Unlocked  (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 98 minutesM Unlocked 2017

Genre: Action-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 4.5/10

IMDb – 6.2/10

Amazon – 4.1/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 4.3/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.5/5

Metacritic Metascore – 46/100

Metacritic User Score – 6.1/10

Directed by:  Michael Apted

Written by:  Peter O’Brien

Music by:  Stephan Barton

Cast:  Noomi Rapace, Orlando Bloom, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich

Film Locations:  Prague, Czech Republic; London, England

Budget:  NA

A PTSD undercover CIA agent, Alice Racine (Rapace), assigned to a desk job in the immigrant slums of London, unlocks, or extracts information from an Islamic currier that has the potential to bring unfathomable terror to London and the world. The information she obtains is immediately compromised by a mole inside the CIA, and thus, begins a shoot ’em up race to find the mole and stop the terrorists from releasing a deadly biologic agent into the city population.

An all-star cast, along with an accomplished director: Apted, give their all to make something out of an incredibly predictable, misguided and sophomoric screenplay, but in the end it isn’t enough. When Eric Lasch (Douglas) makes an appearance early in the movie, you can get up and leave, the general outline of the movie is writ large and by continuing to watch the show you only gain the details and a headache.

Peter O’Brien is wholly responsible for this mixed up attempt of a spy thriller. If he had written this story without a Hollywood PC twist it may have worked, but instead his fantasy world beliefs make a total and unbelievable mess of the plot. This script makes some sense when you realize that O’Brien’s previous efforts included writing scripts for video games; his greatest credit being for Microsoft’s Halo: Reach.  What doesn’t make sense is how any one paid money to turn this script into a movie. Hopefully after this fiasco he will leave the movie business, and return to the realm of first person shooter games where the story is buried beneath the body count.

La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Reserva Tinto 2010

W Alberdi 2010Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain

100% tempranillo

13.5% alcohol

Opened 21 Dec 2017

els: 9.0/10

James Suckling: 95

Robert Parker: 91

Cellar Tracker: 90

Wine Spectator: 89

La Rioja Alta, founded in 1890, within the Station Quarter of Haro, Spain, offers some of the finest  wines coming out of the Rioja producing region. The Vina Alberdi brand was added to the firm’s lineup of great wines in 1978, making its newest label, out of 5, and the only one made with 100% Tempranillo grapes.

The Rioja region’s wine history is tied into the arrival of the Phoenicians, and their wine making skills, 3000 years ago, with their arrival and founding, in the 11th century B.C., of what is now city of Cadiz along the southwestern Spanish-Atlantic coast. They likely continued their migration to the Rioja region via sea routes along the Atlantic-Iberian coast. The Romans continued, and expanded, the wineries in the Rioja area starting around the 2nd century B.C.; credited with the planting many of the vineyards in the area. During the Middle-Ages, Christian pilgrimages through the area provided a continuous market, and free advertising, for these northern Spanish wines.

In the 19th century the French vineyards were devastated and destroyed by the very small critter: Daktulosphaira vitifoliae.  With the resultant collapse of the French wine industry many of the country’s wine artisans migrated south into the Spanish wine growing regions, bringing with them their expertise and customs, especially from the Bordeaux region.  La Rioja Alta’s first winemaker in 1890 was the Frenchman, Monsieur Vigier, coming during the period, in the late 19th century, of the greatest vineyard destruction in France where 65-90% of the vineyards succumbed to the Phylloxera.

La Rioja Alta’s estate owned vineyards: Las Monjas, Bardal and Las Cuevas, which provide the Tempranillo grapes for this wine, grow at 1600 to 2000′ above sea level, a few miles from Haro. The soils are chalky and clayey, nurturing vines that were planted more than 40 years ago. Growing season temperatures range from a the low 50s at night to the low 80s Fahrenheit during the day, with atypical  20 degree, night-to-day, temperature swing. Rarely does the area experience freezing temperatures. The spring and summer months average 1.75 to 3 inches of rain per month.

