Wine Comics

Did you read comic books when you were a kid?  I read some.  I was more of a SIFI, IMG_3429historical novel type kid.  Comic books are big business.  Japan is the largest market worth about  $7 to 8 billion! Sales in the United States is about $1 billion.

The history of comics is very interesting. I’m indebted to John Petty of  Heritage Auction Galleries for being my guide on this historical trip.  Comics have been around a long time. As far back as 1500 there were comics. By the 1780’s the familiar “dialog balloons” begin appearing.

First Modern comic appeared in 1895 R. F. Outcault’s Hogan Alley.  The story focused on a group of hooligans, and introduces the “The Yellow Kid” which became one of the most popular fictional character of the first few decades of the 19th century.  You know who Outcault’s other famous character was?  Buster Brown!  Comics soon became an essential part of newspapers; Orphan Annie, Buck Rogers, The Phantom all became popular serialized stories.

The Golden age of Comics 1938 to 1949.  Action comics.  Hero’s.  Superman first ran in 1939.  Batman, Wonder Woman and Capital American soon fallowed.  Comic books were in every battle of WWII.  When the war ended, comics days were numbered.

1949 to 1956 the Atomic age. After the war comics moved from heroes to crime, Science Fiction and horror.  Radio gave us Dragnet, The Shadow, Night Beat. Godzilla was born in 1954.  War of the Worlds, Robots, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  All of this was too much for Dr. Frederic Wertham who published “Seduction of the Innocent” saying these stories lead to juvenile delinquents.  Of course government had to do something. Comic book publishers banded together and created a comic code. Comic books declined. Except one little publication who skirted the code, a little book called MAD.

1956 to 1970 saw the return of the hero. Flash, Green Lantern and the old heroes were reborn.New heroes were created; Fantastic Four 1961 was a big smash. Spider man, Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man and Ant Man all were big successes. Comics became “Pop Art”.  In 1973 Gwen Stacy, Spider-man’s girl friend was killed in a comic it shook the comic book world.  Death had come to comics  Comics were no longer safe. Happy ever after was no longer a guarantee.

1970 to 1980 the age of relevance!  Comics start taking on drug abuse, pollution, racism and poverty.  The heroes start questioning their governments.  Captain American questions being a symbol of the US because of Viet Nam, Green Lantern becomes and environmentalist.  Even Lois Lane in a precursor of Rachel Dolezal, aka Rachel Moore, submits to a experimental procedure that changed her from being Caucasian to African-American so she could better understand the plight of blacks at the height of the Civil Rights era. The social shift of American is felt in comics.

1980 to present who knows what age.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I have no idea what they are about.

So, Griffy, why does a wine geek take seven paragraphs and talk about cartoons?  To be honest I found it interesting.   And because  I learned that there are wine comics.  I saw a story in Wine Spectator; Swirl! Sip! Pow!  Wine comic books.

They even have an annual event and festival in France.  BD & Vin (translation “graphic novels and wine”). French, Belgian, and Italian authors and artists are meeting at Chateau Lacouture to celebrate.

A French author Etienne Davideau spent a year working with  winemaker Richard Leroy in the Loire Valley and wrote the graphic novel “Les Ignorants” translated to English as The Initiates.  The book details their exploits battling pests, pruning, picking, and fighting critics with cameos form biodynamic superheroes like Jean-Francois Ganevat.

Japan, are there vineyards in Japan?  A brother sister team Yuko and Shin Kibayashi writing under the pen name Tadashi Agi have authored a successful wine comic book with 56 volumes and was called The Drops of God. 

The story is about the son of a famous wine critic who is a beer salesman and has never tasted wine because he and his father didn’t get along.  He is notified his father has died.  To receive his inheritance the son must correctly identify 13 wines.  Twelve are called the “Twelve Apostles”, the finial wine is called “Drops of God”.  All the wines in the story are real.  The twist in the story is the son has a nemesis, a young wine critic his father has recently adopted as his other son.

The son has strong senses of taste and smell.  He remembers how his father described wines when he was young.  He submerges himself in the wine world and with the help of a trainee sommelier and his colleagues in the wine department of the company he works.  They set off to solve the mysteries of the 13 wines.  The story line also includes food pairings and fights to save favorite famous restaurants. The series ended in 2014.

What madness over a simply drink dives authors and artist world wide to produce wine adventures in the form of illustrated sequential panels and dialog bubbles?  Boggles the mind.  I love it.

