Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Cabernet Sauvignon, Kosher, Velvety

Carmel is celebrating the launch of a new wine in their high-end Signature line. The 2021 Carmel Black is a Cabernet Sauvignon that was grown in Galilee, Israel. The grapes came from the top vineyards of Carmel, Israel's largest winery. If it's a little late to have this kosher wine on your Passover table, the winery says it will store well for the next five to seven Passovers. The wine was aged for 14 months in French oak barrels, carries alcohol at 14% abv and retails for $30.

This wine is medium dark. Its nose is a delight, with black fruit like blackberries, cassis, black cherry and sweet plums. There is an oak profile that sits just about right, showing nice spices and savory notes of tobacco and leather. The palate is beautiful, with all that dark fruit and a nice bit of tannic grip. The winery calls it a velvety feel. The smoothness does approach that descriptor. 

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Monday, April 22, 2024

Kosher Clarksburg Rosé

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 Lineage line of wines, the latest from the winery, helps trace back the Herzog family winemaking tradition over nine generations. From Eastern Europe, to America's East Coast, to the western US, Herzog has been producing fine kosher wines all along.

The 2022 Herzog Lineage Clarksburg Rosé is kosher for Passover and delicious anytime. The website blurb says it is made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and at first I thought it must have been a misprint. After a few sips, though, I feel it might be Cab. It's just that we hardly ever see a rosé made from Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are in Clarksburg, alcohol sits at 12.5% abv and the retail price is $23, but I see it online for far less. 

This wine is a pretty pink color and has a nose of ripe cherries, strawberries and citrus, along with a beautiful herbal note that suggests thyme and tarragon. The palate has all the fruit there, with minerals and a mid-level acidity. It will serve well on the table as well as on the back porch or patio as a sipper. 

Friday, April 19, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Tough Sits

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'll need a drink to get through three of what our chief guru terms "tough sits," films that are just plain hard to watch. 

The 2002 French art film, Irréversible, is the perfect candidate for leading this trio. The film depicts a brutal attack on a woman and the brutal vengeance exacted on her assailant by the two men who love her. Are we okay so far? The couple of uses of the word brutal in that sentence should give you an idea of how hard it will be to keep seated through its 97 minute run.

One critic said Irréversible would be the most walked-out-of movie of the year. Another said that the violence and cruelty in the film would make Irréversible unwatchable for most people. That was Roger Ebert's assessment, and we remember that Mr. Ebert had no stomach for gratuitous violence, especially of a sexual nature. I mean, it's not like the Marquis de Sade said it was over the top. But still, Ebert was being rather handsomely paid to sit through it and found it difficult to do so. 

A Brutal Wine for a brutal movie. The Brutal Wine Company uses the term as slang for "good." It is an open-source effort for natural wines, meaning many different winemakers are slapping the logo on their labels. Pick out a red one, from France. There are plenty, all with plenty of exclamation points.

Africa Addio is known as Africa: Blood and Guts in the US and Farewell Africa in the UK. The 1966 documentary falls into the Italian mondo category, or shockumentary, if you will. And you will. Be shocked. Over and over again. 

The film documents the bloody end of colonial Africa. A series of vignettes show crazed celebrations of independence, violent uprisings, animal torture, cannibalism, massacres and even genocide. Hard to take? You bet it is. I can only imagine how difficult it was to shoot the footage, a project that spanned three years and brought the filmmakers close to imprisonment and death on more than one occasion. You can use a drink for this film, but you may want to skip the popcorn.

Let's try a sweet wine to help take the edge off of this movie. South Africa's Klein Constantia Vin de Constance is made from Muscat de Frontignan grapes and carries a very high sugar content. Depending on the vintage, look to spend anywhere from $60 to $140 for a 500ml bottle. 

One would think that 1965's Monster A Go-Go combines sci-fi and horror in a pair of go-go boots. One would be wrong. There is no go-go to be found here. It got up and went-went. 

Here is what we should all embrace about the movie industry: its flexibility. The original filmmaker ran out of money halfway through. Another guy needed a movie to fill out a double bill of trash. He bought it and started making an entirely different movie. The scenes that are stitched together in Monster A Go-Go constitute a "movie" in the strict definition of the word, but that seam is stretched to the ripping point.

The one-sheet claims that the film could set America's space program back 50 years. Why not? That's what it did for filmmaking. There is little point trying to make sense of the plot. However, you do get bonus points for figuring out which characters are which. The shooting schedules were separated by three years, and at least one of the actors looked very different after the passage of that time. It is hailed by some as one of the worst movies of all time, and there doesn't seem to be a way to argue that point. TV Guide went on record to give it perhaps the harshest one-word review ever: garbage. 