The Tempranillo grapes are manually harvested and the wine spends 12 months in new American oak barrels and an additional 12 months in 3-year-old, or more, barrels.  Every 6 months the wine is romantically racked (trasegamos) by the light of a candle. The 2010 vintage was bottled in 2013.

This is a brilliant, dark cherry-red wine with a peachy-pink rim. Aromas of red fruits and berries, with a hint of oak and caramel. Very nice tasting, balanced, medium bodied and smooth, with a crisp acidity and just right tannins, producing a long, dry finish. The wine evokes visions of the gently undulating curves of a gypsy dancer in an iridescent, flowing chiffon red dress; her body pulsating and pressing to the slow Bolero beats in a smoky, steamy, waterfront Cadiz club.

An outstanding wine. Serve with cheese or light fare. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.


Poetry with Notes–Snowblind Friend

He said he wanted heaven but prayin’ was too slow                                                   So he bought a one way ticket on an airline made of snow

Written by Hoyt Axton
Album: My Griffin is Gone 1969
Album: Snowblind Friend 1977


Addicts, that live long enough, cultivate an affair of abhorrence and romance with their dependence, a dishonest balance of hate and love. Love, a word that portends need, not affection, in the language of addiction; an unnatural longing disguised as amour and passion, all dressed up as a friend that will stay with them. The friend, though, is fake; only despair, disgrace and despondency will this friend bring.  Hate, for knowing that their friend will remain only till he takes everything. Hate, for the lost chances of respect and reward. Hate for knowing it is all a lie.

Hoyt Axton, agonized, struggled, lived a life of hypocrisy, over booze and cocaine most of his life. Partnering with local law enforcement to discourage kids from using drugs, until the local law enforcement busted him for using drugs. Relying on his friends to provide and protect until his next meager royalty check arrived. Awakening from his alcohol and drug binges, seeing the devil sitting by his side; waiting, smiling. Knowing God only when he wrote a song that was “right”, but the devil’s pen was always dry. Aware that God and song were his real love, but the devil and drugs were a simpler high. Heaven came slowly with a cost during his Earthly time, the devil was faster; the cost payable at a later date.

Axton wrote, in song, repeatedly of his “unholy” habit, always lamenting, but not relenting on his usage: Della and the Dealer, The Pusher, Boozers are Losers, The No-No Song; all were a cry for help and release.  The best though, the most poetic, was Snowblind Friend. A dirge of knowing the end, knowing the final trip along the road coated with alcohol and cocaine, a song of death with no honor, death as a way out, but with a pleading, please…please, not today.

Snowblind Friend

You say it was this morning when you last saw your good friend
Lyin’ on the pavement with a misery on his brain
Stoned on some new potion he found upon the wall
Of some unholy bathroom in some ungodly hall

He only had a dollar to live on ’til next Monday
But he spent it all on comfort for his mind
Did you say you think he’s blind?

Someone should call his parents, a sister or a brother
And they’ll come to take him back home on a bus
But he’ll always be a problem to his poor and puzzled mother
Yeah he’ll always be another one of us

He said he wanted heaven but prayin’ was too slow
So he bought a one way ticket on an airline made of snow
Did you say you saw your good friend flyin’ low?
Flyin’ low, dyin’ slow

You say it was this morning when you last saw your good friend
Lyin’ on the pavement with a misery on his brain
Stoned on some new potion he found upon the wall
Of some unholy bathroom in some ungodly hall

He only had a dollar to live on ’til next Monday
He said he wanted heaven but prayin’ was too slow
So he bought a one way ticket on an airline made of snow
Did you say you saw your good friend flyin’ low?
Dyin’ slow, flyin’ low
Did you say you saw your good friend flyin’ low?
Dyin’ slow, flyin’ low, flyin’ and dyin’ slow