For 6000 years wine has saturated the human condition. Our religion, philosophy, history, art  literature, psychology and biology.  From God and love, to what’s for diner and comics.  What is it about wine?  I’ve studied it for six years and I still don’t know.  It fascinates me.

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Feudo Croce Primitivo ‘Imperio LXXIV’ 2015

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Recently I feel I’ve had a pretty hot hand at picking wines.  Foradori, Aluado, and Amerlior were all very good wines.  I haven’t cooled off yet. The “Imperio” is a very impressive wine too.

Primitivo is Zinfandel with an Italian accent.  Same grape.  Our wine is a Primitivo di Manduria.  High in alcohol and tannins.  Some of these wines have alcohol levels around 18%.  Our wine is 14.5%.  The Italian home for Primitivo is Puglia.  Historians believe the grape arrive in Italy from Croatia.  The name Primitivo translates as “early one” and there is a connection to Spain, Tempranillo, also means the same thing.

The first thing I notice about our wine was the bottle.  Big and heavy.  If this bottle were a ship, it would be a heavy cruiser or pocket battleship.  Color was a cross between a ruby and garnet red.  Nose hinted of red fruit, spice and chocolate.  This is a full bodied wine.  Notes of blackberry, licorice and chocolate all wrapped in silky tannins.  This wine tastes 2 to 3 times above it price level.  

This wine is rated a 96 by Annuario dei Migliori Vini Italiani, One of Italy’s best wine rating publications.  This annual describes and evaluates the best wines of Italy.  It also is a great informational tool and contains detailed tasting notes.  Wine Spectator rated this wine in the top 100 for 2014 and 2015.

Here is a link so you can see the Feudo Croce vineyard.

http://www.tinazzi.it/en/tinazzi/the-estates/feudo-croce/

Now let me tell you a true story about the power of wine.  A young man goes to his father and says “Papa, I don’t know what to do about my wife.  Everyday she loses her temper at me for no reason.  It’s worrying me”.

Papa says, son, wine can fix that”.  How Papa?  When your wife starts getting angry, go get some wine, sip some and swish it in your mouth.  Don’t swallow it, just swish, swish, swish.  Keeping doing this until she calms down or she leaves the room.

So the young man does what his Papa told him.  Two weeks go by.  Papa how did you know of the miracle of the wine?  I did what you told me every time my wife got angry I got the wine and swish, swish, swish and soon she calmed down.  I didn’t know wine could do that.  Tell me Papa, what in the wine swishing in your mouth causes her to calm down.

Papa said, The wine does nothing.  Keeping you mouth shut and not pissing her off is the trick!

See wine is powerful stuff.

Amelior

IMG_3394‘Who am I you ask?  Let it be know that I am Amelior Amanitas, alchemist extraordinaire  and supreme sage of the north”. From Forgotten Realms, Dungeon & Dragons.  Impressive credentials , but totally unrated to our Amelior.

Our Amelior is a 750 ML bottle of delicious Petit Verdot wine.  However, our Amelior is as mysterious as the mythical Amelior Amanitas.  For the first time in my blog experience I have found almost nothing about this wine on the internet.

Let’s see if we can exegete this wine together. The wine is very good, exceptional in my humble opinion, and since I can’t find another review, I must be right!  Color Inky dark purple.  Pleasant nose.  I got violets and a hint of smoke.  Flavor think spice, chocolate, fig and plumbs.  Strong tannins.  Ideal for roasted meats.

The grape is Petit Verdot and since I can hear my wine drinking buddies yelling at me because I always mispronounce Petit Verdot that’s Puh-tee’ Vair-doe’.

100% Petit Verdot is  an uncommon wine.  Usually this grape plays a supporting role in Bordeaux blends or what we call a Meritage here in the United States.  A typical Meritage is a big does of Cabernet Sauvignon, say 60%, then a smaller amounts of Merlot or Malbec and even smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc or Petit Verdot.  By law a wine must contain at least 75% of one grape to  be labeled as that grape.  Many wines labeled as Cabernet Sauvignon are blend of 75% Cab and 25% others.  The bottle is still labeled as Cabernet Sauvignon.  Many wine makers, most notable Joseph Phelps, felt to make the best tasting wine using less than 75% of one grape would produce a better tasting product. As Aristotle said “the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts”.  So, a Meritage can be more interesting to drink than a single varietal.  Personally I like both the single varietal versions and the blends.  I have a very strong preference for Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Now let’s read the label.  The wine is from California.  That’s not surprising because most really good Petit Verdot’s are from California.  The California climate is idea for growing Petit Verdot. It’s a 2016 vintage, which according the Wine Spectator was a good year.  Still not much of a story.  2016 is a little young for a Petit Verdot.  Because they are very tannic they need some time to settle down.  2013 or 2014 would have been preferred.

