Friday, July 22, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Stooges, Three And Otherwise

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, we have wine pairings for stooge movies, two of which would be better served by a seltzer bottle.

I'll warn you ahead of time - this trio of movies is held together with the flimsiest thread - two films from the Three Stooges and one about The Stooges, the punk outfit from Michigan which blew the doors off of rock'n'roll in the late 1960s. I'm certain that somewhere, sometime, someone had to have written about these Stooges and the comedic threesome in the same article, maybe in Impossible Matches Monthly or Non Sequitur Weekly. We, however, have wine pairings to go along with them.

We'll start with the outlier, Gimme Danger, the 2016 Jim Jarmusch film about the musical Stooges. Jarmusch was Iggy Pop's choice as director if a film was made about the band, and I suppose that was all Jarmusch needed to hear. If you are a fan of punk rock, this movie pays tribute to the band who laid the groundwork for the genre. Conversely, if you hate punk rock, this film shows you who to blame. Something for everybody.

A punk rock type of movie calls for a punk rock type of winemaker. Booker WinesEric Jensen fits the bill - at least he curses a lot, which may be a habit he picked up as a concert promoter. His Ripper Grenache comes in a magnum bottle - the better for fighting with once it's empty - for close to $200. 

In 1962's The Three Stooges Meet Hercules, the Stooges - Moe Howard, Larry Fine and "Curly" Joe DeRita - the team appeared in their third and most successful full-length feature, following decades of short films. The plot has them employed at a drug store - why not? Someone should compile a list of jobs held by the Three Stooges over the years for which they were completely unsuitable. In this film, they help a neighbor build a time machine in their spare time - again, why not?

Stumbling through time, they find themselves in ancient Greece, where they somehow manage to overthrow the mean King Odius. The Three Stooges were no strangers to lending a hand to the unfortunate and unlucky, while finding a way to fix the wagon of the bad guy. The slapstick is rampant here. In fact, the slap stuck a bit harder than expected during filming when heavyweight DeRita fell on top of Fine, knocking him out cold.

Hercules is the name of a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Jason's Vineyard on New York's Long Island. Strong and brawny? Not exactly. It's sweet and relatively cheap. Kinda like Three Stooges movies.

The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze came along the following year, 1963, with the same post-fifties stooge lineup. This time around, they are servants of Phileas Fogg III, a descendant of the round-the-world traveler in the Jules Verne classic. There is danger at every turn, avoided by the bumbling of the comedy trio. They even escape a Communist brainwashing in Asia by not having a "brainee" to "washee." That line played a lot funnier before everybody got woke.

It's not really a spoiler alert to say that in the end the good guy wins, the bad guy loses and a perfectly good balloon gets wrecked.

If you want to take a trip to the Eiffel Tower and dine at Le Jules Verne, you'll have your pick of France's finest offerings - Grand Cru Champagne, Premier Cru Burgundy, Chablis and more. Or you can crack open whatever is left over from your Bastille Day celebration.

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Monday, July 18, 2022

Chinon Cabernet Franc Wine

Les Luthines Chinon 2019 is a 100% Cabernet Franc from the French region of Chinon, which is so closely associated with that grape. The grapes are grown in the clay and sandy soils of the vineyard near the Loire River. 

The destemmed grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks, and no sulfites are used. Alcohol is 13.5% abv and this bottle cost about $18 at my neighborhood Whole Foods Market. 

The wine has a dark purple color and a fruity nose laden with black currant and plums. There is a sense of roasted vegetables as well. On the palate, the fruit stands out and a thrilling brace of acidity and tannins makes the mouth water. The peppery finish is a delight. Give it a chill, especially if you're having it for outdoor sipping or a barbecue. It pairs great with chicken or pork and it lifted my pasta sauce to another level. 

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Friday, July 15, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Trippin' Out

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, trip out with some movies that might mess with your head, with wine pairings for each.

If you remember the TV series Then Came Bronson, you may also remember the Mad Magazine parody of it. Bronson is sitting astride his motorcycle at a traffic light when the driver of the car in the next lane asks, "Takin' a trip?" He replies, "No, this is a regular cigarette I'm smoking." With that in mind, and with no apologies to Dick Dale, let's go trippin'.

The 1978 horror film, Blue Sunshine, does for LSD what Reefer Madness did for pot - sensationalizes it, fictionalizes its effects and builds a weird story into a sort of cautionary tale. Past users of a brand of LSD known as Blue Sunshine suddenly start turning up with psychotic breaks from reality which sends them into a homicidal rage. 

