Monday, November 29, 2021

Pinot Grigio From Sicily - They Should All Be Like This One

People sometimes don't think that wine importers are very important, that all they do is have crates of wine shipped in from who-knows-where to be peddled on the shelves in the lower reaches.  While that may be true for some, the best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the product to us.  Great importers like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise - are as important and as recognizable as great producers.  

Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a price that is more than fair.  Founded in 1939, the company expanded to the Miami office eight years ago.  They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

The 2020 Barone Montalto Pinot Grigio is a full varietal Pinot Grigio, grown and made on the Italian island of Sicily.  The appellation is Sicilia IGT.  These grapes were turned into wine in stainless steel tanks, where they also aged for two months before bottling.  Alcohol touches 12% abv and the retail price is just $12.  

The wine appears as a very pale yellow in the glass.  Its nose suggests citrus and minerals more than flowers and fruit.  The aromas come across as a savory salinity, not the dainty sweetness which afflicts many Pinot Grigio wines.  The palate follows suit, with a bit of the sea in the flavor profile that centers largely on limes, lemons and grapefruit.  The finish is medium long and the minerals are the lasting impression.  The acidity is zippy and fresh enough for seafood and salad pairings.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Post Apocalypse Follies

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, we examine what our landscape might look like had something in the past gone terribly wrong.

The backstory behind 1998's Six-String Samurai is a Russian nuclear victory over the U.S. in 1957.  There aren't many places left that can support life, but one of them is a place called Lost Vegas.  Wouldn't it figure that post-apocalypse life in America would be centered in the remnants of Sin City?  The whirlwind story focuses on Buddy (Holly?) as he travels across the desert to try and become the new King of Rock and Roll, after the death of King Elvis.  

Like a topping on a dessert, the soundtrack is performed by the Red Elvises, a sort of Russian rockabilly outfit you may have seen in one small Los Angeles club or another back in the mid-'90s.  

Buddy's mission sees him hindered by car trouble, cannibals, a vicious bowling team and a rival guitarist named Death in a seemingly endless series of setbacks.  It's the bowling team that scares me the most.  For reasons I do not recall, I spent time in bowling alleys decades ago in southeast Texas - in the lanes, in the bars and even back where the pins were reset - and I remember the ladies league play during afternoon hours being particularly dicey times.

Anyway, no spoiler alert here - you’ll have to watch Six-String Samurai yourself to find out who claims the King's thorny crown.  

The wine pairing for Six-String Samurai could easily be the Austrian Rockabilly Riesling, but they probably haven't gotten their container ship back, so procuring it may be a problem.  Let's look at Canada's Nostalgia Wines and their Rockabilly Red - they also have Boogie Woogie White and Pink Cadillac, if you find yourself so taken by the marketing effort.  Rockabilly Red cannot possibly be worth the $27 it costs, but hey, it has a nice label.

1979's Mad Max began what was to become a popular and critically acclaimed franchise.  The movie spawned sequels, video games and comic books - er, graphic novels.  The setting is Australia, devastated by war and crippled by shortages of life's staples.  During the pandemic, some likely recalled this film as they stared at empty supermarket shelves, devoid of toilet paper, bottled water and good, moderately priced Champagne.

The story is a gritty one, detailing a former cop's life as he wanders the Outback after avenging his family's murder by a biker gang.  Mel Gibson used his role in this film (and two sequels) to springboard to stardom.

If it's Mad Max, you'll want a fortified wine, preferably one from Australia.  Harkham Wine sells a Mad Max vintage Port from Hunter Valley.  Of course, everyone knows that you don't call it Port unless it was made in Portugal - this is a Port-style wine.  The wine is not kosher, but neither is cultural appropriation.

The Road Warrior is the name given to Mad Max 2 in the U.S.  The setting stayed in the Outback, but the Western template showed our hero helping a community fight off the roving bands of bad guys.  If your nickname is Mad Max, it's a foregone conclusion that you are either a helpful road warrior or a person shouting at unseen entities on the street corner.  Sometimes both.

Since we were thinking of Port, let's have the genuine article.  Warre's Warrior Port has been in continuous production for some 270-odd years.  It is British by way of Portugal, it tastes really good, and the empty bottle could come in handy if any roving bands of bad guys show up at your viewing party.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

From A High Hill In Paso Robles - Alta Colina Wines

A recent virtual tasting event gave me the chance to sample some of the latest releases from Alta Colina winery.  They are based in Paso Robles' Adelaida District at a nice elevation.  In fact, their name translates as "high hill."  The event was hosted by Stacie Jacob, with Mike Dawson of Solterra Strategies also on the Zoom call.  

The stars of the tasting were Bob and Maggie Tillman, the father-daughter team who run the business.  Winemaking is handled by relative newcomer Molly Lonborg.  Bob commented at the outset of the session that Alta Colina is his "retirement program run amok."  He has been at it for 18 years now.  He says he just started making wine, "and it got out of hand."

Alta Colina grows Rhône grapes on their estate, organically farmed.  The grapes are not organic, because he has never gone for accreditation.  Says Molly, "Organic is a philosophy, not a marketing tool."