The Big Red Monster Wine is an apt choice for this movie. They have it in Cabernet or Zinfandel, produced in Paso Robles and sold for less than $20 just about everywhere. It's cheap and it's non-vintage but at least it's not garbage. 

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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

White Wine For Passover

If you are planning on picking up some wines for Passover, you probably already know about Golan Heights Winery, one of Israel's premier producers. Besides their outstanding Yarden label, they also have the Gilgal brand. 

The 2023 Gilgal Sauvignon Blanc is a full varietal wine made from grapes grown in the high altitude, cool climate of the Golan Heights. The winery describes it as the perfect accompaniment to the Passover Seder. Alcohol hits 13.5% abv and it retails for $20. 

This wine has such a light greenish tint that it looks almost clear as it pours. The nose is somewhat muted, with lemon, mineral and very slight floral notes coming through. The palate brings a grapefruit flavor to go along with the crisp acidity. On the global Sauvignon Blanc style scale it rests between New Zealand and California, but it leans in the direction of the Golden State. 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Israeli Wine For Passover

If you are planning on picking up some wines for Passover, you probably already know about Golan Heights Winery, one of Israel's premier producers. Besides their outstanding Yarden label, they also offer the Galil Mountain Winery brand. 

The  2019 Galil Mountain Winery Alon is a Galilee wine, made from 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah and 8% Petit Verdot grapes. Alon, by the way, means wild oaks. That type of tree is found in abundance around the vineyards. Alon is aged for one year in French oak barrels, carries alcohol at 14.5% abv and a price tag of $27.

This wine has an indigo color in the glass. The nose is full of dark fruit, with blackberry, plum and black currant coming into play. Notes of cigars, leather, white pepper and funky earth make me think the Syrah plays a much larger part than its percentage indicates. The palate has all the black fruit and some ripe, red cherries in addition. The acidity has some zip to it and the tannins are firm enough for brisket. The finish isn't terribly long, but it holds the fruit flavors for a delicious few minutes. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

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

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we pair wines with movies that may have fallen through the cracks. You can see them if you squint really hard and shine a flashlight down in there. 

Hey, didn't we just do this? I think it was only a couple of weeks ago that we had a trio of forgotten films. Actually, they weren't forgotten. We had never heard of them in the first place. How could we forget them? Well, here we are again, scrounging around in our digital streamers trying to find out what these flicks are all about anyway. At least we have wine. 

In 2016 Richard Gere appeared as Norman. The full title adds The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, so you get the spoiler right there on the one-sheet. It's an Israeli film which also features Michael Sheen, Steve Buscemi, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Hank Azaria, to give you an idea of the kind of talent in this picture.

Norman is a low-level fixer, a quid pro quo man, a you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-someone-else's-back-for-you kind of guy. He connects with a man who becomes prime minister of Israel, and finds new doors opening everywhere for his favors. That sort of life eventually wears a person down. Ask Michael Cohen. No matter how much you do for someone, it's never enough. Until it's too much. 

If you have ever wanted to see a rabbi throw a guy into a pile of trash, this is your movie. If you have ever left home without your Epi pen, this film gives you something else to think about. 

Kentucky's Chenault Vineyards makes a Concord grape wine called Sam's Fix It Juice. More serious drinkers can try Richard Gere's Brunello, made by Tenuta San Filippo di Montalcino

1999's Spring Forward features Ned Beatty and Liev Schreiber as two guys working in city maintenance. One of them is fresh out of prison. The other one has the end of his life breathing down his neck. They couldn't be more different, but they find a way to be important in each other's lives. It sounds like A Very Special Chico and the Man, but the movie was well-received, even by critics, and deserves to be found, not forgotten.

Sunset Cellars makes a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel which they call Daylight Saving Wine. The grapes are harvested at "fall-back" time, but you can drink it all year long. 

The Hatchet Man is from 1932, which means it is pre-code. It is also pre-woke, as the cast full of Chinese characters are all played by Caucasians instead of Asians. How Caucasian? Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young, that’s how Caucasian. There is a lot of eye makeup in this film. At the time, Hollywood thought that audiences wouldn't accept big stars made up to look Asian if they were on screen right next to real Asians. So they kept the big stars and got rid of all the real Asians. 

It was a time before the Hays Code restricted what Hollywood could show on the silver screen. This one has illicit sex, drugs and a guy who serves Buddha by throwing a hatchet. Get comfortable with a big bowl of popcorn. You're in for a treat.

