Greek wine revolution."  Winebow says the grapes for the Monograph Moschofilero "come from vineyards located in the Arcadian plateaus in the Mantinia region of Peloponnese, at an altitude of 1,500 feet."  In this cool-climate region, "the pink-skinned Moschofilero thrives, developing intense, spicy and floral aromatics and crisp acidity."  They say it pairs well with seafood - it does - as well as Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines.  The wine was vinified and aged in stainless steel tanks and has a reasonable alcohol level of 12% abv.

The nose gives a sense of the seashore, with salinity driving the smell and a light floral note lifting it.  The palate is spicy, with that wonderful salinity and earthy minerals leading the way.  The wine has a nice acidity and a lengthy, earthy finish.  I paired it successfully with a crab cake and grilled octopus.

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Monday, August 23, 2021

L.A.-Area Brewery Plays With Hops

Smog City Brewing Company Of Torrance, CA makes Fire Tornado Hazy IPA, part of the Smog City IPA Series and an addition to their "ever changing line-up of experimental IPAs."

The hops get star billing on the front of the can - Zambia, Citra and Cascade, if you are a hops nerd.  Alcohol sits just above that of a session beer at 6.3% abv.  I paid about $14 for four 16-ounce cans at my local Whole Foods Market.

This beer pours up yellow and hazy in the glass, with a pretty head that sticks around awhile.  The nose shows some delightful tropical notes along with the expected citrus blast.  The palate is full and fresh, and a nutty element joins in with the hops.  Bitterness is kept low, but there is a bit of that in play.  Fire Tornado is probably one of the better efforts I have tasted from Smog City.

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Friday, August 20, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Kitty Kat Korner

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 salute to three feline references in the movies.

I belong to an online group of people in my neighborhood, which puts forth a daily email blast of my neighbors' concerns.  Sometimes the information shared is helpful, and sometimes it's just plain ridiculous.  Recently, a message came across the computer screen that someone was selling three cats - or, at least, wanting to sell them.  Seriously, I have never heard of anyone actually getting money for house cats.  It has been my experience that people generally pay money to pawn off cats on someone else who has never had the pleasure of feline ownership.  Writing this paragraph has made me want to watch movies and drink, not necessarily in that order.  Let's see what all the fuss is about, shall we?

The country bumpkin who went to Broadway to see Cats and was disappointed because there "wadn't no cats - jus' people dressed up like cats" - he would probably hate 1964's Kitten With a Whip.  The kitten in question is sex-kitten Ann-Margaret, who knows just how much trouble she can cause for politician John Forsythe.  She is in his house when he returns from a trip.  She invites a couple of young toughs over and they all go to Mexico.  It's the kind of story that leaves one thinking, "how the hell did this happen?  Did he not lock the door when he left?  Were the cops not answering?"  Critics of the day seemed puzzled by the ending - spoiler alert - in which Forsythe is the last one standing.

Sonoma County's Barber Cellars had a Kitten With a Whip rosé just a couple of years ago, but it seems to have made a getaway.  Dammit!  On to beer, I suppose.  Massachusetts brewery Brick and Feather makes a namesake lager for this film, in 16-ounce cans.  It's only 5% alcohol.  Perfect for that road trip to Mexico.

The 1965 Russ Meyer sexploitation film, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! chronicles three SoCal club dancers who trade in their go-go boots for black leather and a life of crime, kidnapping and murder.  The movie poster reads, "Superwomen! Belted, Buckled and Booted!”" That ought to put some mid-'60s butts in the seats.  Unfortunately, the film didn't make much money or gain much critical praise at the time, although it has now become a cult classic.  

The rock band Faster Pussycat took their name from this film.  As luck would have it, they commissioned a wine in their honor, a blend of Arizona Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon called Body Thief, possibly another name for a kidnapper.

1972's Fritz the Cat introduced sex, drugs and violence into the world of animation.  The X-rated film sent notice that we weren't in Disneyland anymore.  The movie was Ralph Bakshi's first outing as a director.  He used R. Crumb's underground cartoon cat as a bludgeon against the animation institutions of the day.  His response to the many who told him, "You can't do that in a cartoon" was something Fritz might say, but I won’t.