The 2020 Alta Colina Grenache Blanc Estate Bottled is all white Grenache, a 50/50 blend of tank- and barrel-fermented Grenache Blanc.  The wine has a pale yellow tint and a nose of citrus and minerals - akin to the smell of a wet sidewalk.  On the palate are pear, honeydew and peach flavors delivered with a full mouthfeel and a fresh and lively acidity.  Pairing suggestions include manchego cheese and paella, although it is so versatile that you can let your imagination run wild.

The 2019 Alta Colina Claudia Cuvée Marsanne is also a varietal wine.  Bob says it was named after his mother, who was a big fan of white wines.  Claudia Cuvée was aged in oak for 16 months.  It's a blend of all four white Rhône varieties that they grow, Marsanne leading the way for Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier.  Molly says she focused on the texture of the wine while making it.  Try it with Alpine style cheese or lobster dishes.

Their 2018 GSM Grenache Blend boasts 73% Grenache grapes, 15% Mourvèdre and 12% Syrah.  It's not an oak-forward wine - they say they let the grapes do the talking.  It only had six months aging in oak, and another year in the bottle.  It shows.  This is a very fresh and fruit-forward wine, with ripe, red fruit in front.  Molly explained that the Grenache drives the palate for the fruit experience, the Mourvedre is for earthy notes and Syrah takes care of the backbone.  A creamy cheese, like Cambozola goes well with it, or wild mushrooms.

Alta Colina's 2018 Old 900 Syrah contains 96% Syrah grapes, with 2% splashes of Grenache and Viognier.  Molly said that they do co-ferment with Viognier, but this wine was blended after the fact.  Old 900 was the name of the Bomber Bob's father flew in WWII.  The grapes came from a north facing vineyard plot, rather than the Toasted Slope vineyard plot, which is south facing.  The color is very dark and the nose shows cassis, blackberry, blueberry, black pepper and a hint of bacon.  The palate is delightfully earthy and the finish is lengthy and savory.  Have some blue cheese on hand for this, or maybe braised short ribs.  

Monday, November 22, 2021

Albariño For Tapas-giving, With Recipes

The folks promoting Rias Baixas wines - Albariño, from Spain's northwestern corner - have sent some ideas on how to have a Tapasgiving this year.  They tapped Chef Albert Bevia from Spain on a Fork to curate a Spanish tapas recipe menu inspired by traditional Thanksgiving dishes for the upcoming holiday celebrations with family and friends. 

Chef Albert's Tapasgiving twist on American classics offers the perfect opportunity to shake up the Thanksgiving table, and they pair exceptionally well with a bottle of Albariño.  Click here for more on Albariño wines and for the recipes: Sauteed Garlic Pumpkin, Stuffed Mushrooms with Manchego Cheese and Breadcrumbs and Spanish Garlic Shrimp with Grapes.  Albariño is a great wine for pairing with a variety of foods, so it's perfect for the Thanks - er- Tapasgiving table.  

Paco & Lola Albariño Rias Baixas

The O Rosal part of Rias Baixas is home to Paco & Lola Albariño.  It's a little piece of land butted up against the Miño River to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.  The grapes were estate-grown and vinified to 13% abv.  The 2020 vintage is selling for about $18.  In a nod to their labeling, the winery boasts that they are "the polka-dot wine."

An earthy nose masks the floral arrangement one expects.  There are some herbal elements there, but more along savory lines.  The palate shows apples, peaches and a shovel of the earth of Rías Baixas.  Nice acidity and a pleasantly earthy finish cap a wonderfully different style for the region.    

La Val Albariño Rias Baixas

La Val was founded in 1985.  Most of the grapes they use are estate grown, which is somewhat unusual for Rias Baixas.  Many producers buy grapes from other growers.  La Val winemaker Jose Maria Ureta vinfied this wine to 12.5% abv, and it sells for around $15.

This wine also has an earthy tone to its nose, but not as strong as Paco & Lalo.  The citrus aromas come through nicely and are accompanied by a light floral bouquet.  The palate is loaded with lemon and lime and the acidity is gentle enough to pair with something spicy.

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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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A Throwback Chardonnay From Sonoma-Cutrer

Sonoma-Cutrer is celebrating 40 years of marrying Burgundy with California.  They have a trophy case full of awards their wines have won over the past three decades.

Sonoma-Cutrer The Cutrer Chardonnay 2019

This Chardonnay cuvée from Sonoma-Cutrer is all Chardonnay.  The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation during its time in barrels, where it lay on the spent yeast cells for five months  Another eight months of aging took place in older barrels, and then there were three more months in the bottle.  Alcohol tips 14.1% abv and the retail price is $35.

This Chardonnay has a golden tint in the glass, and is quite clear, too.  The nose displays oak, imparted during the 13 months or so it spent in barrels.  Underneath the wood lies some beautiful fruit - pears, peaches, pineapples, lemons.  The mouthfeel is creamy - expected with full malolactic fermentation - and yet a racy acidity flows behind it.  There is definitely a buttery note on the sip, one that harkens back to a different time for California Chardonnay.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Sweet Bubbles Of Italy!