As the body count mounts, one guy seems to find himself at the center of the killings and has to prove that he is innocent. How is that gonna sound down at headquarters? "So, like, it was years ago and a guy gave us all some Blue Sunshine and now we’re all going bald and killing dudes…" Your cell is right this way, sir.

The movie landed with a thud in the '70s but has become a bit of a cult item, with a legion of fans, including TFH head guru Joe Dante.

Skip the Blue Nun and pair a blue California sparkler with Blue Sunshine. Blanc de Bleu is really blue, and really sweet, so they say. There's a pic on the website which shows a group of youngstahs drinking the stuff out of blue Solo cups. Proceed with caution.

Any compilation of movies about hallucinogens has to include 1967's The Trip. Written by Jack Nicholson, directed by Roger Corman and featuring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, the movie delivers exactly what one might expect from that group, at that time. In addition to Corman's, er, trippy direction you get some nice 1960s views of L.A. locales like Laurel Canyon and the Sunset Strip.

Fonda plays a guy who drops acid for the first time after a divorce. What could go wrong? The trip turns a bit sour as he envisions hooded figures chasing him along the Pacific shore. I'll paraphrase Diner here and say, "I’ve been to Malibu a hundred times and never saw death walkin' a beach."

Australian producer St. John’s Road makes a Barossa blend called LSD. It does not stand for lysergic acid diethylamide, by the way. The letters are for the grapes - Lagrein, Shiraz and Durif. We call Durif Petite Sirah, but LSPS clearly does not have the same ring to it.

Nicholson was busy the following year with Psych-Out, a 1968 movie that had him billed with Dean Stockwell and Bruce Dern. The psychedelic cash-in was produced by Dick Clark, who, as the square-in-residence, insisted on the film's anti-drug message.

The story centers on a deaf runaway in San Francisco. The Haight-Ashbury setting perfectly captures the squalid nonchalance of the hippie lifestyle there. There is a search for a lost brother, helpful hippies, live music, a freak-out and a good trip turned bad - all the ingredients for late '60s psychedelia wrapped up in an 82-minute ball of celluloid.

For Psych-Out, let's try a Washington state wine, from Sleight of Hand Cellars. Psychedelic Syrah is such an alliterative delight it's a wonder no one had thought of it before. Critics like the wine, too.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Muscadet From France's Loire Valley

The Jardin d'Edouard winery is located in Château-Thébaud, France, a short drive south of Nantes. Their website explains that vines have been cultivated on the property for well over a century. They produce a full range of wines, but are known for their three styles of Muscadet, which are aged in glass-lined tanks for anywhere from seven to 72 months. 

The Melon de Bourgogne grapes for the 2017 La Roche Aux Loups were grown in the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine area, which lies in the Loire Valley between the Sèvre Nantaise and Maine rivers. The grape is sometimes known simply as Melon. My bottle shows 12% abv and cost $22 at the French market near my home.

This white wine is five years old now and is showing some wonderful signs of its age. The fruitiness of its youth is becoming more complex and savory. Aromas of wet sidewalk, citrus and salinity come forward on the nose, while the palate is driven by minerals and earth. Muscadet wines are universally thought to be good pairings with oysters, shellfish or any sort of seafood, and this is certainly no exception. 

Monday, July 11, 2022

Offbeat Champagne

The Monthuys Pére et Fils Rèserve Brut Champagne is an unusual blend of Champagne varieties - 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Meunier grapes - gives this sparkler a special nose and palate. Maybe this Marne Valley product isn't for everyone. My wife's judgment: "I hate it." Me, I like wine that is a bit offbeat, so it's right in my wheelhouse.

The Baron family owns the estate, relative newcomers in the Champagne biz. They've been at it for only a couple of decades, according to the website translator. Alcohol rests at 12.5% abv and the wine retails for less than $30.

This wine's golden hue owes something, no doubt, to the three years of bottle aging it underwent. Its nose is rather brash, probably owing to the Meunier-heavy blend. Apricot aromas dominate, with apple and toast following. Apple comes across strongest on the palate, with an earthy sensibility layered over it. The finish returns the apricot flavor. 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Americana

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, in lieu of fireworks leaping from these digital pages, we have wine pairings for three films which concern the good ol' U.S. of A.

Paul Newman stars in WUSA, along with Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins, Laurence Harvey, Cloris Leachman, Pat Hingle and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. That's a stellar cast, but the critics were not impressed - despite Newman saying it was his most significant film. Of course that was in 1970, well before Slapshot, which gets my vote.

The story revolves around a conservative radio station in New Orleans - we call them right-wing media, now - and its owner's plan to stage a white supremacist rally. There are, as you might expect, bitter personality clashes, gunfire from a catwalk, a change of heart for a cynical host and an antihero who leaves town after all is said and done. 

