Friday, January 14, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Peter Bogdanovich Week

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, we salute the recently departed director and actor Peter Bogdanovich.

1968's Targets gave Bogdanovich his start as a director.  Boris Karloff plays a retiring horror actor while Tim O'Kelly serves as a 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.  As fate would have it, the movie was released shortly after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, boosting its topicality.

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 shooter 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: no, not a box of wine from Target, although there will be no judging from me if you choose to go that way.  There is a gun club in North Carolina which sports a "Shoot Then Sip" night for ladies.  Let's hope they keep the shooting before the sipping.  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.

In 1971, Bogdanovich painted a heartbreaking portrait of hopelessness in The Last Picture Show.  The film takes place in a small, desolate Texas town.  I grew up in a slightly larger, slightly less desolate Texas town, but the movie rings true to me.

For pairing with The Last Picture Show, you can grab a Lone Star Beer - longnecks only, please - or get fancy with a wine from Lone Star Wine Cellars.  The winery is on the North Texas Wine Country map, in McKinney.  That town has more than one traffic light and several picture shows.  

Just a year later came What's Up, Doc?  Bogdanovich called it a "screwball comedy, something like Bringing Up Baby: daffy girl, square professor, everything works out all right."  The daffy girl was Barbara Streisand, the square professor was Ryan O'Neal and all was well in the end - as it always is in the land of the romantic comedy.

The San Francisco chase scene reportedly cost a million dollars to shoot - a quarter of the film's budget.  The title was borrowed from the Warner Brothers cartoons.  "What’s up, Doc?" was Bugs Bunny's signature line.  Look it up, youngsters.

The sorely missed Los Angeles restaurant, Cube, had on its marquee the phrase "what’s up D.O.C.?"  Their partiality to Italian wines spawned that little vino pun.  D.O.C. means Denominazione di Origine Controllata, a classification of wine regions in Italy.  So let's pair a wine from the Veneto D.O.C. with What’s Up, Doc?.  Just pick a red Valpolicella or a white Soave, you can't miss.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A Bucking Bronco From Italy

The Bronco Wine Company is widely known as a purveyor of inexpensive wines - think "Two Buck Chuck" and others.  The winery has thousands of acres of vineyard land in California's Central Valley, which is not on the list of great places in the Golden State for grape growing.

I have been aware of Bronco Wines for quite some time, but I never realized they sold wines from other countries.  This one is made in Verona, Italy, the 2019 Poggio Della Robinie Superiore Valpolicello Ripasso.

This wine is a blend of four rather unusual grapes.  The corporate website shows that the breakdown is 60% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 10% Corvinone and 10% Negrara.  I have seen other sites dropping the last two grapes and substituting 20% Molinara.  Whatever grapes they were, they were vinified using the Ripasso technique.  The Ripasso method of making wine involves fermenting on the dried skins of the grapes, then putting the wine away for a year in oaken barrels.  The dried grapes bring a rich and deep flavor to the wine.  Alcohol tips in here at 13.5% abv and I paid $20 for a bottle at my neighborhood Whole Foods Market.

The winery offers tasting notes that give wild cherry as one of the flavors.  That assessment is right on the money.  The red fruit - cherry, red currant - is bright and complex, with a dark, earthy edge pushing in from the side.  It's a darkly tinted wine, with a smooth mouthfeel.  I paired it with a beef tenderloin for our New Year's feast, and it was great.  I also used it in a wine sauce for the meat, and it was superb.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout

There is a brewery in northern England that produces some great beer, sends it down the road in horse-drawn carts and around the world in more modern shipping conveyances.  Samuel Smith's Brewery lays claim to being the oldest in Yorkshire, established in 1758.

They brew a number of beers using natural ingredients, sometimes even organic.  The Samuel Smith's fermentation process happens in large containers which they call stone Yorkshire Squares, made from solid blocks of slate.  The same yeast strain has been used since the 1800s. 

The grist - malted barley - is mixed with heated well water from the original well on the property.  This happens in copper mash tuns, then sent on to antique boiling coppers where English hop varieties like Fuggles and Goldings are added for bitterness and aroma.  Next up, the copper hop backs, where the spent hops are removed from the wort.

Samuel Smith's uses handmade oak casks for all its ale. The casks are made and repaired at the Old Brewery by their cooper, who is employed full-time.

All this care and attention come to fruition in Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout.  Brewed using organic chocolate malt and organic cocoa, it blends the best of both worlds - stout and chocolate.  Alcohol is a session-sized 5% abv.