The Acquesi winery is located in the Piedmont region of Italy.  Their sparkling wine house, Cuvage, utilizes the method of making bubbles that was devised in 1895 by Federico Martinotti.  

The Acquesi Asti Spumante is from the Friuli appellation of Piedmont, and is made from 100% Moscato Bianco di Canelli grapes.  The label is pretty and the wine's alcohol content clocks in at only 7% abv, with a retail price of $17.

This sparkler has fun, frothy bubbles which disappear quickly, so enjoy them while they are there.  The nose is beautiful - peaches, pears, white flowers - very aromatic.  On the palate, a trip to sweetsville awaits.  All the fruit mentioned is there plus a slight touch of Meyer lemon.  There's nothing to think about here - just sip and enjoy.  If you are looking for a crowd pleasing aperitif for holiday dinners, this is a fine choice. 

The Ca' di Prata Brut Prosecco comes from the village of Prata di Pordenone, in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, Prosecco DOC.  This bubbly was also made using the Martinotti method.  The grapes which went into it are Glera (85%) and the remainder is attributed only as "other."  Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks for this non-vintage wine.  Alcohol tips 11% abv and the retail price is $16.

In the glass, this Prosecco has a pale yellow tint.  The bubbles froth up nicely, but completely disappear almost immediately.  The subdued nose features mainly citrus and minerals, with a slight floral note adding some depth.  The mineral-driven palate is clean and fresh and has a nice sweetness on the back end.  The acidity is lively and adds some versatility.

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Friday, November 12, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Counterculture 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 let our freak flag fly with three movies set in the turbulent times of the late 1960s - when pot was a protest, music was magical and all California wine was from Napa.

The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart was released in 1970, a year which may have said "70s" but really was still "60s."  The movie is about a New York City college student - Stanley Sweetheart - who is trying to navigate the confusing road of sex, drugs and getting along in the late '60s.  Stanley rambles around in his druggy way, bouncing from one meaningless relationship to the next.  You remember how it was in college, right?  Don Johnson got his first lead role in the movie, years before he wore his jacket sleeves pushed up in Miami Vice.

Critics almost universally panned the film and the public stayed away from it as if it was contagious.  The only person who apparently went on the record with a positive review was Andy Warhol, who called it the best studio film ever made about 1960s counterculture.  The theme song - "Sweet Gingerbread Man" - was performed by elevator-music-specialists The Mike Curb Congregation, not exactly a group with counterculture bona fides.

Sounds like it's time for a wine pairing for Stanley Sweetheart.  If you were in college when Stanley was, you may have a passing acquaintance with a little thing we called Boone's Farm.  They still make it - "they" being Ernest and Julio Gallo.  If you went to college in the '80s, just go grab a four-pack of their Bartles & Jaymes Wine Coolers.  Those are back on the shelves, too.

1970 also brought us Zabriskie Point, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.  This movie takes us on a wild ride of student protests, racial friction and the sexual revolution, with the awesome spectacle of the Mojave Desert as a backdrop.  

Some of the scenes were shot in Death Valley, the place called Zabriskie Point, where a sort of outdoor orgy takes place in the film.  The film features sex, violence and music that sounds a lot more counterculture than the Mike Curb Congregation.  The soundtrack fares better than that of Stanley Sweetheart, with some genuine counterculture figures like Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead.  As with Stanley Sweetheart, everybody hated the film at the time, but it has grown a following over the years, largely because of the cinematography and Antonioni's direction.  Oh, and the Grateful Dead.

How about pairing a desert wine with Zabriskie Point?  That’s d-e-s-e-r-t, not dessert wine.  Skip over to Nevada, to dear ol' Pahrump.  Pahrump Valley Winery has a Riesling that’s great on ice, but in the desert, anything is great on ice.  

F.T.A. is a 1972 documentary featuring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland - now we're getting somewhere with this counterculture thing.

The movie follows the FTA Tour, a response to Bob Hope's USO shows.  FTA was defined by the U.S. Army in its recruitment material as "Fun, Travel and Adventure."  The movie presents the initials the way G.I.s defined it - F*ck The Army.  Say it loud, they’re bitter and they’re proud.  "The FTA Song" ended with the words - not the letters - in its title.

F.T.A. was no doubt seen by the USO crowd as anti-American, but the American military men who saw the shows gave it their full-throated approval when the performers of "The FTA Song" gave them their chance to shout out the last line with them.  There's little doubt that the soldiers meant those words.

A wine to pair with F.T.A. should be one with a protesting attitude, and we happen to have one right here.  At least the maker of Protest, Sonoma County's Chateau Diana, says it shows a bit of a 'tude.  It is made from Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot and just a splash of Cab, so it already sounds like a handful.  It could be one of those rare wines which display a whiff of a burning police car on the nose.  

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A Bargain Wine From Chile

Veramonte Winery is located in Chile's Casablanca Valley, but over the years they have expanded with vineyards also in the Colchagua Valley.  Casablanca is a great locale for white wines and cool-climate reds, while the Colchagua Valley is warmer.  The winery follows organic practices and has a certificate stating so.  Their importer, Gonzalez Byass, says Veramonte's farming is free of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizer.  The feeling among the Veramonte staff is that living, balanced soil makes quality grapes.

Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Reserva 2019

The 2019 Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon is made from 100% Cabernet grapes, then aged in neutral oak for eight months.  The vintage had scarce precipitation, but the winery chiefs seem happy with it nonetheless.  Alcohol tips 14% abv and the wine retails for $12.

This wine looks medium-dark in the glass, a deep ruby color.  The nose is rather rustic, especially for a Cab.  That quality could possibly be due to a limited time in oak, for a Cabernet, only eight months.  There is currant in there, along with bramble and a strong minerality.  The palate is on the rough’n’tumble side, with dark berry flavors  and earthiness showing.  The finish lingers and brings the savory side back for a revisit. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

International Sherry Week - With Pie

When the holidays roll around, sherry comes to mind.  It is festive, often sweet and pairs well with things like pumpkin and pecan pies.  There's no reason to relegate sherry to only the the holiday season, but it seems to be a little more welcome at this time.

In fact, International Sherry Week begins today, November 8, 2021.  It's the perfect excuse to get to know Sherry better.  There are so many styles of sherry from which to choose and so many pairings, especially at Thanksgiving, that maybe you could use a little help.  The folks at Gonzalez Byass - Spain's most well-known sherry producer - suggest a few ways to enjoy sherry in its different forms, with pie.   

Apple Pie with Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso  
This sherry is produced from 100% Palomino grapes and is significantly drier than Apple Pie, but the toasty flavors pair nicely with the sugar to provide a contrasting taste that is not cloying. The nutty character of the Alfonso pairs perfectly with the cinnamon and clove spices of the Apple Pie.  18% abv, $17

Pecan Pie with Harveys The Bristol Cream
This sherry is produced from a blend of 80% Palomino and 20% Pedro Ximénez grapes.  Its semi-sweet, velvety character enhances the nuttiness in both the pie and the Sherry.  17.5% abv, $20

Texas Two Step (a pecan and chocolate brownie pie) with Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 Cream
This sherry is produced from a blend of 75% Palomino and 25% Pedro Ximénez grapes.  It adds a touch of sweetness and pairs nicely with the nuttiness and the not-too-sweet chocolate in this pie.  18% abv, $17

Cherry Pie with Gonzalez Byass Néctar Pedro Ximenez  
This sherry is produced from 100% Pedro Ximénez grapes.  It brings with it aromas of candied fruit, figs and raisins and offers a good contrast to the tart cherry flavors of the pie.  15% abv, $17

Harveys the Bristol Cream has been billing itself that way since 1882, when wine merchant John Harvey was importing what was known as Bristol milk, named after the British port city through which it passed on its way from Jerez, Spain.  It's a sherry, not a liqueur, and it is the only Spanish product with a Royal Warrant from the Queen of England, which was issued in 1895.

This sherry is a blend of four different sherries from the solera, the racks of barrels where sherry is aged for up to two decades.  The four sherries used in Harveys Bristol Cream - Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez - are of different ages, all made from 80% Palomino grapes and 20% Pedro Ximénez, in the home of sherry, Jerez, Spain.

The company advises you to serve The Bristol Cream "chilled or over ice in a wine glass with a slice of orange."  The iconic blue glass bottle now has one of those labels with a logo that turns blue when the perfect serving temperature is reached.  It carries an alcohol content of 17.5% abv and retails for about $20.  As you can see by the picture, I had mine at room temperature - no blue letters.

This sherry has a gorgeous chestnut brown color and an aromatic nose for days.  Raisins, brown sugar, dried apricots.  It's all on the palate, too - complex in an easy-to-understand way.  The sip is smooth but the acidity is quite useful if you want to pair it with food. Try it with banana nut bread, ginger snaps or pumpkin pie.  By the way, the finish won't stop. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - More Monsters

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  Remnants of Halloween candy wrappers still litter the floor and the jack-o-lantern on the porch has not yet been completely consumed by the squirrels, so we’re still in the mood for a few more monster movies.  There will be pairing opportunities, of course.

Frankenstein Conquers the World is a 1965 kaiju film, the Japanese genre of films featuring giant monsters.  The genre has given us wonders like Godzilla and Mothra, but this one gets a little weird.

So the story goes, the heart of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster was taken to Hiroshima in WWII by the Nazis, see, right about the time the atomic bombs fell.  The heart was blasted by radiation, see, and a new version of The Monster was created.  He is now called Frankenstein.  He acts as a traveling wrecking crew, but he’s really just out looking for something to eat.  Hangry, I guess.

Meanwhile, back at the earthquake, another monster is spotted emerging from a split in the ground.  He is called Baragon.  As if you couldn’t see it coming, the two monsters square off in a climactic battle royale to end the picture.  Fade to black, roll credits.  Some Japanese pop culture just seems weird to me - Hello Kitty, I’m looking at you - but kaiju movies have never failed to entertain.

There is a Kaiju! Beer, from Australia, which represents their monsters more along the lines of psychedelic eyeball Minions than Godzillas.  Their creations don’t rise from nuclear waste, but they have been known to take the use of hops to the extreme.  My kind of giant monster.  If you are really taken with the eyeball theme, try Eyeball Monster Sake, if the shirimes haven’t bought out the store.