Fritz was made as a cartoon for adults.  The old Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies shorts were made with adults in mind - smart, funny, sarcastic - but always with the idea that they had to be fit for consumption by kids.  By the 1970s, cartoons were stripped of their adult appeal and dumbed down, as if kids weren't fit for anything that was smart, funny and sarcastic.  On the other end of the spectrum was Fritz.  In many households the VHS for Fritz was probably tossed into dad's porn box.

In 1972, you may have prepared for a trip to the movies to see Fritz the Cat by firing up a doobie and downing a bottle of Mateus.  Here, we have the wine.  You're on your own for the rest.  I don't know anything about the winery Fritz de Katz except that it is in Mosel, Germany, where a lot of good Riesling is made.  Cheers! 

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Gin Designed To Wear Many Hats

Ford's London Dry Gin has a banner on the label which reads, "It doesn’t take an empire to make a gin."  This is somewhat confusing because Ford's is distilled in England.  However, the freshly-distilled gin is shipped to the U.S. - to Mendocino County, to be precise - to be cut with local well water and bottled at 90 proof.

Ford's website declares the gin to be the product of a collaboration between eighth-generation master distiller Charles Maxwell and gin expert Simon Ford.  It is described as a juniper-forward mix of nine botanicals, "deceptively soft, aromatic, fresh and floral." 

Ford designed his gin to be a versatile "Jack-of-All-Trades" which bartenders could use as a go-to liquor for any cocktails which call for gin, no matter what other ingredients were used.

The nine botanicals of Fords Gin are sourced from Joseph Flach & Sons Ltd. That company has been importing medicinal and culinary botanicals from around the world for London gin houses and tea companies "since the days of the British Empire."

Ford's offers a complex flavor profile, with juniper joined by orange, grapefruit and spices.  It makes a great martini and I would imagine a perfectly fine Negroni, although I have yet to try out that recipe.

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Monday, August 16, 2021

A Wine From The Hitching Post

If you have ever dined at one of the Hitching Post restaurants in Santa Barbara County wine country, you may be familiar with their line of wines.  They are cellared and bottled by Hartley Ostini Vintners in Santa Maria (fisherman Gray Hartley and chef Frank Ostini).  

Their Gen Red 2019 is a Central Coast beauty, made up of 31% Merlot grapes, 31% Valdiguie, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Sangiovese, grown in several Central Coast vineyards.  The grape varieties and the blend seem to change from vintage to vintage.  Alcohol sits at 14.1% abv and the price tag of $17 makes it the least expensive wine in their line.  I got mine at a Los Angeles specialty market.

The wine shows a medium dark ruby color in the glass.  The nose sports blackberry, black cherry, earth, spices and coffee grounds.  On the palate, the full mouthfeel is abetted by a wonderful freshness and firm tannins.  The finish is long.  I used a portion of the bottle to bring another dimension to my red beans.  The wine added such a layer of complexity to the dish - I don't know how people manage to cook without wine.  Even if it never makes it into the food.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Coppolacalypse

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, a trio of films directed by the great Francis Ford Coppola.  The wine pairings are easy choices this time around, since Coppola also has a winery.  The director and vintner sold his Francis Ford Coppola winery recently but retained Inglenook, where he has a home.

Coppola wrote and directed the 1966 film, You're a Big Boy Now.  The story concerns a young man who, according to the movie poster, "wants no part of sex - he wants it all."  The boy in question - Big Boy - seems to do reasonably well with the ladies, but is not exactly a Cassanova and is certainly no Lothario.  He is just finding his way in the world of adult relationships.

It is fun to note that Big Boy was made as Coppola's thesis at UCLA film school.  How can you not love a movie with character names like Barbara Darling and Miss Thing?  The presence of Rip Torn and Geraldine Page are bonuses.  

Coppola's wines generally are made from grapes out of Napa or Sonoma, but here's one with SoCal roots.  The Francis Coppola Reserve Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay has the hallmark earthiness of Santa Barbara County's Santa Maria Valley, at a pretty decent price of just over $40.