The movie appeared at a time long before the AM radio dial was co-opted by GOP talking points. One has to wonder, with all the good music on the radio in NOLA in 1970, who was wasting their time on talkers? 

Louisiana's Landry Vineyards has a wine called Bayoutage, but don't worry. It's not made from Louisiana grapes, it hails from Lodi, California. I suppose that's why it's available for shipping. Of course, it could be a right-wing conspiracy.

Coming along in 1975 was Nashville, just a year before the Bicentennial but equipped with enough red, white and blue to get the party started early. The Robert Altman spectacular ran nearly three hours, featured an hour or so of music, starred about half the actors who had a SAG card and spawned a hit record which took the Best Original Song Oscar that year.

Nashville took a satirical look at politics and the country music industry, two fixtures that lend themselves easily to satirical looks. The film got varied reactions from critics - from "superficial" to "brilliant" - and the public wasn't exactly beating a path to the box office, although the movie did rake in enough cash to rank it in the top 30 that year. 

Did Altman's take on politics and country music have enough gravitas to put Jimmy Carter in the White House the following year? Just wondering.

What better pairing could we find than a winery that's a half-hour south of Nashville and co-owned by a country music star? Arrington Vineyards has Kix Brooks on its corporate ledger and offers a nice rosé called Celebration, although the label goes easy on the stars and stripes.

Medium Cool, from 1969, centers its action in 1968 Chicago. With the Democratic National Convention and the associated riots as a backdrop, the film calls TV news on the carpet for dispassionately covering events without a contextual framework. Shot in documentary fashion, the movie originally got an X rating, for language and nudity, but director Haskell Wexler said it was "a political X." Later, the rating was changed to R.

The title of the movie comes from terminology coined by Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian philosopher. Canada's Jackson-Triggs Winery has an estate in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, and their Proprietors' Selection Shiraz is a great choice - unless you'd prefer an icewine for Medium Cool.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Bubbles, Italian Style

Valdo Winery is located in Italy's Valdobbiadene region, in Veneto, founded in 1926. The winery has long been a leader in Prosecco production, and now they catch consumers' eyes with special edition packaging which is backed up by the quality sparkling rosé inside the fancy bottle. 

The bottle art for the Valdo Floral Rosé Brut: Special Jungle Edition was commissioned from Italian designer Fabrizio Sclavi. This is the fourth special edition by Valdo, devoted to the world of flowers and the wild. The bottle is redesigned each year with an original illustration and a different theme. 

Inside the bottle: a blend of two native Italian grape varieties, Glera and Nerello Mascalese. The former is the white variety used in the production of Prosecco, while the latter is a red variety which thrives in the warm seashore climate of Sicily. The skillful blending of the two varieties creates a rosé with an intense fruity and floral bouquet, low alcohol, and exuberant bubbles. Alcohol sits at 11.5% abv and the wine retails for $19.

This lovely pink sparkler carries a nose of ripe strawberries and flowers, while the palate has loads of fresh acidity and flavors of red fruit. The bubbles are numerous, but enjoy them before they disappear. This is a festive bubbly, suitable for any occasion that calls for some fun. 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Yet More Movies You've 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 once again delve into the bottomless pit of movies close to the hearts of the TFH gurus, but of which you may not be aware. This time around, I fear the gurus have struck out on their game of "stump the audience."

Three Into Two Won't Go is not a math problem from your kid's homework. It is a 1969 British film starring Rod Steiger, Claire Bloom and Judy Geeson. A younger woman enters a middle-aged couple's life as the old guy's lover. Oh, and she's pregnant. Sounds like it's a tougher problem than long division with a repeating decimal. 

As is expected in British domestic dramas of that era, there is a lot of turmoil and talking for an hour and a half or so, and nobody really ends up happy. That sounds a lot like watching the news lately, so I'll put this one on the back burner until I really need to have my mood blown to bits. Assuming, of course, that I am ever in that position.

Since we started with a division problem, the natural pairing would be Division Winemaking Company. Kate Norris and Thomas Monroe started the outfit in the Pacific northwest about twelve years ago. They are pictured on their website, sitting on a tailgate enjoying the fruit of their labor. They use grapes from Oregon and Washington to make wine in their Portland facility. Their juice will keep your spirits up while the movie tries to drag you down.

1977's A Special Day stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni and is set in 1938 Italy. She is a housewife and he is a gay man who is just waiting for the fascist cops to bust down his door and cart him off to jail. The two of them are neighbors, and they spend a day together - the day when Adolf Hitler visits Benito Mussolini.