In 1981, The Evil Dead took the old cabin-in-the-woods routine and made it the setting for one of the most prolific horror franchises ever.  Creator Sam Raimi no doubt believed in this movie, but he could not have imagined just how successful it would be.  The Evil Dead spawned several sequels, a television series, a video game and an off-Broadway musical.  Gore was the central theme in all its various permutations.  

Another beer?  Have an Evil Dead Red from San Diego’s Alesmith Brewing Company.  They promise the amber beer will make you scream - with delight.

One of those sequels we mentioned was cleverly titled Evil Dead 2.  It came out in 1987, but we have to wonder why it took six years to hit that cash register button.  The gore is still there, but a bit of comic relief was mixed in and it stayed in the recipe.  Who doesn’t love their blood-soaked horror served up with some laughs?

You’ll want this wine for Evil Dead 2 - or any of the original film’s offspring.  Hob Nob Wicked Red has a wonderful skull on the label.  The French Pays d’Oc wine may not be a 100-pointer, and it may not be truly evil, but at least it’s cheap.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Lambrusco Time

California wine négociant Cameron Hughes owns no vineyards and has no official winery.  He sniffs out good wine which has already been produced by established makers, then buys it on the down low with an agreement not to reveal the source.  He then sells the wine online through his wine club - he calls it a wineocracy - bringing top-shelf wines to lower-shelf wallets.  Hughes says he keeps prices low by removing the middleman, the distributor and retailer through which store-bought wines must pass.

Now he is offering a Lambrusco - a first for the Cameron Hughes label, I believe.  Lambrusco is typically a fizzy red wine which can be cloyingly sweet from the wrong producers and deliciously dry from the right ones.  Whoever made the Lot 841 Reggio Emilia Lambrusco got it right.  It comes from the heart of the Emilia-Romagna region, made from Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Marani grapes.  Alcohol is quite low at 8.5% abv and the retail price is only $15.

This wine pours up with a slight frizzante, with the little bubbles clinging around the edge of the glass.  It is colored deep purple, with a deep and dark nose as well.  Aromas of earth, leather and that Lambrusco grapiness are luscious.  The palate shows some of the fizziness as well as a nice crisp acidity.  The wine is labeled as "dolce," but it has a dryness built into it.  It's no dessert wine, and it pairs quite nicely with some good Italian parmesan cheese.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Chilean Wine - Ritual Pinot Noir

Ritual Wines is located in the far eastern end of Chile's Casablanca Valley, around the midpoint of that long strip of a country along South America's western edge.  The coastal mountain range gives a dramatic backdrop to the vineyards, which are cooled by the breezes from the Pacific Ocean.  Pinot Noir grapes are grown in the coolest parts of the vineyards.

The 2017 Ritual Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir sat for 11 months in French oak barrels, watched over by winemaker Sofia Araya, who allowed an alcohol level of 13.5% abv.  Retail is $19.

When I tried the 2015 vintage a couple of years ago, I noted that the nose was savory and funky, with tea leaves and coffee grounds.  The palate was a walk on the dark side, too - full and wild and raw.

The 2017 has a medium ruby tint to it.  The tea and coffee notes are still there on the nose, but not as strongly.  It is savory, but not funky this time around.  The black raspberry fruit has a chance to shine.  The palate is dark and a bit brawny, with enough tannins for pot roast or pork chops.  The wine finishes long and savory, with that dark fruit trailing at the end.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Shock Theater Halloween

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, it's Halloween, ya know.  For those of us who grew up on weekend viewings of Shock Theater, Fear Theater, Scare Theater - or whatever your local station called its collection of old, black-and-white horror flicks - films such as these three were staples.  Happy Halloween! 

Is there a better movie at Halloween than the granddaddy of horror flicks, Frankenstein?  This 1931 creature feature set the stage for decades of horror tropes.  The mad scientist, Henry Frankenstein, was cast from a mold that was used repeatedly.  The Monster, with the iconic flat-head makeup, defined the horror of being misunderstood.  The laboratory had a Tesla coil - one that was actually made by Tesla.  Frankenstein was the wellspring for movie horror, especially for Universal's version of it.  By the way, if trick-or-treaters come to your door with torches in hand, don't hide in an old mill.

For the wine pairing?  Frankenstein wine.  Wait, that's a term used to describe wine that has been altered from its natural state.  Rather than recommend a pairing with a wine full of oak chips, designer yeast or grapes with bolts sticking out of them, let's go with a German wine grown near the site of the Frankenstein castle, in the Franken wine region of Pfalz.  The Hans Wirsching Iphofer Kronsberg Silvaner Trocken is dry and bold, with a crisp minerality which will pair well with torch-toasted marshmallows.

In 1935's Werewolf of London, movie-goers were treated to the first appearance of a werewolf in a big-time Hollywood picture.  Jack Pierce did the makeup, but it was less wolfy than that worn later by Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man.  That's because the actor who played the werewolf, Henry Hull, didn't want his face to be obscured.  Hull should have gotten over himself.  The heavy makeup job didn't seem to hurt Chaney's career much.  