I had the brew over the holidays, a great time for anything chocolate.  The chocolatey sweetness mixes beautifully with the bitterness of the beer.  It is not too heavy, so it makes a great after-dinner stout.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Even 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, we are letting the turmoil of the holidays get to us, with another hodgepodge of movies that probably escaped your attention.  Let us inform you, hopefully while entertaining you.

 The Steagle is a 1971 comedy starring Richard Benjamin.  He plays a mild-mannered professor who uses the angst of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 to justify a cross-country road trip in which he out-Mittys Walter Mitty.  He stops in several cities on his way from New York to Hollywood and lives out a different fantasy in each one.

The critical response to this forgotten film ranged from "genius" to "trash," and most agree there is a bit of both to the movie.  By the way, the movie's title refers to an NFL team during the 1943 season.  WWII took so many football players for the war effort that in Pennsylvania the Steelers and the Eagles actually merged for the year, becoming the Steagles and earning a place in sports trivia.

It's a reach, but you could pair a German radler beer from Stiegl with The Steagle.  A radler sounds like a shandy - a beer and lemonade concoction - and the pronunciation of Stiegl is probably all wrong.  Let's score a touchdown with former Eagles head coach, Dick Vermeil.  He took the Eagles to the big game the year after the Steelers went.  He now makes wine in the Napa Valley, fulfilling his daydream.

1970's Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker is shortened to simply Pigeons in some places, to the great joy of headline writers everywhere.  It's a movie about a rude taxi driver who kicks pigeons in the park.  Rudeness we can abide in a taxi driver, but let the birds be, dude.  They just walk around on their disfigured little feet, picking at cigarette butts in the dirt.  They don't need you kicking them, too.

The movie is a comedy, which centers on a guy who has taken disillusionment to another level.  You think Richard Benjamin had trouble in The Steagle?  This taxi driver's fantasy is to be a truck driver.  Honk when you're happy.

Portland, Oregon's Clay Pigeon Winery has a Syrah called Croze, after the Croze-Hermitage region of the northern Rhône Valley.  It has a fistful of flavor and will pair well with pigeon, if you so desire.

The Working Man carries its laughs in deception and mistaken identity.  The 1933 film concerns two rival shoe manufacturing companies and the various charades put on by George Arliss and Bette Davis.  They get most of the credit for adding their prodigious talents to an otherwise lightweight effort.  What happens when the boss man becomes a working man?  Well, hilarity ensues.

There was once a working man's wine fountain for the 15th century shipbuilders of Venice.  It poured wine continuously, all day, which was carried in buckets to the workers.  The wine figured out to two and a half liters a day for each man, leading one to wonder how any ships ever got built.  

A working man's beverage these days may be beer or bourbon, but we're giving this movie a wine, just like those shipbuilders except it's not free and it doesn't run all the time.  Washington state's Kana Winery makes their Workingman's Red for everyone, employed or not.  They spin the wheel and come up with seven international grapes for the blend - Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise, Cinsault, Tempranillo and Barbera, in case you're interested.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Paso Robles Winery Shapes Up Nicely

There is a long list of winery tasting rooms in Paso Robles which are fun to visit, but there's one you really have to see.  Sculpterra Winery pours some great wine, but they also show off some dandy visual arts to go with it.

Sculpterra's property is adorned with beautiful iron work from master blacksmith Bob Bentley and sculptures in bronze and granite by John Jagger.  It provides a real treat for the eyes, while the wines will gladden other senses.

The Sculpterra Maquette is made from four Bordeaux grape varieties - 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Cabernet Franc, 26% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot - all grown in the Frankel Family Estate Vineyard.  The wine was fermented in new oak barrels and one-ton macro bins, then aged in oak for 18 months, 14% of which was new French.  Alcohol tips in at 14.5% abv and it sells for just under $50.

This wine is medium dark, with a brilliant ruby edge while pouring.  The nose brings red fruit - cherries, plums, raspberries - and a nice toasty vanilla note.  The palate offers plenty of fruit and a nice dollop of tannins, just right for pairing with some good meat.  I had it with my holiday filet of beef, and it was fine.  

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, January 3, 2022

Big Syrah From Paso Robles

Alta Colina winery is based in Paso Robles' Adelaida District at a nice elevation.  In fact, their name translates as "high hill."  The show is run by the father-daughter team of Bob and Maggie Tillman, with winemaking handled by relative newcomer Molly Lonborg.  Bob calls Alta Colina 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."

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

The 2018 Alta Colina Toasted Slope Estate Syrah is composed of 97% Syrah - two different clones - along with 2% Viognier and 1% Grenache.  It was aged for 21 months in oak and another 15 in the bottle.  The wine's alcohol level checks in at 14.5% abv and it retails for $58.