Her family - being the good fascists that they are - trot out to take in the parade. The apartment dwellers stay home and gain a bit more insight and end up with a new view of fascism, the flavor of the day at that time. However, it's rather like continuing to work after winning the lottery. You're still on the job, but with a completely different attitude.

Mastroianni's character fears being deported to Sardinia for being gay. I can think of worse places to be exiled than a beautiful Mediterranean island full of wine, but I suppose the fascists had a way of spoiling even that sort of paradise. Sella & Mosca make a wonderful Vermentino, which is the go-to white wine from the isle. It's known for its sense of the sea in its aromas and flavors, and might make you stand up and holler, "Salinity now!"

Chocolate, from 2008, bears no resemblance to Chocolat from a few years earlier despite the similar titles. This one is a Thai martial arts movie. There are no snacks included in it, save for one severed toe which is sent as a message. The message is, "Don’t eat it just because it's bite-sized."

Not only is there a decided lack of chocolate in Chocolate, there are mother-daughter characters named Zin and Zen. That's going to play havoc with auto-correct when they text each other.

A wine to pair with chocolate? Really? Is there such a thing? Yes, it’s called "red wine." But opt for one from France's Rivesaltes region and you'll be glad you did. The sweet wines are made from Grenache grapes, which pair notoriously well with chocolates. You can pick your level of delight, as Rivesaltes wines run anywhere from 20 bucks to 200.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Wine Country Texas - Pedernales Cellars Grenache

We've been on an extended run of Texas wines lately, and here is another winner for some Texan cork-popping, from Pedernales Cellars.

Pedernales Cellars is run by a family of sixth-generation Texans who specialize in making wine from Spanish grapes varieties and those from the Rhône Valley. Tempranillo and Viognier are their red and white flagship wines, and they do a nice job with Grenache as well.

The 2020 Pedernales Texas High Plains Grenache carries alcohol at a lofty 15.3% abv, but the color is only medium-dark and the mouthfeel is surprisingly light. The nose brings strawberry, raspberry and blackberry aromas, while the palate is rich in red fruit. The tannins are firm, yet the wine has a silky feel in the mouth. Not exactly what I was expecting, but delightful nonetheless. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Wine Country Texas - Duchman Progression 3 Red Blend

Duchman Family Winery is in the central Texas town of Driftwood, just west of Austin. Stan and Lisa Duchman proudly display that their wines are made from 100% Texas grapes. Winemaker Dave Reilly dedicates his wines to staff and friends, who make and enjoy the fruit of his effort.

Duchman's Progression 3 is a red wine blend made with 100% Texas grapes, as are all the Duchman offerings. In keeping with the winery's fascination with Italian varieties, Progression 3 is a blend of Aglianico and Montepulciano grapes. The non-vintage wine was aged for more than 30 months in American, Hungarian and French oak barrels. Alcohol tips in at 14.5% abv and the wine retails for $48.

This is a dark wine, with a nose to match. Blackberry, black plum, black pepper, leather - it is a fairly brawny aroma package. The palate follows suit, with dark fruit and a savory angle to beat all savory angles. Tannins are quite firm and the wine could probably benefit from an hour or two to breathe. The finish is lengthy and savory. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Screwballs

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 find some wines that pair well with screwball comedies - wines that taste good going down as well as coming out our noses when we laugh.

This nation needed a laugh in the 1930s, and Hollywood provided. The year 1936 was brightened by Theodora Goes Wild, a pairing of Melvyn Douglas and Irene Dunne. This was the movie, in fact, which spun Dunne's career from dramatic roles to comedic ones. 

Dunne plays a small-town Sunday school teacher who has secretly written a bestselling book, full of scandalously sexy scenes. Her nom de plume keeps her secret, but in a screwball comedy, someone always overhears. What will the ladies of the town think? Don’t worry, Theodora - everybody loves a celebrity.

Let's get the obvious pairing out of the way quickly - Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, gluten-free and available at your local Target. More on point, the Austrian winery Oggau makes a white wine called Theodora, a blend of Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling grapes.

My Man Godfrey was also released in 1936, a great year for the screwball comedy. William Powell plays alongside Carole Lombard - interesting in that the pair had been married for a couple of years earlier in the '30s. She's a wealthy socialite, which is what we called "one-percenters" in the FDR years. He's a "forgotten man," which is what we called bums in the FDR years. She ropes him into a scavenger hunt, then falls for him and hires him to be her family's butler. Screwball comedy ensues.