The film was directed by William Wellman, whose 1927 film Wings won the very first Best Picture Oscar. Wellman's directorial career spanned four decades, and he won an Oscar in 1973, Best Original Story for A Star Is Born. Oh, yeah. He co-wrote the original version in 1937. 

A wine pairing for a movie set in San Francisco's Chinatown might have once included a wine made from tiger bones, or worse parts of the tiger. However, China is now a major wine nation, although they are more infatuated with Bordeaux than their own rice or plum wines. Ao Yun is one of the premier producers in China. Their Bordeaux blend is made from grapes grown in Shangri-La, in the foothills of the Himalayas. and has a price tag north of $300 for the 2013 vintage. 

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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Israeli Wines For Passover

If you are planning on picking up some wines for Passover, you probably already know about Golan Heights Winery, one of Israel's premier producers. 

The 2020 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon is a varietal wine made from grapes grown in the cool, high altitude, rocky soil of the Golan Heights in Galilee. Head winemaker Victor Schoenfeld feels that this wine is a great addition to your Passover meal.

The wine was aged in French oak for 18 months. It carries alcohol at 14.5% abv and retails for $50. I was reminded of the Cabs from Paso Robles, with their rambunctious nature and chalky mouthfeel. 

This kosher wine, the 38th vintage of the label, is a dark wine, with an aroma profile that seems to match. The nose has a tarry sense to it, with notes of cedar, cigars and clove buoyed along by the blackberry and cassis fruit smells. The palate is dark, too, with blue and black fruit, clove and pepper and oak notes providing complexity. The acidity is fresh and the tannic grip is firm. It will pair well with meat dishes and provide a pleasant experience as a sipper, if you wish. 

The 2022 Yarden Chardonnay also hails from the hills of Galilee. The wine aged for seven months in oak and underwent partial malolactic fermentation to give it a complex presentation. Alcohol is a tad lofty for a white wine at 14% abv. The retail price is $28. 

This wine has a remarkable fruit profile on the nose, with lemon aromas being predominant. The is a slight herbal note along with a very reasonable amount of oak spice. The barrel aging, which was only seven months, comes on most noticeably on the palate, but the wood is used to great effect. 

The Yarden sparkler was made from 73% Chardonnay and 27% Pinot Noir grapes, fermented in the bottle in the traditional method. Alcohol is a comfortable 12% abv and it retails for $52.

The 2017 vintage of the Yarden Galilee Brut Rosé has a golden, light copper hue in the glass. Bubbles are plentiful on the pour, but don't look away. They dissipate quickly. The nose brings mineral aromas along with stone fruit and just a hint of toast. The palate shows a yeasty side with lemon and apricot fruit. The acidity is refreshing. As with most sparkling wines, it will pair with everything. 

Monday, April 8, 2024

Rosé From Provence Part 2

Château La Gordonne dates back to 1652, so they must be doing something right. Their Provence rosé wines are well respected in the wine community. Nearly all the wine made in Provence is pink, so expectations are high whenever a bottle is uncorked. 

The 2023 Château La Gordonne Vérité du Terroir Tête de Cuvée Côtes de Provence Rosé was sent to me for review. With spring a reality for much of the Northern Hemisphere, it makes sense to try this wine on for size. The name, Tête de Cuvée, is French for "top blend," roughly translated. It denotes a blended wine which the maker deems to be of superior quality. Alcohol rests easy at 12.5% and the wine sells online usually for less than $20.

The wine's very Provençal color is pleasingly pink. Its nose carries a floral element along with the scent of ripe red berries and citrus. On the palate, the fruit comes first. There are also mineral notes and a nice, if not overwhelming, acidity. 

Friday, April 5, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Happy 98th, Roger Corman

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 celebrate Roger Corman's birthday with wines for three of his films.

April 5th has special significance beyond the fact that it sits roughly halfway between my birthday and tax day, two auspicious occasions in their own right. It also happens to be the birthday of noted producer and director Roger Corman. It further happens to be birthday number 98 for the king of cult movies. We have three of his films this time, and wine pairings for each that we hope will be appreciated. Happy birthday, Roger! 

Attack of the Crab Monsters is a 1957 sci-fi, in case the title didn’t tip it off. It was produced and directed by Corman, with a cast of B-movie legends and TV character actors. Russell "The Professor" Johnson is in it, before his Gilligan Island days. Had he been professionally known as Russell "The Professor" Johnson, he might have enjoyed a career in wrestling and/or politics. 

A team of scientists experience what the one-sheet calls "a tidal wave of terror" as they investigate the effect of nuclear testing at the Bikini Atoll. We’ll give you three guesses as to what type of sea creature was most affected by the radiation, and the first two don't count. 

For crab, radiated or not, we want a white wine with plenty of acidity to provide counterpoint to the sweetness of the meat. Caves Messias has a Vinho Verde wine, from Portugal, which is called Santola. That's Portuguese for spider crab, by the way. You get an artistic rendering on the label of what the crab monster might have looked like before it was nuked. They also have it in rosé, each for around $10. 

In 1962, Corman got on board the civil rights train with The Intruder. It's about a racist who tries to undermine school desegregation in a small town in the Southern U.S. The movie has traveled under several other titles, like The Stranger, Shame, and my favorite, I Hate Your Guts. I want the cast and crew jacket from that one. 

The film was produced and directed by Corman with William Shatner topping the cast. He drifts into town like a racist Henry Hill, whipping the populace into a frenzy about those kids of other colors. His character has everything but the MAGA hat. If he is still alive 50 years down the road, he has that, too. 

Here's a great way to get back at the racists: drink wine made by African-Americans. Anderson Valley's Theopolis Vineyards is owned by Theodora Lee, known by many as Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyard. The former attorney makes a $40 Petite Sirah that people rave about. If you must have a white wine with this movie, try her dry Symphony for $25.

Corman directed The Tomb of Ligeia in 1964. Vincent Price starred in this adaptation of a story by Edgar Allan Poe, a favorite source for Corman. It was written by future Oscar-winner Robert Towne. We have mentioned before that one of Corman's great talents is his ability to surround himself with other greatly talented people.

The script has a dead wife inhabiting the body of a cat that lures the husband away from his new wife. I'm intrigued. Did I mention the dead wife is buried in the house? Talk about baggage. The new wife really shouldn't complain about the other woman's spirit padding around on four legs. It sounds to me like she got what was advertised. 

A little wine might take the edge off the situation, although it might require a lot of wine, depending on your tolerance for having the soul of your husband's dead wife hanging around. It might require a Valium. But let's say wine does it, and why not make it a wine from a Poe story? In "The Cask of Amontillado," the killer vanquishes his victim by entombing him in a wine cellar. Are there worse ways to go? Maybe. Let me think on it. While I'm thinking, I'll have Lustau's Los Arcos Amontillado sherry. It is bone dry and even more complex than Poe's villain. 

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Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Rosé From Provence, Because Spring, Summer

Château La Gordonne dates back to 1652, so they must be doing something right. Their Provence rosé wines are well respected in the wine community. Nearly all the wine made in Provence is pink, so expectations are high whenever a bottle is uncorked. 

The 2023 La Chapelle Tête de Cuvée Côtes de Provence Rosé was sent to me for review. With spring a reality for much of the Northern Hemisphere, it makes sense to try this wine on for size. The name, Tête de Cuvée, is French for "top blend," roughly translated. It denotes a blended wine which the maker deems to be of superior quality. Alcohol rests easy at 12.5% and the wine sells online usually for between $25 and $30.

This Grenache-based wine has a lovely, light pink hue, very Provencal. The nose carries aromas of sweet grapefruit, lemons and ripe strawberries. The palate brings an acidity that is fresh and lively. Red fruit and citrus notes come through nicely. When I think of rosé, this is the sort of wine that is in my thoughts. This is what I want in my glass all summer. 

Monday, April 1, 2024

Bubbles From Cricket Farms

The Shannon Family of Wines has just gotten underway with their Certified Organic Luxury Sparkling wine program. Proprietor Angie Shannon says their Cricket Farms Sparkling Brut and Rosé are both estate-grown in Lake County with no herbicides or pesticides used. The wines are low in calories - less than 100 - and in alcohol - only 10.5% abv. They retail for $38. By the way, Cricket is the name of the family's beloved border collie, an integral part of the Shannon heritage. 

Cricket Farms Sparkling Brut

This wine has a pretty yellow tint and gives off the bubbles in a big way. The nose brings a blast of citrus, like lemon, lime and orange. There is also a bit of a toasty smell in there. The palate is bracing and fresh, with high acidity to carry the fruit and mineral notes. A yeasty trace is noticeable, but not dominant. It's a fun wine that is low in alcohol so it can be enjoyed more freely. 

Cricket Farms Sparkling Brut Rosé 

This wine is much the same save for a light onion skin color. The bubbles may actually be more plentiful than in the brut, if you're looking for something festive. 

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Friday, March 29, 2024

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

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we dig around in the depths of our streaming platforms to find some forgotten films. We likely won't have to dig too deep to find wine pairings for the movies.

Here is another round of movies you probably don't know about, selected by the TFH gurus specifically for their insider cachet. Wine people also have a deep love for stuff which they feel only they know about. It's why you see so many nerds standing around the intersection of film and wine. 

Giants and Toys is a 1958 Japanese satire on corporate greed. The battle between competing candy conglomerates centers on a young lady who is chosen to be the face of one of these companies. Think "Gerber baby, older with a less winning smile."

She also gets to don a space suit and play around with a ray gun. I suppose she is armed in case of a surprise Godzilla attack, although Megalon and Mothra could be lurking in the shadows, too. Turns out the gig is not for her because, ya know, what she really wants to do is direct. 

While searching for a wine pairing for Giants and Toys I came across a giant wine glass offered on eBay, which is really a wine bottle with a glass affixed to its neck. Any number of cheap wines are likely available at Giant Foods, although you're probably better off with their beer selection. But, let's get serious. 

Here is a Japanese wine, made from a Japanese grape. Well, Koshu is actually a cross of Vitis vinifera and several East Asian varieties, but it is grown in Japan. Ajimu Budoushu Koubou Koshu is a white wine offering lemon, lime and almond notes. It should pair well with certain candies, too.

In 2018's Standoff at Sparrow Creek, members of a small vigilante group are holed up overnight in a warehouse while they try to figure out which one of them shot up a police funeral. The group is described as a militia, but for Second Amendment fans, let's be real. You and five of your well-armed friends do not constitute a militia. 

Standoff is a well respected film, a taut and suspenseful thriller, according to some critics. There is a big twist at the end and a lot of shooting leading up to it. Maybe the guy who was in charge of buying the body armor got mixed up and contacted Under Armor by mistake. There should be a refund due to those who remain alive. 

I could not find a winery named Sparrow Creek, but I found some wines bearing that moniker. It's an old trick in California bulk wine to devise a name for the label through a formula. You choose an animal, then a geographical feature, and put them together. Sparrow Creek Merlot is a natural from this type of branding. How many wines have you seen on supermarket shelves bearing names like Rabbit River, Moose Mountain or Hare Hollow? That formula is the reason why. 

When you want to show off your knowledge of unknown movies, citing a couple of foreign films is always a good idea. The Last Judgment was made in Italy in 1961. It starts with a voice coming from the heavens, announcing that the day of judgment has arrived and will happen at 6:00 that evening. That leaves a matter of hours in which you can repent, or not, or get in a few last good times before it's all over. The film examines how several locals handle the news that it's the end of the world as we know it. 

The movie has an all-star cast of international proportions. Jack Palance and Ernest Borgnine represent the U.S. and give us a great reason to watch. From Greece, France and Italy come Melina Mercouri, Fernandel, Anouk Aimée and Lino Ventura.

Just for fun, let's pair The Last Judgment with bottles from the wineries that rocked the world in the Judgment of Paris, the 1976 wine competition. The highest scoring red and white wines at the event were from Stag's Leap and Chateau Montelena, which beat out an array of highly-touted French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. 

The 2021 Stag's Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon tastes just as good as it did 50 vintages ago and sells for $70. Chateau Montelena's 2021 Napa Valley Chardonnay costs $75 these days. It's the modern vintage of the wine which was featured in the movie, Bottle Shock.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

A Great Grenache Blend From Spain

From the D.O.P. Cariñena of Spain comes a wine called Oxte The Silence. It is a red blend of Grenache, Syrah and Tempranillo. The wine was aged for only two months in French and American oak barrels which had been used before. Another two months is spent in stainless steel before being bottled. Alcohol sits at 14% and it sells for around $6 at Trader Joe's.

This wine is tinted medium dark. The nose is jammy and oaky, with plenty of blackberry, clove and currant notes. The palate brings no surprises. It is full of fruit and oak spice, but not as much as I found in the bouquet. The flavor of anise hides amongst the berries and staves. I bought it for cooking, but did enjoy the leftover sips. It was cheap, but serviceable. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Bargain Primitivo On The Bottom Shelf

The bottom shelf of the wine aisle at your grocer is probably not a good place to find a wine you'll love and want to share with guests. It can, however, be a good place to find an everyday wine, or one with which you can cook.

The bottom shelf is where I found Grifone Primitivo at Trader Joe's. For a store which features so many rock-bottom prices on wine, it is worth noting that they do a fine job of curating those shelves, from top to bottom.

Grifone is made from 100% Primitivo grapes, grown in Puglia, in the heel of Italy's boot. In case you are unfamiliar with the Primitivo grape, it is the same as the Zinfandel grape. It just has an Italian name. Alcohol is reasonably light at 13% abv and the price is only $5 at Trader Joe's

This wine is dark ruby in the glass and offers a beautiful nose that is full of dark fruit aromas and a good bit of oak. Tar also appears, adding a very earthy angle to the bouquet. On the palate, big, jammy blackberry, blueberry and cassis flavors are joined together by oak spice and a healthy dose of tannins. Despite the oak mentions, the wine tastes clean and fresh. The winery recommends pairing it with aged cheeses. I like it with spaghetti and meatballs. I used the wine in my sauce.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Magic And Madness

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 call on the magical properties of the grapevine for wine pairings to go with a trio of films that dabble madly in the mystical.

Wine is its own kind of magic. Through a process known only to shamans we call "winemakers," actual fruit is transformed into something that is much more than a simple beverage. It is similar to cinema, an art form which also produces magic from recording devices, scripts and people who like to pretend for a while that they are someone else. Here's to movie magic and the wines that go with them.

The Shout is from 1978, a year that really needed a horror movie. Let's see, the Jonestown massacre, the Pacific Southwest Airlines crash in San Diego, a terrible Iranian earthquake… nothin' to see here. Let's put some horror on celluloid. 

The bad guy in The Shout learned a trick from an old Aborigine, and it was something more substantial than how to make his boomerang come back. It was a shout that, delivered properly, would kill. I have fantasized about having a shout that would make drivers hit the gas when the light turned green. I have yet to make that work, but I'm still trying.

Location shots were done along the incredible Devon coastline, which added a bit of the spectacular to a film that didn't need much help in that department. 

For a movie set in beautiful Devon, UK, let's grab a sparkling wine from Heron Farms, a bubbly made from the Seyval Blanc grape. Great, another horror. Just kidding, Devonians. Seyval Blanc is a perfectly good wine grape, although it is a French hybrid. If you can't nab a $40 bottle from Devon, you can probably find one from an East Coast winery in the US. 

1973's The Wicker Man tells the tale of a detective who goes to a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides in search of a missing child. Scotland, huh? I'm already feeling that this wine pairing will be another tough one. However, if anyone should know about the taste of the blood of the vines, it should be Christopher Lee. He was tailor made to play The Wicker Man’s cult leader. 

On the island, the cop finds a culture that has given up on Christianity and opted for Paganism, complete with sacrifices made by way of fire. The unlucky offerings are placed in a giant titular wicker man, then set ablaze. That's how the Druids dispensed with their prisoners of war, back before there was a Geneva Convention. This movie is horror times ten. 

Since The Wicker Man was set in Scotland, it makes perfect sense to pair a Scottish wine with it. There must be some wineries in Scotland, somewhere amid the distilleries and golf courses. But after wearing out my Google finger, I have it on good authority that there are only a handful. Dr. Liz Thatch, a Master of Wine, scoured the countryside there when she went to play a few rounds and drink a few fingers. 

If your wine allowance is gone on that sparkler from Devon, or just want something a bit easier, try a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa's Wicker Vineyards. Or, grab an old school Chianti that comes in a wicker basket.

If you like your horror with a dash of dark humor, take in a viewing of Cemetery Man, a 1994 Italian film. Don't try to make heads or tails of it, just watch as our hero fails to get an investigation of zombie appearances because the paperwork is too dense. He is advised to simply shoot the zombies, so that's what he does. Over and over. You know, once you start shooting zombies it becomes second nature. And all my life I have believed that you couldn't stop a zombie by shooting it. Well, you learn something new in every Italian horror comedy. 

Woodbury Winery of Fredonia, NY makes something called Zombie Red, which is a sweet, cherry flavored wine. First off, I won't insult your wine intelligence by recommending it. Second, it is sold out. There must be a shortage of White Zinfandel in Fredonia.

While searching for an Italian Zombie Zin, it occurred to me that Primitivo is the Italian name for Zinfandel. The Apollonio Primitivo di Manduria is as dark as Cemetery Man's humor. And it's a damn good wine, maybe good enough to justify shooting corpses that rise from the grave. 

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

White Tuscan Wine Two Ways

If you have never heard of the Pomino Bianco DOC in Italy's Tuscany region, you should get acquainted now. Then you'll be ready for spring and summer with a white wine that'll knock everyone's socks off. Of course, if the weather is warm enough, they may be off already.

The two wines I was given the opportunity to sample are from Frescobaldi. They note that the Pomino Bianco DOC is one of the areas of Tuscany most suited to white wine production. Altitudes reach 2300 feet up against the Apennine Mountains, and those lofty vines produce highly refined and elegant white wine blends.

The Frescobaldi 2022 Pomino Bianco is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, with splashes of the region's complimentary grapes. The wine was aged partly in oak, partly in steel, which allows complexity while maintaining freshness. 

The 2022 vintage was a long one, with an early budbreak and summertime temperatures starting in May. Alcohol sits at 12.5% abv and the retail sticker reads $21. 

This wine has a light golden tint to it. The nose is fully aromatic with minerals, white fruit and a salinity that runs through the entire experience. The palate is chock full of minerals, too, along with green apple and light citrus notes. The acidity is fresh and lively while a slight trace of oak adds depth. The finish is medium long and highlights the grapefruit aspect of the palate. 

The Frescobaldi Benefizio 2021 Pomino Bianco Riserva is a Chardonnay that was aged completely in French oak barrels. When it was first produced, in 1973, it was the first white wine in Italy to be fermented and aged in barriques. The wood is 50% new and 50% second use. Alcohol is a bit higher than the previous wine, clocking in at 13.5% abv. The list price is $35.

This wine also has a nice yellow tint and a nose that shows the restrained use of oak. The aromas also have an earthy salinity about them, with a fruity undercurrent draped in apple, almond and dried apricot notes. On the palate, there is a more noticeable oak effect, but still within reason. The mouthfeel is full, while the acidity is bracing. It is a savory wine which brings the fruit almost apologetically. Delicious, and a great match for dishes from seafood to chicken to pork. Anything with a creamy sauce will pair beautifully with the Benefizio Riserva. 

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Monday, March 18, 2024

Sherry, Dry As A Bone

We can paraphrase the old saw, "dying is easy, comedy is difficult" into wine terminology: "Wine is easy, sherry is difficult." I have written, or at least attempted to write, many times about the intricacies of sherry. It is always a treat to taste one of the finer sherries, but even the bargain basement varieties offer plenty of fascination. Here is one I picked up on the cheap to use in cooking.

The Doña Luisa Fino Sherry is reportedly made by Barbadillo, a huge sherry producer in the home of sherry, Jerez, Spain. Fino indicates the driest type of sherry. The grapes are Palomino, the alcohol clocks in at 17% abv and the wine cost about $6 at Trader Joe’s. 

This wine is pale in color and has a very expressive nose. Aromas of almonds, lemon peel and slightly candied apricot are not at all shy about leaping from the glass, along with a healthy minerality. The palate is as dry as a bone, with a ripping acidity. A strong sense of salinity runs through it. I bought it for cooking, but I will enjoy sipping while the food cooks. 

Friday, March 15, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Death Wishes

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 raise our glasses to three films which point out that, though comedy may be difficult, death is a bitch.

2002's Death to Smoochy was directed by Danny DeVito, who also appeared in the film, along with Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Jon Stewart and a host of immediately recognizable character actors. Despite the wealth of talent, Smoochy died a thousand deaths. To say that nobody liked it would be inaccurate, but not too far off the mark. 

Williams plays the host of a TV kiddie show who suffers a debilitating scandal and loses everything he holds dear. How could a comedy with that premise not find an audience? Well, you could ask Bobcat Goldthwait. He did Shakes the Clown a decade before Smoochy, to a similar absence of ticket purchasers. Obviously the general public doesn't see the humor in these movies like I do. 

The disgraced kiddie host funnels his anger towards his replacement, a guy who plays the character of Smoochy the Rhino. Even though Smoochy is the target of numerous failed attempts to get him off the show, it's his cousin Moochy who ends up at the morgue. I'm not worried about this spoiler paragraph. It's not like knowing who dies is going to spoil it for you.

Monterey County's American Vintners has a line called Smooch. I know we're one letter short, but I couldn't resist. The Valentine box features a Cab, a Pinot, a red blend and a rosé for just $69. Value smooching at its finest. 

Death Wish came about in 1974, a time when the crime rate in big American cities was on the rise. The nation wanted a hero, one who was handy with a gun and could get over his non-violent stance with a little push. Enter Charles Bronson

I know he had good reason to adopt his vigilante stance, but this guy couldn't go to the grocery store without killing a couple of muggers on the way. I am reminded of the comment by a comic who spent part of his routine talking about the movies Taken, Taken 2 and Taken 3. The comment was, "Now you’re just being careless."