Werewolf Wines are from Transylvania, and they sport the scariest "critter labels" I’ve ever seen.  They even glow in the dark.  The line features Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, all of which pair well with werewolf.

The Mummy - we'll cover the 1932 original here - has been subjected to more sequels, spinoffs and remakes than Batman.  Boris Karloff played the mummified man who is brought back to life by the reading of an ancient scroll.  If you ever find an ancient scroll, especially one from an Egyptian tomb, do not under any circumstances read it aloud.  I now realize that my warning is much like telling someone "Don't push that button!"  The button invariably gets pressed.  Well, all I can say is that if you bring a mummy back to life, you'd better have a quick verse or two handy, which you can use to turn him to dust.

Searching for wine and movie pairings sometimes brings me to a curiosity which cannot be passed by.  The Mummy Cabernet Sauvignon is such a curiosity.  It is a Napa Valley wine, apparently bottled by a company that makes personal wine labels.  It is described as being "a tribute to oil exploration across the US."  I don’t get it either, but maybe some wildcatter once found an ancient scroll by his oil rig and made the mistake of reading the damned thing aloud.  Anyway, at $79 a bottle, this one should be labeled "snake oil."

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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Bordeaux Legends - Big BDX

There is perhaps no name that is more connected with wine from Bordeaux as the name Rothschild.  The Domaines Barons de Rothschild have for years been benchmarks of French wine, a bar to which other winemakers are compared - and one to which they aspire.

DBR (Lafite) has a line of wines, Les Légendes, a line which they say displays that Bordeaux has been in their roots for generations.  The aim of Les Légendes is to let individual appellations in Bordeaux speak for themselves, hopefully bringing a better understanding of the diversity of the Bordeaux region to consumers.

A recent virtual tasting event, hosted by DBR winemaker Diane Flamand, explored five Bordeaux wines from various notable regions - Saint-Émilion, Médoc, and Pauillac.  The wines were made under Flamand's supervision, as they have been since 2004.  

The grapes for the Saint-Émilion, Pauillac and Médoc wines came from DBR (Lafite)'s own vineyards, while the Bordeaux red and white blends were sourced from partner growers in the Entre-Deux-Mers region.  Flamand said during the tasting event that she purchases the Entre-Deux-Mers bottlings as finished wines, from trusted partners.  

Flamand noted that the Les Légendes wines were made to be immediately drinkable and easy to understand.  She did not want anyone to think that these wines had to be cellared for a decade or two before enjoying them.

Les Légendes Saint-Émilion 2016

This wine is 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc.  A Merlot-heavy mix is customary in Saint-Emilion.  Aging took place over a full year, but only 40% of the juice saw oak.  The winery describes the 2016 vintage as remarkable, a growing season which started wet, turned dry, got wet again and ultimately sported a surprise warm spell at the end.  Alcohol hits 13.5% abv and the wine retails for $40.

This very dark wine gives off a nose of anise, plums and blackberries, with a savory edge of leather and tar, or forest floor.  The palate offers an exquisite example of Bordeaux - smooth and savory at the five-year mark.  The tannins are fine and sweet, but are more than able to help out with a pot roast, beef stew or pork dish.

Les Légendes Médoc 2018 

The folks at DBR (Lafite) identify Cabernet Sauvignon as the star of the Médoc, and they say this wine gives the star its proper stage.  The wine is 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot, with 3 to 9 months of aging in vats, 50% or which were oak.  Alcohol checks in at 14.5% abv and the wine retails for $26.

This wine shows a medium-dark ruby tint in the glass.  Its nose is laden with dark fruit - blackberry, plum, currant - and laced with licorice, leather and sweet oak spice.  The palate puts on an amazing display of fruit while serving up a savory side that stops just short of bramble.  The tannins are firm and the finish lingers quite a while.  It is a delicious wine.

Les Légendes Pauillac 2017

Pauillac is an appellation within Médoc.  It is noted for its gravel-on-clay soil, which drains well and helps the vines grow deep roots.  Cabernet Sauvignon leads the way here at 65% of the composition, while Merlot makes up the rest.  Alcohol reaches only 12.5% abv and the retail price is $54.

This is a wine with a medium-dark tint to it.  In addition to red berries, the nose brings a floral element and a trace of oak.  On the palate, the fruit is forward while the savory oak notes come in behind.  Tannins are quite firm and the acidity provides a tingle.  The finish is long, with a hint of mint in it.  

Monday, October 25, 2021

Bordeaux Legends - Basic BDX

There is perhaps no name that is more connected with wine from Bordeaux as the name Rothschild.  The Domaines Barons de Rothschild have for years been benchmarks of French wine, a bar to which other winemakers are compared - and one to which they aspire.

DBR (Lafite) has a line of wines, Les Légendes, a line which they say displays that Bordeaux has been in their roots for generations.  The aim of Les Légendes is to let individual appellations in Bordeaux speak for themselves, hopefully bringing a better understanding of the diversity of the Bordeaux region to consumers.

