Friday, April 29, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - When Actors Direct

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week’s three films show what can happen when actors direct.  There are wine pairings to go with them, in case any directors out there need a relaxer.  

Sometimes a Great Notion was directed by Paul Newman in 1971, way before he started the socially conscious Newman's Own Foundation, funded by lemonade, iced tea, salad dressing and hundreds of other products.  The film starred Newman, alongside the likes of Henry Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Lee Remick and Richard Jaeckel.  Newman got his name on the director's chair almost by default, when it seemed nobody else wanted the honor.  Notion holds the distinction of being the first movie to be shown on Home Box Office after their 1972 launch, way back before the service was acronymized. 

A family of Oregon loggers gets the (sometimes great) notion that logging didn't present enough challenges, so they isolate themselves by refusing to support a strike.  This means they have to try and get their timber into the river all by themselves.  The whole town's against them, and when dad tries to lend a hand, it winds up costing him his arm.  Fortunately, the middle finger of the hand still worked.

With Oregon as the backdrop, let's pair some wine from that Pinot Noir-loving state with Sometimes a Great Notion.  You can take your pick from sixteen different winemakers at the Carlton Winemakers Studio, which was sold last year to - wait for it - a lumber family.

In a World... came from 2013.  Lake Bell wrote it, directed it and starred in it.  She plays a voiceover coach who aspires to be the voice of the movie trailers, like Don LaFontaine, who made famous the title line, "In a world…."  As it happens, her dad is the LaFontaine-esque "king of voiceovers," and she competes against him to win a coveted gig.  He doesn't take it well, but ends up being not so big an asshole as everyone thought he was.  For a guy on the fringes of show biz, that's a huge win.

I'll bet you thought I couldn't come up with a voice-related wine.  Oh, ye of little faith.  Voices in Action sells Pro Voice Wine, a rosé which - besides hailing from New Mexico - is dedicated to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom the company points out used her voice to "speak for what is right."

1974's Catch My Soul is Othello set in a rock'n'roll desert.  It was directed by Patrick McGoohan, he of TV's Secret Agent (Danger Man) and The Prisoner.  It's only fair that he got to direct this retelling of the Shakespeare tale, since he had earlier starred in a version that was set in the London jazz scene.  Did you know that McGoohan reportedly turned down the role of James Bond, not once but twice?  His acting angel must have been looking down with a "Well, I tried" expression on his face.

Unfortunately, McGoohan's stint behind the camera led to no more opportunities to direct feature films, though he later directed in television.  People pretty much hated Catch My Soul, except for the music from Richie Havens, Tony Joe White and Delaney Bramlett.  We may well bump into them again in a segment entitled, When Musicians Act.

From Napa Valley's Dominus Estate comes the perfect wine pairing for an Othello remake - Othello.  It's a blend of Bordeaux grapes which sells for around $65.  The soundtrack to Catch My Soul will cost you about $10 more.

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Monday, April 25, 2022

Tuscany - Chianti Superiore

If all you know of Italy's Chianti region is that straw-wrapped wine bottle with the candle drippings down the side from your college dorm, you need to know more.  First of all, they dispensed with the straw baskets years ago.  Second, the area has undergone a complete transformation since those days.  It is now home to some of Tuscany's best wines.

Ruffino was founded in 1877, when cousins Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino set up a small winery in the town of Pontassieve, near Florence.  Wine had been a thing there for ages, but the two Tuscan natives felt certain that much of the area's greatness had yet to be revealed, what with Tuscany's mineral-laden soils, the cooling influence of the Mediterranean Sea and the dry summers that wine grapes just love. 

Ruffino lays claim to being one of the first major wineries with vineyard estates in Italy's three most famous wine-producing regions – Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

The 2019 Chianti Superiore is made from 70% Sangiovese grapes and a 30% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Those grapes really get a chance to shine, since aging took place in concrete and stainless steel tanks for six months, then another two months in the bottle.  Superiore serves as a sort of midpoint between the Chianti DOCG and Chianti Classico.  Alcohol ticks 13.5% abv and it generally sells for around $12.