There were numerous sequels to Death Wish, as well as a whole subgenre of vigilante films that emulated it. 

Bounty Hunter makes a wine called The Vigilante and sells it for around $150 a bottle. It looks to be a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon made from grapes grown in Beckstoffer Vineyard, which earns them that top shelf price.

In 1975's Death Race 2000, a slightly futuristic America is consumed with a road race that is pure blood sport. The Roger Corman production shows a nation where, as the one sheet says, "hit and run driving is no longer a felony. It's a national sport." Think of it as America's Got Bad Drivers or America's Bloodiest Videos or Survivor, For Realz

The drivers are famous, they all have distinct personas and are followed by their fans the way a sports icon might be. In my teen years, when the ink on my driver's license was still wet, my cousins and I jokingly referred to a "points system" in driving. We would sarcastically mention how many points we would get for running down different types of pedestrians. Death Race 2000 removes the joking aspect from the scoring. 

Sonoma County's Adobe Road Winery has a line of racing themed wines, although they are intended to represent more serious racing than that of DR2000. The Racing Series features SHIFT, Apex, Carbon and Redline. They run from $50 and up and get a bit pricey if you buy the four- and six-bottle boxed sets.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

A Spanish White Wine For Spring, Or Anytime

It is late February as I write this, but here in Southern California it feels like spring. Today was gorgeous, if a little cloudy, with temps in the mid 60s and barely a breeze. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m baiting you folks who live in the north and Midwest. I’m not, really. We love our winter weather in L.A., but we pay for it in earthquakes and brush fires, believe me. 

As the weather was right, I thought it would be a good day for a white wine, and I had recently picked up a Spanish white I was interested in trying. Spanish wines are what put me on my path of wine tasting, wine writing and wine loving, so it’s always nice to have a wine from Spain.

The La Granja 360 Verdejo Viura 2022 contains two of my favorite Spanish grape varieties. The blend is 75% Verdejo and 25% Viura. Alcohol resides at 12.5% abv and the price was only about $5 at Trader Joe’s, where I understand it is exclusively available.

La Granja 360 is a proud supporter of Farm Sanctuary, and their grounds are home to many animals, mostly domesticated. Their wines are vegan, using no animal-derived ingredients.

This wine has a nice, yellow-gold tint to it. The nose explodes with flowers, then again with fruit, namely citrus. On the palate, lemon notes are bathed in salinity and an herbal note, maybe bell pepper, comes through. The acidity is nice, but it’s not going to rip off your taste buds. 

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Monday, March 11, 2024

Another Classic From Chianti Classico

If Chianti still makes you think of a lackluster table wine more valuable for the straw-encased bottle that contains it, you should sample some wines from that Italian region, especially from the subregion known as Chianti Classico.  There's not a straw basket to be found.  No candle wax drippings down the side of the bottle, either.  

Ruffino has been around for years.  Here's the way they tell their story: "In 1877 when cousins Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino embraced their passion for winemaking by establishing a small winery in the town of Pontassieve near Florence, the region already had a centuries-old tradition of growing exceptional wine grapes.  Even so, the two Tuscan natives felt certain that much of the area's greatness had yet to be revealed.  Tuscany had been heaped with good fortune: mineral-laden soils, the cooling influence of the Mediterranean Sea, the dry summers that wine grapes favor.  And all those luscious, sun-drenched hills."

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

The Riserva Ducale was first released by Ruffino in 1927, and it only gets released in vintages that are deemed special.  This Chianti Classico wine is named to honor the Duke of Aosta, who traversed the Alps to try the Ruffino wines.  He liked them so much he named Ruffino as the official wine of the Italian royal family.

The Ruffino website claims that this wine was aged for 24 months in oak, stainless steel and concrete gates, but the label says it was 36 months. An additional three months of bottle aging took place. Oro is mostly estate-grown Sangiovese, with 10% Merlot and 5% Colorino, which is used basically to color the wine darker. Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and it cost me $35 at a hotel gift shop. That seems to be about the going price online, too. 

This wine is colored dark purple, almost inky. The nose is wonderful, with an earthiness leading the way for plum, cherry and tar. The palate is loaded with dark fruit, earth and black pepper. The tannins are fairly smooth, but they work well against a Bolognese sauce. There is a nice acidity and a wonderful herbal finish.