Dark fruit dominates the nose while some savory notes play through.  The aromas of black and blue berries, plums and cassis define the bouquet, which is shaped by shades of anise and earth.  The palate is really a delight, as fruity as you want it to be while maintaining the Prince of Darkness title.  Tannins are firm but not feisty.  The wine drinks quite smooth, even upon recent pouring.  I liked it paired with a Spencer steak seasoned with salt and pepper, and a side of chimichurri.  I make mine with parsley, cilantro and a Fresno pepper cut up in it.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad New Year

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, let's get crazy to usher in 2022.  And while we are at it, let's start demanding that each new year has to be better than the one it is replacing.

The 1963 madcap comedy, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, stars Spencer Tracy, backed up by an all-star cast featuring Edie Adams, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Dorothy Provine, - lemme catch my breath - Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, - did I say Dorothy Provine? - Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters and about 200 other notables in cameos.  Mr. Winters was enough to grab me as I was already a huge fan by the tender age of eight years.

The characters all scramble to be the first to discover the hiding place of $350,000 in stolen cash.  Jimmy Durante spills the beans about the money before dropping dead.  For his "the's in the…" moment, Durante tells the assembled mob only that the treasure is under a big W.  Terry Bradshaw should give a hint like that about how to win "his money," but maybe Fox really is taking it out of his paycheck.

The movie turns on the various troubles everyone has while trying to get to the place where the big W is.  It puts the mad in madcap, the screw in screwball, the slap in slapstick and the road in road comedy.  To be precise, it puts four mads in madcap. 

Director Stanley Kramer was reportedly none too happy about the studio ripping out footage like a drywall demo team.  Apparently nobody told him that Hollywood didn't need any three-hour comedies.  Even with more than a half an hour of celluloid on the cutting room floor, the movie still ran 161 minutes.  To quote Robert Vaughn from Blake Edwards' S.O.B., "That's too long."

Well, so just open three bottles of wine to get through the viewing.  Try Madcap, a red blend from British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.  The winery, Fairview Cellars, is described as being "on the Reed Creek alluvial Fan at the North end of the Benches of the Golden Mile."  I think there may be too many capital letters there, but that's how they wrote it.

2011 gave us a glimpse of a duplicate of our world, mad or otherwise.  Another Earth has a fairly convoluted plot, the crux of which is a second earth just like ours which hangs in the sky like a harvest moon.  The sci-fi film does not deal with how a second Earth might affect gravity or the tides or whether the extra light it sheds at night means we could get rid of daylight saving time.  Fingers crossed.  

Another Earth does examine the result of taking responsibility for one's actions and the issues that would arrive if you got to meet your other self from the mirror world.  I worry that I wouldn't recognize myself.  I mean, Aidan Quinn was pumping his gas right next to me and I was oblivious until my wife pointed him out.

I seem to be digressing a bit this week, for which I am sorry.  The holidays, the pandemic, you know.  Languishing.  But I cannot let the opportunity pass without mentioning that, in the cast of Another Earth, there is an actor named Flint Beverage.  I'm not kidding.  So, with the drop of his name, it must be time to select a nice wine to pair with the movie.  Beverage time.

Broken Earth Winery is a likely pairing, although their name probably is less a reference to the planet as it is to a shovel turning dirt.  They make a Paso Robles Cabernet Franc, which is a good grape no matter which Earth you find yourself visiting.

In this very space, I have referred to the 1989 black comedy musical parody Meet the Feebles as a Peter Jackson pre-hobbit fever dream.  Jackson has Muppet-like characters cast as members of a twisted and violent theater troupe.  Jim Henson could not have possibly given his stamp of approval to this use of puppets, and within a year of Feebles' release he was dead.  I'm not saying one thing had anything to do with the other, but there you are.  The poster for the movie shows a hippo in a party dress hoisting a machine gun, and that tells you all you need to know about whether you should drink while watching.

For Meet the Feebles, lets find a black wine for this black comedy.  I'm thinking of a Malbec from Cahors.  That French region is known for its dark-times-three wine.  Georges Vigouroux's Pigmentum - "that which colors" - is a nice choice, and easy on the wallet, too, at about $12. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter



Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Paso Robles Merlot, Via Los Angeles

San Antonio Winery survived Prohibition and the Great Depression by making sacramental wines in the urban heart of Los Angeles.  While all the other L.A. wineries folded, the Riboli's winery flourished, thanks to the family's strong connection to the church.  At more than 100 years old, it is the oldest and largest producing winery in Los Angeles.

Maddalena Estate Reserve Paso Robles Merlot 2020

Maddalena Riboli was the inspiration for this wine.  More than a matriarch, Maddalena was instrumental in the family's success in the wine business.  The family says she even founded the first wine tasting room in California.  Her signature is on the front label and her picture is on the back.

