Vetus Flor de Vetus 2012

W Flor Vetus 2012Tempranillo from Toro, Spain

An Eric Solomon Selection

100% tinta de toro (tempranillo)

14.0% alcohol

Opened 29 Jan 2018

els: 9.0/10

Wine Advocate: 92

Decantalo: 92

Guia Penin: 91

Cellar Tracker: 88

The Spanish Northern Plateau Toro Region is 40-50 miles east of the Portuguese border and 125-150 miles south of the Northern Spanish-Atlantic Ocean coast. Wine has been produced in the Toro region for more than 2000 years ever since the Greeks taught the Celts the art of the vine and grape.  During the Middle Ages, Catholic religious orders obtained land in the region from the king under the expressed agreement that they would expand the vineyards. In the 1800s the area’s vineyards escaped the phylloxera crisis resulting, today, in some very old vines.

The Artevino company, under the tutelage of Gonzalo Anton, began its wine making endeavors in Rioja Alavesa, one of the 3 sub-regions of the La Rioja DOC, in 1987, focusing on the hospitality industry with their IZADI labeled wines. In 2000, Gonzalo’s son began to expand the winery’s footprint and soon established, in the Toro Region, Bodegas Vetus in 2003. He initially concentrated on developing their vineyards until they were assured of success before building their winery there, which they eventually opened in 2008.

The 50 acres of 25 year-old vines of the Vetus vineyards surround the winery, and are located less than 10 miles to the south, southwest of the city, Toro, and about 2/3 of a mile west of the Guarena River, a north flowing tributary of the Douro River.  They are at an altitude of approximately 2300′ above sea level, growing in a loose conglomeratic soil, which consists of a dark sandy matrix, some clay, and limestone pebbles; locally known as a puddingstone.  The area experiences a continental climate with growing season temperatures ranging from daytime highs in the mid-80°s to night time lows in the high 50°s F.  Growing season rains range from 0.75 to 2.25″ per month.

The grapes are hand harvested, de-stemmed, partially crushed, and fermented in stainless steel vats. They are aged for 9 months in half new, half second year, half American and half French, oak barrels with the resulting wine falling into the Spanish Crianza aging label category: aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak.

The wine exhibits a dark ruby-red to purple hue with a thin garnet rim.  A glorious nose of fresh berries and cherries coupled with a rich, thick taste of berries and chewy tannins. Very balanced acidity and tannins with a very nice finish.

An outstanding wine at a good price.  Serve with lamb and Spanish rice. Drink now, but should last until 2020. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$14.99 wine.com

 

Tilia Bonarda 2016

W Tilia 2016Bonarda from Mendoza, Argentina

100% bonarda (aka: charbono, corbeau de savoie, or douce noire)

12.5% alcohol

Opened 27 Jan 2018

els: 8.7/10

Wine Advocate: 88

Bodegas Esmeralda, founded by Don Juan Fernandez is named in honor of his only daughter: Esmeralda Fernandez. The winery is located in the city of Junin, approximately 300 miles west of Buenos Aires and almost 800 miles east of Mendoza, producing wines both for the local market and for export. The winery’s Tilia labeled wines, named after the Latin name for the Linden tree, are all produced for the export market.

Tilia’s Bonarda vineyard, El Mirador, is located 50 miles to the southeast of Mendoza, at elevations ranging from 1,950 – 2,150’ above sea level. The vineyard is in a true desert climate, receiving less than 1″ of rain per month and is carefully irrigated with the Andes’ snow melt waters flowing down through the Tunuyan River.  Because of the desert conditions the sun shines 90% of time throughout the year, generating hot days and cool nights, perfect for the Bonarda grape.

The grape, also known as the Charbono in California, is a very commonly planted variety, second only to Malbec, in the Mendoza area.  In the desert climate the grapes produce a medium bodied wine of dark fruit and berry flavors with high acidity and medium tannins.

This wine has a deep purple hue with a cherry red rim. A nose full of plums and black fruit hits you hard upon opening.  A medium to full-bodied, but soft on the palate, wine, with an earthy, herbal flavor. It has a medium finish with vivacious tannins, well-nigh a Merlot in character.