A recent virtual tasting event, hosted by DBR winemaker Diane Flamand, explored five Bordeaux wines from various notable regions - Saint-Émilion, Médoc, and Pauillac and Entre-Deux-Mers.  The wines were made under Flamand's supervision, as they have been since 2004.  

The grapes for the Saint-Émilion, Pauillac and Médoc wines came from DBR (Lafite)'s own vineyards, while the Bordeaux red and white blends were sourced from partner growers in the Entre-Deux-Mers region.  Flamand said during the tasting event that she purchases the Entre-Deux-Mers bottlings as finished wines, from trusted partners.  

Flamand noted that the Les Légendes wines were made to be immediately drinkable and easy to understand.  She did not want anyone to think that these wines had to be cellared for a decade or two before enjoying them.

Les Légendes R Bordeaux Blanc 2020 

The wine is composed of 80% Sauvignon Blanc grapes and 20% Sémillon.  Alcohol is low, at 12% abv and the wine retails for $19.

This white Bordeaux wine is tinted yellow and offers a nose of lemons, limes, tropical fruit and loads of minerality.  The grassiness which is present in Sauvignons from other areas is extremely muted here.  The palate is as crisp and fresh as it gets, with juicy fruit and savory minerals working together with a bracing acidity.

Les Légendes Bordeaux Rouge 2018  

This red blend was made from an equal mixture of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  Forty percent of the wine was aged in oak for nine months, keeping the wood effect to a minimum.  Alcohol is fairly standard at 14.5% abv and the retail price is only $19.

This is an extremely dark wine, and the nose jumps out of the glass so forcefully you don't really need to get too close to smell it.  When the smell reaches your nose, it is dark and savory, with the red and blue berries joined by aromas of cigar box, leather, earth and a hint of oak spice.  The palate replicates the nose, with dark berry flavors and savory streaks of earth and minerals.  The tannins are fairly firm, but they soften a bit with some time in the glass or decanted.  The finish is lengthy and features the savory side of the flavor profile. 

The next post will cover the Les Légendes wines from Saint-Émilion, Pauillac and Médoc. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Still More Movies You Never Heard Of

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, still more movies you never heard of.  That's right, we ran out of theme ideas again.  I'm sure we'll be all better next week.

People who know me know better than to ask me about wine.  They know that one simple question will ensnare them in a conversation that lasts too long and ends up putting them to sleep.  It's the same with movie aficionados. They always end up talking about movies that were seen by only twelve people in a limited opening in Sherman Oaks.  My kind of people. 

The 2019 sci-fi Vivarium is one of those films.  It takes perhaps the bleakest view of child-rearing ever seen in a movie.  The story involves a couple who are taken to live in a certain house and forced to raise a certain child who was left on their porch.  Any parent will tell you, it's a job raising a kid.  In this case, it is an actual j-o-b, from which they cannot escape.  No amount of "mommy wine" can help.  And in the end, he never calls, he never writes….

The temptation is to pair any old cheap, box-wine Chardonnay with Vivarium, but maybe we won't treat "mommy wine culture" so casually.  It is, basically, functioning alcoholism, after all.  

Let's cheat a bit and call on Domaine Parent for a nice Chardonnay - I mean a really nice Chardonnay.  And "Parent" is Jacques Parent's name, en Français, so it's "pair ONT."  A bottle of his Grand Cru white Burgundy will have you unfolding a Benjamin, but he has a good $20 Chardonnay as well.

Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx is a 1970 comedy you may be completely unaware of, even though it stars Gene Wilder.  He plays a manure collector in Ireland who falls for an American exchange student.  Fortunately for him, he doesn't fall into the manure.  Unfortunately, horses are banned from Dublin's streets and his job goes away faster than that of a West Virginia coal miner.

Good luck finding it, but there is a wine produced in Dublin - Lusca Vineyard.  I would try their Dunkelfelder, if only because I would love to bring out a bottle of it at home and say, "Here's a nice Dunkelfelder."  They make only about 30 cases a year, and it's anyone's guess how they make a living at that volume.

The Touchables provides a 1968 glimpse into the hip scene which blossomed in London in the late '60s.  A famous pop star is kidnapped by four young, beautiful birds, as the Brits would say back then.  They keep him in a big, plastic dome in the English countryside.  Everyone looks for him, but they can't find him.  "Have you tried that big, plastic dome in the countryside?"  Anyway, it wouldn't do any good to find him, as he rather likes the idea of staying with his captors.  

That sort of situation screams out loud for a nice sparkling wine.  There is such a thing, produced in England, not far from London.  Chapel Down Brut will run about $40 in the states, no kidnapping needed.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Central Coast Syrah - Qupé

Qupé specializes in growing and making Rhône-style wines from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria, the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in the Edna Valley and the Ibarra-Young Vineyard in Los Olivos.  The former is farmed sustainably while the other two are farmed organically.  They have been at it since 1982.

If you have never heard of them, Qupé is pronounced "kyoo-pay" and is the Chumash Indian word for California poppy.  The winery explains that the Chumash are native to California's Central Coast and Channel Islands.  The California poppy is the state flower.

Founder Bob Lindquist sold the Qupé brand in late 2018 to Vintage Wine Estates, although the deal reportedly allowed him to hang on to his library wines and sell them.  After he was unexpectedly shown the door as consultant and winemaker by Vintage, he formed Lindquist Family Wines as his new label.  The company also includes Verdad, the winery run by his wife Louisa Sawyer Lindquist as well as their collaborative Sawyer Lindquist Wines.

For the 2018 Central Coast Syrah, 10% of the grape clusters were fermented while still on the stems.  This adds a bit of "greenness" or a savory aspect to the wine.  Aging took place over 16 months in French oak barrels, 15% of which were new.  The grapes were sourced from various vineyards located in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties as well as Paso Robles.  Alcohol comes in at 13.5% abv and it retails for $20.  I got mine on sale for $17 at the Whole Foods Market in Malibu.

The wine is dark, and smells that way.  The nose is dominated by blackberry and plum aromas, with a dash of violets thrown in for good measure.  There is also a certain set of fragrances that comes from the oak - spices, tobacco, cedar and the like.  The palate is rich and delightful, if maybe a bit too boisterous.  What do you want from Syrah, though?  The tannins are firm and paired quite well with a glazed pork chop, duck rice and mashed potatoes.

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Monday, October 18, 2021

Sierra Nevada's Big Little Thing IPA

The Big Little Thing Imperial IPA comes from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company which is, according to the message on the can, "Family owned, operated and argued over."  The company is based in Chico, CA and has an operation in Mills River, NC.  It's becoming more common to find that West Coast breweries open up a shop in the east, presumably to cut down on shipping costs and deliver a fresher beer to their customers.  They are a favorite brewery of mine and have been for years.

Big Little Thing is the companion IPA for their Hazy Little Thing beverage.  This one the company describes as having "a full malt body, restrained sweetness, and tropical hop flavors of mango, grapefruit and tangerine."  For the geeks, the beer employs Pale, Wheat and Munich malts, along with Magnum, Crystal, Chinook, Idaho 7, Columbus, Cascade, Mosaic hops.  Alcohol checks in at 9% abv, a bit higher than most ales.

The Big Little Thing is just that, an ale with a big-feeling malt taste, kinda bitter, with plenty of hops to give those pine and citrus aromas.  The head comes up frothy white at about a finger and a half and subsides quickly, leaving nice lacing on the glass.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Spooks Run Wild

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 feel those trick-or-treaters breathing down our necks with a few comical ghost stories.

1964 brought us The Comedy of Terrors from American International Pictures.  Mixing comedy and horror makes me think of the clock radio analogy I have mentioned before - you either get a good clock or a good radio.  AIP, though, had a way with the genre, and the heavyweight names who made it work - Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone.  They got most of the Tales of Terror gang back together for this one.

The 19th century yarn centers on felons, miscreants and a drunk undertaker who drums up his own business and has only one coffin - which he recycles.  Love plays a role, too, as Joyce Jameson ends up involved in the farce.  You may remember her as the Marilyn Monroe wannabe in The Apartment or as one of the fun girls from Andy Griffith.  The older actors all play their roles with a generous portion of camp, as if they felt it may be their last chance to shine.  The movie didn't exactly get rave reviews at the time, but online raters seem to be warming to it in this century.

I'd love to pair a wine from the Vincent Price Signature Wine Collection with The Comedy of Terrors, but they seem to be unavailable these days.  Price was quite the food and wine aficionado, and he liked his wines simple but elegant.  Go for Joseph Drouhin Macon-Villages, a beautiful Chardonnay which can be had for under $15.

From 1966, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken features the great Don Knotts in his prime, surrounded by a host of the best character actors who were working at the time.  The movie was inspired by the "Haunted House" episode of The Andy Griffith Show.  It was Griffith's idea to fashion the movie as a Knotts vehicle.  Knotts plays a wannabe reporter who is assigned to spend the night in a supposedly haunted house.  

The movie poster promised that viewers would be scared until they laughed themselves silly.  The horror never really materializes, but the laughs are there, thanks to Knotts' shaky scaredy-cat persona.  Attaboy, Luther!

I may be reaching a bit, but a wine pairing from a winery in Mt. Airy, N.C. just feels right.  It was Griffith's hometown and the inspiration for TV's Mayberry.  I think Knotts would nervously agree, shaking his head and hands as his "old salt'n'pepper" sport coat swallowed him.  Round Peak Vineyards has a full menu of wines - dry and sweet - and uses good ol' American Appalachian oak for its aging barrels.

The Banana Monster was originally titled Shlock when a very young TFH Guru John Landis made it in 1971.  He also starred in it, wearing a gorilla suit designed by none other than seven-time Oscar winner Rick Baker.  Landis explains that after his success with Animal House, the distributor revived it with the new title.  People didn't like it under either name and stayed away in droves.  It is notable mainly for Landis being perhaps the skinniest gorilla you have ever seen. Jump cut to the drinks.

Banana wine is an obvious choice here, but you apparently have to make your own - nobody seems to sell it pre-made.  Hmm, I wonder why?  Here's an idea: Banana Schnapps.  Listen, it was good enough for your high school hip flask.  You're watching Schlock and complaining about drinking Schnapps?  A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, you know.

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