The Ribolis say that Maddalena Merlot gives us "intense flavors, plush mouthfeel and deep colors," and they are right on all counts.  The wine has an alcohol level of 14.5% abv and it sells for less than $20.  

This Merlot is very dark, almost inky.  Its nose brings forth black cherry, anise and plum aromas, along with some sweet oak spice.  The palate is succulent and flavorful, with dark fruit and enough spice notes to bake a pie.  Tannins are rather gentle, so the sip is smooth.  I would like this wine paired with a pork shoulder or a creamy cheese.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Napa Vintner Scores With Merlot, Prosecco

Bread & Butter's promotional blurbs urge customers to "buy the one that looks like this," and "don't overthink it."  Those are probably not the best ad lines Madison Avenue ever came up with, but there is a streak of truth in them.  For these wines, anyway, maybe you should embrace the lack of a kitty on the label.  Maybe it is a relief to find a wine at the supermarket which does not have a name ground out from the "random animal + random geographical word" sausage maker.  You know, like "Bear River," "Porcupine Pass" or "Ocelot Springs."  

As I was driving through Los Angeles the other day - the very day I had to choose which wine to open when I got home - I found myself in traffic behind a Bread & Butter delivery truck.  I figure the signs won't get much clearer than that.  B&B's winemaker Linda Trotta says it best, "A good wine is a wine you like."

The 2019 Bread & Butter Merlot brings alcohol at a reined-in 13.5% abv, and the retail price is only $15.

This medium-dark Merlot smells delicious.  It's labeled as a California Merlot, with no further indication of where the grapes were grown.  Rich plum and classic aromas mingle with a bit of smoke and a bit of chocolate.  The palate is velvety and lush, with dark fruit, mocha and a minty finish.  The tannins are unobtrusive, yet they worked just fine with our Thanksgiving … steak.  Drink what you like, eat what you like.

The Bread & Butter Prosecco DOC is all Italian - made in a small town near Venice, says the website.  It has alcohol at 11% abv and the retail damage is $15.

This bubbly wine has a pretty, frothy head which dissipates quickly.  That leaves you with a greenish-yellow wine and a line of bubbles around the edge of the glass.  The nose is lovely - pears, apples, a bit of citrus minerality - and the palate follows suit.  It is a semi-sweet delight that is very festive and tasty.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, December 24, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Holiday Drollery

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 a trio of Christmas movies, or at least movies which have the Christmas season as part of the scenery.  We are entering the fray here, about whether or not merely being set at Christmas time is enough to make a film a Christmas movie - see Die Hard or Diner as examples.  Or the following.

Christmas in Connecticut was released in 1945 to great success.  The end of the war left people hungry for a screwball comedy about food and a soldier returning home from the conflict.  Usually, characters who are far from home and dream of "a steak that thick" are marked for death.  But Dennis Morgan's wounded warrior escapes the worst and actually gets his meal, in the form of Barbara Stanwyck.  Every Christmas comedy needs a Grinch, and Sydney Greenstreet serves in that role here, to an extent.  His Grinchiness is circumstantial, and he isn't the only one pouring soot on the snow - Stanwyck’s fiance is no Christmas miracle.  By the end of the movie, we find that Greenstreet is really a nice guy deep down.

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

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

1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas has that ol' Pumpkin King Jack Skellington trying to take over Christmas.  It seems natural, following in the Charlie Brown TV special's footsteps, to move from Halloween Town to Christmas Town.  Things go awry, and Santa is kidnapped, and his life is threatened, and it looks like there won't be a Christmas this year.  But wait… it looks like Jack saves Christmas Day for all of us.  Didn't see that coming, didja?

If you're looking for Nightmare Before Christmas stemware, head over to Etsy for a startlingly full complement of glasses.  Those craft people never miss a trick-or-treat.  We want wine, however, and we want it now.  For a slightly scary Christmas wine pairing, let's throw ten bucks at the cashier and make off with Apothic Dark.  It’s heavy on the oak, making you think of that tree in your living room, and it has a hint of chocolate to remind you that Halloween wasn't all that long ago.

The Apartment, from 1960, is the movie every romcom wants to be.  Billy Wilder's masterpiece stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston and a host of wonderful character actors.  The story unfolds during end-of-year festivities which bring Lemmon and MacLaine together in unlikely circumstances, holiday-wise. 

Lemmon - Buddy Boy - has an apartment which gets used by his superiors at the office for their extra-marital meetups.  He leaves the key under the mat and clears out, then waits for the lights to be turned off, signaling that it's okay for him to go home.  He falls for a gal who turns out to be a one-time guest in his place, with his boss as her host.  It's awkward, situation-wise.

