Archive for the ‘Mano-a-Mano’ Category

Mano-a-Mano: Ribeira del Duero Face-off in the Park   10 comments

It does not matter if he’s gay or straight– every man wants to be Bond.  If he denies this fact, he is either lying or he is a complete idiot.  Putting aside the good looks, hi-tech toys, license-to-kill, babes, jujitsu, and uncanny runs of luck in the casino, the key to being Bond is that everything he does is effortless.    That effortlessness makes him easy to envy and emulate at the same time.  Also, having a great wardrobe, fast car, cash to burn and the right comeback for every situation does not hurt.   What guy wouldn’t want that?

But women are different from men, not that we’ve noticed.  And I’m pretty sure that while most women wouldn’t mind being with Bond for maybe a night or two, they wouldn’t want their men to behave like Bond.   Yep, I’m pretty sure that the endless parade of Bond Chicks won’t fly with the little lady waiting at home.    

But that’s what makes him Bond– there is no little lady keeping the home fires burning while he toils away at disrupting the evil plans of criminal masterminds.  As a result he gets a free pass from women when it comes to playing the field.    

Why is the ole noggin’ noodling on about Bond and gender dynamics?

Saturday night we gathered a bunch of friends for a picnic dinner at a park just around the corner from the house followed by an outdoor screening of the first Bond film, Dr. No.  Released in 1962, it was definitely a product of its time.   

While he avoids an office romance with Moneypenny (as usual), he manages to hook up with two other fairly gorgeous women before Honey Ryder shows up in the second half of the film.  Played by the curvaceous, Ursula Andress, he scores with Honey after the closing credits.  If only it were that easy…

Back at the picnic.  It being a Bond film, we needed some bubbly.  My local purveyor was fresh out of Dom Perignon ’55 ($1,200 per bottle), so we requisitioned 4 bottles of Riondo Prosecco ($10 per), instead.  Great on its own or as part of a refreshing Bellini.  (Yes, we packed a little peach puree in the picnic hampers.) 

Since it is a Bond film, you can always count on there being an abundance of scenes featuring cocktails and manner for serving them.      

One scene, in particular, highlighted Dr. No’s poor manners at the cocktail hour.   Offering Bond a Vodka Martini, he described in detail how it was made to Bond’s preferences– you know the drill: shaken not…, lemon peel, yada-yada.  The message clearly conveyed: the good doctor has done his homework in sizing up his opponent.  By contrast, Bond Girl du jour, Honey Ryder, is unceremoniously handed a nearly overflowing glass of red wine without any explanation as to what she was drinking.  While it does efficiently advance the storyline of the script, there are deficiencies in matters of etiquette that may be disturbing to some:

  1. Bond is served first.  In an age of sexual equality, this may not strike many as so bad.  But in 1962, it misses the mark.  But even today, it is always best to provide for the ladies first.
  2. The detailed introduction of Bond’s drink followed by the short shrift given to Honey’s drink rankled at least one of our female guests, who loudly proclaimed in most lady-like fashion: “Who gives a s**t what she’s drinking.”  It did seem like an odd oversight– what could be the harm in giving Honey a vodka martini as well? 
  3. Red wine as aperitif?  And it looked like a full-bodied red at that.  Bold move Herr Doctor, bold move.
  4. How can you drink a glass of wine filled to the brim?  Just try to swirl that sucker around to get a sniff and see what happens to that pretty dress you’re wearing.
  5. Where is Dr. No’s cocktail?  Never trust a man who serves you a drink without taking one himself.  At best you’re in for a dull time; at worst, you might get smacked around a bit at the end of the meal. 

At the end of the dinner, Dr. No serves a Dom Perignon ’55.  When Bond tries to escape, he grabs the bottle with intention of using it to club Dr. No’s guard.  “That’s a Dom Perignon ’55 – it would be a pity to break it,” says Dr. No quietly. “I prefer the ’53 myself,” replies Bond as he takes his seat.   (Note to self: armed guards looking over your shoulder as you are finishing dessert never bodes well.)

Now if I had given Honey a glass of red, she would have had something to remember.  With the grilled steak sandwiches we served, we poured two wines from the 2008 Ribeira del Duero vintage.  Although not an excellent vintage, it is nonetheless given a very good rating by Espavino.  These two comparably priced Spanish contestants come out of the gates with very different styles.  A little bit like 007 and Dr. No. 

Of course, there can only be one winner.  

Vinedos Alonso del Yerro Ribera del Duero 2008 ($19).   Tempranillo.  Check.  Earthy aromas leading to chocolate notes.  Check.  Dark yet understated fruit.  Check.  Finishing with firm tannins.  Check.  This has an emergent elegance that suggests it will get better with more time in the bottle.  Rated **1/2

Bodegas Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero 2008 ($18).  According to the website, this tempranillo is sourced from vineyards that are 15 to 25 years old and carrying the name of the winery, it represents the “heart of the winery”.  A bit more international in style, this guy was a bit more fruit forward.  But the pleasantness of the fruit was marred by an evident use of oak, most likely American oak (as I confirmed later).  And while I would drink this any day, that oakiness is a chink in the armor in a head to head tasting against the Alonso del Yerro.  And so it must take second place, even if I give it the same rating.  Rated **1/2

Back to Honey Ryder:  a girl who just happens to show up on a secluded, radioactive beach in a bikini, with a big knife and some fantastic looking seashells.  The men in our party were in agreement on the qualities that made her a sex symbol in 1962.  Those criteria still apply today.

On reconsideration, maybe Dr. No had it right– hand her a big ole goblet of red wine, coolly avert your eyes from her revealing swimwear, keep your mouth shut unless you have something truly clever to say and see what happens to you.  Just make sure you know where she has stowed the knife.

It’s effortless, you see?

Posted July 24, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in Mano-a-Mano, Wine Etiquette

Mano-a-Mano: Eve Kendall vs. Vesper Lynd   5 comments

Like a She-wolf of London, her hair is perfect, makeup immaculate, eyes brilliant. 

I’m well dressed and seated in the dining car as the train sways back and forth on the way to some destination where mis-adventure awaits.  Ms. R strolls in wearing that killer red dress that always makes my throat muscles slacken and my jaw fall agape.  I force a smile as she glides into the other side of the booth never losing eye contact with me.  I am perhaps a little embarrassed that she already knows that I think she’s awesome.  It’s all in my eyes, you see. 

This is not an accidental meeting.  She planned it all along.  

Quickly!… order up a bottle of Social Lubricant– yes, that will calm the nerves.  She may be easy, but she is not cheap– it had better be a damn good bottle.  Hell, she’s not that easy either.

The waiter brings over a wine list.  You feel her eyes on you.  You gulp and sigh.  Did she see that?  You know she did.  Pinot Noir would be good.  It will go well with her trout or your lamb.  Ah, something Burgundian!?  Wait, that might be too predictable.  Perhaps something more Oregonian, instead? 

Watching North by Northwest for the umpteenth time followed a few days later by the Bond film, Casino Royale, I was struck by one interesting connection between the two: the dining car scene, which is where the magic starts.  For Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) it’s Eve Kendall (played by Eva Marie Saint).  And there is Vesper Lynd (played by Eva Green) playing point-counterpoint with James Bond (Daniel Craig) on that high-speed train.  What is it about Eves and Evas?  I’m smelling some forbidden fruit.  We realize that from the moment we are seated across from each other.  But that won’t stop us from having a little dinner, right?  After all, just sitting there, my mind in overdrive, I’m burning up more calories than is really decent to admit to.  A man has to eat to keep up his strength…  

Hitchcock costumed his characters in an understated and muted palate of grays, blacks and whites.  That is until he drops Eve Kendall  into that red and black dress.  But that dress is no match, for the more buxom, Vesper Lynd’s attire.  A similar approach is employed in Casino Royale– a sea of black formal wear parted when that purplish, burgundy colored number is unveiled.   Ah-wooooooooh!

Both of these ladies sport a kick-your-dashing-ass-if-you mess-with-me attitude.  That combination makes them consummately dangerous.   Could you choose one if you had to?  You already know how this works. 

Today’s Mano-a-Mano matchup features two nefariously good Pinots.  One from the Northwest, umm, Pacific-Northwest, specifically Oregon, and in a nod to Monaco and Parisian native, Eva Green, the second from Burgundy.   

I don’t need to choose amongst the ladies or the wines.  I’ve got Ms. R– dark and mysterious in her own way in that red dress.  And we have two bottles to share and explore.  Dare I kiss and tell?  Only about the wines.  The rest up to your imagination… 

"I'm Eve Kendall. I'm 26 and unmarried. Now you know everything."


"I'm the money" "Every penny"

If you want to check out clips for these two dining car scenes, just click on the photos. 

Pascal Marchand Avalon Pinot Noir Bourgogne 2009 ($21).  A typically pinot bouquet with hints of florals .  A more reserved approach to the fruit.  Strawberry fruit and graphite with an acidic backbone.  A nice wine.  Rated **1/2

Lundeen Pinot Noir Reserve Willamette Valley 2008 ($29).  The label says these are “HONEST, HANDCRAFTED WINES” And they really mean it– the vintage year was hand stamped on the label.  I love that.  But I love what’s in the bottle even better.  Starting off with a bouquet that was quite similar to the Pascal Marchand Avalon, the similarities ended there.  Lush raspberry fruit comes forward with a softer acidity than the Pascal Marchand.  Finishes with supple tannins.  This is a producer to watch.  Rated ***1/2

Bottom Line: both of these wines are like soft kisses.  The Lundeen is just a little bit softer and more sensual.

"You don't mind if I leave my loafers on, do you?"

Posted March 25, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in Mano-a-Mano

Mano-a-Mano: The Archies Edition   Leave a comment

Betty or Veronica.  You Must Choose One.  So different.  So beautiful.  They are from the same neighborhood.  They go to the same school.  They hang out with Archie, Reggie and Jughead.  Seriously, Jughead?  What kind of name is that?  Back to the girls– you must choose one.  Perhaps…

In this Edition of Mano-a-Mano we look at two distinct wines from virtually the same place– Dry Creek Valley.  DCV is known for Zinfandel.  But there are also Pinot practitioners there.   We have reviewed wines from today’s two producers in the past– Kokomo Winery and Gustafson Family Winery. 

Located in a big barn like warehouse on the Eastern side of the valley, Kokomo produces some sick juice, including Pinot Noir from a variety of clones.  This is a young winery with some good vintages under its belt and more to come.  In the early years (back in 2006), winemaker & proprietor, Erik Miller and assistant winemaker, Josh Bartels, two young dudes from Indiana, traded in the Heartland for some West Coast action.   I first met Erik on a trip through the area with my father in 2008.  From the get-go, Erik’s infectious enthusiasm captured my attention.  Then there were his wines.  Of their place and with a charisma all their own.  Erik kept himself busy developing relationships with local growers and was able to select specific sections of vineyards for his earlier harvests before the remainder of the plot was sold off to larger producers.  This resulted in wines that were nicely concentrated and balanced by tannin and a skillful use of acid.  The time spent in the vineyard pays off.  One of Erik’s growers, and now partner, is Randy Peters.  The Pinot coming out of these Peters’ vineyards just keeps getting better and better. 

On the western side of the valley, actually just outside the valley , but still within the DCV appellation, and overlooking Lake Sonoma, you will find Gustafson.   The property was first spotted by owner Dan Gustafson in 2002, and further expanded to 247 acres with the purchase of an adjacent property in 2006.  Vineyard plantings are now complete at 20 acres; the balance of the land will remain as an ecological preserve which smacks of an organic approach that can only benefit the wine.  The original property, an old sheep ranch, at an elevation of 1800 feet above sea level, has rich, red volcanic soil reputed for producing superb wine grapes.  Especially the reds.  One taste of their Syrah based rose last year sold me immediately.  It is hands down the best rose I have had from DCV.  And at $16, delivered amazing value.  Another young winemaker, Gustafson’s Emmett Reed, is bringing his own brand of winemaking alchemy creating wines of distinction.

Kokomo Pinot Noir Peter’s Vineyard Gopher Hill 2009.  Think elegant evening gown, a little bit of that Funky Music, playing in the background.  Red fruit and acidity for structure.  Erik Miller is proud of not being a one trick pony in his winemaking– not getting complacent chasing after Parker Points.  But are we are seeing development of a house style here?  Lip smacking deliciousness left me looking for more.  Rated ***

Gustafson Dry Creek Mountain Vineyard Estate Zinfandel 2007.  This blew out some notes of black licorice and earth.  Dark fruit– not your typical Zin.  Despite this, the wine is not over-extracted.  It had a richness that simply lingered on the palate.  A great finish.  Rated ***1/2

Must you choose one?  If you’re a Sybarite you can have them both.  If you’re Archie, you may be able to have them both!  Then again, hell hath no fury…

Posted January 12, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in Mano-a-Mano

Mano-a-Mano Italian Style: Bussola Ca’dellaito Ripasso 2007 v. Argiano Non Confunditur 2009   Leave a comment

I grew up not too far from Philly and in the 1970s the rivalry between Frazier and Ali was electric.  Part of it was the fact that Ali represented, at least to my young mind, the anti establishment with his brashness and his refusal to accept military service.  These all rubbed me the wrong way at that time  (in time I came to accept  what he stood for– but that came much later).  Frazier, by contrast, represented the opposite.  Determined, yet quiet, preferring to let his actions speak for him.  Frazier, the working class hero from Philly.  Frazier, always pushing forward, taking swings at the elusive Ali.  The first fight between these two, billed as the Fight of the Century, was won by Frazier.  I was thrilled.  The universe was still in balance.  Of course, that would change later when Ali won the next two fights with Frazier.  I learned that they are each great in their own way.  

While we have now lost Smokin’ Joe, we still have the memories of those days when he and his brash nemesis made us all choose sides.  Frazier or Ali?  Who you chose said much about what you valued not in the battle within the ring, but in the social battles outside the ropes.  We were fortunate to live through those moments when such things mattered.  Perhaps we are living through those moments again today.  But I look around and don’t see the same clear symbols of that cultural dialectic that were embodied in these two individuals.  RIP Joe Frazier. 

Bussola Ca'dellaito Ripasso 2007

In the spirit of those battles of yore, today we look at two fine Italians.  One a little bit flashier Valpolicella and one just as interesting if a bit more conservative Super Tuscan blend.  Both are go-to wines in this price range.  In the end, we give the edge to the Valpolicella, but it was a split decision and on another night the Super Tuscan may win out.

We have written about the origins of the Super Tuscan movement in the past:

Valpolicella, not so much.  Lying within the region of Veneto in Northern Italy the region has become known for producing Amarones and a variation on the Amarone called Ripasso.  The emergence of Ripasso (literally meaning “repassed”) has resulted in the production of an intriguing group of wines.  With this technique, the pomace of leftover grape skins and seeds from the fermentation of other wines (notably Amarone) are added to the batch of Valpolicella wines for a period of extended maceration. The additional nutrients provided by this supplement feeds the remaining fermenting yeasts resulting in an increase in the alcohol levels and intensity of the wines.  It also adds additional tannins, glycerine and some phenolic compounds that contribute to a wine’s complexity, flavor and color.  An alternative method is to use partially dried grapes (of the kind that would be used to produce Amarone), instead of leftover pomace, which contain less bitter tannins and even more phenolic compounds. 

Bussola Ca’dellaito Ripasso 2007 ($18).  The smell of mushroom and earth enraptured from the first sniff.  And then the fruit, glorious friggin’ fruit, dances an insistent tongue tango wrapping its sensuous acidic leg around your torso before you realize that you don’t quite know how to tango.  So you fake it– the payback on the back-end is so worth it.  This a very nicely balanced cuvee of Corvina, Molinara, Rondinella with a nice finish and is a real steal at this price.  Rated ***1/2

Argiano Non Confunditur 2009 ($17).  Less insistent on the nose than the Bussola.  Less fruity and more savory.  Yet it pushes forward with a momentum all its own.  This Tuscan Beauty takes you to that dark back corner of the club where magical and sometimes strange things can happen.  Emergent dark fruit from the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah stays with you.  Tannins round this out.  Having tasted prior vintages of the Argiano Non Confunditur, I can say that I enjoyed this as much as the 2007– maybe a little bit more.  I am also pleased to see that they have backed away from the screw tops used for the 2008 vintage.  Rated ***

Here are some tasting notes for prior vintages:

Argiano Non Confunditur (2007).  Big nose that included black licorice notes and initially graphite/pencil shavings on the mid palate; later opened up beautifully and went from **1/2 to ***40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and 20% Syrah.   Rated *** December 17, 2009.

Argiano Non Confunditur (2008).  40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and 20% Syrah. Depth of expression that still impressed, though the effort is not as strong as the 2007; showed some herbal qualities; now in a screw top.  Rated **1/2  February 12, 2011.

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Posted December 10, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Mano-a-Mano