Rutini Malbec 2013

W Rutini 2013Malbec from Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

100% malbec

14.0% alcohol

Opened 15 Dec 2017

els: 9.0/10

Cellar Tracker: 92

Wine Spectator: 91

Wine and Spirits: 89

Wine Enthusiast: 88

Felipe Rutini was born in 1866, into a winemaking family in the central Italian agricultural Province of Ascoli Piceno, which is less than 20 miles west of the Adriatic Sea. He graduated from the Royal School of Agriculture as an agricultural technician in the city of Ascoli Piceno. Disillusioned with the Italian unification and the constant wars in Europe, he made his way to Mendoza, Argentina at the young age of 18 and a year later founded the La Rural winery in the district of Coquimbito, currently located in the southeastern portion of the Mendoza metro area. People definitely made their mark earlier in life during the days of horses and steam.

His sons, after their father Felipe Rutini’s death in 1919, took over the winery and were the first to plant vineyards in the Uco Valley, around Tupungato, in the year of 1925. The winery eventually established two more vineyards in the southern portion of Uco Valley in the San Carlos Department. All 3 of these vineyards: Gualtallary, The Consultation, and The Altamira; totaling approximately 620 acres, are a source of grapes for this Malbec. In 1994, the Rutini winery and vineyards were sold to Argentinian investors including the wine makers: Nicolas Catena and Jose Benegas Lynch.

The vineyards are situated 3100 to 4100′ above sea level in the shadow of the Andes Mountains and the 21,500′ Tupungato volcano. The soils are well-drained, alluvial to colluvial, rocky sands to loams, one to four feet thick. Temperatures reach into the 80s during the growing season days and dip into the mid-50s at night.  Rain varies from 1 to 3.5 inches per month.

The grapes are manually harvested and the wine spends 12 months in new French and American oak barrels. Later vintages are stored in new and second use oak barrels.

It is a dark plum-colored wine with blackberry and earthy aromas. Huge tannins and shanghaied acidity produce a long grope of a finish. I drank a bottle of this wine several years ago and it was mediocre, plain and uninteresting, at best.  It has aged well in the bottle and exhibits a greater punch and grab now. Also it was about half the price a few years ago, re-enforcing the maxim: buy early, drink later. Serves well with red meat.

An outstanding wine. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.


Liam’s Choice

Radius  (Theaters-2018; Streaming-2017)  Rated: NR  Runtime: 87-93 minutesM Radius 2017

Genre: Fantasy-Mystery-Science Fiction-Suspense-Thriller

els – 6.0/10

IMDb – 6.2/10

Amazon – 3.7/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.5/5

Metacritic Metascore – NA/100

Metacritic User Score – NA/10

Directed by:  Caroline Labrèche, Steeve Léonard

Written by:  Caroline Labrèche, Steeve Léonard

Music by:  Benoît Charest

Cast:  Diego Klattenhoff, Charlotte Sullivan

Film Location:  Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada

Budget:  NA

The mystery begins as Liam (Klattenhoff) wakes up in a confused state, lying next to an overturned car.  As he stumbles away from the car and walks down a lonely road, an approaching car slows, possibly to pick him up, but instead, appears to try to run him over in slow motion. Liam sidesteps the car, and it coasts off the road and comes to a stop in the ditch.  In a what-the moment, Liam approaches the car, opens the driver’s door, and finds the occupant dead.  Upon calling 911, or whatever the Canadian equivalent is, the operator asks for Liam’s name; stumped by the question he resorts to looking at his driver’s license for the answer. Liam remembers nothing, who he is, what he is, where he is; his existence started at the point of regaining consciousness at the crash site.  The dead driver scene repeats in various forms; people, birds, any living mammal that approach him, or vice versa, dies.  With the bodies piling up, he ultimately realizes that it isn’t a pathogen killing everyone; its him: get too close to Liam, a radius of a few tens of feet, and you die: instantly. Jane (Sullivan), a passenger in Liam’s car at the time of the crash, but unknown to Liam when he woke up at the crash site, tracks Liam down and they discover that his radius of death is inoperative when she is near. Her yin to his yang.