1979's Apocalypse Now is generally considered to be Coppola's masterpiece, a film which resides in just about any cinematic "Best Of" list you can find.  Besides giving us a dark and soul-searching vision of the Vietnam War, it also injected several phrases into the popular lexicon.  Who among us hasn't paraphrased, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning," "the horror, the horror" or "never get out of the boat"?  (At least not until the boat has come to a full and complete stop.)

A movie about the movie calls the many production problems encountered by Coppola "A Filmmaker's Apocalypse."  Weather delays, temperamental actors and budget overruns look like small potatoes when set next to emotional breakdowns and a serious heart attack.  Just remember - if you don't get off the boat, you don't have a movie.

While we can't say that Coppola's Diamond Collection Malbec will smell like victory, it may well take you to your virtual heart of darkness.  As one of my favorite bartenders used to scream every time I walked through the door, "Schlagers!"

If you ever find yourself playing a "seven degrees of Coppola" game, this one might come in handy.  Dementia 13 was written and directed by Coppola in 1963 - and produced by Roger Corman.  The producer was looking to stamp out a cheap copy of Psycho with castles, and gave Coppola a shot at the director's chair after having worked with him on another film.  The two men found themselves in disagreement - didn't see that coming - and Corman eventually hired another director to shoot more footage.

The black-and-white horror film still stands as vintage Corman - if not vintage Coppola - and it features an axe murder, a decapitation, a drowning and the underwater disposal of a heart attack victim.  Scary stuff with a low-budget flair.

Coppola's Director's Cut Zinfandel brings the spice and everything nice to counter the snips and snails of Dementia 13.  

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Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Citrus And Piney IPA

San Diego County's The Hop Concept puts the sensation of their brews right on the label, right in the name.  Their beers all utilize hops in inventive ways to offer a variety of tastes and aromas.  Names like "Dank and Sticky" and "Tropical and Juicy" advertise themselves truthfully in their names.

I had their "Citrus and Piney" IPA.  They describe it on the can as boasting "bold orange peel and honey aromas" followed by a "faint hint of bready malt."  Alcohol is 8.5% abv and a four-pack of 16-ounce cans ran me about $15 at my neighborhood specialty market.

The hops are right out front, as they should be with an IPA.  Six varieties of hops were used in this brew: Amarillo, Centennial, Chinook, Citra, CTZ and Simcoe.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Animaniacs

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 may rely heavily on "critter labels" for our wine pairings, as the three movies all deal with animals.

Looney Tunes Back in Action is a 2003 film directed by TFH chief guru Joe Dante.  He refers to the making of the film as the longest year and a half of his life.  Those who didn't grow up with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck may feel it was the longest hour and a half of theirs, since they will likely miss the charm found by the critics of the day, who applauded the movie.  I mean, how can even the most hard-hearted critic pan Bugs Bunny?

A host of characters from the old Warner Bros cartoons get "rebranded" in the framework of a silly spy story.  Not that anyone asked me, but I feel rebranding is generally not a good idea for things which already have a brand.  Bugs and Daffy are the animated leads, of course, but it is somehow most satisfying to see Yosemite Sam as a Vegas casino owner.  Marvin the Martian is a natural for the scenes set at Area 51.

Let's use Marvin as our wine pairing linchpin.  Martian Ranch and Vineyard has a Mourvedre-based wine they call Retrograde Reserve.  It's a $50 exploration into a grape that may be too heavy for cartoon characters, but feels just right for a rebranding effort.

1973's Heavy Traffic is Ralph Bakshi's big success, following his interpretation of R. Crumb's Fritz the Cat.  The mix of live action and animation loses the talking animals in favor of humans.  The tone is similar in nature to the freewheeling - and dirty - Fritz.  

Napa Valley's Highway 29 is known as much for its heavy traffic as it is for the tasty wines being made near its jammed lanes.  Trefethen Family Vineyards is a great stop whether you are north or southbound.  Their Dragon's Tooth is hailed by professional drinkers as an exceptional $65 wine.  And, hey, a dragon is an animal, right?

Dirty Duck is a 1974 adult cartoon, which means you can expect the worst and never be disappointed.  Crudeness finds a new level in Dirty Duck, which has nothing to do, by the way, with the comic strip character of the same name.  How was there not a lawsuit born out of that?  