Lets move to the back label.  Here is where things got a  little more interesting.  The wine was Vinted and Bottled by Incognito Wines, Parlier California.  I couldn’t find anything on Incognito wines.  But I swear I’ve heard that name before.  I check Cellar Tracker and found 14 wines produced by Incognito.  No producer website.  I had reached a dead end.

Okay, I bought the wine at a retail outlet called The Wine Cellar.  This is not your usual wine shop.  The Wine Cellar is a retail outlet for Laithwaite’s Wine.  Laithwaite is a huge wine club.  They might be a story all by themselves.  They are actually a few Wine Clubs; Wall Street Journal Wine club and i believe two others.  I’ve been drinking their wines for years, never had a bad one yet.  So I went to their website. Amelior was there, unreviewed.   Dead End

Went to Vivino.  Once agin Amelior was there.  4 .0 out of possible 5.0 top 5% of wine ratings.  Now I’m getting somewhere.  Had a few reviews all positive.  That’s where it ended.  No information on the Winery, or the wine maker.  No drink by date.  Nothing, another dead end.

They did list similar wines. Two common names emerge “Inkblot” and “Freak Show”  both are Michael David Winery wines.  Michael David also has a wine called “Incognito”.   Maybe a connection.  Micheal Divid Winery is in Lodi which is about 154 miles away from Parlier.  So my case is weak.  Both Inkblot and the Freak Show are Petit Verdot’s.  Ah, I’m grasping at straw.  My finial analysis is I don’t know.  All I know if I enjoyed the wine.  I’d buy it again.  I’d by a case if I knew how long it would age.  Right now all I know is what’s above.

Try a Petit Verdot.  If nothing else it will give you better appreciation of the red blends you are drinking now.  If anyone knows anything about Incognito Wines let me know.

Foradori Vigneti Delle Dolomiti 2013

 

IMG_3410Wine is essentially four things: weather, soil, grapes and people.  When these elements all come together and aline, something special happens. This is one of those wines.

People drink wine for all kinds of reasons.  Wine appeals to our sense of sight, smell and taste.  Enhances our enjoyment of food.  Heightens our enjoyment of social occasions.  And yes, we enjoy it’s intoxicating effects.

Wine tells stories.  Stories about the past, present and future.  The stories are about people, places, events, and locations. Wine cheers us, heals us, and enlightens us.

How did I fine this wine?  A show simply called “The Wine Show”.  The show is based at the D’Amico Wine Estate on the Laizo-Umbria boarder in the Italian hills.   The show has a segment called “the road trip” where wine expert, Joe Fattorini,  sends two actors Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys on a quests to fill a case of wine that exemplifies Italian wine.  Week 10’s challenge was to find a wine that “ captures the spirit of the landscape the wine is from”.

Matt and Matt take off in their trusty Fiat 500.  No kidding. It’s gray not canary yellow.   It might have winedar, because they show a map of where they are going.  The trip in Episode 10 takes them to Northern Italy to the city of Trentino. 

You can watch the show on Ovation,  Hulu,  or go to the website “thewineshow.com” and watch on YouTube.  The scenery is awesome.

They travel to the plain of Campo Rotalian in the Dolomite mountains between Trentino and Tyrol.  The land is amazing.  It’s the crossroads of Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.  All these cultures are present but none dominates, why can’t every place be like that?

This is the home of the Teroldego grape.  It grows here like nowhere else.  Teroldego has a deep red color. Great nose.  Full body, fruit forward.  Nice finish and can be aged up to 10 years.  This is an ancient grape been cultivated for hundreds of years in Italy.  It reminds me of Pinot Noir. Campo Rotaliano is sandy and gravelly, perfect for this grape.  It’s a Goldilocks climate, not  hot, not too cold and sheltered from extremes by the looming mountains.

So, we have the grape, we have the soil, we have the weather, let’s add the people.  The winemaker is Elisabette Foradori.  It is said that Elisabatte’s wines are not so much “made” as “inspired” by the mountainous terrain.  I can testify you can taste the land and Foradori’s passion in the wine.  For thirty years, since she was a teenager and took over the vineyard when her father died she has worked to increase the quality and prestige of her wines. This mother of four and internationally famous winemaker has truly captured the landscape in her wines.

Foradori utilizes a unique aging process.  She doesn’t use barrels, no oak.  She uses terra-cotta urns where the wine sits and slowly matures.