This wine sports a nose that is laced with red and black fruit and earthy minerals.  The palate features plum, blackberry and cherry, with fine tannins and a wonderful acidity.  It tastes so fresh.  The finish is medium long and fruity.  Pair it with sausages or steaks, or a nice marinara sauce.

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Saturday, April 23, 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's three choices are films that may not have hit your radar.  Here they are, along with wine pairings to go with them.  

Sometimes movies escape our attention, for many reasons.  We were busy with other things, we were sick when it was released, we lost our Netflix login.  Here is another attempt by the TFH gurus to shine some light on a few films you may have missed.

The Chaser is a 2008 South Korean film that was inspired by a real-life serial killer.  Directed by Na Hong-jin, the story centers on a former-cop-turned-pimp.  Now, that's a real career change for you.  The pimp becomes alarmed when two of his prostitutes go missing, creating a cash flow situation that probably makes him consider rejoining the force.  

The suspect is captured during what can only be described as an automotive meet-cute - he literally crashes into a cop car - but he can't be held for long due to lack of evidence.  His rap sheet includes performing a lobotomy on a family member, which might be excused, depending on how annoying that person is at Thanksgiving.  Oh, the suspect mentions - by the way - that he has killed nine people.  Guess that annoying relative can consider himself lucky.  

A call for help from a future victim goes unanswered because the cops are literally asleep at the wheel.  I once saw a parking enforcement guy kicked back, taking a nap in the driver's seat - while parked illegally.  I'm sure they got a good laugh downtown from the picture I sent them.

Parasite may have grabbed the Oscar, but The Chaser was a huge hit in Korea and garnered high praise at Cannes.

If you're having a tasty beverage with The Chaser, there are Korean faves to consider - soju, a distilled liquor, and makgeolli, a rice wine.  But let's not and say we did.  If you keep track of the criminals in the movie, the tally may reach 19.  That's the perfect opening for a tasty 19 Crimes wine.  The Australian line features a different criminal on each bottle, and they speak to you through an app.  

The 2015 Chinese film, Mountains May Depart, shows that the ol' love triangle knows no borders.  She likes the coal miner, but is in love with the gas station owner.  Ain't that the way it always breaks down?  Those gas station owners get all the girls.

She and the gas pump tycoon marry… and get divorced… and she gets the gas station!  There's a kid involved who doesn't call, doesn't write, but hangs on to a gift mom gave him back in the day.  Will they ever reunite and try speaking to each other?  Well, we wouldn't want to spoil that cliffhanger for you.  Directed by Jia Zhangke, this Mandarin language movie - which features a song by the Pet Shop Boys - made some noise at Cannes, but fell short of the Palm d'Or.  Go West, indeed.

If baijiu doesn't float your boat (it's a Chinese liquor made from sorghum and clocking in as high as 120 proof) try a mountain wine.  Duckhorn has a Cabernet Sauvignon made from grapes which were grown on Napa Valley's prized Howell Mountain.  It's a hundred bucks well spent.

Les Un et les Autres, a 1981 French film - was also released as Bolero, as a nod to the Ravel piece used in it.  Some say it is director Claude Lelouch's masterpiece, although his '60s film, A Man and a Woman, managed to snag a couple of trophies at the Oscars.

Bolero did some major box office in France, even though Jerry Lewis was nowhere near it.  The stories of four families from different countries are intertwined through their love of music, culminating with Ravel's Bolero.  Were the Pet Shop Boys on tour at the time?

How could we go wrong by pairing a French wine named Boléro with this film?  Their Merlot is a Vin de France which was aged in steel and concrete. 


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Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Dominican Dark Rum And A Couple Of Recipes

Ron Barceló Rum was founded nearly a century ago by Julian Barceló, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  The brand's popularity took off quickly, and it is now the top exported dark rum in the world.  

Barceló is made from the fermented juice of sugar cane, while other Dominican brands favor using molasses. The result, says Barceló, is a smoother and more well-rounded taste that showcases the true characteristics of the cane.  Ron Barcelo's world portfolio of award-winning rums includes Barcelo Imperial Premium Blend 30 Aniversario, Barcelo Imperial Onyx, Barcelo Imperial, Barcelo Gran Añejo and Barcelo Añejo.

