Friday, May 24, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Massive Monsters

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 need some big wine pairings for some big monster movies. Big. Huge. Massive. 

I watched a lot of monster movies as a young man, often with a group of friends and often accompanied by several bottles of wine. It was a long time ago, but the names Ripple, Boone's Farm and Spanada keep flashing before my eyes. We will try to find bigger, better pairings for this trio of films, each worthy of at least a couple of bottles.

The War of the Gargantuas is a 1966 kaiju film, which in English translates to monster movie. This Japanese production features a pair of hairy yetis which are referred to as Frankensteins, even though they bear no resemblance whatsoever to Mary Shelly's homemade human. The flick was intended to be a sequel to another movie that introduced the non-Frankenstein Frankenstein, but the thread got lost somewhere along the way. It happens. Also, Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster. I'll just leave that here in case I find some more nits to pick. 

I should mention that the version dubbed for US release dropped all references to Frankenstein, calling them instead, Gargantuas. One is green and one is brown, but there seems to be confusion as to which is which. It reminds me of the joke about the farmer who had trouble differentiating his two horses, only to measure them and find that the black one was a half inch taller than the white one.

The two Gargantuas are brothers, but they end up fighting in a Tokyo death match. I mean, where else would the monsters fight in a proper kaiju? I would say that I won't spoil the ending for you, even though you have probably watched it repeatedly throughout your life. That is some volcano, huh?

I thought it would be too much to expect a wine called gargantua to rear its hairy head, but lo, here it is. Bergström Wines of Dundee, Oregon makes three Syrahs bearing that name, one each from Oregon, Washington and California. The Cali version comes from Santa Maria's Bien Nacido Vineyard, so I don't need to look any further. By the way, the winery says they took the name from Rabelais’ 16th century book called "Gargantua et Pantagruel," not from the movie. Maybe the film was similarly influenced.

"Oh no, there goes Tokyo, go go Godzilla!" Godzilla was released in 1954, but it was 1956 before we got a taste of the Americanized version. After that, it seemed there was always another movie featuring the scaly dinosaur versus one opponent or another. The US release added shots of Raymond Burr sweating while watching the big G on his rampage. 

To say that this was a watershed movie is like saying WWII was kind of an important historical moment. I grew up with Godzilla, maybe you did, too. He is the definitive movie monster, the ultimate kaiju killer. 

"He picks up a bus and he throws it back down

As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town.

Oh no, they say he's got to go,

Go go Godzilla!"

The wine pairing for Godzilla should lean east, far east. Godzilla sake is rice wine for those who like a monster on the label. It is Junmai Daiginjo style, with its rice polished until half the grain is gone. The purveyor promises "strong aromas like Godzilla."

1955's Gigantis the Fire Monster is the title of the Americanized version of Godzilla Raids Again. This sequel to Godzilla was not received well, largely because they tried to pass off a dead monster as a new monster. Such a public relations backfire would not be seen again until New Coke.

A new foe is introduced, Anguirus, and dispensed with in true Godzilla fashion, with a giant atomic belch of fire. The military is sure they got him this time, but many more sequels will show that to be an erroneous assumption by the top brass. 

What I love about Gigantis is the head of the fishing company who worries that if the monster goes on a rampage in his fishing waters it will affect his business. Bad for business? To somewhat paraphrase Butch Cassidy, "Are you crazy? The fight will probably kill ya."

GiGantis Ventoux is a Rhône blend of Grenache and Syrah which sells for somewhere around $40. It is not named after the faux Godzilla, but after Mount Ventoux, said to be the Giant of Provence. 

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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Mother Vine Wine - From Croatia To Lake County

The Shannon Family of Wines in California's Lake County considers their approach to winemaking to be earth-first. They say they are committed to creating environmentally responsible wines that knock your socks off. I was given a sample of the 2023 Organic Mother Vine Cinsault Rosé for review, and where the hell are my socks?

The Mother vine originated in Croatia in 1870 and was brought to Lake County by the Ogulin family. The Shannons say this vine has thrived for 150 years on their Home Ranch, alongside a small vineyard, a hand-dug well, a livestock barn, and a quaint winery, all built by the Ogulins.

Proprietor Clay Shannon says they collaborated with Guillaume Nursery to propagate buds and create additional Cinsault vines. He calls their Cinsault based Rosé "a testament to the pioneering Lake County winemakers."