The Apartment has all the holiday trimmings - New York City, loneliness, Santa in a bar, slushy sidewalks and a Seconal suicide attempt.  Not to play the spoiler, ending-wise, but everything works out fine.

Holiday entertaining on a working person's budget?  Drink Cava and pretend it's Champagne, leftover from last night's party.  Vilarnau has a Spanish sparkler that sneaks out of the wine shop for less than $20 and will pair quite well with The Apartment and a couple of cha-cha records.  Just keep the music down - the neighbors have been complaining. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Imprisoned Red Wine Grapes Released On Recognizance

The Prisoner Wine Company has a couple of California red blends of which you should be aware.  They have a Zinfandel blend and another red blend - Saldo - which is heavy on the Petite Sirah.  Dave Phinney is no longer involved with the label - wine megatron Constellation bought the brand.  Now, things are run by The Prisoner Wine Company's Director of Winemaking Chrissy Wittman and newly appointed lead winemaker Todd Ricard.

Saldo's bottle looks like it was decorated with a label maker.  The minimalist bottle style has a certain appeal, but I really like reading wine labels so it doesn't work for me.  The wine is a mix of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, which the company says is "approachable and serious."  The alcohol level is a ripe 15% abv and the wine sells for $32, as does the Zinfandel.

This wine is extremely dark with notes on the nose of black cherry, anise, smoke and spice.  The palate is rich and dark, showing blackberry, licorice, allspice, cinnamon and black pepper.  The finish is not too long, but it is full of sweet oak spice while it's there.  The tannins are a bit toothy until it has been open for a while. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Pinot Noir By Sonoma-Cutrer From The Russian River Valley

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

Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2019

The 2019 vintage of Sonoma-Cutrer's Russian River Valley Pinot Noir shows a complex and elegant nose and palate.  The wine was made by a female-led team of winemakers, but Mick Schroeter got to put his name on the label, and he is understandably proud of helping to bring the finicky grape to its full fruition.  The Russian River Valley is a world-class region for Pinot Noir, thanks to the fog that rolls up the river and turns the valley into a cool climate area.  The wine aged in French oak barrels for eleven months and got another half-year in the bottle.  Alcohol is restrained at 13.9% abv and the retail price lands at $35.

This wine is medium-dark in its ruby color.  The nose offers up beautiful raspberry notes with black tea and a pretty floral element.  On the palate, the raspberry is a bit brambly and is joined by tea, coffee and cola notes.  The tannins are fairly stiff upon opening, but they settle down after awhile.  The finish is medium and savory.  Altogether it is an elegant wine.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Hit Men

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, Hit Men take center stage - guys who kill for money and say "It's not personal, it's just business."  You know the phrase if you've ever been fired from a job.

Ah!  A movie title with an exclamation point in it!  Hit! came out in 1973, apparently before Strunk and White clamped down on such punctuation abuse.  Still at large on their hit list: Oliver!, Airplane! and Tora! Tora! Tora!  Boy, are they in trouble.  

Billy Dee Williams was richly praised for his performance as a federal agent who assembles - through coercion - a team of vulnerable misfits, Richard Pryor among them.  

The team takes out a drug cartel, one by one, showing how easily it could be done.  The hits are carried out using weapons which range from poison to a speargun to a bazooka.  Now that's a variety show.   The agent's success does not endear him to his bosses, who have been losing the war on drugs while playing by the book. 

Yeah, there are plenty of holes in Hit!'s Swiss cheese of a plot but it's actually a pretty fun popcorn movie.  The critics were mixed back in the day, but then they always seem to be, don't they?

For a wine to pair with Hit!, let's look at The Uprising, a red blend which is part of the 19 Crimes line.  It should be called 19 Criminals, but we'll ride with it as labeled.  It was aged for a month in rum barrels, so expect a bit more sweetness to offset the sour topic of the film.

Murder By Contract is a 1958 film noir which had a lot more influence than its sphere at the time of release would suggest.  Martin Scorsese has hailed the movie as one of the biggest influences on his style of movie making.  Vince Edwards stars as a hit man who carries no gun, who has principles despite his choice of professions and who thinks a bit too much for someone in that job.

He routinely kills men at the request of his bosses - guys with names like Mr. Brink and Mr. Moon - but he experiences pangs of guilt when an important witness in a big case is targeted, and it turns out she's a woman.  Right, the hit man with a heart o' gold.  Nah, actually he thinks women are too unpredictable to make good targets.  He thinks they are trouble.  He finds out that in his case, they are.