A set of moral dilemmas are introduced with a semi-transparent brush that are easily resolved, but not very satisfying, at least not from an emotional perspective.  Are you responsible for a past life that you can not remember? Are you responsible for a life that your are fully cognizant of, but unable to control?  Jane answers no to both queries. Liam answers yes, at least to the latter. The movie leaves you to decide his answer to the former.

This is Labreche and Leonard’s second low-budget movie they have directed together. Their first movie they directed, Sans Dessein (Without Design), was filmed in Montreal for $15,000 Canadian, and released in French in 2009. The movie received above average reviews from critics and viewers (IMDb 7.0/10).

In Radius the movie production is very good, for a low-budget film, and has met with similar reviews as Sans Dessein. I suspect their efforts in this movie, as writers and directors, will get them noticed by folks with deeper pockets in the near future.

An original story and script, with mostly good acting, certainly not bad. The directors set a pace that’s a tad slow, resulting in the viewer leaping ahead of the story, which in this case, is not necessarily bad.  An entertaining flick with a unsatisfying, but necessary ending.  Hitchcock may not have approved but he would have understood.

Sketches of Melville’s Mind

Herman Melville Short Stories

Written by:  Herman Melville

Published by:  Easton Press

Copyright:  © 1996B Melville Short Stories

Herman Melville lived for 72 years and 59 days, all in the 1800s, beginning and ending in New York City, but in-between, traveling the worlds oceans and terrains; experiencing, and surviving, some of the greatest land and sea adventures ever told. Many of these affairs surviving as autobiographical elements within in his fictional writings.

As an illustration, the tale of Moby-Dick follows from his real-life quests, on various sea-boats, usually as a deck hand, including the 1820 sinking of the whaler, Essex, going down in the Pacific Ocean; all due to the foul mood and intransigence of a opprobrious sperm whale. Immediately pivoting from the fortuity of surviving the fantastical attack of a mad, but likely, provoked, cetacean; the equally extraordinary tale of the shipwrecked and hapless sailors continues; surviving on the open sea, aboard the whaler’s life-boats, combating storms, thirst, illness, starvation and cannibalism. The totality of the experience should have shattered the sanity of the cursed swabs, but didn’t–maybe. (Melville was subjected to a battery of inconclusive psychiatric  tests in the early 1850s: his friends and family believing that his behavior was not normal.) Pi knows this adventure.  Eventually the few remaining survivors are rescued off the coast of South America, leading Melville to eventually write the knowingly, not-so-absurd tale, of a sea-captain seeking revenge on a whale.

Easton Press’s collection of Melville’s short stories is a seemingly, eclectic compilation of sketches and traditional prose; exhibiting his talent and genus for writing descriptive narratives and telling stories; weaving themes of morality and politics into everything he created. He wrote 17 short stories in his lifetime, 13 of which are collected here. The 13 stories were published between 1853 and 1856, with the exception of The Two Temples, which was published posthumously in 1924.  These short stories were written during the period when Melville’s star, as a writer of fiction, had dimmed to a feeble ember, and which did not flare up again until after his death, some 30 years later in the 1920s.  Melville’s writing, to the uninitiated, can leave one exhausted and bewildered with his detailed narratives, and subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, symbolism and irony. Successfully reading Melville requires a summary of the story beforehand, and an understanding of the themes buried in his tales.  Surely a paradoxical statement, but one that will magnify your enjoyment, and comprehension of his works.  With that in mind, I offer up below, a brief review of the short stories in this collection; listed in their order of appearance in the book.

Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street,  originally published in 1853 in Putman’s Monthly Magazine. Ignored mostly by the public at the time of publication, it is now recognized as one of the greatest of all time, American short stories; hilarious and poignant, a tale interpreted to mean just about anything the critics and the readers want it to mean. Bartleby will surely make you a fan of Melville.