During the Great Depression, laughs didn't come cheap. However, a lot of people plunked down their hard-earned money for tickets to Godfrey, hoping for smiles that had grown too few and far between in the hard times. The film delivered. The critics liked it quite a bit, too.

Godfrey Winery makes a nice Shiraz in South Australia's Barossa Valley, so why not? Name-dropping is not only permitted, it is expected.

Skipping along about six decades, 1998's There's Something About Mary is called a romantic comedy by some, screwball comedy by others. The Farrelly brothers' film certainly has elements of the balle de screw in it, so let's call it what it seems to be. 

Cameron Diaz stars as Mary, who contends with four guys all vying for her love. There is a boatload of childish and silly humor, but we laugh all the way anyway. The laughs are a little more needed today than they were in the late '90s, so let your inner junior high school student fly freely for a couple of hours.

Searching for Mary Wine yields a raft of romance novels featuring bare chested studs on the covers, so keep digging. Hale Mary Wine gets you to the Russian River Valley, where I hear they make some pretty tasty Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Mary, by the way, is one of the winemakers. She is said to be hale and hearty, and also a part-time rock and jazz drummer.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Texas Wine - Pet Nat Sparkler

Spicewood Vineyards is named for its home, Spicewood, Texas, a little northwest of Austin. Owner Ron Yates and winemaker Todd Crowell are both native Texans, and both traveled other wine regions before realizing that their destiny was Texas wine. Their estate vineyard is one of the largest in the Texas Hill Country.

The 2021 Spicewood Vineyards Grenache Rosé was made with grapes from the Texas High Plains AVA, not their estate vineyard. Alcohol tips 14.3% abv.

This pink wine is quite rich in color. Its hue is a cross between salmon orange and copper, looking very much like roses. The nose is a blast of strawberries, green parts and all, with an earthy herbal streak and a line of black pepper. On the palate, the brash rosé comes on like a red wine, with tons of flavor and a refreshing acidity. This wine's pairing ability can reach from salads'n'seafood territory into pork chops, burgers and cheese plates. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Wine Country Texas - Pedernales Cellars

Pedernales Cellars is run by a family of sixth-generation Texans who specialize in making wine from Spanish grapes varieties and those from the Rhône Valley. Tempranillo and Viognier are their red and white flagship wines, but I got the chance to taste a really wonderful - and a bit unusual - sparkling rosé.

Pedernales Cellars Kyla Texas Hill Country Sparkling Wine is actually a Petillant Naturel - carbonated during primary fermentation - which opens up quite fizzy from under its bottle cap closure. The folks at Pedernales say Kyla is pronounced "shoola" by their Swedish relatives. It means "chill," and it offers the perfect opportunity to do so this summer. "Pedernales," by the way, was pronounced "Perdnales" by Lady Bird Johnson, so there are some linguistic tricks to learn in order to appreciate this Hill Country wine from Stonewall, Texas. It has an alcohol mark at a very reasonable 11.5% abv and it retails for $35.

This 2020 Tempranillo sparkler shows a beautiful salmon orange color, along with a nose of strawberries, an herbal quality and tangerine peel. The palate lays out red cherry flavors laced with citrus minerality and a razor-sharp acidity which really refreshes. It is bold and even brawny, in a way - unusual for a sparkling rosé but entirely welcome.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Tortured Artists

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, pour up wine pairings for three movies concerning the lives of fine artistes who had it rough.

Isadora is the 1968 biopic of dancer Isadora Duncan. She gained worldwide fame as a dancer, someone who created beauty yet suffered unimaginable pain during her life and died tragically at only 50 years old.

We all know what happens to free-spirited artists who seem to have things going along too nicely. That's right, torture. This film covers Duncan's too-short life in all the detail that fits in nearly three hours. Over the years the running time has been trimmed - even the director's cut is 24 minutes shorter - and the current feature spans just over two hours. So you miss a few highlights, save your tears for the right times. And do not cut any of Vanessa Redgrave's lines!

Duncan lost her two children when the car they were in drove into the Seine river. An automobile figures prominently in her own death, too. She took a ride in someone’s Bugatti convertible in Nice. Her long scarf - flapping in the breeze behind her - got tangled in the car's wheel and strangled her. I must admit, that is a bit more tortured than I want my own demise to play out.

The Wine Collective, out of Baltimore, has a rosé named after Isadora Duncan. Isadora is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Manseng and Merlot grapes that were grown in Virginia. Having had good experiences with Virginia wines, I can venture that sipping this one will be no torture.

1973's Payday features Rip Torn as a country music singer who is living life just a little too large. You can actually stop right there - you had me at Rip Torn. He has a certain amount of fame which he keeps in his Cadillac, right next to the Wild Turkey he uses to bribe deejays. He also uses the Caddy as a rolling motel room in which he beds women, usually to no great pleasure for either party. Touring, too many angry women, a knife fight gone wrong - this guy's torture is all self-inflicted. The car plays a role in his own inevitable end, by the way, even though he is not wearing a scarf at the time. 

Here's a site which pairs wine with candy bars. Really. They recommend a Ruby Port with the candy bar called Payday, so let's do that, if your local deejay has run out of Wild Turkey.

The Music Lovers hails from 1970. That was a great year for a lot of things - pop music, TV, bell-bottom pants - but it was not a good year for Ken Russell's movie about Tchaikovsky. This film was so abused by the critics you'd have thought they were all relatives of the composer. "Tedious," "grotesque," “perverse” and "wretched excesses" were just a few of the epithets hurled at Russell's film, and those were from the critics who liked it.

Tchaikovsky's torture started at an early age, when he watched his mother die a violent and painful death. His marriage to a bizarre woman - described variously as a "crazed half-wit" and a nymphomaniac - didn't last long. That could have been because Tchaikovsy preferred men, but the topic apparently never came up between him and his bride-to-be. Oops! Eventually he drinks poisoned water and dies of cholera, the same illness that plagued his mother. The film sees it as a suicide, and who could blame him? 

For a complicated guy like Tchaikovsky, who made some pretty complicated music - how about a nice, complicated Pinot Noir? Melville's Estate Pinot comes from the Sta. Rita Hills part of Santa Barbara County. It is a rich, complex and elegant Pinot which will pair perfectly with Tchaikovsky's music - and hopefully with Russell's vision of it.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Wine Country Texas - Bending Branch

Bending Branch Winery is as close as it gets to being a beloved Texas institution - and Texans don't toss about their institutions lightly. The winery is so loaded down with awards and accolades that work should be underway for a new trophy room. Perennial favorites in newspaper and online reader polls, Bending Branch makes their wine in the aptly-named town of Comfort.

The outfit is headed up by winemaker Robert W. Young, MD, MPH. That last set of letters means he has a masters in public health. He says that Bending Branch introduced Texas to the Picpoul (PEEK-pool) grape in 2009, and made their first estate Picpoul two years later.

The Bending Branch Winery Picpoul Blanc is their signature white wine - their flagship red is Tannat - and the 2021 Picpoul carries with it the quality that is ever elusive for white wines - complexity.

This Picpoul was fermented in stainless steel and aged in those tanks for seven months, so there is no influence of oak to be found. The Picpoul grape has a naturally high acidity, making it a versatile wine for food pairing. This one was made from grapes taken from the Texas High Plains AVA. Alcohol hits a reasonable 13.1% abv and the wine retails for $26.

The wine has a nice golden hue and a nose which sports apricots, Meyer lemons, wet-sidewalk minerality, salinity and a touch of lanolin. The palate is just as wonderful, with stone fruit, minerals, spices and herbs. The acidity is as great as advertised. This wine should pair well with seafood, salads or sandwiches - I had mine with a salami and cheese creation on rosemary sourdough and it was fabulous.

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Friday, June 10, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - George Sanders, A Cad's Cad

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week, three movies which show in stark detail how to be a cad, courtesy of George Sanders. We have wine pairings for each, of course.

Cads don't really come much caddier than in the 1956 film, Death of a Scoundrel. The story was based on the life of financial criminal Serge Rubinstein - who was killed in 1955. One glance at the list of his transgressions and it's a wonder someone didn't knock him off sooner.  Stock manipulation and embezzlement are the least caddiest parts of his personality. His dalliances with women were just as shady.

Death of a Scoundrel was one of a pair of films in which Sanders got to work with his real-life brother Tom Conway, who was a dead ringer in the familial resemblance department. He also got to work with Yvonne De Carlo and Zsa Zsa Gabor, with whom he shares no lookalike qualities. He was, however, divorced in real life from Zsa Zsa just a couple years before.

Bell Wine Cellars of Yountville, California offers a wine which seems tailor-made for this film - The Scoundrel. It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, with splashes of Cab Franc and Merlot. There is no explanation on why the name was chosen, but there it is on the label, in a wine-colored script font. The company says they cannot ship to Louisiana. Maybe they figure they have enough scoundrels there.

Green Hell was set in the jungle, at least it was Universal's idea of a jungle in 1940. They built it on a sound stage at great expense, then used it again in The Mummy's Hand. Sanders plays alongside a great cast - Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Vincent Price, Joan Bennett, Alan Hale and others. Many of those in the cast couldn't talk about Green Hell in later years without laughing. Price said it was five bad movies rolled into one.

A band of treasure hunters are joined in the jungle by a beautiful woman. How'd she get there? She took a left at Albakoyky. It turns out that her husband was in the group of explorers, but he was killed by angry natives just before she got there. She becomes the new treasure, as it were, sort of. 

If there were a wine named Jungle Jungle, it would be perfect for this film. There is. It comes from the wilds of South Australia, a multi-national blend of Dolcetto and Nero d'Avola from Clare Valley and Touriga Nacional grapes from Langhorne Creek. The wine should take the edge off of the movie's shortcomings.

1960's Village of the Damned issued posters warning theater patrons to "beware the stare," and woe came to those who didn’t heed that advice. A town full of kids are all born on the same day, telepathic kids with evil eyes, after the whole town falls asleep and the women wake up pregnant. Sanders is one of the lucky fathers, although how the women all got pregnant is a mystery. He is left with one of the hardest decisions a dad has to make - whether to raise your demon spawn as your own or set off a homicidal and suicidal bomb to destroy him and all his so-called friends.

Damned Mountain wine hails from New Zealand's Marlborough region, one of the great places for Sauvignon Blanc. Will it protect you from "the stare?" Probably not, but it's worth a try. 

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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Two Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnays

The folks at Sonoma-Cutrer are celebrating 40 years of passion, imagination and pride in 2022.  They say their approach to winemaking "marries Burgundian traditions and California ingenuity."  Head winemaker Mick Schroeter puts his signature on the label, showing the pride that leads to the boast that their Chardonnay is one of America's favorites. They are even putting it in cans, all the better for summertime sipping on the go.

Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2020

The 2020 vintage brought with it all the usual challenges that winemakers find - drought, hot weather, wildfires - plus the additional problem of COVID to work around. They did work around it and managed to produce a wine which is another in a long line of California classics. This wine was split between oak and tank aging - 85% oak for eight months. Alcohol sits at a moderate 13.9% abv and the bottle retails for $23.

The nose is bursting with the aroma of apricots and peaches, lemons, vanilla and butter. The palate is as rich as Chardonnay gets, with sweet stone fruit flavors and a zippy acidity. You will be able to pair this wine not only with salads'n'seafood, but chicken and pork as well. The finish leaves a buttery reminder of the wine's opulence.

Sonoma-Cutrer Les Pierres Chardonnay 2019

The Les Pierres estate vineyard features volcanic soil, loaded with minerality, baked in sunshine and cooled by the Pacific Ocean. Only six percent of their Sonoma Coast Chardonnay came from Les Pierres. 

The winemaker says the 2019 vintage was one for the ages - double the amount of rain that usually averages all year. Other than that, it was perfect California weather all season long. The wine was fermented in oak and aged there, too, for a full year with another six months in the bottle. Full malolactic fermentation was reached, lending a full and creamy mouthfeel to the sip. Alcohol clocks in at 14.2% abv and the wine retails for $46.

The wine is quite pale, mostly a very faint yellow with a hint of green at times. Its nose offers up more citrus than stone fruit, but both are well-represented. The fruit steals the show on the palate, too, although the acidity is quite racy and makes a case for itself as the lead. There are wonderful spice notes that come through in aromas and flavors. Oak is handled tastefully and the finish is long and supple.

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Monday, June 6, 2022

Chianti Comes To Los Angeles

The Chianti Lovers U.S. Tour 2022 hit SoCal in May, setting up shop for the afternoon at The London West Hollywood. The presentation was an immersive exploration of the Chianti wine region of Tuscany, with a sit-down guided tasting of wines and a walk-around tasting which left the trade and media types bumping from table to table, glasses in hands. Here are a few favorites from a handful of producers, most of which are seeking representation in America.

Cantina Sorelli

Their 2021 Chianti D.O.C.G. has a beautiful nose full of roses, lavender and red fruit. Amazing.

Chianti Trambusti 

Their 2019 Toscana Rosso "Sentimento" has lovely, savory notes of cherry and herbs.


Their 2019 Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. is heavy on the Sangiovese, light on the Merlot. Savory red fruit and 12 months in Slovenian oak.

The 2016 Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. Gran Selezione "Pasquino" is all Sangiovese, aged in terra cotta vessels. So fresh still, six years later.


Their 2019 I.G.T. Toscana Bianco is half Chardonnay and half Malvasia. Savory, seashore.

The 2020 Vino Spumante Rosato Brut "Vivendi" is the only sparkling wine in the world made from the Mammolo grape, I am told. It's a very nice step up from Prosecco.

The 2016 I.G.T. Toscana Rosso was the star of the show. It's an extremely savory red wine, while the 2015 Chianti D.O.C.G. Riserva "Cosmus" ran a close second.

Tentuta di Sticciano

Their 2021 I.G.T. Tosacono Rosato "Canto Delle Rose" shows fabulous strawberry and a wonderful salinity, in addition to some great acidity.

The 2018 I.G.T. Toscana Rosso "Indomito" has roses on the nose and a palate that's fruity and savory at once.

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Friday, June 3, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Ray Liotta R.I.P.

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 tip our hats to the recently passed actor Ray Liotta with wine pairings for three of his films.

In 1990's Goodfellas, Liotta turned in a career performance as mobster-turned-witness Henry Hill. From a fresh-faced recruit to a coke-crazed veteran of the neighborhood wars, we follow him through crime, punishment and humiliation as he careens through his criminal life. He lived his life with every comfort he could steal. In the end, he was just a schnook who couldn't even get a decent marinara sauce.

Martin Scorsese directed the film to six Oscar nominations, but the Academy gave the supporting actor nod to Joe Pesci, which he won. Liotta’s narration, for me, makes the movie. His description of how to make a sauce while watching federal helicopters hover above him defines the crazy cool feeling of living on the edge with no safe place to fall.

There’s a liquor store in Brooklyn called Goodfellas, where presumably anything you purchase would pair well with the movie. It might even help them pay their weekly tribute to whoever lets them stay open. But for a classic movie serving up heaping helpings of pasta and sauce, make it a Chianti Classico, straight from the heart of Tuscany.

Something Wild came from 1986, a few years prior to Liotta's big role as a gangster. He's a tough guy in this one, too, an angry husband with parole problems who is not amused by his wife taking up with a banker. It's a freewheeling comedy, the one that brought Liotta to Scorsese’s attention. "Note to self: hire this guy for that wise guy movie."

South Australia’s Wild and Wilder Wines has a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro which is named The Unforgettable, a good enough nickname for Something Wild as well as for Liotta.

1997's Cop Land has Liotta on the other side of the badge, although as a dirty officer. The incredibly convoluted story ends up, as in Goodfellas, with his character copping a plea to keep his ass out of a crack.

Liotta lends support to the lead actors, Sylvester Stallone and Harvey Keitel, and gets to work again with Goodfellas cohort Robert De Niro. For a guy who worked as much as Liotta did - and who was as memorable in his roles - it's sad that he toiled for more than thirty years after Goodfellas in films that were nowhere near that mountaintop.

For Cop Land, let's look to a Paso Robles winery that was co-founded by a retired police officer - Thin Blue Wine Cellars. Even if he tries to get dirty, his ex-Marine wife is there to keep him on the straight and narrow.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Three Terrific White Wines From Campania

Irpinia is the historical name of the province of Avellino, inland in the Campania Apennines. That is the place that the Feudi di San Gregorio winery calls home. They are quick to note that they identify with Irpinia, not Campania. The winery was established by two families in 1986.

At Feudi di San Gregorio, they believe that a bottle of wine and a work of art arrive through the same creative process. They try to show the artistic side of the wine biz, with their labels all designed by Massimo Vignelli and a winery design from Hikaru Mori.

The 2020 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina carries the Sannio appellation and is made from 100% Falanghina grapes, aged in stainless steel tanks for five months, on the lees. Alcohol is quite restrained at only 13% abv and wine sells for around $23.

Despite the inland origin of the grapes, this wine smells like the seashore, with some nectarines, apricots and citrus thrown into the mix. The palate offers a showcase of minerality, with Meyer lemon and stone fruit trailing behind. Acidity is fresh and racy, perfect for pairing with a seafood dish, oysters in particular.

The 2020 Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo comes, naturally, from the Greco di Tufo appellation. The grapes are 100% Greco variety and the wine clocks in at 12.5% abv.  It retails for $28.

This beautiful white wine also carries with it a whiff of the sea, much like its cousin, Feudi di San Gregorio's Falanghina. The stone fruit comes across a little stronger on the nose, but the minerality and salinity fall right in line. This wine shows a less sharp acidity and would seem to be better suited to salad than seafood. It is, however, a delicious sipper.

The 2019 Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino carries the Fiano di Avellino appellation. It is made from 100% Fiano grapes and has alcohol at 13% abv. Retail is $28.

The straw yellow wine shows stone fruit and salinity on the nose. The palate is savory, with a ton of minerals and a hint of apricot and lemon. The acidity is racy and the long finish is all minerality.

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