There are other people involved with this story; Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys to be sure, certainly Elisabatte Foradori, but also anyone who drinks the wine.  Elisabatte says “how can you tell the wine is good”?  “The bottle will be empty”.

The story here is of goodness.  A critic writing about the wine described the wine’s nose as being what a good dream smells like.  In drinking the wine I felt harmonious and balance.  Feelings that are often missing in our lives.  I got the feeling that Elisabatte cared more about her wine, land and family than she did about being famous.  Something else missing from our celebrity crazed world.

If you want to drink a wine that will have you believing “most people are good” this is the wine.

May you live in interesting times

 

Up until this morning I never knew this was a curse.  I thought it was what intellectuals said to each other to impress.  “Good Morning good fellow, where are you off to”?  “Oh, good morning to you chap, I’m bashing off to the lab for a bit of heavy thinking”.  “Jolly Oh!, well may you live in interesting times”.  To bring it down to my level, it’s something Spock would say to Dr. McCoy.

It’s called the Chinese curse, but it has no actual Chinese connection.  “Interesting” times are those connected to war and social disorder.  Where as “uninteresting” times are of peace and tranquillity.

I’ve always felt blessed that I did live in interesting times.  I can see my time has been both a curse and a blessing.  Like the Blake Shelton song  “I Lived It”;  

Oh, you think I’m talking crazy

In a different language you might not understand

Oh, That’s alright

That’s just the kind of life that made me who I am.

 Just taking my mind on a visit

Back in time ‘cause I miss it’

You wouldn’t know how to love it like I love it

Unless you lived it

  And man I lived it. 

For wine lovers there has never been a more interesting time.  More wine, better wine, more affordable wine.  More free time to enjoy the wine.

Science helps predict the weather better.  Sensors monitor everything from the soil, to the fermentation process.  Electronics and satellites monitor ships, airplanes, trucks movements and store’s inventory levels.  Refrigeration and Central heating systems keeps us and the wines at comfortable temperatures. 

Modern economics allow more of the worlds population to afford wine.  Trade allows wine to flow around the world.  Now,  a person in China, can afford, obtain, and enjoy a wine form France.  Soon wines being produced in China, might be on the table in a home in France.

Where am I going with this?

Two stories in Wine Spectator caught my eye.  I love all this technology.

  

Champagne in space.   Star Trek had its drinking scenes, but I don’t remember them drinking Champagne.  Looks like G. H. Mumm has solved the problem of how to keep all those bubbles from being sucked out into the ice cold black void where no one can hear you scream. Wow, it sounds like Connecticut.  They have design a champagne bottle that pours in zero gravity.  Here is video https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2018/06/gh-mumm-figured-out-how-to-serve-champagne-in-spac.html They also had to design special glasses.  The glasses even allow you to clink and toast.  BTW the glasses have no bases so you’ll have to always hold them.

 Wine is going to Mars.  The country of Georgia has a project to help colonize Mars by learning how to grow wine there.  The history of wine will not stop on Earth.  The project is call the IX Millennium project.  The Georgian National Museum has built a greenhouse mimicking the Martian terroir.  From a historical stand point Georgia has a creditable claim to have introduced wine to Earth, it’s only fitting that they get to pioneer wine on Mars.  They are currently focused on what varieties will do best on Mars.  Next step,  fermentation in clay kvevris in the Martian ground?

My mind races to envision all of this, well, maybe not the Champagne.  I can see robot vine workers tending vines growing on Mars.  Domed Chateau’s.  R2D2’s doing all the grunt work in the fermentation process. Shuttles bringing wine from Earth to Mars and making the return trip with Martian wine. Wine tourists?

Makes me want to be like some of the characters in the science fiction stories I have read.  Having my brain transferred into a robotic body so I can see how all this stuff works out. With a robotic body and the miracle of compound interest even I could have a 4,000 bottle wine cellar, and be able to drink it too.  Would the sensors be able to allow me to taste the wine?

For good or ill these are interesting times.  The older I get the more I say rejoice and be glad, because this is your life.  The future is bright and full of possibilities.  To the next generation I say fix the mistakes my generation has made, don’t judge, you’ll make mistakes of your  own.  Drink the wine, eat the cake, dance like no one is looking` and may you live in interesting times.

Aluado

IMG_3393It’s all about the grape, bout the grape no Trebbiano… okay that’s a grape too.  

I enjoy finding, learning about, and drinking wine made from different grapes.  “Man does not live by Cabernet alone, that might be in the Bible, or maybe not!  But, wine is not just a drink, it’s an adventure!  Yeah, just made that up, ah maybe not!

I’m excited about this wine because it’s made from the Alicante Bouschet grape.  This grape is usually used as a “teinturier” or a “dyer” used in other wines to add color.  The color of the wine is a very deep purple.  The grape is a hybrid of Petit Bouschet and Grenache.  Developed in the 19th century by viticulturist Henri Bouschet.

Our wine Aluado is from Portugal. The wine Maker is Jose Neiva Correia, who’s known in Portugal as MISTER WINE, and is owner with his brothers and sisters and is Chief wine maker at DFJ Vinhos.  When he set out to make a single varietal Alicante Bouschet people called him Aluado, “looney” or “moonstruck”.  Well, you don’t pull on superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don’t call the Winner of “Revista de Vinhos” Portuguese  leading wine magazine’s Wine Oscar looney!

Aluado is impressive right out of the bottle.  First, the color, it’s beautiful, deep elegant purple.  Second, the nose is superb.  I was thinking Cabernet, and my second thought was Grenache.  Either way I was happy.  Taste; you get the spiciness of the Grenache, the mouth feel and body, with cherries of Cabernet.  The flavor was fantastic.  Folks this is a red meat wine and if you are looking for a wine for that summer steak barbecue, this is the wine.  The only thing “looney” about this wine is the price quality ratio.  Excellent value.

Now, the “experts” which I am not one, will tell you Alicante Bouschet produces and “uninspiring” wine that lacks distinction.  All I can say is “Bouschet” this wine is good!  You’ll have to look for it.  Look for wines produced in the Alentejo area of Portugal for you best values.

Now every wine has a story.  The story of Alicante Bouschet goes back to prohibition days.  During Prohibition the grape was grown in California, sold as a table grape.  Because of it’s thick skin it could withstand transportation to the East Coast.  The grapes came with a warning label on what not to to do to keep the grapes from becoming wine.  A very detailed warning, like don’t crush your grapes in a large container. Or if the grapes begin to bubble in the container…. you home wine makers understand the warning.  Where there’s a will, there’s a wine!

Will Alicante Bouschet take over the wine world?  No! It doesn’t have to it’s a great wine at an affordable price that’s not the same old, same old.  Diversity is the thing right?  So ask for it, they they say they don’t have it ask if them for another wine you can’t pronounce,  or walk out singing “it’s all about the grape, bout the grape”.

It’s Chewy!

Have you ever had a chewy wine?  Chewy is a real wine term.  It’s a common way of describing a BIG, BURLY almost solid feeling wine.  Usually it’s a full body, high tannic, high in alcohol, red wine.  It describes mouth feel.  For most, it’s a pleasant flavor found IMG_3316in robust red wines.

The occasion where the term came up I was enjoying a great bottle of a red Portuguese wine, and my buddy says, “I love this wine, it’s chewy”!  I was busting with pride.  I was also surprised as hell that my friend would use such a technical and eloquent wine term.  Wow, we’ve come a long way since our nights with Yellow Tail.

The wine was Vila Santa Reserva 2013, Vinho Regional Alentejano, from Portugal.  I’ve spoken many times about the fantastic, affordable wines coming from Portugal and here is just another example.

The name Vila Santa means “Holy Village”, which refers to the nearby city of Estermoz.  And as with most wines there’s a great story that goes with this one.  It’s called the “Miracle of the Roses”.  In the 13th Century Estremoz  was ruled by King Diniz and his wife Queen Isabel.  Isabel was dedicated to helping the poor, an activity the King was not keen about.  One day the Queen was leaving the castle with her apron full of bread when she was surprised by the King who demanded to see what she was hiding in her apron.  When she opened her apron the bread had been miraculously transformed into roses.  The King never again question Isabel and she continued her work free from his suspicion.  She also reportedly prevented a civil war in 1323 and was canonized in 1625.

The wine is an expertly assembled red blend.  Consisting of 25% Aragonez, 25% Alicante Bouschet, 20% Touriga Nacional, 20% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  One of the things I really like about Portuguese wines is they use their domestic varietals.  I also think they currently hold the commanding edge in the cost quality ratio in wine.

Part of the harvest is foot trodden in marble troughs called “lagares”, the rest is fermented in stainless steel tanks.  After a long post fermentation the blend is aged for nine months is French oak.

Color; bright garnet.  Nose: Ripe black fruits.  The flavor is big and bold with a spiciness from the French oak which really adds to the uniqueness of this wine.  Oh, yeah, it’s chewy!