I was sent a sample of the Barceló Imperial, along with some suggested cocktail recipes.  The recipes worked great for me, but I also liked sipping the Imperial over an ice cube, and even with a splash of club soda or tonic water tossed into the mix.



1.5 oz Ron Barceló Dark Series

1 oz Aloe Vera Juice

½ oz fresh cucumber water

4 slices muddled cucumber


Muddle cucumbers

Add all ingredients and shake well

Garnish with a cucumber slices or peel



1 oz Ron Barcelo Imperial 

1 oz Antica Formula 

1 oz Campari 


Pour all ingredients over ice, stir and garnish with orange peel 

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Monday, April 18, 2022

O! Albariño!

From the land of Albariño, the Rías Baixas region of northwestern Spain, comes the 2020 Lagar de Cervera.  The Albariño grapes were grown in the estate vineyards in the sub-appellations of O Rosal and O Salnés.  The fruit was destemmed before pressing and did not undergo malolactic fermentation.  Alcohol sits at 12.5% abv.

This 2020 Albariño is crisp and bright with a pale yellow appearance and a complex nose.  Aromas of citrus come first, then stone fruit, then a wonderful salinity that reminds me of the ocean.  A tropical note joins the apricot/nectarine flavor and is bathed in lemon.  The acidity is fresh and lively, and the finish is medium-long, leaving a trail of the citrus zest in its wake.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Fit For A King

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week’s trio of offerings are ripped from the pages written by horror-master Stephen King.

1408 is the room number of a NYC hotel.  Don't take that room, take the one by the elevator, take the one by the ice machine, take the one next to the all-night party, but do not take 1408.  You will get a postcard which tells you not to take it.  Don't take it!  Aah, what's the use of yelling at the screen?  The characters never listen.  

The 2007 film, 1408, comes from the 1999 King short story, but we all know it doesn't take long for him to leave us trembling.  John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack and Tony Shalhoub star in the scarefest, directed by Mikael Håfström.  

An hour behind the locked door of room 1408 is all that most have been able to take.  How will Cusack fare?  It depends on which ending you see.  Three endings were shot for the film and are used in different releases.

The wine pairing for 1408 is fairly straightforward - The Paranormal, from New Zealand's Supernatural Wine Company.  It's a Hawke's Bay Cabernet Franc which is not nearly as dangerous as that hotel room.

If your vision of a St. Bernard dog is one of a lovable, furry beast rambling through the snow to bring you a small keg of brandy, you must have missed 1983's Cujo.  The beast part fits, but Cujo brings no brandy for his victims, not even the ones who are unfortunate enough to be stuck inside a Ford Pinto.  "Don’t get in that deathtrap!"  Aah, again, the characters don't listen.

The movie was a big hit, but the critics hated it, one even suggesting that you would like the theater's air conditioning more than the film.  That was brutal, but not as brutal as Cujo, the killer dog.  King says Cujo is one of his personal favorites.

Dover Canyon Winery in Paso Robles has the 2019 Cujo Zinfandel - the 24th vintage of their "killer Zin."  It's big and jammy and ready for the backyard BBQ.

The talk of 1980 was The Shining, Stanley Kubrick's vision of King's novel from three years earlier.  If you need a reminder of the importance of avoiding "all work and no play," this is it.  The film gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "Here’s Johnny" and added a jewel to Scatman Crothers' obituary a few years later.  And stay out of room 237!  Forget it, they don't listen.  

A California company makes RedRum, made from U.S. Virgin Islands sugar cane and infused with natural mango, pineapple, coconut and cherry flavors.  Their website doesn't work, but the rum seems to be carried at a fair number of online sources.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Rosé Of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

At Sonoma County's Balletto Vineyards, they say "it's more than a bottle of wine" they are presenting.  "It's family and community, social and environmental responsibility. Excellence. A never-ending pursuit to capture wine's beauty and reflect the land on which it is grown."

The Balletto story began as a five-acre vegetable farm, which has ballooned under John Balletto's supervision to a 700 acre spread, which produces 70 different veggies and some pretty good wine.