Bartleby is a scrivener, a copier of legal documents, who is hired by unnamed lawyer and proceeds to do extraordinary and prodigious amounts of work for his master until he “prefers not to”, at which point Bartleby begins his descent into a void, a nullity of existence.

The Encantadas, originally published in 1854 in Putman’s Monthly Magazine. The Encantadas or The Enchanted Isles is a collection of 10 narrative “sketches” describing life, habitat, and terrain of the Galapagos Islands, mostly from a downbeat, life as a tragedy, viewpoint. The “sketches” were a critical success, likely due to the similarity of the descriptive prose with his earlier, successful novels; though that success did not translate into financial prosperity.

Cock-a-Doodle-Doo! or The Crowing of the Noble Cock Beneventano, originally published in 1853 in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.  A little read, and little understood story about a man in the depths of depression uplifted by the crowing of a cock. Interpreted variously as a criticism of transcendentalism, a critique in the belief that man is naturally good; or alternately, as a satire on the Puritan sexual mores of the early 19th century.  These critiques are way too deep into the essence of symbols when the story appears to be just a simple expression of hope.  The story ends with an inscription on a tombstone placed over the grave of the cock and its owner’s family, erected by the narrator of the story:

O death, where is thy sting                                                               O grave, where is thy victory

These are not sophomoric expressions of sexuality or words of wickedness or thoughts of hopelessness. Is it not likely that the author intends them to mean that death is not to be feared? That you do not lose the fight, your fight, upon entering a grave? That death is just another beginning, a continuation of the journey.

The Two Temples, originally published in 1924 in the book Billy Budd and Other Prose Pieces.  This story was written in the 1850s but Harper’s wouldn’t publish it  because of its potential to upset the religious sensitivities of the time.  This tale is all about contrasts and beliefs. Contrasts within the practice of the Christian faith, where the meek shall inherit the Earth and the proud and mighty shall perish; the low is high and the high is low. Contrasts of religion versus the arts; religion’s aversion to the low, the arts acceptance of everyone. Beliefs that the wolf and the lamb should lay down together. Beliefs that charity is not an at-arm’s-length transaction but a clasp and a hug of your fellow, suffering brother.

Poor Man’s Pudding and Rich Man’s Crumbs, originally published in 1854 by Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Another tale in two parts describing the perceptions of the rich about the poor’s needs and wants. The stories detail an American rich man’s pompous, and false, perspective on the quality of a poor family’s meals while cooking with the meager ingredients of their pantry,  and an urban Londoner guide’s, smug, and erroneous, thoughts on feeding the poor with the wealthy’s leftovers. A tale defining false charity and false charity is no charity.  A tale of understanding by walking in foreign shoes.

The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids, originally published in 1855 by Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Again a tale in two parts comparing the lives of educated, rich bachelors in London with the menial work of young maids in a New England paper mill. The narrator, the same for both stories, describes the care-free life of unmarried Englishmen, unencumbered by the responsibilities of wives or children.  The flip side is of young, unmarried women living a meaningless existence making paper from the unwanted clothing of the rich.  The maids assist the bachelors in maintaining their uncomplicated and comfortable lives while the bachelors contribute to the maids’ living hell, Tartarus, by casting their unfashionable used clothes to the them.

The Lightning-Rod Man, originally published in 1854 by Putman’s Monthly Magazine.

What grand irregular thunder, thought I, standing on my hearthstone among the Acroceraunian hills, as the scattered bolts boomed overhead and crashed down among the valleys, every bolt followed by zigzag irradiations, and swift slants of sharp rain, which audibly rang, like a charge of spear-points, on my low shingled roof. I suppose, though, that the mountains hereabouts break and churn up thunder, so that it is far more glorious here than on the plain.

Thus begins the straightforward tale of a lightning rod salesman showing up on the narrator’s step during a terrific electrical storm, peddling his copper rods while the thunder crashes around the mountain home. The narrator, skeptical of the salesman’s claims, parries the latter’s sales pitch of the horrific outcomes of unprotected lightning strikes with scientific fact and maybe, just a tad of false courage; arguments that produce a vast schism between the two, each believing that the devil exists in the others skin.

The Happy Failure:  A Story of the River Hudson, originally published in 1855 by Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. A very short story about ambition, a man trying to leave his mark in the world, and failing against a greater ambition; the river’s need to reach its destination.  Fighting the good fight against a superior opponent and rejoicing in the effort of trying, not the conclusion. If you are not the giant, be a happy Lilliputian.

The Fiddler, originally published, anonymously, in 1854 by Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. A story along similar lines as The Happy Failure, a man’s dreams of greatness are dashed against the unkind, the uncaring, the immovable monolith of opinion, leading to a much-needed re-evaluation of ones life and purpose.  If you write bad poems try playing the fiddle instead. Melville abandoned prose in the late 1850s, became a lecturer, a custom inspector, and wrote bad poetry.

Jimmy Rose, originally published in 1855 by Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.  A tale that has been told many times and in many ways; success has many fathers, failure is an orphan. A Londoner, rich and witty, is the toast of town, especially when he is paying, but misfortune strikes, he loses his fortune, and his friends abandon him. Through old age, bereft of friends and money, he retains his cheer and his dignity to the end. Some find this story as an indictment of society’s downward trajectory; an allegorical spin on the decline of morals and religious beliefs. On a simpler level it’s an autobiographical sketch of Melville’s loss of readership, and popularity as an author, with the concomitant loss of financial security, in the 1850s.

The Bell-Tower, originally published in 1855 by Putman’s Monthly Magazine. Bannadonna, an artist creates a bell tower that all of Italy can be proud of, massive and tall, but, unfortunately, not strong enough to support the ill-conceived, even more massive, bell. A story of pride, passion and ambition summed up in the final 3 sentences of the tale:

So the bell was too heavy for the tower. So the bell’s main weakness was where man’s blood had flawed it.  And so pride went before fall.

I and My Chimney, originally published in 1856 by Putnam’s Monthly Magazine.  Melville’s narrator loves his very large chimney and he loves his even bigger house that encircles the chimney.  The narrator’s wife hates the chimney wants to tear it down or at least make it smaller. The narrator loves tradition as he loves his chimney, conservative to his core; a preservationist hoping for continuity of the whole.

In the 1850s, the U.S. was gearing up to tear itself apart, to enter into the largest bloodbath this country has ever known.  Melville expresses his wishes, through the narrator; preserve the chimney, preserve the federal union; preserve the house, preserve the United States. Melville is prescient in his symbolism, publishing this story 2 years prior to Lincoln’s House Divided speech, which he delivered as a campaign speech in Springfield, Illinois. The similarities of story and speech culminate in the best known passage of Lincoln’s address:

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

The Apple-Tree Table or Original Spiritual Manifestations, originally published in 1856 by Putman’s Monthly Magazine. Melville layers at least 2 themes into this quaint little tale of ghosts and bugs, all wrapped up in a little apple-tree table, rescued from a dark, dusty attic. The narrator places the cloven-footed apple-table in a prominent location of the family’s parlor and over a few days all hear a distinct tick-tick-tick coming from the petite piece of furniture; a spectral cackling, instilling a creeping fear into the man and his daughter, but not his wife. The mystery of the tick-tick resolves itself as two long, dormant bugs chomp their way to freedom from the wooden confines of the table.

Theme one of the tale, is a composition on gender reversal. The narrator exchanges his masculinity for a more feminine style along with endowing his wife with the more traditional male roles of the husband.  The man wishes to decorate, the woman could care less. The narrator fears the table; the woman looks for a logical explanation. Men and women are not what society says they are, but what they are.

Theme two involves the awakening of the soul.  Shining light, infusing fresh air, into the dark, musty corners of ones mind, creating an atmosphere for spiritual revival; a renewal of cheer and faith, an escape from the cloven, hoofed body of seclusion and depression.

Pecchenino San Luigi Dogliani Dolcetto 2016

W San Luigi 2016Dolcetto from Dogliani, Piedmont, Italy

100% dolcetto

13.5% alcohol

Opened 11 Dec 2017

els: 9.0/10

Wine Spectator: 91

Wine Advocate: 90

The Pecchenino wine estate has been passed from father to son since the late 18th century. The estate, since the 1970s, has tripled in size and now encompasses approximately 62 acres northeast of the commune of Dogliani, a small town of about 5000 people, which is  less than 40 miles southeast of Turin.  The estate has 70% of its acreage planted in Dolcetto vines with the remaining 30% dedicated to their better known cousins: Barbera, Nebbiolo, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

The Dolcetto, known in area since at least the early 1400s, is a cool weather, dark-skinned grape with high tannin levels but low acidity, necessitating an early consumption since it will not age well in the bottle much beyond 4 or 5 years. This is not catastrophic, actually just the opposite, since the 2016 vintage is a nice wine to drink right now while you wait for the regions Barbera and Nebbiolo wines to age for 3-5 years.

The Pecchenino soils consist of unconsolidated calcareous alluvium, somewhat fertile but lacking in substantial organics. The vines are perched at an altitude of 1275-1400 feet above sea level, with a generally southern exposure.  Temperatures range from the low 80s during the growing season days to the mid 50s at night.  Rain amounts of 1-3 inches per month are typical.  October is the wettest month with up 3.5 inches expected and July is the driest with an average rainfall of a little more than 1 inch.

A brilliant, medium colored red wine with fruity and earthy aromas. Nice tannins and not too dry, producing a pleasant and satisfying finish. Serves well with, and not trying to be cliché, pizza and pasta.

An outstanding wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.



Quinta do Noval Late Bottled Vintage Unfiltered Port 2009

W Noval Port 2009Other Dessert from Douro Valley, Portugal

Grape variety or varieties unknown

19.5% alcohol

Opened 10 Dec 2017

els: 9.2/10

Wine Advocate: 94

Wine Enthusiast: 90

Cellar Tracker: 90

Quinta do Noval is one of the oldest, and without argument, one of the greatest port houses in the Douro River Valley of northern Portugal. Their greatness is due, in part, to their willingness to experiment and innovate with their vineyards and products. They were the first, in 1958, to introduce late bottled vintage port with a 1954 vintage. Robert Parker included this winery in his 2005 book The World’s Greatest Wine Estates; speaking highly of its vineyards and wines:

Quinta do Noval is unusual among the great traditional Port houses in that it emphasizes the importance of the vineyard.  …(The vineyards are) entirely based on the Douro Valley, and that its principal Vintage Ports, Quinta do Noval Nacional and Quinta do Noval, are both single-vineyard wines. The aim is to produce classic Vintage Ports that are harmonious and elegant expressions of Quinta do Noval’s terroir.  Strict selection in the vineyard, low yields, and strict selection again in the tasting room …

Established in 1715, the vineyards, which the wines take their name, have only had 3 owners in 302 years. The current owner, AXA Millesimes, purchased the property in 1993.  The ports all come from a single vineyard planted with 7 classified A grape varieties:  Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Francisca, Sousão. The exact grape(s) used in this port remains unstated.

The 350 acres of vineyards, 250 acres of which have been replanted since 1994, are 300-1500 feet above sea level, on the terraced hills, rooted in a medium grade metamorphic schistose rock with a little weathered clay thrown in to keep it all from cascading down into the river below. (Another great example of great wine grown from inhospitable and infertile soils.) The growing season days are mild with temperatures reaching into the mid-70s with night time lows bottoming out around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Rain is plentiful, averaging 3-6 inches per month.

The grapes are hand picked, crushed by foot and aged in single vintage, wooden vats for 4-5 years before being bottled; producing a deep purple to almost black hue with sweet aromas and flavors of nuts, toffee and vanilla.  Enjoy alone or with chocolate.

An outstanding port. Decant to remove any sediment.



Badly Done Transitory Anarchy

Mayhem  (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 86-87 minutesM Mayham 2017

Genre: Action-Horror-Satire

els – 4.0/10

IMDb – 6.4/10

Amazon – 4.3/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.8/5

Metacritic Metascore – 62/100

Metacritic User Score – NA/10

Directed by:  Joe Lynch

Written by:  Matias Caruso

Music by:  Steve Moore

Cast:  Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Dallas Roberts

A law firm occupying a modern 9 floor glass and chrome high-rise is infected with a morality inhibiting virus, allowing all that are contaminated to pursue their criminal desires without remorse or retribution. Derek (Yeun), unjustly fired from his job at the firm, is infected with the virus and seeks revenge from the suits upstairs.  He teams up with Melanie (Weaving), a rejected client seeking aid from the firm. They attempt to reach the managing partners on the locked down 9th floor, all the while leaving death, destruction–mayhem in their wake.

Matias Caruso, generally a writer of shorts, scribbled out a screenplay that is shorn of all pretense of artistry, finding a vehicle in the form of a very unoriginal viral infection, that allows him to maximize violent, gory, artery pumping, bloody scenes with an occasional speck of gallows humor interspersed between the bodies, to give the audience time to lessen their laryngeal spasms.  The whole effort is rationalized as a satire on the modern hostile, bureaucratic office. Please.

The director, Joe Lynch, likely to live in the land of forgettable movies for a very long time, plays up the script to its maximum heights allowable, and that still wouldn’t scratch an earthworm’s belly. The voice over narrative is not just distracting, but poorly written and just plain awful. The scene selections and settings are amateurish; B movies are done better.

The acting is tongue-in-cheek throughout and I have yet to decide if that was intentional or not. Enough said.

The Game of Thrones or anything by Quentin Tarantino are likely exhibits number one through a very large integer for efficiently desensitizing the viewing public to gratuitous sex and graphic violence resulting in products that have little to do with art or entertainment. This movie lives in the dark shadows of GoT and Tarantino, badly going where it shouldn’t have. This movie is not art. This movie does not entertain. This movie does not tell a believable story.  This is a movie of gross violence, nudity and cheesy dialog, designed to shock and numb. Save your time, save your dime, don’t watch this movie.


Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico DOCG 2011

W D'Albola Chianti 2011Sangiovese from Tuscany, Italy

95% sangiovese

5% canaiol

13.0% alcohol

Opened 7 Dec 2017

els 8.8/10

JS 91

WS 90

RP 87

The Castello d’Abola estate, drastically renamed Castello di Albola, located in the village of Radda, is smack dab in the middle of the Chianti Classico DOCG. The wine takes its name from the Abola Castle, built sometime around the 1400s and beautifully restored by the current owners: the Zonin family.

Vineyards and wineries have existed in Tuscany Chianti area for at least 2500 years, likely even further into the past, back during the pre-Roman times of the enigmatic Etruscan civilization; who are believed to have introduced wine production to the French. A truer definition of altruistic and noble charity cannot be found.

The vines for this wine are grown at the highest elevation of any vineyard in the Chianti DOCG, rooted in clayey limestone soils that receive anywhere from 0.25 to 1.8 inches of rain per month during the growing season.  Temperatures can reach into the mid-80s during the day and drop into the mid-40s Fahrenheit at night.

This wine exhibits a brilliant ruby-red  to garnet hue, redolent of sweet fruits and pepper. A medium body, balanced and structured wine along with a moderate but pleasant finish. A nice table wine for everyday fare or drink alone while watching the sun sink slowly towards the west.

A good wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

The 2011 is close to impossible to find anymore, at least in the US.  I’ve found one store in the UK and one in Canada that are charging an exorbitant price that you should definitely pass on.  I paid $15.99 for a bottle in 2015, which is (was) an inexpensive to a tad over-priced for wine of this quality.

%d bloggers like this: