Oscars preview and a few decent wines

Billy_Wilder.jpgMovies are not at all like wine even though analogies are easy enough. Movies are widely accessible inspiring a wide range of opinions by many; unlike wine which is often intimidating to the general public with opinions widely offered by a few experts. Films are transitory. Very few have staying power. While one seldom returns for the same exact bottle of wine a seasoned wine consumer learns to look for wines by the same producer or importer. Following films made by a particular director who gets the benefit of the doubt is the same as wine selected by importer Robert Chadderdon just because they are Chadderdon selections.
jack_lemmon1.jpgActors are rarely as important to the lover of film craft as is the director or writer or even the camera operator. So it is with the label of a particular house or chateau; it guarantees little more than a bloated advertising budget. The region or vineyard is far more important. There are exceptions. Wine houses like Sterling consistently produce a pleasing bottle or three decade over decade, much like Al Pacino consistently fugures in movies of interest if only because he is in them. Nevertheless, one would not run to catch the opening of Pacino’s newest romp through the sets the same as one would not hurry to find the newestface.jpg vintage of Sterling Chardonnay. Yet, it is usually worth a taste if somebody pours some Sterling in your glass or if the next channel is playing Scarface or Serpico or even Dick Tracy. And certain brands like Pacino and Sterling or Duckhorn become iconic transcending the wine or film itself. Say hello to my little wine.
What if wines were critiqued like movies? You could not reveal the ending and you would have to make diversionary chat about the efforts of the stars, writers and director in order not to reveal too much about the story. Is two thumbs up any different or less informative than a Spectator rating of 90 points?
tBoW had a chance to see four of the “buzz” films in the running for an Oscar or three this year. Here is how we break them down; endings and all. Of course, we match to recently tasted wines hoping to illustrate some of the shared qualities.
slumdog awards.jpgSlumdog Millionaire: The goofy dancing at the end put me off and I was already bored. The contrived story is compounded by the obligatory shots of Taj Mahal as if to remind the viewer this is India. I kept thinking of El Norte; each chapter a predictable heart breaker. The Abu Graib torture scenes and the kids living on trash dunes should pull plenty of Oscar voters. The message is that India has many young educated people who just want to line dance. tBoW does feel a bit hypocritical having posted videos from Bring it On and Madonna voguing. Sit on your Thumbs and stay home.
perrinlessianrds.gif2005 Perrin & Fils Chateauneuf du Pape Les Sinards $18: Cannot go wrong with this wine found in the Kirkland Nation bin. Usually young vines, sometimes it can be declassified Beaucastel. Obviously made for the US market which is to say Parkerized. Like the Slumdog movie this wine has everything that feels good with just enough hints of suspense and danger. Good burnt tones and plenty of fruit. Rich and ripe Rhone Grenache and Syrah. Like Slumdog, it is charmingly vapid. A great summer BBQ wine. 14%
milk.jpgMilk: Movie of the year is what we thought as the credits rolled. “Courageous” performances from straight guys Penn and Franco. Well made cinema. Excellent story well-paced. Sean Penn at his best. Effective and clever use of videos from the era (1970s) blended with new vids made to look like the originals. The most interesting appear at the beginning; actual film form “queer busts” from the 1960s before there was even a dream of a gay revolution. Great performances all round. A MUST SEE. Two thumbs up where the sun don’t shine.
COLOME MALBEC 05.jpg2005 Colomé Malbec Estate Vino Tinto Gran Altura $25: Argentine wines are getting more press as high end retailers turn to South American wines for value and quality. tBoW is surprised this wine receives little exposure. Colomé has the Hess pedigree, a great story (highest vineyards in the world), the right price point and a great wine. Just like Milk has Sean Penn, guy on guy kissy face, and a modern day political martyr. This wine (covered in an April tBoW post) is rich without being over-ripe, balanced and lush. A winner. 14.9%
benbutton.jpgBenjamin Button: tBoW would never see a film like this until it showed up on cable. Big studio, glossy label, big stars, big story. Titanic meets Dorian Gray. Like seeking out and buying a 100 point wine the result can only be disappointing. Was I wrong. In this kind of film the story (F. Scott Fitzgerald) and the script (Eric Roth) have to be really strong because an actor like Brad Pitt never carries a film of this wide scope. He works best with a buddy like in Fight Club or Snatch or even Troy; all roels with personality twists. Pitt is very good. Nawlins is his co-star. The story crosses continents, has Nazis, some light sex and a strong set of supporting characters and actors. Titanic meets Forest Gump. Could sneak in as Best Pic on the flag-waving vote aided by the Slumdog backlash and the Obama-Milk votes. Two thumbs in your popcorn bag.
angelsshare.jpg2007 Two Hands Angels Share Shiraz McLaren Vale $30: Big new world wine at the lower end of the “collectible” new world wine price scale. Competes with Dead Arm and such. Wine Speculator gave it 92 and placed it on their top 100 list (#83). At 6300 cases it does not come close to Argentine production volumes. The wine is very ripe, too ripe for tBoW but perfect for the “big studios” (Parker, Wine Spectator). Strawberries galore. See the movie instead. 15/5%
wrestler.jpgThe Wrestler: Mickey Rourke’s comeback told through a simple story of triumph in failure using whatever eroding strengths one has left at the end. This film testifies to the range and diversity of interesting movies in 2008; perhaps best film year since 1969 when Ratso Rizzo and Joe Buck lost squared off with Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross. Mickey Rourke’s performance is riveting. Can’t help but see this as his bookend to “Pope of Greenwich Village”. Rourke plays compulsive loser as well as anyone. Unlike Button and Milk this is not big studio. Instead we get a hand-held camera panorama of New Jersey suburbia and turnpike strip club interiors. More like Blair Witch meets Boogie Nights. Could Tarantino have made this? Doesn’t he wish he had? Rourke plays Randy Ram, a pro wrestler on the last thread at the tip of the end of the line. Then he gets a heart attack. His “love interest” is a stripper played by Marisa Tomei. I gotcher courageous performance right cheer. At 44 years of age she grinds it out on stage nipple rings flashing. Then she plays her straight scenes without makeup showing facial lines and the honest weariness of a career way down the slippery slope. This is guts. 4 thumbs in both eyes.
domalfredgosscreek06.gif2006 Domaine Alfred Goss Creek Central Coast Pinot Noir $14: Buying another bottle of wine full of bad signals(Central Coast Pinot is a bad idea) from a region that is trying to get in alignment with its terroir (Paso should focus on Rhone varietals) and from a vendor that has a W-L record close to the Detroit Lions, is reckless. Like casting Mickey Rourke in a small screen film. The local Wine Cask outlet has an irresistable sales staff who either have bad palates or no say in what they are told to sell. However, this wine is a step in the right direction for this store. The wine is absolutely rough over the falls [ed. the first sip]. tBoW wonders if these vines grow alongside bramble bushes. The acid is too mean to be simply volatile. It is throat constricting, phlegm cutting. The fruit is there and eventually wins out after 40 minutes of air. Like Randy Ram there is a drop of hope even though things keep going wrong. Is this Domaine Alfred Pinot Noir worth the wait? Not really even at this reduced price. But picking this wine to go on sale is a step in the right direction for the store. 14.5%

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