The 2021 Balletto Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir is estate grown and bottled.  It is 100% Pinot Noir - the Dijon 667 clone, for the nerdy types - with alcohol clocking in at 13.3% abv.

This pretty, pale, pink wine offers a beautiful nose of cherries, strawberries, citrus and minerals.  On the palate, the fruit has a tangy tartness and the acidity is as fresh as can be.  I love rosés, so I'm an easy audience, but this one rivals any pinkie I have had from the south of France.  Delicious and ready for springtime.  

Monday, April 11, 2022

Wine For Passover: From Israel's Carmel Winery

Wine from Israel isn't just for Jewish holy days, but since Passover is just around the corner, let's take a look at a kosher wine from the holy land.  Carmel Winery was founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who was the owner of Château Lafite in Bordeaux.   Carmel is now under the Royal Wine Company umbrella.  The winery covers a lot of land in Israel - more than 3,000 acres of vineyards in some of the country's prime growing regions: Carmel Mountains, Upper Galilee and Judean Hills.

Chief Winemaker Lior Lacser was in charge of the 2018 Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon - Shiraz, a 60/40 split of Cab and Shiraz grapes, respectively, from Upper Galilee.  It was aged 12 months in oak barrels, hits 14% abv in alcohol and retails for around $25.

Carmel Winery's 2018 Appellation Cab-Shiraz is a dark wine with a fragrant nose.  Blackberries, blackcurrants and plums stand right out front, with a nice layer of oak spice draped over them.  Notes of clove, cinnamon, coffee, chocolate and vanilla all appear in the aroma profile.  On the palate, it's a show of dark fruit and sweet oak.  The tannins are firm and ready to help with a brisket or roast chicken.  

Friday, April 8, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Down Three Dark Streets

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 all noir on you, with three dark streets to walk down.  Just keep looking over your shoulder.  They are still after you.

The Burglar is a 1957 film noir which was largely shot in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, so the cast and crew got some good cheese steaks and a little gambling while on the job.  Dan Duryea and Jayne Mansfield star in this convoluted tale of how a string of jewels left the safe and ended up in a cop's pocket.

I once rented an apartment in Santa Monica from a woman named Mansfield who told me that Jayne was her mother.  Could've been true, I suppose.  She was certainly beautiful enough and she always chuckled when I introduced her as "my landlady."

Mansfield is not the burglar of the movie's title, but she could be accused of stealing hearts.  She is in the crew, an associate of the mastermind, and she cases the home of the necklace's owner.  She also has possession of the stolen goods at one point, but in her life of crime, Mansfield's character isn't having the time of her life.  When your street takes you to the Endless Tunnel ride on the Steel Pier, look out.

For a movie called The Burglar, what better wine than one from Thief and Barrel Wine.  They help small-batch garagistes turn grapes into wine in the Antelope Valley.  They also help them market the juice.  Try the Merlot/Petite Sirah blend.

Stroll with us now down another dark street.  Walk down far enough that you find the place Where the Sidewalk Ends.  This 1950 noir has nothing to do with Shel Silverstein's later poetry collection under the same title.  No, this story is not suitable for the youngsters in the crowd.  You won't find "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout" lurking in these frames.  Otto Preminger directed Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in this violent cops-n-criminals yarn.  

Andrews is a cop who hates criminals so much he actually scares the other cops.  That takes some doing.  Wouldn't it be something if he ended up being the one wearing the handcuffs?  The story starts with a gangster's gambling game and runs through murder, misdirection and mayhem.  It's hard to tell the good guys from the bad.  Hey, it's film noir - put your money on "bad."

Footpath Winery uses organic grapes from the Temecula Valley to create some pretty nice Cab Franc, Barbera and Malbec.  Try one of those for your sidewalk-less viewing party.

Now we break into a run to get the hell off of Nightmare AlleyTyrone Power stars in this 1947 film noir which didn't make a very big splash at the time, but is now a cherished classic.  It's the original, the one that Guillermo del Toro has remade for today's audience.