This wine is only made in years when the season is right for it," adds Joy Merrilees, VP of Production and Winemaking. "We use the saigneé method of gently bleeding the juice off the crushed grape must. The short skin contact time gives flavor and texture to the fruit and acidity that is naturally in the grape. A very cool fermentation brings out floral notes with a delicate fruit back bone."

This rosé comes in a distinctively tall, angular bottle. Winemaker Carolina Vargas reveals that the wine was made using grapes from High Valley appellations. She says Cinsault grapes from a one-acre plot were abetted by some Grenache to enhance the midpalate. Grenache actually plays the lead role here, making up 62% of the wine, while the Cinsault grapes account for 38% of the juice. The pink wine was vinified in stainless steel, carries alcohol at 13.5% abv and it retails for $38.

This wine has a very light onion skin color to it. The nose is gorgeous. Huge notes of cherry and strawberry are joined by a bit of Meyer lemon and a jasmine floral component. The palate has all that fruit plus a streak of salinity that expresses the wine's minerality. The mouthfeel is full and lush, and yet the acidity is as zippy as it needs to be. Lovers of pink wine should definitely try to lay hands on a few bottles for the warmer months. Mine was delicious with my French potato salad with tarragon. 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Vermentino From The Heart Of Santa Barbara County

Rancho de Vega was established in 1853 in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley. The estate now has a vineyard and a winery, and the Vega folks have hired Steve Clifton to head up their winemaking program. The wines he made under the Palmina brand are being absorbed under the Vega Vineyard and Farm banner.

The estate is on the property that used to be known as Mosby Winery, and Vega Vineyard is operating out of the little tasting room on the grounds. They are also serving lunch every day, dinner and brunch on the weekends. 

I have enjoyed Clifton's wines for years, and probably not often enough. I recently ran across the Palmina Vermentino 2021 at one of my local wine stores. It was made with grapes grown in the Los Olivos District in the Santa Ynez AVA of Santa Barbara County. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and it cost $17 at the cheese shop in Larchmont Village.

This wine has a light yellow-gold tint. The nose is a bit muted, but showy enough to offer some nice lemon, apricot and salinity notes. The salinity comes across clearly on the palate, and so does the lemon. Most noteworthy is the very fresh acidity. The ocean influence is strong here, and you should pair this wine with crustaceans. The citrus minerality hangs around for quite awhile after the sip.  

Friday, May 17, 2024

Hard Pass On The Pasta - I'll Take The Olive Oil

I recently had the opportunity to sample a very nice Italian wine, Frescobaldi Pomino Bianco. I loved it. Along with that, I was given a sample of a couple of Frescobaldi's other ventures. Their Tirrena pasta and the accompanying Laudemio Frescobaldi Extra Virgin Olive Oil receive a more mixed review.

The Tirrena pasta is cultivated from ancient wheat grown in the Tuscan terroir. The olive oil has a rich history which dates back to the Middle Ages. The folks at Tirrena sent along a recipe using both of those items. 


Tirrena Spaghetti with Laudemio Frescobaldi Oil, Pepper, and Parmesan (pairs with Pomino Bianco)

Tirrena Spaghetti
Laudemio Frescobaldi EVOO
Parmigiano Reggiano
Black Pepper

Boil water and add salt to taste
Add the Tirrena Spaghetti and boil for 11 minutes
Reserve 1 cup of pasta water 
Drain spaghetti and add back to a saucepan
Mix in Laudemio Frescobaldi EVOO and stir until creamy
Top with black pepper and Parmigiano Reggiano

Now for the bad news. The pasta was nothing to write home about, especially for my spousal culinary expert. She was quick and brief with her review. "I hate it," she said after the first mouthful. "It ruined your fantastic sauce!" She had the pasta with my famous tomato sauce (her recipe). I had mine as per the recipe above, and it paired wonderfully with the Pomino Bianco wine. I stirred in the Parmesan cheese along with some pepper. 

If you cook this pasta for 11 minutes, as prescribed, you will be eating crunchy spaghetti. I cooked it for 18 minutes and it was still rather al dente. The oil was delightful, however. 

Is there such a thing as simply virgin olive oil? Extra virgin seems to be all I could find in a semi-serious search. I ask in all seriousness, although the question probably points out a deficiency in my kitchen knowledge. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Sake Made In New York

Dassai Blue Sake is produced and bottled by Dassai USA in Hyde Park New York.  Dassai takes their name from a Japanese proverb, which translates to "Although blue dye comes from the indigo plant, it is bluer than indigo." In other words, the child outshines the parent. 

The Junmai Daiginjo style of sake - rice wine - is the pinnacle of the craft, the best of the best. Dassai Blue Type 23 is made from Yamada Nishiki rice, a short-grained variety that is popular with sake makers. Dassai uses the 23% method of polishing the grain, meaning 77% of the rice's outer shell is removed. This facilitates the water absorption for which the variety is known.

Dassai is also introducing Dassai Blue Type 35, using 35% milling. Type 35 is also made with Yamada Nishiki rice, but cultivated in the U.S. it's a collaboration with Isbell Farms, a sustainable, family-owned rice farm located in Central Arkansas. It should run about $50 a bottle.

The Type 23 craft sake is bottled under pressure, so be careful when opening the unique foil cap. The cork stopper blew right off when I tore away the metal wrapper. Alcohol sits comfortably at 14% abv and it retails for around $70 for the full 750ml bottle. Quite a few sources offer the 375ml bottle for much less.

This sake is virtually clear in the glass. The nose gives a floral aspect with herbal notes and lychee. The palate has a refreshing acidity and a delightful flavor rooted in minerals and salinity. The mouthfeel is clean and full, while the finish is pleasant and lengthy. Pair with sushi, without a doubt. 

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Monday, May 13, 2024

French Rosé That's Easy On The Wallet

Here is a bargain rosé from the Perrin family. They have been making wine in the south of France for more than a century. They adorn the back label of their La Ferme Julien with a quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Is it really so simple? Stay away from chemical fertilizers, use natural nutrients in the soil to bring the vines to maturity, adopt a laissez-faire attitude in the cellar. Not so difficult, I suppose.

La Ferme Julien is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault grapes, it carries alcohol at a mere 12.5% abv and I bought mine at Trader Joe's for about $7. I seem to remember the 2022 vintage was around $10, so I got quite a deal on the 2023.

This wine has a soft, light, onion skin pink hue. The nose is fresh and fruity. There is a bushel basket of strawberries in the aroma package, along with citrus minerality and that wonderful smell of rain on a hot sidewalk. The palate is dominated by the acidity, which is quite lively. Ripe red fruit is there, of course, as is a healthy dose of lemon and tangerine. The wine finishes long and the acidity keeps on working after the sip. 

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Friday, May 10, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Wacky Westerns

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 a trio of slightly bent westerns. No deadeye, just wine. 

It's not about wine, but that won't stop us from pairing a wine with 1965's The Hallelujah Trail just a few short paragraphs from now. It's a comedy and a western, all dressed up like a documentary. As one scribe put it back in the day, "all dressed up and nowhere to go." That's how it is with a joke that takes almost three hours to play out.

The story concerns a wagon load of whiskey which is bound for Denver so the winter won't be so dry. There are a number of individuals who hope to stand in the way of that delivery, and that's where the comedy comes in. To me, Burt Lancaster and Lee Remick don't seem to lean in the direction of laughs. Jim Hutton and Pamela Tiffin strike me as better equipped to handle some whiskey wagon humor. 

As for the rest of the cast, my god, it's like a meeting of Character Actors Anonymous. Donald Pleasence, Brian Keith, Martin Landau, Helen Kleeb, Dub Taylor, Whit Bissell. There couldn't have been any other movies being made while this one was shooting. Everyone was here. 

Canadian winery Hidden Chapel makes a Viognier called Hallelujah, which is grown and made in British Columbia, in the south Okanagan Valley. It runs just under $30 a bottle. 

Support Your Local Gunfighter was 1971's answer to Support Your Local Sheriff!, which hit the screens a couple of years earlier. It stars James Garner, who lifted the comic western to an art form and carried it into more modern themes, like a detective who lives in a trailer on the Malibu beach and drives a hot car. 

Suzanne Pleshette is in the movie as Garner's love interest, while a whole host of character actors populate the cast list. Let's see, there's Harry Morgan, Jack Elam, Joan Blondell, Ellen Corby, (stop me if I'm going too fast), Dub Taylor (again) and even an uncredited Chuck Connors appearance. 

