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Feb 04

Blood Into Wine: Maynard James Keenan

Once upon a time I wrote for the (now defunct) Taste Magazine. I was working on an article about celebrity-branded alcohol, although that article got scrapped when I took over the Wine Academy column for the magazine. In the process of researching that article, I somehow managed to get in touch with the publicist for Maynard James Keenan, and eventually, I interviewed him. It’s just as well my article got scrapped, because my recording of the interview wasn’t very good. It was so bad, I have yet to be able to clean it up and use it. (Since then, I’ve improved my recording equipment.)

For those unfamiliar, Maynard James Keenan is the front man for rock bands Tool, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle. Until I met Kevin Keith, I had no idea who he was, so don’t feel bad, and I think that Maynard actually preferred my lack of knowledge of his music during the interview. If there is anything I got out of that conversation, it’s that he doesn’t like being called a “Rock Star.” Well, that and Maynard James Keenan is the most intense person to whom I have ever spoken. I believe that he does everything with the same intensity – be it music or wine, which should tell you something about his wine.

When Kevin and I went to Arizona in 2007, we visited Cornville, AZ as we drove south towards Phoenix from the Grand Canyon. It’s off the beaten path a bit, but Cornville was an absolute delight for us as wine lovers. We started at Page Springs Cellars, where it just so happens that Maynard had worked with the wine maker to learn everything he could about wine. At the time, Page Springs Cellars was also selling Maynard’s labels, Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards. (Our Photos from Arizona Wineries) We have several Maynard-created wines in our wine fridge.

When I interviewed Maynard, he was working on launching Arizona Stronghold, a winery in the southern Arizona ghost town of Jerome. (A lot of grapes are grown in southern Arizona.) Last summer, an article in Decanter.com alerted me that Maynard and his winemaker Eric Glomski have officially launched the new winery.

Turns out, the process of creating Arizona Stronghold is the basis for a new documentary called Blood Into Wine. It premieres in Arizona (of course) on February 19 (full list of theatres is after the jump – mostly West Coast I’m afraid). But the DVD will be released on May 4 Sept 6. Check out the trailer. Even if you don’t like his music, how can you resist a documentary like this? It’s got music, wine, and a lot of humor, I think.

Blood Into Wine arrives in select theaters on Feb. 19 with a Phoenix-based premiere at the W Hotel Scottsdale.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by Michelle at 8:05 am in Entertainment, Meet the Winemaker, News, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (3)
Dec 03

Contest! A DVD for Your Holiday Stocking

I knew I needed to celebrate the launch of our awesome new design with a contest. I need to give back to you guys, but I’m not exactly allowed to give away alcohol. Then I received in the mail two (yes two!) screener copies of Mondovino the Series. I received these free of charge from DVD producers Kino International. One is for me to watch, but the other is for you!

Now, I just got these DVDs in hand. It’s  a newly released, four-DVD set containing 10 hours of video, so I haven’t had a chance to watch – or review – this yet. It’s going to take some time.

But you can beat me to it. If you’re interested, just leave a comment below with a message about why you’d like to get your hands on this screener set. I’ll use a random generator to pick the winner and announce next Thursday. Make sure you include your email address in the appropriate field of the comments. (Email addressses are not tracked, shared, or used for anything except to tell you that you won.)

So, what is this DVD anyway?
Mondovino was a documentary released in 2004 that was fairly controversial. It really pushes the “small is better” theory and is not kind to larger winemakers, including the Mondavis and Staglins. According to Decanter.com,

“Many feel that in his portraits of Michel Rolland, the de Montilles of Burgundy, the Frescobaldis, Mondavis and other great wine families he relies on sophisticated editing to get his point across.

Rolland in particular is singled out for demonisation. Using multiple replays of a single shot of the wine consultant laughing in his chauffeur-driven Mercedes, the director contrives to make him appear a malevolent presence.

Similarly, clever cutting canonises figures like Mas de Daumas Gassac’s Aime Guibert, or turns the Staglins of Napa into cliches of insensitive Californians.”

The original movie was one of only four documentaries nominated for the Palm d’Or at Cannes. The director, Jonathan Nossiter, turned that one film endeavor into a 10-part television series that supposedly is a more in-depth “investigation into the wine world, and more ‘intimate and detailed’ portraits of wine families” as compared to the original film. He covers everything from California to France. The series originally aired, from what I can find, on BBC Africa and BBC Food.

But I want you to keep in mind that this film raised the ire of many in the wine industry, as well as receiving a lot of praise. It’s often been called a one-sided documentary, and it does, in essence, charge Mondavi and Robert Parker with turning wine into a commodity such as coffee at Starbucks. This was filmed over four years at the beginning of the decade as well, and I’d like to think several things in the wine industry have changed over the last 5 years.

But the point of a documentary, even if you don’t agree with the filmmaker, is to make you think about, and consider, the subject.

If you’re interested in learning more, leave a comment telling me why. Maybe you’ll be the lucky random winner!

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Posted by Michelle at 8:37 am in Contests, Entertainment, Pop Culture, Television | Permalink | Comments (10)
Nov 10

A Neiman Marcus Holiday

Back on October 6, Neiman-Marcus released their 83rd World Renowned Christmas Book (which is a fancy way of saying catalog). Now, this is a pretty famous catalog. First published in 1926 as a 16-page booklet, the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book was initially intended as a Christmas card to the store’s best customers. Building on tradition through the years, the book has evolved into a legendary source for alluring and mystical gifts.

I was first exposed to it through a Terry Brooks novel, Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold! I don’t think the author referred to Neiman-Marcus
specifically, but he was talking about this catalog. From within its
pages the protagonist purchased an actual magic kingdom (no worries, I
know it’s fiction).

image from farm3.static.flickr.com
Since I first read that book, I’ve paid attention every year to the Fantasy Gift portion of the Christmas Book. This year, it’s after my heart. There isn’t a magic kingdom, but you can pick up a custom-built Cupcake Car or His and Hers Aircraft. There are also some fantasy wine & spirits related items:

  • HALL Artisan Wine and Art Experience at HALL Winery: Learn organic, artisan winemaking firsthand, tour the estates and the art collection, and have the opportunity to create your own personal vintage in a private blending session with HALL’s Winemaker and have your custom vintage bottled for you. The Napa weekend includes accommodations at Auberge (wow!) and a private dinner party with Kathryn Hall.
    Price tag: $20,000 (page 55)
  • Maker’s Mark Master Distiller Experience: All-access, VIP experience with Maker’s Mark Master Distiller, Kevin Smith. Spend a day making whiskey, step by step and take home two bottles of the rarest Maker’s Mark – golden bottles etched with your likeness and dipped in gold wax with 24-kt gold flecks. Includes luxury accommodations in Louisville and a gourmet dinner hosted by Bill Samuels, the 7th generation of Maker’s Mark owners.
    Price tag: $7,500 (page 58)

Additional wine-related items in this year’s catalog include Egermann Neiman Marcus Exclusive Crystal Champagne Flute, Wine Glass, and Water Glass ($150 each), Lalique Crystal Wine Stopper ($90 each), Waterford Crystal Colored Flute ($115 each), Waterford Crystal 12 Days of Christmas Flutes ($85 each), and Ajka Crystal Glassware ($125 each). You’ll notice that those prices are all $150 and under. I was informed that this year, over 40% of the catalog is priced at less than $250. That’s a big step for Neiman-Marcus.

You can buy the catalog for only $15. This year, however, the entire catalog is online, so you can peruse (and drool) at your leisure.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:00 am in Books, Entertainment, Pop Culture, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments ()
Sep 14

Mad Men Mondays: Johnnie Walker Red

It's time for our latest installment of Mad Men Monday. Last night on everyone's favorite retro television show, Betty had the baby. Back then, the guys stayed in the waiting room the whole time. I have to admit, I'm surprised Don even stayed and didn't head to the office until he officially had a son.

However, he did wait and in the process, he met Dennis, a prison guard. If it wasn't obvious from the uniform, accent, and whiskey, I think they were trying to drive home a point that Don and Dennis were in slightly different social classes. And yes, I saw it reflected in the whiskey. Dennis brought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red.

Johnnie Walker is a blended scotch whiskey that has been around since 1865, when it was Walker's Old Highland. Johnnie Walker Red Label, as we know it today, was introduced in 1909. If you're not familiar with your whiskey, Johnnie Walker comes in different levels (and prices) that are denoted by the label.

About a year ago, Kevin and I were invited to a Johnnie Walker dinner at Boi Na Braza. While I didn't enjoy the restaurant, I did enjoy the whiskey. We got to taste through the entire portfolio, including the Blue.

The label spectrum is as follows, per Wikipedia. They get more expensive as you head towards Johnnie Walker Blue.

  • Red Label — a blend of around 35 grain and malt whiskies. It is intended for making mixed drinks. 80 proof. 40% ABV. According to William Manchester this was the favorite Scotch of Winston Churchill, who mixed it with soda. (Currently retails around $22)
  • Black Label — a blend of about 40 whiskies, each aged at least 12 years. 80 proof. 40% ABV
  • Green Label — a vatted malt that is a blend of about 15 individual single malts, the signature malts being Talisker, Cragganmore, Linkwood, and Caol Ila – Aged 15 years. 86 proof. 43% ABV. Previously sold under the name 'Pure Malt'.
  • Gold Label — a blend of over 15 single malts, including the
    very rare Clynelish malt. It was derived from Alexander II's blending
    notes for a whiskey to commemorate Johnnie Walker's centenary. His
    original efforts were thwarted by a shortage of these malts following
    World War I. Gold Label is commonly bottled at 15 or 18 years. 80
    proof. 40% ABV.
  • Blue Label — Johnnie Walker's premium blend. Every bottle is
    serial numbered and sold in a silk-lined box, accompanied by a
    certificate of authenticity. There is no age declaration for Blue
    Label. 80 proof.
    (Currently retails around $200)

So Dennis brought the working man's Johnnie Walker. Don, never one to turn away a drink, didn't seem to mind. The Red Label is quite popular for mixing with Coca-Cola and they are even being offered together in a limited edition can. At our Boi na Braza dinner, we drink the Red Label on the rocks, with a splash of guarana soda, with our salad course.
The soda sweetened the scotch but there was still a nice light peat
flavor on the finish once the sweet faded.

Based on Johnnie Walker press materials, more than 33 million bottles of Johnnie Walker were purchased in 2004 and Johnnie Walker Black Label seems to be the most popular, with approximately 43 glasses of Johnnie Walker Black Label enjoyed by consumers each second. We occasionally have Black Label in our house, as Kevin sometimes purchases it as an "everyday scotch." 

Overall, great episode and great product placement for Johnnie Walker.

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Posted by Michelle at 12:18 pm in Mad Men Monday, Pop Culture, Scotch & Whiskey, Television | Permalink | Comments (4)
Aug 31

Mad Men Mondays: Old Fashioned & Mint Julep

Last night on Mad Men, there were classic martinis served at Joan's house (gin, 3 olives) and our copywriters were working on a Bacardi campaign, leading to multiple mentions of rum and coke. But two other drinks took precedence for me: the Old Fashioned that Don whipped up at the bar and the Mint Julep everyone was sipping at the party.

Ep3-don-pete  

Once again, I'm consulting my Grandpa's books, The Bartender's Friend (1946) and Old Mr. Boston's Complete Bartenders Guide (1935).

The Old Fashioned
Since I love bourbon (and rye in particular), I'll often order an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan when I'm in a bar where I know the bartender will create an excellent one (such as McCormick & Schmick's or a Ruby's restaurant.)

1 lump sugar
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1/2 oz Ginger Ale
1 jigger Rye

Muddle together the sugar, bitters, and ginger ale.
Add to mixing glass or shaker, along with 2 lumps of ice and rye.
Stir.
Pour into highball glass and garnish with orange slice and a cherry.

The Mint Julep
There are definitely more complex mint julep recipes out there, many involving your stove and a simple syrup. This version of the mint julep is the easy-to-make-behind-a-bar version

4 sprigs mint
crushed ice
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 tsp water
2 oz rye or bourbon
12 oz highball glass

Muddle 4 sprigs mint with powdered sugar and water and add to glass.
Fill glass quarter-full of shaved ice and stir.
Add 2 oz rye or bourbon
Top off with crushed ice and mint garnish


Photo Credit:
Photo from AMC, by Carin Baer
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