Oregon's Witness Tree Vineyard no longer offers their Witness Protection Plan Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but if you can scare up a bottle, that's the one to have.  Trust me, there are not many wines out there with "Witness Protection" on the label - this is it.

1971's Get Carter brought real, honest-to-god violence into the British crime film genre, and did so without even blushing.  The plot works about as easily as a Rubik's Cube, but the film has collected a cult following over the years and is now considered one of the very best British films.  Michael Caine stars in it and excels as the morally bankrupt double-barrel trigger man.  

Grab a bottle from Temecula's Carter Estate Winery to pair with Get Carter.  A well-structured Syrah, Malbec or Merlot should fit nicely within the loose moral structure of the movie.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

The San Simeon wine label hails from the Paso Robles AVA, but it is under the wine umbrella of the Los Angeles-based Riboli family and their San Antonio Winery.  You may also know of their wines by the names Stella Rosa, Maddalena, Highlands 41 or Opaque.  From L.A. to Paso Robles to Monterey to Italy, the Ribolis have vineyards in some of the best places on earth to grow grapes.

San Antonio Winery survived Prohibition and the Great Depression by making sacramental wines in the urban heart of Los Angeles.  While all the other wineries folded, the Riboli’s winery flourished, thanks to the family's strong connection to the church.  At more than 100 years old, it is the oldest and largest producing winery in Los Angeles.

The estate offers a variety of soils: calcareous limestone, sandstone, and loam.  The winery is certified sustainable, powered entirely by solar energy and uses water conservation techniques.  The grapes for the 2019 San Simeon Cabernet Sauvignon - 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot - came from several hillside vineyards, which were blended together to make this wine.  Aging took place over 18 months in mostly French oak barrels.  Alcohol tips 14.9% abv and the wine sells for about $20.

This wine is very dark in the glass.  It features a beautiful nose of brambly cassis, mocha and chocolate notes.  Minerals come into play as do sage and thyme.  The palate is loaded with dark fruit, more minerals and sweet oak flavors.  Tannins are alive and well, so a bit of time opening up in the glass is recommended.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Two Nice Wines From Creston Highlands

The Highlands 41 wine label comes from Monterey County, but it is under the wine umbrella of the Los Angeles-based Riboli family and their San Antonio Winery.  You may also know of their wines by the names Stella Rosa, San Simeon, Maddalena or Opaque.  From L.A. to Paso Robles to Monterey to Italy, the Ribolis have vineyards in some of the best places on earth to grow grapes.

San Antonio Winery survived Prohibition and the Great Depression by making sacramental wines in the urban heart of Los Angeles.  While all the other wineries folded, the Riboli's winery flourished, thanks to the family's strong connection to the church.  At more than 100 years old, it is the oldest and largest producing winery in Los Angeles.

Highlands 41 Pinot Noir 2020

On the label, this brand promises the "thrill of exploration and the spirit of adventure."  To me, that just about sums up the promise contained in any bottle of wine.  The name, Highlands 41, comes from Highway 41 and the Creston Highlands.  Those highlands, by the way, used to be a seabed - providing the ground with plenty of limestone mineral deposits.  This wine is vinified to 14.5% abv and it retails for $15.

This Monterey County Pinot Noir is fairly dark and very fragrant in the glass.  Aromas of black cherry, black tea, licorice and cinnamon put together the kind of display that makes me think of the holidays.  Dark fruit dominates the palate, and a full set of tannins accompany the juicy sip.  The Riboli family recommends pairing their Highlands 41 Pinot with grilled sausage, pasta primavera, baked salmon or roasted duck.  I would toss in turkey and ham as excellent pairings.  I had mine with lemon and honey Wensleydale cheese, and it was beautiful.

The Highlands 41 Chardonnay 2019 has an alcohol content of 14.% abv and a retail price of $15.

This wine has a lovely golden tint in the glass.  The nose is loaded with sweet oak spice, which I normally wouldn't care for in a Chardonnay, but I go with it over the holidays.  It also shows aromas of tropical fruit and a hint of burnt caramel - also a nice holiday touch.  The palate plays up the fruit more than the oak - for which I am grateful - and gives a nice acidity to make it a good wine to pair with food.  The Ribolis say that the Highlands 41 Chardonnay goes best with baked halibut, wild mushroom risotto, fried chicken or grilled pork loin.  I will go along with all of those recommendations.  

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, December 10, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Grindhouse Classics

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, Grindhouse Classics are the topic.  Violence, sex and child kidnapping all come crashing over the spillway in a flood of exploitation.  Pass the popcorn, please.

There is a place in Los Angeles called Terminal Island.  It separates Wilmington from San Pedro, presumably to try and make Rivals Week during high school football season a little safer.  Terminal Island, CA also has a low-security prison on it, with relatively few breakout attempts.  Inmates probably realize that once out, they'd be in either Wilmington or San Pedro, making life in Club Fed look a little rosier.

1973's Terminal Island movie takes the prison theme to the extreme.  After the death penalty is written out of the penal code, hardened criminals are dumped on the isle and left there without supervision.  That sounds like the first neighborhood where I lived when I moved to L.A.  It also sounds like Escape From New York with an ocean view.  The one-sheet explains it all: "Where living is worse than dying."   

The film was directed by Stephanie Rothman, who says she really didn’t have the stomach for the violence and sexual abuse depicted in Terminal Island.  Some of it reportedly got left on the cutting room floor.

It seems too easy to pair Terminal Island with a wine named The Prisoner, but here we are.  The winery has taken some heat recently for, you know, glorifying incarceration - but it's all in a day's work in the grindhouse.  The Prisoner is a tasty blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Charbono.  The Charbono grape is actually Bonarda, living under Napa Valley's witness protection program.

The Candy Snatchers  also came out in 1973, an apparently good year for sleaze.  The movie was inspired by a real life kidnapping.  Sixteen-year-old Candy is nabbed on her way home from school by a group of wannabe hoodlums.  They bury her alive, allowing her to breathe through a pipe, and try to get a ransom from her stepfather, who really isn't interested in saving her.  At least one actor in the movie regretted having appeared in it, claiming it was a paycheck that took more than it gave.

From the shores of Lake Michigan comes Cotton Candy wine, a sweet dessert beverage offered by St. Julian Winery.  Pairing opposites works well, so the sweetest wine we could find should go like a natural with a nasty mess like The Candy Snatchers.

In 1974, The Swinging Cheerleaders appeared, in which those pom-pom pretties "gave their all for the team."  You may have seen it - we won't judge - under its other titles: Locker Room Girls and H.O.T.S. II.  The movie was part of a series of films based on the notion of sexually loose cheerleaders.  Turns out there is a market for that.  

The gals really have their own issues to work through, so there's not much time for cheerleading.  There is, however, plenty of time for campus intrigue, scandal and conversations about the value of virginity.  It's not quite Cinemax After Dark, but it helped start the ball rolling.

For pairing purposes, the Cheerleader cocktail just won't do.  I'm not drinking a cocktail which involves putting a popsicle into a flute, and I won't expect you to do it either.  Cheerwine is probably available at your local specialty market, but it's a soda.  I'm certainly not going to Etsy to spend good money on a cheerleader skirt for my wine bottle.  Turns out there's a market for that, too.  

Let's give the holiday spirit its due.  Mulled wine.  Oregon's Honeywood Winery saves you the agony of ruining a perfectly good bottle of red by doing it for you.  Have a good time at the Dickens Festival.  Bottoms up, and no, that's not a cheerleader pun. 

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Licensed To Put Wine In Cans

Licence IV is the permit in France given to cafes, restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs which allows them to serve alcohol.  There is no wonder that the sign is a welcome sight - it means refreshment, relaxation, fun and friends are inside.

This wine takes its name - and logo - from those signs.  It is a Muscadet wine, made entirely of Melon de Bourgogne grapes from the Loire Valley, fermented in stainless steel and aged on its lees in concrete tanks.  It is available in 1-liter bottles or the four-pack of lightweight cans, 250ml each.

This canned wine pours up with a nice straw-yellow appearance in the glass.  The nose is mineral-driven, with traces of peach and apricot in the whiff.  The palate also brings the minerality, with great citrus notes and an acidity that is really fresh.  It is an easy-to-sip wine, but it will pair nicely with any kind of salad or seafood dish.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Nebbiolo Wine

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 nine years ago.  They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.  Their choices are nearly always right on the money, for taste and value.

The 2017 Riva Leone Barbaresco comes from Italy's Piedmont region, where the Barbaresco DOCG is located.  The wine was made completely from Nebbiolo grapes.  The wine was aged for one year in American and French oak barrels, then half the wine was aged that way for another 12 months.  Alcohol ticks 14% abv and the retail price tag reads $25.

This fine Italian wine has a medium ruby tint.  Its nose is dark, full of plum, black cherry, strawberry, flowers and earth notes.  The fruit really comes through on the palate, along with some oak spice.  The acidity is racy, the tannins firm.  It is perfect for pairing with mushroom dishes, and it will also pair nicely with your holiday feast.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, December 6, 2021

Beautiful Rhônish Wine From Paso Robles

Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles was founded by the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas of Vineyard Brands.  They are dedicated to grape varieties of the Rhône Valley.

The 2020 Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas Blanc is made up of 40% Grenache Blanc, 21% Viognier, 19% Roussanne, 15% Marsanne and 5% Clairette Blanche - sourced from various Paso Robles vineyards which lean in the Rhône direction.  For this wine, those vineyards are Derby, Tablas Creek, Fralich, Creston Ridge and M du R.

They say the wine "marries the richness and vibrancy of Grenache Blanc with the aromatics of Viognier and the structure and minerality of Marsanne, Roussanne and Clairette Blanche."

Alcohol tips in at 13% abv and the wine cost around $25 when I bought it recently at a local specialty store.

The golden tint has a green element to it.  The wine's nose is a veritable fruit basket of tropical aromas - pineapple, mango, lemons - and a quarry full of minerals.  The mouthfeel is rich and creamy, yet with a zing of acidity that tingles.  The palate brings Meyer lemon, some tangerine and a touch of apricot to the party.  Delicious. 

The red version - the 2019 Patelin de Tablas - is a blend of four red Rhône varietals: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Counoise. They say it is "based on the dark fruit, mineral and spice of Syrah, with the brightness and fresh acidity of Grenache, the structure and meatiness of Mourvèdre and small additions of Counoise for complexity."

The rouge is medium dark, but light enough that I can see through it.  The nose displays brambly blackberry and black cherry.  On the palate, blackberry and blueberry notes are right up front.  It is very fresh and fruity, and I hardly notice any oak effect at all, although it was fermented in oak and steel and aged for a year in upright oak tanks.  The wine drinks quite smoothly, with tannins that are fairly firm.  The medium finish is all about the fruit.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, December 3, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Fun With Simians

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, we go ape over some monkey movies.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes was 1971's sci-fi followup to Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  It was the third of the four-film series.  A fifth one - Get Me The Hell Off the Planet of the Apes - never materialized.

This one is more character-driven than its predecessors.  There are really only a few actors in monkey make-up, including the stars Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter.  The movie touches on several social issues of the day.  It must have been hard to present a serious argument for or against something while made up to look like an ape.

The chimps escape the destruction of the earth in a spaceship and go through a sort of ripple in time that lands them in the 1970s, just as the earth's pop music was beginning to turn bad.  They seem to ignore the tectonic shift that replaced The Beatles with ABBA, while serving as simian lab rats at the Los Angeles Zoo.  Yeah, I didn't know that stuff was going on there, either.  The next time I'm at the monkey house, I'm going to ask to interview the talking apes.

The Bored Wine Company has found a way to mix wine, monkeys and non-fungible tokens.  How does it taste?  Who knows if it even does?  This website is on the ".xyz" domain, so anything is possible.  Nice monkeys on the labels, anyway. 

Just nine months after the release of King Kong, the movie gave birth to a sequel.  Son of Kong is a 1933 film which takes a group of treasure seekers - including Kong's original abductor - back to Skull Island.  There they encounter an albino monkey which they believe is Kong's son.  It's a pre-code movie, by the way, so the big ape doesn't even have to wear pants.    

Kong's kid turns out to be a real mensch, assisting the team by fighting off dinosaurs and saving a drowning man.  Spoiler Alert: he couldn't save himself.

Son of Kong was riddled with humor, which was explained by the writer with the adage that if you can't make something better, make it funnier.  Nowadays, that notion has escalated to "if you can't make something funny, make it filthy."  I save my cursing for the other drivers around me.

Colorado has a winery called The Infinite Monkey Theorem, and they make a Cabernet Franc for $30 that comes with a picture of a monkey on the label, no extra charge.  You can imagine him as an oversized albino, if you like.

1942's Dr. Renault's Secret is a mashup of horror, mystery and sci-fi movies.  A French doctor's assistant happens to be the result of the doc's experiments which turned an ape into a man.  I suppose that's one way to get cheap help - make it yourself.  The good doctor - or mad scientist, if you prefer - should have checked with Dr. Frankenstein about how that trick usually plays out.  

The movie comes complete with a washed-out bridge, an unexpected stay at a mysterious inn, unexplained murders and an ape in the backstory.  It's a real shame about that little dog, but it's an even bigger shame about the poor monkey that was recast as a human.  He didn't deserve that fate.  

We could pair Dr. Renault's Secret with a New Jersey namesake wine.  Renault Winery is also a resort, if the Garden State is your idea of a vacation destination.  We'll ignore the website pic which shows a guy sabering a bottle of sparkling wine with what appears to be a dinner knife.  Also ignoring: their reference to the bubbly as an American champagne.  Champagne comes from Champagne, not New Jersey.  Oops, I guess I didn't really ignore it, did I?  Try the blueberry sparkler, or the Merlot.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter