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Winecast 76 – Merlove

by Tim Elliott on December 20, 2009

Five years and one day after I started this blog and podcast I get back behind the mic and restart regular podcasting. This episode features an interview with Rudy McClain, the filmmaker of the documentary Merlove. I also pick three Merlot wines from my tasting log for review.

Show Notes:

00:30 – Welcome and show theme
02:22 – Interview with Merlove filmmaker Rudy McClain
15:25 – My review of the documentary Merlove
17:35 – Review of Bodegas Osborne, “Solaz”, Merlot-Tempranillo 2006
18:43 – Review of Blackstone, Merlot, Sonoma Reserve 2007
19:18 – Review of Raphael, Merlot 2001
21:37 – Feedback & call for new theme music
22:13 – Next show theme

Tasting Notes:

Bodegas Osborne, “Solaz”, Merlot (65%) Tempranillo (35%), 2006 ($9) – Garnet in color with aromas of black cherry, white pepper, licorice and vanilla. Bold plum and black cherry fruit with black pepper finishing with just a hint of bell pepper and moderate tannins. A very nice table wine for under $10.

13.5% ABV
Synthetic cork closure
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy this wine online
Snooth Listing

Blackstone, Merlot, Sonoma Reserve 2007 ($20/sample) – Dark purple with aromas of black cherry, dark current and sage. Rich plum and dark cherry fruit with some mint finishing with supple tannins.

14.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy this wine online
Snooth Listing

Raphael, Merlot, North Fork of Long Island 2001 ($25/750 ml/won in Menu for Hope raffle; tasted from 3L) – Deep garnet in color with aromas of black cherry, currant and mint. Rich black current and black cherry fruit with white pepper, bell pepper flavors finishing with moderate but well integrated tannins. Has structure for another 10 years in the cellar in this format. Outstanding Long Island Merlot that I would guess was from Bordeaux in a blind tasting.

12.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy this wine online
Snooth Listing

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The Trouble With “Wine Films”

by Tim Elliott on February 20, 2009

Bottle Shock

Image via Wikipedia

Since the movie “Sideways” in 2004, filmmakers have been trying to create movies that would evoke a similar response with audiences. “Sideways” became an independent film sensation that also intensified demand for Pinot Noir, and the opposite for Merlot, in the U.S. market. Most reviews, including my own, were positive for the film particularly in how wine was depicted. 

Time passed and other projects were put into production with the first “wine film” being Ridley Scott’s “A Good Year” in 2006. Since early reviews were terrible for the film, I passed watching it until it was on HBO. And I was somewhat surprised to find not the disaster expected but a flawed film with some decent performances. But it failed as a wine film since the filmmakers didn’t understand what “Sideways” got right.

They made wine a central character in the story.

Wine in “Sideways” was something that affected and transformed the central characters of the story. It took on a significance of being something more than just a prop, as wine had been in every film before “Sideways.” And wine continued in this subordinate role in “A Good Year” that couldn’t save a predicable retelling of “Under the Tuscan Sun” from a male perspective but set in Provence.

I thought the same thing while watching “Bottle Shock” last weekend. Like “A Good Year,” I waited until I could watch it as a part of my Netflix subscription and it was not as bad as I expected. But it wasn’t that good either despite the filmmakers attempts to make wine central to the story.

Very loosely inspired by George Taber’s “Judgement of Paris” the film tells the story of the Jim and Bo Barrett who’s Chardonnay beat the best white Burgundies in the 1976 blind tasting organized by Steven Spurrier. I can see why Taber and Spurrier have said bad things about “Bottle Shock” since they both come off as eccentrics if not buffoons (Taber especially). But it’s the film’s suspension of belief and compression of the story that really sink its chances of becoming another “Sideways.”

Adapting “Judgement of Paris” would prove to be a difficult challenge since the book is only interesting in the middle telling the stories of the people behind the winning wines. Both Warren Winiarski and Mike Grgich figure prominently in the book documenting the back story of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet and Chateau Montelena Chardonnay but are nowhere to be found in “Bottle Shock.” Since the movie is about Chateau Montelena and Steven Spurrier, Winiarski’s lack of screen time is understandable but Grgich made the winning wine and is only evoked by a guy with a barret in the background of a couple scenes. This probably had more to do with the bad blood between Jim Barrett and Mike Grgich than the choices of the screenwriters, but these sorts of deviations from the facts ultimately prove too much and the result is a mildly entertaining tale that will bother wine lovers to no end with its loose ends (we are supposed to believe a bottle of 1947 Cheval Blanc is available at a dive bar in Calistoga? the temporary discoloring of the Montelena Chardonnay happened to the 1972 vintage and not the ’73 as depicted in the film).

But documentaries don’t have these sorts of issues since the viewer doesn’t have to read between the lines. And I’m happy to report that the new wine documentary “Merlove” is worth a look for anyone into wine. A full review and interview with filmmaker Rudy McClain on my next podcast posted this weekend.


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Join Me For Twitter Taste Live ‘Merlove’ Edition

by Tim Elliott on February 4, 2009

MerloveOn February 19th I’ll be in downtown Minneapolis participating in the Twitter Taste Live event before the screening of the new film, “Merlove.” Think “Sideways” as a documentary with Merlot as it’s central focus.

Twin Cities locals can join me down at the Ritz Theater with the pre-show tasting starting around 6:00 p.m. local time. I’ll be Twittering notes and maybe even sending up some live video if the wifi connection is cooperative. Wine sponsors Sacre Bleu and Haskell’s promise some nice wines for tasting. Merlot goes without saying. Knowing how provocative Sacre Bleu can be, maybe even Miles’ favorite Pinot might be poured, who knows?

I’ll be recording another edition of the now-rare full length podcast and including my review of the film. Hope to see some local friends in attendance. Get your tickets here.

And, yes, I love Merlot.

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