A good everyday red at a good price.  Serve with mild cheese, pasta or pizza. Drink now but it should be good through 2020. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$10.99  wine.com

Chillin’ Back to the Future

Baby Driver (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 112 minutesM Baby 2017

Genre:  Action-Crime-Music-Suspense-Thriller

els – 8.5/10

IMDb – 7.0/10

Amazon – 3.9/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 8.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.2/5

Metacritic Metascore – 86/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.7/10

Directed by:  Edgar Wright

Written by:  Edgar Wright

Music by:  Stephen Price

Cast:   Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Lily James

Film Locations:   Atlanta, Dunwoody and Gainesville, Georgia, New Orleans, Louisiana, US

Budget:   $34,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $228,311,809

Baby (Elgort) is a getaway driver, choreographing his high RPM street racing to the music pumping through his ear buds, playing catch me if you can with a no sweat demeanor that has you cheering for him non-stop.  Baby works for Doc (Spacey), a criminal mastermind that plans all his heists in chalk-board detail, never using the same group of robbers twice, except for Baby.  Baby is exceptional. Spacey catches Baby, how that happens is somewhat implausible since no one every catches Baby, trying to rob him and forces him to drive his den of thieves away from their crime scenes as retribution.

I’m late to this movie so I will give my due respect to the principles and then move on to what makes this movie so special: script and score–together.  Edgar Wright has put together a story that doesn’t come along too often, a story that has is all, action, comedy, crime, love, suspense–it has everything that you and I watch movies for. He brings it all together with a coherent and convincing screenplay, tight directing, precision choreographed cinematography (Bill Pope), and acting that is just perfect. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have Elgort, Foxx, Hamm, and Spacey providing believable and real characters along with the very pretty James. Throw in some subtle paeans to the past, such as Back to the Future, and you have a simply stunning movie, a true masterpiece; the bits and pieces adding up to a fulfillment of a lost cinematic ideal: pure, unadulterated entertainment.

Then Wright brings forth the melody.  A melody that matches and honors the lyrics: the screenplay. Lyrical poetry, accordant with the harmonic notes performing a dance of rockin’, rollin’, tango action.  Not since the 1983 Big Chill has Hollywood scored music so perfectly with the movie.

The Big Chill brought together children of the 1960s, audience and actors alike, in a comedic drama about trying to find meaning in a modern world after their fling with anarchy and drugs.  They found no meaning.  The point of the 60s was that there was no point.  But the 60’s music was sublime and transcendent. The music in The Big Chill, complimented the story as if they were fraternal twins, different veins but the same beat. Bringing together the rockin’ soul of the era with the burn-it-down pathos of its youth.  Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, black soul groovin’ the white bourgeoisie who thought they were the proletariat.  A movie, and an era, of no meaning, expressing itself with music that meant everything, and the two together brought soothing cover and entertainment.

Baby Driver just brings entertainment, no-guilt-pleasure, meshing the visual with the phonic.  It brings in The Big Chill‘s soul sound with the likes of Carla Thomas, Sam and Dave, and Barry White; and then branches out to include the  old-time rockers of Queen, T. Rex (Marc Bolan’s son sued the movie for using Debora without permission), and Golden Earring; progressing up the time scale with blues-rocker Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and alternate-stuff Beck; capping it off with the synth-pop of Sky Ferreira. A great collection of musicians that compliments the movies action, creating a greater artistic experience than the two alone could achieve. Jon Spencer’s Bellbottoms in the opening car chase scene sets the throbbing standard for the movie that doesn’t abate until the ending credits roll, accompanied by the Simon and Garfunkel song: Baby Driver.

Sony and Edgar Wright have agreed to a sequel, hopefully in 2019.  May the magic strike twice.

Two Hands Bella’s Garden Shiraz 2013

W Bella Garden 2013Shiraz from Barossa Valley, Barossa, Australia

100% shiraz

14.5% alcohol

Opened 21 Jan 2018

els: 9.4/10

James Halliday: 95

Wine Advocate: 94

Wine Spectator: 94

Cellar Tracker: 93

German immigrants brought the wine industry to Barossa Valley in 1843 and its reputation in the wine trade has waxed and waned through the years, along with the world’s perception of Shiraz. In the late 20th century the valley once again saw its fortunes on the rise and today it rates along side McLaren Vale as South Australia’s premier wine regions.

The Two Hands winery came into existence in 1999 with the single aim of producing the best Shiraz from the best regions of Australia. By 2003 the company had put down roots in Barossa Valley and their Shiraz Garden series wines were in full bloom. The series is currently a collection of 6 Shiraz wines, each sourced from a different growing region in South Australia and Victoria.  The different region’s grapes are prepared and processed in exactly the same manner at their Barossa Estate so that the 6 separate Shirazes’ character becomes a definite reflection of their distinct terroir.