Garner plays a devil-may-care old-West gambler. Go figure how that ever popped into anyone's head. Does the name Maverick ring any bells? In this scenario, he’s on a train with a woman to whom he's supposed to be getting hitched. Cooling on the idea, he bails out of the relationship in Whatever This Town is Where I Am Right Now.

He decides to stick around, and for some reason he takes on the identity of a well-known gunslinger. Of course, said gunman comes to town and it's western farce comedy time. The film gets a bit of a bad rap as being a throwaway, cookie-cutter comedy. It does seem, however, that the more time passes the better the movie looks. 

You probably can't find any of the wine called Chateau Jimbeaux that came from James Garner's Santa Ynez Valley vineyard. He sold the estate about a quarter of a century ago. You could cast an eye towards Australia's Barossa Valley, home to Rockford Wines. No beach, no hot car, and you have to email them to order.

After more than 30 years away from the big screen, The Lone Ranger rode back into celluloid in 2013. Armie Hammer plays the masked man and Johnny Depp is Tonto, who narrates the story as an old man. Speaking of the mask, how is that supposed to hide anyone's identity? I've seen ballroom masks on sticks that served that purpose better. I've always thought he should have had a luchador mask. Nobody will recognize you in one of those. And, considering some of the allegations that have been made against Hammer by women, perhaps a mask is not a bad idea for him. 

Anyway, Tonto's tale involves the expected silver bullet as well as a mountain full of silver ore, which Tonto trades away for a pocket watch. Another bad deal for the Native Americans. Tonto had better watch his back. He gives a silver bullet to the boy who has been listening to his story. I'm sure there must be some law against giving a kid ammunition, silver or not.

California winemaker Randall Grahm was once known as The Rhône Ranger, back when Cali wine made from Rhône grapes was considered a pretty mavericky thing to do. I tend to like the Bonny Doon Vineyards Picpoul, and Le Cigare Volant is a longtime favorite of mine. 

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

A Portuguese Surprise

The Casa Ermelinda Freitas winery was founded in 1920 in the southern reaches of Portugal. Today's owner, Leonor Freitas, keeps the wine flowing so that we may enjoy the fruits of her labor. 

The 2021 Vinha da Fonte Reserva is made from 25% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 25% Castelão, 20% Syrah, 20% Touriga Nacional and 10% Alicante Bouschet. It was aged for a full year in French and American oak barrels. Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and I bought it for about $7 at Trader Joe's.

I have had Touriga Nacional wine before, and Alicante Bouschet, but this was my first fling with the Castelão variety. It is most prevalent on Portugal's southern coast, but is found all over the country to some degree. 

This wine is a very dark purple, almost inky. The nose is also dark, showing blackberry notes alongside savory tobacco, spice and earth, all in a very smokey framework. The palate of this interesting blend is nearly stunning. Tannins have a good grip, but the blue fruit flavors are amazing and the acidity leaves the sipper salivating. It seems bizarre to me that this wine cost less than $10. It drinks like it should cost much more. 

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Monday, May 6, 2024

Don't Call This Chardonnay Cheap - Call It Affordable

Grocery chain Trader Joe's is a place you learn to love very quickly. Nice prices on things like wine, beer, cheese and nuts are fine, but the fact that the product is of high quality is a real bonus.

TJ's carries wines from a variety of producers, but the 2023 Trader Joe's Coastal Chardonnay is reportedly made by Castoro Cellars in the Paso Robles town of Templeton. Central Coast grapes went into the private label wine, which is unoaked. Alcohol is reasonable at 13$ abv and it sells at Trader Joe's for a bit less than $7. 

This wine has more of a yellow tint than I would expect from an unoaked Chardonnay. The nose is clean, though. Brilliant aromas of flowers, pears, peaches and apples come through with nary a trace of wood aging. The palate is rich and full, with fruit flavors dominating. Acidity is fresh and zippy, and nearly razor sharp. The fruit lasts on the finish and the wine is a perfect match for seafood, white sauce pasta or chicken.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - A Bounty On Larry K

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 three different takes on the Mutiny on the Bounty story. Each of the trailers has commentary from Larry Karaszewski, who co-wrote Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt and Dolemite is My Name, three films bound to appear on many "favorites" lists. 

The version of Mutiny on the Bounty from 1962 stars Trevor Howard as Captain Bligh and Marlon Brando as Fletcher Christian. The whole mutiny thing transpires after Christian faces off against Bligh for his brutal treatment of the crew. Christian says "You can’t do that," and Bligh says "Yes, I can, because I’m the captain. Captains are immune from prosecution." Remind you of anyone? I suppose Fletcher Christian was the District Attorney on board the Bounty.

The '62 Mutiny, which sounds rather like a model from the Ford line, is the second telling of this tale on the big screen. We'll get to the 1935 original in a moment. The mission for the HMS Bounty was to bring fruit trees from Tahiti to Jamaica, which makes it sound like a vacation is coming. Before the sails have a good chance to unfurl, some cheese goes missing. It was strawberries in The Caine Mutiny. All the good mutinies started with some missing food, apparently. 

The movie took forever to film, but it was Tahiti, so who cared? Well, MGM for one. The budget was exceeded by about ten million dollars, so there was that. And that was back when ten million dollars was a lot of money. Brando liked his time with the Tahitian people. He liked it so much he took one of them home with him. His marriage to Tarita lasted ten years, which is not bad by Hollywood standards. By Tahitian standards, I don't know. 

It is worth noting that a bottle of wine said to have been left aboard the Bounty by Bligh sold recently at auction for about $2,700. That's a bit steep for my taste, so let's pair Howard and Brando with a sparkling wine called Stranger Than Paradise, made from Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir. What's that? It's sold out? Look, I fell in love with Hammerling Wines and their sparkling fascination, so find another one on their site and lift a toast to the '62 Mutiny. 

1984's The Bounty starred Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson as Bligh and Christian. It is regarded as more historically accurate than the two which came before it, which wasn't that hard to pull off. It was also fairly well received by the critics of the day, which was a bit trickier. The Bounty was released about a quarter century before Gibson's downfall and seven years before Hopkins made everyone hate fava beans and Chianti. 

The ship that was built to be the Bounty cost millions of dollars, but the movie still sailed in under budget, quite an accomplishment for a film set on water. It was no Titanic, of course. However, even though Titanic cost nearly 300 million to make, it raked in about five times that amount. That’s more wet dollar bills than you'd ever find on the bar during happy hour down at the neighborhood tiki lounge. 

Yeah, not going with a Chianti pairing. In fact, both Hopkins and Gibson say they are sober, and have been for years. That means more for us. Bloom & Bounty, in Paso Robles' El Pomar district, makes a lovely Arneis wine. You may find the Italian grape as exotic as the Bounty's crew found Tahiti.

The 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty starred Charles Laughton and Clark Gable as the captain and the lieutenant. Of course, they were both lieutenants but Laughton got top billing. There were plenty of opportunities for historians to quibble, like shouldn't they have said "left-tenant?" The public ate it all up with a fork and spoon, though, and the scribes seemed unusually satisfied with the picture, too. 

Look for James Cagney as a background actor. He was reportedly yachting near the shooting of a scene off Catalina Island when he pulled up starboard and joked to director Frank Lloyd that he could use some work. If you squint really hard, you can also see David Niven and Dick Haymes in the background of some shots, although it seems they didn't get their extra jobs while piloting a yacht nearby. 

While sailing the seas looking for extra work, you might want a libation from Sailor Vineyard of Port Townsend, Washington. What a delightful oddity! They make wine from the French hybrid grape Marechal Foch. That is probably more exotic than the Arneis, but just as tasty.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Kosher Cab From Italy

People who are looking for kosher wines should look into the lines offered by the Royal Wine Corporation. They import wines to the U.S. from all over the world and produce wines at their winery in Southern California. They have been in business for 175 years, dating back eight generations to their beginning in Europe. Their wines are top quality, as I have found through tasting a number of their bottlings through the years.

The Lovatelli line sources grapes from up and down Italy’s iconic wine regions. There's a new Primitivo from Salento and a Barbera d'Asti in addition to this fine Nebbiolo from Piedmont's Monferrato D.O.C. They also make two vermouths. Their wines are kosher for Passover and are mevushal. The 2022  Lovatelli Monferrato D.O.C. Nebbiolo has alcohol at 13% abv and a retail price of $25.

This wine is medium dark in the glass. Its nose has notes of blue and red berries joined by an earthy sense of tar, cigars and cardamom. The wine actually strikes me more like a Pinot Noir than a Nebbiolo, with a palate that shows slight hints of tea and coffee. The tannins are firm and the wine is quite enjoyable, if not completely correct varietally. 

Monday, April 29, 2024

A Light And Breezy Rose From Portugal

Espiral Vinho Verde Rosé Blend is a non-vintage pink wine, about which I know little more. I'm sure there are Portuguese grapes in this wine, but nowhere could I find a tech sheet on it. The alcohol is nice and light, just 10% abv, and the price is right, too, $5 at Trader Joe's.

This wine has a rich and beautiful cherry red color. Its nose is playful enough, all watermelon candy and apples and strawberries, but with an herbal tilt that seems very elusive. I think the aroma reminds me of some wines made from North American grapes, but that is not the case here. This wine comes from Portugal's production area known as Vinho Verde. Yes, that translates to "green wine" but it actually means "young wine," meant to be enjoyed soon after bottling. The palate brings a strong showing of cherry, strawberry and a sort of Jolly Rancher note. The acidity is wonderful, delightfully tingly and quite refreshing. An earthy tone of red fruit persists after the sip. 

Friday, April 26, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - On The Fritz

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week, a trio of films directed by Fritz Lang. We have a wine to pour with each of them.

In my younger days, oh so long ago, I would occasionally have people over to my humble apartment to enjoy a fine beverage and some music. There would inevitably come a time when I was ready for them to leave. When that time came, I would grab my VHS copy (oh so long ago) of Fritz Lang's Metropolis and say, "Have you seen this? It's great!" Rarely would my guests feel that way about Metropolis, and I would be left alone, as I wished. 

By the way, the fine beverage back then was usually a PBR or MGD. Now I know better. I have wine. And friends who like Metropolis.

Oh, the things to which a drink can lead. Lang's The Woman in the Window is a 1944 film noir in which a completely innocent man gets wrapped up in a tangled web of deception. He admires a painting of a woman that he sees in a store window. She admires him admiring it. They go back to her place for that drink. Enter the jealous boyfriend, spoiling for a fight. The admirer kills him in self defense, and we're off to the races. 

Lang threw in an extra twist at the end of the picture, a trope that's been used several times since, always to good advantage. At least, I like it.

With a nod to the twist at the end, let's pair Dreaming Tree Wine with The Woman in the Window. The Crush Red Blend comes from Dave Matthews' winery in Geyserville.

Human Desire is a 1954 film noir taken from an Émile Zola novel. Glenn Ford gets top billing, but the real stars are the trains. Railroad buffs love to argue about which line is depicted, which car is shown, which engine is doing the work. Railroad buffs are almost as insufferable as wine aficionados. 

It is a noir, so you know there is a femme fatale involved (the glorious Gloria Grahame) and a burly guy who nobody likes (Broderick Crawford). Murder and jealousy roll along like a streamliner while good guys try to stay good and bad guys just don't give a damn. Let's have a fine beverage.

In fact, let's have a fine beverage from the Texas Hill Country. Barons Creek Vineyards does a Cabernet Sauvignon (What did you expect? It’s Texas) called Crazy Train. That certainly describes the vibe on the trains frequented by the characters in Human Desire.

Ford, Grahame and Lang had teamed up the year before in The Big Heat, a 1953 film noir. I love the one-sheet: "Somebody’s going to pay … because he forgot to kill me." I can picture some noirish oaf hitting himself on the forehead, saying, "Agh! I knew I forgot to do something!" Don’t you just hate that? When you forget to kill a guy? I know I do.

So this film noir is not The Big Sleep, and it’s not The Big Clock, it's The Big Heat. Look, we've got Ford and Grahame, which is ordinarily enough to warrant a viewing. But we also have Lee Marvin as a monster mobster, the kind of guy who throws a pot of hot coffee into a woman's face. Nobody, and I mean nobody, plays the bad guy like Lee Marvin. 

Michael Franzese runs a winery now. It's challenging, but not as much as his former job, mob boss. If you think making wine is difficult, try quitting the Columbo crime family. The Franzese Areni is an Armenian Pinot Noir which sells for about 30 bucks. If you're interested in decor, his pomegranate wine comes in a really cool looking bottle.

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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.