To say that Nightmare Alley is a freakfest is not far off the mark.  Any movie set in a traveling carnival has the soft underbelly of crime built into it.  Power is the barker-turned-performer who goes from a circus tent to fancy nightclubs to, well, to Nightmare Alley.  Let's find a wine which pairs well with chicken.

Favorite Daydream, Famous Nightmare is a pink wine from the south of France, but no, not Provence.  It's from the granitic soil of the Languedoc-Roussillon area, a skin-contact blend of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc.  If you are pairing it with chicken, we recommend that the bird be fully cooked before serving.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

California Rosé, Tasty, Kosher

Oxnard may not spring to mind immediately when you start riffing through your mental Rolodex of California wine regions. The Ventura County town is home to Herzog Wine Cellars, under the umbrella of the Royal Wine Corporation. The winery's story is one of immigrant grit and determination. 

The Herzog website says the company goes back to "Philip Herzog, who made wine in Slovakia for the Austro-Hungarian court more than a century ago. Philip's wines were so appreciated by Emperor Franz-Josef, that the emperor made Philip a baron."

Philip's grandson Eugene had to move his family around quite a bit during World War II to hide from the Nazis, only to be run out of Czechoslovakia by the communists. He brought his family to New York in 1948 and started working for a kosher winery that paid him in company stock. Within ten years all the other stockholders had given up on it, leaving Eugene as the last man standing. He and his sons then formed Royal Wines as a tribute to Philip. 

Expansion to Southern California happened in 1985, but it was a couple of decades before they would build their present state of the art facility. Head winemaker Joe Hurliman leads the kosher facility and produces wines in the tradition of the Jewish people. 

The 2021 Baron Herzog California Rosé is made from, I believe, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  The information I could find online was sketchy at best, shelf talker at worst.  Some sites list "rosé" as the varietal.  Rosé is a style, not a grape.  Alcohol is restrained, at only 12.0% abv and the wine sells for about $15.  It is kosher for Passover, which begins on April 15, 2022.

This salmon-pink wine has a subdued nose which offers scents of cherry, raspberry and a hint of minerals.  The palate is tasty and dry, with flavors of red fruit and a cranberry note that does not lean into tartness.  Acidity is a little light, but there is enough there to handle easy pairings.

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Monday, April 4, 2022

Freshly Squeezed Ale In California

Cali Squeeze - "For a California state of mind."

Cali Squeeze is called by its maker a "fruit-forward beer of today, reflecting the laid-back, uncomplicated expectations of a new generation of beer drinkers."  They continue that it's "a California beer infused with freshly squeezed California fruits, all powered by California sunshine."  In case you missed the point, their website shows plenty of pics of people surfing, skateboarding and generally enjoying the sunny day while sipping on these low-alcohol ales.

Cali Squeeze ales are made by the Firestone Walker Brewing Company, whose beers I have enjoyed for years.  The Paso Robles brewery enters the fray for juicy, light drink dollars which are flowing toward hard seltzers currently.  I was given a trio of the fruity beverages to sample.  Alcohol on each sits at 5.4% abv, a tad more than the typical hard seltzer and about the same as a session beer. 

Blood Orange Hefeweizen is brewed with blood orange and natural flavor.  It is probably my favorite of the three.  The blood orange is not exactly subdued, but it does stand aside more than the fruit in the other two, allowing this one to taste more like a beer.

Mango Hefeweizen tastes and smells like a beer with a mango in it.  It is certainly refreshing, and brings a load of citrus aromas into play as well.  I didn't think it would be for me - I'm not a "fruit in my beer" kind of guy - but this one has me rethinking that stance.  This ale is brewed with mango and natural flavor, and it is definitely fruit forward.

Tropical P.O.G. Hefeweizen is brewed with passionfruit, orange, guava and natural flavor.  The orange and guava come through the strongest for me on the nose and palate.  Again, enjoyable and refreshing. 

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Friday, April 1, 2022

Lip Stinging Picpoul From California's Central Coast

The imaginary Bonny Doon timeline stretches from a 1954 decree in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which banned aliens from landing their flying cigars in vineyards, to 1986 when Bonny Doon Vineyard released their Le Cigare Volant wine, and on to today when the stripped-down Dooniverse includes a wine made with the Picpoul grape.  

It was Randall Grahm's decision to move from trying to make Burgundian wines in sunny California to giving the Rhône a go.  It worked.  His little winery that could, did.  He became the Rhône Ranger.  The winery became huge, he became disillusioned and sold off parts of it over the past couple of decades.  

His mood can lift, though, with the release of a fantastic expression of Picpoul, which means "lip stinger" en Francais.  It is a much-loved grape in the south of France, carrying a brisk acidity, dancing light on its feet and providing an ultra savory accompaniment to food, according to Grahm.

More closely aligned with France's Languedoc region, the Picpoul Blanc grape has taken root in California's Monterey and Sonoma counties, as well as in places like Texas, Arizona and Washington state.  

Bonny Doon's 2021 Picpoul is 90% Picpoul and 10% Grenache Blanc, mostly from the Beeswax Vineyard in Arroyo Seco with support from the Nolan Vineyard in Santa Barbara County.

Grahm says the Beeswax Vineyard produces white grapes which have the scent of "well… beeswax," white flowers and pineapple.  He credits the wine's "bracing acidity," savoriness and a bit of brininess for its easy pairing with crabs, lobster, oysters and the like.  Alcohol is a minimalist 11% abv.

Wendy Cook drew the label art, which shows the French pronunciation of the grape's name and a visual description of the way it translates.

This white wine is bright, savory and full of acidity - ready for pairing with your favorite seafood.  The winemaker speaks of its brininess, which I get as a bit of seashore, much as in Vermentino.  There is a floral aspect, but the primary focus is on minerals and salinity.  It is a fantastic white, perfect for the coming warmer months and just as good until then.   

In addition to the wine, I received a cardboard standup of the Bonny Doon alien, who may have touched down in the Beeswax Vineyard, since there is no decree banning the practice in California.  It now lives at my home until the property management suits come nosing around.

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Thursday, March 31, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Countercultural Appropriation

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, we go a-hunting for wines to pair with three filmfuls of countercultural appropriations.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Rioja Wines For The Choosy Among Us

From importer González Byass.

Bodegas Beronia is known for its Rioja Alta vineyards.  The winery was formed by several Basque friends who wanted to have just the right wine to go with their culinary get-togethers.  Now that's a bunch of choosy wine drinkers.  The beautiful state of the art revamp on the winery is only a couple of years old.  Winemaker Matías Calleja puts his signature on the label of each bottle.

The 2017 Beronia Reserva has three grape varieties in it, 95% Tempranillo, 4% Mazuelo and 1% Graciano.  The winery says that the vines are all more than 40 years old.  The wine was aged in oak barrels for eighteen months and in the bottle for another year and a half.  Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and the retail price is $25.

This is a dark wine,black cherry red but almost opaque.  Black fruit abounds on the nose, joined by notes of anise, mocha, cinnamon and clove.  The palate is jammy, with spices and herbs making themselves clearly known.  A savory aftertaste lingers on the long finish and the tannins are a bit toothy upon opening, so be sure to decant before serving.

The 2013 Beronia Gran Reserva is a blend of 97% Tempranillo and 3% Graciano grapes, from old vines.  The wine was aged for more than two years in French oak barrels and then another similar time frame in the bottle.  Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and the retail price is $30.

The nose offers black fruit - plums, currant, blackberries - and a savory spice and herb rack featuring pepper, anise, cinnamon, clove and sage.  On the palate, there's plenty of dark fruit and more savory touches.  The tannins are firm and the acidity is refreshing, while the finish lasts a good long while.  

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Monday, March 28, 2022

Wairau River NZ Sauvignon Blanc

New Zealand wine producer Wairau River points out that the pandemic has had at least one positive effect - it got more Americans than ever to go outside for a bit of recreation.  The fine folks at the family-run winery believe that their wines are great for bringing along on your outdoor excursions.  The motto is, "Extraordinary wine for every day."

The grapes for the 2021 Sauvignon Blanc come from their locale in the Marlborough appellation, where Phil and Chris Rose started the vineyard in 1978.  It is truly a family affair at Wairau River, with Sam Rose tending to the winemaking duties and the Restaurant and Cellar Door managed by daughter Pip and served up by head chef Caroline.  The wine is made entirely from estate-grown Sauvignon Blanc grapes, carries alcohol at 12.5% and retails for $21.

This wine has huge notes of grapefruit and freshly mown grass on the nose.  The palate shows ripe grapefruit - riper than expected from the cool climate New Zealand terroir - lemon, tangerine, nectarine and a healthy acidity.  Shellfish, here we come.  Oysters, probably.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - The Paddy Wagon

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 come up with bottles to go with three movies written by Paddy Chayefsky.

1955's Marty was taken from a television play which Chayefsky had written two years earlier.  The effort won the film an Oscar and a Palme d'Or, one of only three movies to grab them both.  Nice going for a kid from the Bronx.  

There weren't any major changes to the script from small screen to big, but casting replaced Rod Steiger with Ernest Borgnine as Marty, reportedly after Steiger demanded a three-picture deal to repeat the role.  Every now and then, I try to imagine Steiger as Marty instead of Borgnine, and it just doesn't work.  In fact, all the actors in the film, every last one, were just perfect in their roles.  

Chayefsky gave Borgnine a script that the actor played the hell out of, a heartbreaking performance of a guy who thinks he's just a "fat, ugly man" who is not good enough to deserve the love of the girl on whom he is crushing.  Chayefsky, he's okay, but, "boy, that Mickey Spillane, boy, he could write."

Portland Wine Company makes a red wine called Marty, although the label image will remind you more of the Elephant Man than the Borgnine role.  At least it's fairly cheap.

The Hospital got Chayefsky another Oscar, for Best Original Screenplay.  The 1971 satire stars George C. Scott as a doctor who is torn between a woman - Diana Rigg, who can blame him? - and his crumbling institution.  Chayefsky takes a scalpel to the American health care system decades before it becomes a moral imperative.

There is a hospital in France's Alsace region which prescribes wine for your ailments.  Why didn't we think of that?  Let's get a Bordeaux, from Château de l'Hospital.  It's mostly Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, with a touch of Malbec for what ails ya.  Don't let it bother you that the winery is located in a place called Graves… à votre santé!

In 1964, The Americanization of Emily brought James Garner and Julie Andrews together in Chayefsky’s anti-war statement - which came at a time when American anti-war statements were not considered en vogue.  Both actors remembered the film as their personal favorite in which they acted.

Americanization refers to the practice, in WWII London, of trading sexual favor for hard-to-get commodities.  Andrews wonders if she is behaving like a whore, and Garner assures her that "whoring is a peacetime activity."  The movie is chock-full of smart writing like that, a specialty of the house at Chez Chayefsky.  

Let's make it special, a night to remember.  No, not Lowenbrau, but a sparkling wine from the British Isles.  The PR firm who decided that those wines should be called "British Fizz," by the way, should be sacked.  Hambledon Premiere Cuvée Brut will cost you about 50 pounds the next time you drop in to Fortnum and Mason.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Women in Wine, Part Three

Alexia Luca de Tena is the winemaker for Bodegas Viña Nora.  Her 2020 Albariño is a marvel of the grape.  The full varietal wine concentrates its power on salinity, not flowers.  It carries alcohol at 13.5% abv and retails for $18.  

Viña Nora is located in the Rias Baixas region of northwestern Spain, the home of Albariño.  It is in the heart of Condado do Tea, bordering Portugal and next to the River Miño - the only inland region in the Rías Baixas Denomination of Origin.

The winery says that Alexia Luca de Tena was born into this Galician wine-making family and has been a harvest worker for as long as she can remember.  She believes in "wines that reflect the personality of the place where they are made," the granitic soil of her home.

This golden-tinted single-vineyard wine is an Albariño with a little meat on its bones.  The grape is sometimes a little too pretty for my taste, but this Nora bottling hits me just right.  The nose has a little floral aspect, but it is almost wiped out by citrus, savory and wet sidewalk minerality.  The palate brings loads of lemon, apple and apricot and a wonderful salinity that came as a surprise.  The acidity is certainly serviceable, if not razor-sharp, and the finish is long, creamy and savory. 

Monday, March 21, 2022

Women In Wine, Part Two

Isabel Galindo is responsible for the 2017 Las Moradas de San Martín Garnacha, and has been the winemaker since 2002.  The winery is located on the Madrid side of the Gredos range of hills.  Las Moradas de San Martín has recovered ancient Garnacha vineyards which have been cultivated since the 12th century.  For decades, Sierra de Gredos has been seen as an under-the-radar region.

Galindo has introduced a low intervention style of winemaking and is committed to maintaining old vines.  She says she works her vineyards ecologically and with an inherent trust for the land, using natural yeast from the grapes and aiming for low sulfur dioxide levels.

The soil of the vineyard consists of sandy granitic hilltop dirt, poor in quality and perfect for growing grapes that boast great acidity, minerality and color.  The Senda wine aged for ten months in French oak barrels, alcohol stands at 14.5% abv and it retails for an incredible $16.

This is a dark purple wine, laden with shades of blueberry, cherry, anise, clove and cinnamon on the nose.  The palate offers a similar package - heavier on the fruit and lighter on the oak spice.  The tannins are firm, but not annoying, and the acidity is a real lip-smacker.  The finish goes too quickly, but is pleasant while it's there. 

Friday, March 18, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Weld

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, our three films star the vivacious Tuesday Weld.

Weld starred in A Safe Place in 1971, alongside Orson Welles and Jack Nicholson.  She played a New York City "hippie chick" who was a few cards short of a deck.  She has two men in her life, neither of whom are right for her, so she seeks comfort in childhood memories, including some gifts given to her by a Central Park magician.  Wonder where he's doing time right now?

The public wasn't buying it, and the critics were even harsher.  Director Henry Jaglom took most of the heat.  He says he started making films after seeing , but nowhere except on the movie poster was he mistaken for Fellini.

Freaked Out Hippie Wine is really just grape juice, sugar and yeast - make it yourself and no guarantees that it won't taste like something you'd find in prison.  Not much more hope goes out for Fish Hippie Seersucker Red.  It's made from Muscadine grapes and is available at Total Wine, although you may have to pick it up at a North Carolina store.

1968's Pretty Poison had Weld paired with Anthony Perkins, as a cheerleader and an ex-con, and you don't need two guesses to figure which was which.  Trouble doesn't take long to find them, and when it does, it turns out she has the flair for crime.  The Perkins character decides it's safer back in prison than hanging out with Ms. Poison, and that's the best move he makes in the whole picture.  Beware a cheerleader who knows how to kill and doesn't mind it one bit.

It is reportedly not poisonous, but Bitch Grenache comes from Australia and actually gets favorable reviews from users on websites not usually associated with fine wines.  The moniker suits the essence of Weld's character like a 9 mm pom pom.  Find Bitch wherever you buy your wines, beers, malt liquors, hard seltzer or rubbing alcohol. 

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

When sex kittens go to college at UC Davis, they join the Aggies Uncorked wine club, which sends out monthly shipments of wines with a connection to the old oenological alma mater.  At some point, the university will sell the wine made by students in the wine program - for upwards of $100 a bottle.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Loire Valley Delight - Vouvray Wine

Domaine Pichot Vouvray Le Peu de la Moriette 2020

Talk about an institution - Jean-Claude Pichot runs the domaine the way his family has since 1770.  Vineyard Brands imports it.  All three of the Pichot vineyards yield Chenin Blanc grapes, and the ones for this wine came from Le Peu de la Moriette. The wine was vinified in oak barrels, has alcohol at 12.5% abv and it cost about $18 at Whole Foods Market.

This wine is dry, has a pale yellow tint and smells like lemons, flowers and just a hint of oak.  It is a beautiful bouquet.  The palate shows more citrus along with peaches and nectarines.  There is a bit of orange zest on the finish, which is rather lengthy.  The acidity is as fresh as you need for mussels or other shellfish.  I used it in a mushroom broth - like you would make for mussels, but without them - and my wife raved about it.