The Barossa Valley vineyards grow in a hot and dry continental climate and receive a scant 6 inches of rain during the growing season. Growing season temperatures peak in the high 80s°F during the day and dip into the low 50s°F at night. The soils tend to be clay and silt with some sand aiding in the drainage. The grapes are de-stemmed, crushed and fermented in open fermenters. After 2 weeks the wine is racked to barrels for malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for 18 months in new and old French oak hogsheads (59-66 US gallons) and puncheons (132 US gallons).

The wine has a deep and dark purple color with a lighter purple rim. Dark fruits and berries wind their way through your nose and palate, interacting with the perfect balance of acidity and tannins to produce a long and satisfying finish.

An outstanding dinner wine.  My wife and I drank this wine over a delicious meal that started off with warm sourdough bread dipped in a mixture of salt-basil-pepper and olive oil, followed by two small, lightly spiced crab cakes, just to keep our appetites in check until the next course made its appearance. Our entrees consisted of a medium-rare filet mignon and a medium lamb loin, both served with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled, whole baby carrots.  We finished the repast with a slice of lime cheesecake topped with blueberries and unsweetened whipped cream. The Shiraz made it all simply divine and so decadent. This wine should last for many years. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$49.99-79.99  wine-searcher.com (~ $70.00 at the restaurant)

 

Raw Infamy

Last Rampage (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 92-93 minutesM Rampage 2017

Genre:  Crime-Drama-Mystery-Thriller

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 5.4/10

Amazon – 3.7/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 5.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.1/5

Metacritic Metascore – 49/100

Metacritic User Score – NA/10

Directed by:  Dwight H. Little

Written by:   James W. Clarke (book), Alvaro Rodríguez (screenplay)

Music by:  Tobias Enhus, Richard Patrick

Cast:   Robert Patrick, Heather Graham, Bruce Davison, Chris Browning

Film Locations:   Club Ed Film Set – 150th Street E, Lancaster, California, US

Budget:   NA

Worldwide Box Office:  $6,294

This is a true tale, lifted from the pages of James W. Clarke’s 1999 book: Last Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tison. It’s a story of the gruesome, murderous crimes committed by a pair of maniacal felons following their escape from prison. The movie portrays sociopaths Gary Tison (Patrick) and Randy Greenawalt (Browning) in their twisted, bloody run from the state police and justice, through the barren, dry hills of Arizona.

Gary Tison, a hypnotic, Charles Manson like figure, begins his criminal life as a petty thief but quickly escalates to a major felon by taking the life of a prison guard. Greenawalt, a thoroughly remorseless and creepy individual, executes two truck drivers while they sleep, and is a suspect in several similar murders. Both men are serving life for their homicides. Miraculously the two get themselves transferred, for “excellent behavior”, to a low-security jail on the outskirts of Florence, Arizona where, with the help of Tison’s 3 matriarchally, brainwashed and programed young sons, plan their escape. The boys casually waltz into the prison on visitor’s day, whip out their guns, demand the release of Tison and Greenawalt and the 5 of them drive off into the dusty Arizona countryside, somehow staying one step ahead of the law. Death of the innocent and innocence follows Tison and Greenawalt in their lurching, chaotic escape to Mexico. For 10 days, killing grounds are everywhere and anywhere they meet the unwary and the innocent. For 10 days, the young boys’ probity, their innocence, slowly drains away to the horror that is their father.

Last Rampage, a gritty, no frills look at two demented beings, is structured by Dwight H. Little, the director, to exhibit the criminal monsters in a sharp, glaring  light of fact; a truth that is hideous and raw. A hard white light flooding the scene with no sympathy, no quarter, just evil shown as it is: evil.  A true tour de force in the crime genre with the exception that the opening scene was pointless.

The acting is superb, although Robert Patrick may carry his role as hell’s spawn with him longer than he may wish. Patrick and Browning’s sociopathic characters are displayed with an authoritative, emotionless, punch-to-the-gut performance, inciting the viewer to casually, almost clinically, conclude that death would be good for these two.

Bodegas Castano Solanera 2013

W Solanera 2013Other Red Blends from Yecla Region, Southern Spain

An Eric Solomon Selection

70% monastrell (mourvedre)

15% cabernet sauvignon

15% garnacha tintorera

14.5% alcohol

Opened 20 Jan 2018

els: 9.0/10

Wine Advocate: 92

Guia Penin: 89

Cellar Tracker: 88

Ramon Castano Santa and his 3 sons have nourished their Yecla vineyards since the 1950s and today they extend over almost 1500 acres, growing a wide assortment of grapes from the ancestral Monastrell, also known as Mourvedre, to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Garnacha Tinta, Macabeo, Merlot, Moscatel, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Tempranillo. Some of the vines are in excess of 100 years old.  The vines for this wine are 40-100 years old, thus “vinas viejas” or old vines.

The family’s vineyards are located in the northern reaches of the Yecla region, near the foot of Monte Arabi, and are approximately 50 miles northwest of the Mediterranean coast, ranging from 1300-3000 feet above sea level.  The vineyards for this wine are from their Campo Arriba (high land) area and are just shy of 3000′ above sea level, growing in a low organic, clayey limestone with good drainage. The climate is a cross between Mediterranean and a continental weather conditions. Daytime temperatures during the growing season reach into the mid-80s and the night-time lows dip into the mid-50s°F. The summer rains are infrequent and sparse, delivering anywhere from 0.25-2.0 inches per month, perfect for the thick-skinned Monastrell grapes.

The Castano family grapes are used in this Eric Solomon selection and the wine making is supervised by Solomon and Jean-Marc Lafage.  The grapes are hand harvested and fermented separately in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then aged in French and American oak barrels for 10 months.

Dark ruby-red to purple in color with a light purple rim. Elegantly redolent of dark fruits and berries. A rich, thick taste of berries and chewy tannins. Balanced and delicious.

An outstanding everyday red blend at a good price.  Serve with cheese, lamb, pork; the spicier the food the better. Drink now, but should last for many years.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$14.99  wine.com

A Little Package of our Past

World History: 50 Key Milestones You Really Need to Know by Ian Crofton, published by Quercus, © 2011. B 50 History

Attempting to describe 12-15,000 years, since the big ice fields melted, of human endeavors in 200 pages and 50 topics would seem presumptuous and futile, and you would be right, but one has to start somewhere and the first steps can and should be small but decisive.  One can quibble about the exact 50 topics, and I will do just that in a bit, but the author, Ian Crofton, performs the task with aplomb, and provides the maximum amount of useful information possible given the limiting format.

This book is a quick and fun read for both those without a broad or deep introduction to human history or those that just want to refresh their memory on once familiar, but long forgotten topics. Even if you are familiar with all the topics in the book there will be a sufficient amount of new informational tidbits to make it worth your time. For myself, as one example, I found the observation that our ancestral hunter-gather cousins versus the first cereal grain farmers, were healthier, due mainly to their higher protein intake from a meat rich diet, was new and interesting.

Each “idea” or event is developed, chronologically, over 4 printed pages that includes a short thesis, an expansion of that thesis, a timeline of notable events, a famous quote(s) and an ending synopsis of the discussion.  The publisher of this book, Quercus, has published at least 27 other books of a similar nature and format that explore the great topics of the human experience including: architecture, art, astronomy, big ideas, biology, chemistry, the digital world, earth, economics, ethics, the future, genetics, the human brain, literature, management, math, philosophy, philosophy of science, physics, politics, psychology, quantum physics, religion, science, universe, war, and world history. I believe they continue to add more topics as the years go by.  I have several of the topics, listed above on my already too fat reading list.

Not to detract from the topics that the author has chosen, his are all defendable, but for myself I probably would have included 5 different topics devoted to: the Iron Age, Israelites of the 12th century BC, 1st century Christianity, Sumerians development of an alphabet in 300 BC coupled with Guttenberg’s first printing press in the 15th century AD, 18th century BC Babylonian Hammurabi’s, and 7th century BC Greek Draco’s legal codifications, and finally the advent of computers in the 20th century and beyond.  Adding 5 topics requires that 5 be removed. I would likely leave out: Empires and Kingdoms of Africa, The Bubonic Plague, the Vietnam War, integral to the late 20th century US, but will likely be a footnote on communism in the future, and lastly, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the post 9-11 topics, at a minimum, combined into a topic on 21st century divisions in civilization and culture, as if that were something new. On further thought, maybe just leave those last two topics out completely, mainly because they are too fresh to decide their seminality to our future development as a species.

That leaves our list one shy of 50. What topic(s) would you add?

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