The film boasts that the duck in question is "madder than Daffy... dumber than Donald… more existential than Howard."  Besides, he gives Fritz the Cat a run for his money on gratuitous sexual perversion.  If you ever felt that you didn't get quite enough inane, immature sexual one-liners in high school, this is the film for you.  On a brighter note, Dirty Duck features the voices of Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, founding members of The Turtles, sometimes remembered as Flo & Eddie.  

Lithuanian microbrewer Biržų Alus has a spiced, herbed ale that sounds almost as unappealing as the movie.  Or, there is a cocktail called Duck Fart - if you must.  Layer in some Bailey's, Kahlua and Crown Royal in a shot glass and let'er rip.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Three Great Proseccos

The Italian sparkling wine known as Prosecco dates back to the 14th century, as made in the town of Prosecco in the district of Trieste.  The Prosecco DOC was not established until 2009.  Rosé was not permitted until 2020.

I had the pleasure of attending a virtual event during National Prosecco Week, hosted by Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, also known as the World Wine Guys.  While presenting an overview of Prosecco's history, the pair identified what it is that attracts so many people to the bubbly wine: "Prosecco is fun."

There was much more to the event, but that's the takeaway, in a nutshell.  They also mentioned that real Prosecco is identified by the blue seal on the neck of the bottle, and urged consumers to accept no substitutes.

Those of us tasting along with the World Wine Guys sampled six outstanding Proseccos, three brut styles and three rosés.  We covered the pink ones in the previous article, now the non-rosé bottles.

The La Marca Prosecco DOC is made entirely from the expressive Glera grape, grown in the hillside vineyards of Italy's Prosecco capital of Treviso.  The wine records an alcohol level of 11% abv and retails for $16.

This Italian bubbly produces a thick, festive foam.  The nose brings a floral element to match up with lemon, lime and grapefruit aromas.  On the palate, a nice apple flavor meets the citrus.  It is a sweet taste and the finish follows the same way.  Fun and frolicking Prosecco.

The Villa Sandi Il Fresco Prosecco DOC Brut is also from Treviso, about a hundred communities in northeastern Italy which all come together to make this festive style of wine.  The winery asserts that the soil is influenced by the Piave River.  It contains a lot of pebbles, stones, sand and some clay.  This non-vintage wine is made from 85% Glera grapes while the remainder is a mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.  It holds the typical alcohol level of 11% abv and a retail price around $15.

This Prosecco gives a nice froth which dissipates quickly.  The pale gold-green wine gives aromas of apples and apricots, laced with citrus minerals.  The palate shows an earthy display of green apples and a slight cherry flavor.  It drinks a bit more seriously than Prosecco has a reputation for.  It's fun, to be sure, but its complexity brings the wine to another level.

The Valdo Marca Oro Prosecco DOC Brut is all Glera grapes from Valdobbiadene, crafted by winemaker Gianfranco Zanon.  The wine spent three months in Charmat aging and another month in the bottle.  Alcohol is 11% abv and it generally sells for $14.

This Prosecco carries a light yellow tint and aromas of apples, pears and peaches - dressed up in citrus minerality.  The bubbles disappear completely inside of a minute.  On the palate, a racy acidity will be quite noticeable if you have bitten your tongue lately.  The red apple flavor joins the stone fruit and cherry in a very pleasant combination.  The finish is medium lengthy and fully enjoyable, as it brings back that minerality. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Three Prosecco Rosé Wines

The Italian sparkling wine known as Prosecco dates back to the 14th century, as made in the town of Prosecco in the district of Trieste.  The Prosecco DOC was not established until 2009.  Rosé was not permitted until 2020.

I had the pleasure of attending a virtual event during National Prosecco Week, hosted by Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, also known as the World Wine Guys.  While presenting an overview of Prosecco's history, the pair identified what it is that attracts so many people to the bubbly wine: "Prosecco is fun."

There was much more to the event, but that's the takeaway, in a nutshell.  They also mentioned that real Prosecco is identified by the blue seal on the neck of the bottle, and urged consumers to accept no substitutes.

Those of us tasting along with the World Wine Guys sampled six outstanding Proseccos, three brut styles and three rosés.  First, the pink.

The Mionetto Prosecco DOC Rosé Millesimato is produced under the umbrella of Freixenet.  This one was made using grapes from the 2020 vintage, 90% Glera and 10% Pinot Nero fruit.  Those grapes were soft-pressed and left on the skins for just a few days.  The bubbles come from the Charmat method of secondary fermentation, in a pressurized tank.  Alcohol is quite light, at just 11% abv.

This Prosecco is a rich salmon pink in the glass, tending toward orange.  The nose is full of bright red fruit - cherries, dried apricots and lemons.  The froth dissipates rather quickly, and the palate is as cheerful as Prosecco is expected to be.  Berries, citrus and a touch of honey make merry on the taste buds in this bone-dry bubbly.  The citrus lasts longest on the finish.  

The Torresella Prosecco DOC Rosé is another extra dry pink Prosecco under an umbrella, this time that of Santa Margherita.  The Torresella Winery website offers that the winery is located "Italy's eastern Veneto region, an area of gentle hills and broad plains along the Adriatic Sea, about midway between Venice and Trieste."

This wine is made entirely from Glera grapes which were grown in Treviso and Venezia.  The wine was made sparkling through the Charmat method, which has the secondary fermentation take place in a tank, under pressure.  Alcohol sits at 11.5% abv.

This light pink sparkling wine has a nice froth in the glass, which dissipates quickly.  Aromas of strawberry, cherry and a touch of toast lie on the nose, while the palate brings some citrus and stone fruit to the party.  The finish is medium length and carries with it a bit of earthiness.

The Masottina Conegliano Prosecco DOC Rosé Brut is produced by the third generation of the Dal Bianco family.  The wine is 100% Glera grapes, grown in the hills of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.  Winemaker Adriano Dal Bianco carries his family's tradition well.  The wine has alcohol at 11.5% abv and it retails for $24.

This pink Prosecco smells like red ripe cherries, with more of the same on the palate.  Flavors of citrus join in, lime and grapefruit mainly.  The bubbles are generous, but fade quickly.  They are fun while they last, though.  

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Dank And Sticky IPA

San Diego County's The Hop Concept puts the sensation of their brews right on the label, right in the name.  Their beers all utilize hops in inventive ways to offer a variety of tastes and aromas.  Names like "Citrus and Piney" and "Tropical and Juicy" advertise themselves truthfully in their names.

I had their inaugural beer, the "Dank and Sticky" IPA.  They describe it on the can as boasting "aromas of dank, resinous pine" which give way to "a malty backbone and a drying hop bitterness on the finish."  Alcohol is 8.5% abv and a four-pack of 16-ounce cans ran me about $15 at my neighborhood specialty market.

The hops are right out front, as they should be with an IPA.  Seven varieties of hops were used in this brew: Columbus, Chinook, Centennial, Exp. 05256, Simcoe, Mosaic, and Comet.  It was a great addition to the time I spent grilling a steak on the patio. 

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Monday, July 26, 2021

Steve Austin's Broken Skull IPA

Steve Austin's Broken Skull IPA comes from Los Angeles County's own El Segundo Brewing Company.  You may be familiar with their popular Mayberry IPA.  I saw the Broken Skull IPA in the case at Whole Foods Market and figured I would try it on for size.

First of all, the can beams wrestler Steve Austin's name, without the usual mention of "Stone Cold" before it.  I wonder if a trademark issue arose with Stone Brewing in San Diego County?  Maybe he has just moved on from his wrestling name since he is now a broader-based entertainer.  The brewery calls it a "bad-ass" bottling and credits Steve Austin with helping to design it.  

In a continuing series of "brushes with fame" that seem to happen to me, a number of years back a friend of mine who knows Austin enlisted me to help select a Texas wine club to give him as a Christmas gift.  Neither my friend nor I reported a broken skull, so I guess he liked it.

Broken Skull IPA produces a nice head - a couple of fingers of white foam - but it does not last too long.  The color of the pour is almost orange.  The nose is quite full of citrus and pine, but the first sip is a shocker.  This IPA brings the bitter.  I mean that in a good way, of course.  I simply did not expect the bitterness to be quite so heightened and was surprised by it.  All told, it's a good sipper on a hot day and goes fairly easy on the alcohol, at only 6.7 abv.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Drawing A Bead

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 draw a bead on drinks to be paired with movies about humans used for target practice.  Put that in your 2nd Amendment argument and shoot it.

The Sniper is a film noir from 1952.  Directed by Edward DmytrykThe Sniper was one of his first films after a tough stretch in which he was blacklisted, jailed for contempt of Congress, exiled and eventually brought back before the House Unamerican Activities Committee to name names.  And you thought you had a tough week.  Stanley Kramer helped get Dmytryk’s career back on its feet with a series of low-budget films.

The movie centers on a misogynist who kills women from a distance with an M1 rifle.  He is aware that he is "not right in the head" and he adopts a "stop me before I kill again" attitude.  The authorities do stop him - but not before he kills again.  For me, the climax of The Sniper is about as satisfying as the end of a car chase in which the driver just flops out of the vehicle onto the pavement.

There is a creamy cocktail called The Sniper, so how do we not?  It features Butterscotch Schnapps, whisky cream, Creme de Cacao and cream.  Hence the "creamy" descriptor.

1968's Targets has a something-old-something-new element to it.  Roger Corman produced, while Peter Bogdonavich got his start as a director.  Boris Karloff plays a retiring horror actor while Tim O’Kelly serves as the sniper.  Karloff's character is quitting the monster movie business because he feels the actual news events of the day are much more horrific than anything he could ever act out on celluloid.  The movie became a lot more topical by the time it was released, shortly after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.  

Fans of L.A. location shooting will want to see the finale, filmed at a Reseda drive-in movie.  Spoiler alert:  The climax is terrific, when Karloff's character disarms the sniper by hitting him with his cane.  So much for the scary sniper - defeated by an old man with a walking stick.

For a wine pairing with Targets, I'll try to resist the temptation to recommend a box of wine from Target, although the temptation is strong.  There is a gun club in North Carolina which sports a "Shoot Then Sip" night for ladies.  Let's hope they keep things in the proper order.  For Californians, Sonoma's Wing and Barrel Ranch brings gunplay and drinking together.  The ranch offers both shooting and hunting, so you can opt for clay pigeons or, I guess, real pigeons.  Turley Cellars is one of their vintner partners, so get one of Turley's great Zinfandels and shoot out the cork.

Turkey Shoot, in 1982, was an Australian humans-as-prey movie.  It was directed by TFH guru Brian Trenchard-Smith, and set in a futuristic concentration camp.  The action centers around a yearly event in which a few of the higher-ups among the guards choose a handful of prisoners to hunt down in the wild.  Trenchard-Smith has called Turkey Shoot "1984 meets The Camp on Blood Island where they play The Most Dangerous Game," and that's an apt description.

The hunters are considerably better equipped for the game than the hunted.  Their weaponry ranges from guns to artillery to bombs to napalm airstrikes.  And still, two of the prisoners get through the ordeal alive.  That's just bad shooting.

Is anyone surprised by pairing Turkey Shoot with Wild Turkey Kentucky Bourbon?  There is also an Australian winery, Turkey Flat, which offers a Butchers Block Shiraz that may offer enough firepower for you.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Cask and Kettle Hot Cocktails

The advent of the Keurig coffee system changed the way we think of convenience in coffee.  It used to be no problem to load up a filter for Mr. Coffee and brew a pot, but now… c'mon, man, we don’t have that kind of time!

Just as the K-cup boiled down coffee making to the flip of a wrist, it is now providing boozy hot drinks in the same simple manner.

Cask & Kettle is billed as the only hard coffee cocktail on the market.  Everything needed for the cocktail is in the K-cup, including the alcohol.  All you have to do is pop a single serve cup into your brewing system.  You can also open up the K-cup and add hot water, but … c'mon, man, we don't have that kind of time!  The product is decaf, gluten-free and fully recyclable.

Flavors include Irish Coffee, Mint Patty, Mexican Coffee, Hot Blonde Coffee and Spiked Dry Cider.  They are hot cocktails, perfect for cooler months, but they can also work as iced coffee drinks for warmer weather.

The publicity team tells me that Cask & Kettle - based in Temperance, Michigan - is owned and operated by women, and is certified by the Women's Business Enterprise.

Irish Coffee 

This smells awesome while it is making. No coffee needed, no booze - it's all in the K-cup, all except the whipped cream.  Tastes just like the Irish coffees I used to have at Tom Bergin's on Fairfax.  Cooling it off for a drink that's enjoyable in the summer is a workable idea, too.  I added some of my wife's refrigerated coffee creamer to mine.  The pod is 38% abv.

Mexican Coffee

Tequila, vodka and dark coffee notes join with a hint of Mexican chocolate to provide a sweet drink with a south-of-the-border flair.  The pod is 30% abv. 

Hot Blonde Coffee

The vodka is barely noticeable behind the coffee and vanilla.  There is a great mocha note as well.  The pod is 37% abv.

Mint Patty Coffee

This one is vodka-based, too.  It tastes like a boozy thin mint laced with dark chocolate.  Put some whipped cream on this one.  The pod is 37% abv.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Oregon Pinot Noir, Mostly Willamette Valley

Wine importers Mack & Schühle have made a name for themselves, searching out wines from across the world and bringing them to U.S. wine lovers.  One of their latest discoveries did not require much travel.  United Ink has three wines from Washington's Columbia Valley and an Oregon Pinot Noir, which we delve into today.

United Ink Pinot Noir 2019

This United Ink Pinot Noir comes from the Oregon appellation, which is quite large, however most of the grapes were grown in the Willamette Valley.  It is a 100% Pinot Noir varietal wine, made by winemaker Joe Dobbes in Dundee, OR.

The winery says all the fruit "was destemmed and processed without crushing the grape berries, which results in longer fermentations, more complexity and softer tannins."  All lots underwent full malolactic fermentation, and 30% of the wine was barrel aged in neutral French oak, with the remainder getting stainless steel.  All the aging took place on the lees, the yeast cells which were spent during fermentation.  The wine's alcohol content reaches only 13% abv and the retail price is $22.

This Pinot has a medium ruby tint and carries aromas of raspberry, minerals, cola, black tea, clove and a touch of cinnamon.  The palate is equally complex, with fruit that wavers between sweet and tart, a savory earthiness and an acidity that refreshes.  The tannins were forceful at first, but they calmed themselves after a bit of air.  It may be a tad too rowdy to be called elegant, but it is a close call - and a tasty one.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Working Girls

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 drinks with movies about - how shall we put this delicately - working girls.  Y’know, hookers.

 The 1990 rom-com Pretty Woman has Richard Gere hooking up with Julia Roberts. The meet-cute happens after his girlfriend breaks up with him, leaving him dateless for a business soirée.  How dare she!  No girlfriend?  Just call a hooker to take her place.  Maybe it was that sort of behavior that caused her to leave him.

Of course, the business bastard is reformed through his relationship with the whore-with-a-heart-of-gold.  In the end, he gets the girl and she gets the white knight about whom she has always dreamed.  Not bad for a film that started out as a dark story about L.A. prostitution and drugs.  The studio wanted a more "feel good" approach.

Word has it that both starring roles were turned down by every A-list actor and actress in Hollywood before Gere and Roberts finally agreed to do the film.  The movie turned out to be a money machine.  Would it have been so popular with, say, Al Pacino and Meg Ryan?  Your guess is as good as mine, but my guess is "no."

There was a Napa Valley Cab from Edward Lewis Cellars called Pretty Woman a few years back, but it seems to be MIA these days.  Edward Lewis was Gere's character in Pretty Woman, and the winery still offers other bottlings.  Washington's Olympic Cellars has a line of Working Girl wines.  However, they refer to girls more along the lines of Rosie the Riveter, not a high-priced Beverly Hills call girl.  Aah, let's pop the cork anyway and celebrate wines made by women.

1933's Baby Face stars Barbara Stanwyck as a woman who "had it, and made it pay," according to the film's tagline.  It's nice how they left it to your imagination.  It was a pre-Hays code picture, and is widely credited with helping bring the Motion Picture Production Code into the business.

Who else but Stanwyck could have played this role after she showed how it was done?  Her character got what she wanted from men by offering up what they wanted.  It.  The line, "Can’t we talk this over?" never held so much sexual energy.

There is sex, seduction, scandal and suicide in the story - which was ultimately whitewashed for general release.  The moguls decided Americans were depressed enough in the Great Depression.  The unedited version was lost for more than 70 years before being found and restored.

Napa Valley's O'Brien Estate has a wine called Seduction, and it looks as tempting as it should for a pairing with Stanwyck.

Bus Stop, in 1956, starred Marilyn Monroe as a singer in a small-town diner.  What I wouldn't give for a Denny's with Marilyn Monroe serenading me while I enjoyed the Moon Over My-Hammy, with a senior discount to boot.

Monroe's character has a shady past, but it is merely hinted at, when a hick rodeo rider falls off the horse for her.  She explains that she has had a lot of "boyfriends," which was the Hays Code way of saying "I’ve been a floozie."  In the end, the cowboy rides off into the sunset - in a bus, not on a horse - with his second love at his side.  His first love was, no doubt, a bucking bronco.

Since Bus Stop is set in Arizona, let's pair a wine from Arizona Stronghold winery.  Their Dala Chardonnay is as blonde as the movie's star, and a bit more direct.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Washington State Riesling

Wine importers Mack & Schühle have made a name for themselves, searching out wines from across the world and bringing them to U.S. wine lovers.  One of their latest discoveries did not require much travel.  United Ink has three wines from Washington's Columbia Valley and an Oregon Pinot Noir.  Today, the Columbia Valley Riesling.

United Ink Riesling 2020

The 2020 United Ink Riesling is all Columbia Valley Riesling grapes, made dry by winemaker David Forsyth.  The winery says, "the majority of the 2020 Dry Riesling comes from skirted vineyards across a hill line surrounding the Yakima Valley."  The region is known for its semi-arid conditions.  Alcohol tips only 12% abv and the wine retails at a super-low $12.

This Riesling is yellow-green in the glass and offers a very attractive nose dominated by citrus and minerals.  The palate keeps it going, with the flavor of Meyer lemon dancing along with minerals and a bit of peach.  Acidity is good and fresh, but it won't take taste buds off of your tongue.  The winery recommends this one as a pairing with salmon, but anything from the sea will do.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Washington State Red Grapes By United Ink

Wine importers Mack & Schühle have made a name for themselves, searching out wines from across the world and bringing them to U.S. wine lovers.  One of their latest discoveries did not require much travel.  United Ink has three wines from Washington's Columbia Valley and an Oregon Pinot Noir.  Today, the Washington reds.

United Ink Red Blend 2019

The Red Blend is made from Columbia Valley grapes, out of Washington state.  The blend is 60% Merlot, 20% Syrah and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, masterfully crafted by winemaker David Forsyth.

The winery says "the majority of the 2019 Red Blend grapes come from vineyards in the middle of the state near the famed Indian Wells and Cold Creek Vineyards, while a smaller portion hails from a vineyard across a plateau overlooking the Columbia River in the southeast region of the Horse Heaven Hills."  They point out that the 2019 vintage was the coldest in Washington's history.

The wine was aged for 14 months in French and American oak, has alcohol at 14.1% abv and a price tag of $18.

This wine is medium dark in the glass and smells like dark fruit, somewhat jammy and somewhat oaky, but not in a bad way.  The vanilla and clove notes have a trace of smoke and sage peeking through.  The palate shows black and blue berries mainly, with a minty herbal edge on the side.  The tannins are firm and the finish is medium long.  I'll pair this with something off the grill, although I may want to try a chill on it if I have it outside.  

United Ink Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Columbia Valley grapes make up the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from United Ink.  Winemaker Forsyth combines 90% Cabernet Sauvignon with 5% each of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. 

The winery explains that "the majority of the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a vineyard across a plateau overlooking the Columbia River in the southeast region of the Horse Heaven Hills."  

The wine was aged for 14 month French and American oak, alcohol tips 14.1% abv and it retails for $18.

This Washington Cab sits medium dark in the glass and has a fairly closed nose at first.  It opens up to black fruit and savory oak - not sweet - after some time.  The mouthfeel seems rather thin to me, with gentle tannins.  Overall, it comes on more like a Pinot Noir than a Cabernet, but there is enough blackberry and plum to convince me that its' real.  Unexpected, but not completely out in left field.