Wine Tasting of Isole e Olena at Salem Wine Imports

On April 23rd I attended a tasting of the wines of famous Tuscan producer Isole e Olena at Salem Wine Imports (in Salem, MA) with the North Shore Winers, which is a wine interest group organized by Richard of A Passionate Foodie.  The wines were being poured by the famous Isole e Olena winemaker himself Paolo di Marchi.  The laws governing how to label Tuscan wines are rather byzantine, having to do with the percentage of Sangiovese grapes and the percentage and types of other grapes, if any, included.  There’s an interesting article about this here.

Paulo di Marchi

The most famous offering being poured was the highly regarded 2004 Cepparello, his 100% Sangiovese ‘Super-Tuscan’.  He cannot label it as a Chianti Classico Reserva as it doesn’t have enough ‘other’ indigenous Tuscan grapes in it.  This wine is refined with silky tannins, very enjoyable.  Mr. di Marchi is an expert in Sangiovese grape clone selection.  Also being poured were his Chardonnay, Chianti Classico, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.  There were also a few other wines from the Piedmont in northern Italy that were outstanding.  I picked up a bottle of the Chianti Classico (90 points Stephen Tanzer/IWC) and will enjoy with some Italian food some time soon, undoubtedly.

Salem Wine Imports is small, but has a carefully selected inventory of wines with emphasis on outstanding imports from Italy.

For detailed tasting notes, be sure to check Richard’s blog soon (he took notes – I didn’t). The tasting room was small, hot, and many people showed up to taste the famous producer’s offerings.  Overall, a beautiful day in historic Salem.

Before I attended the tasting, I had some time to kill, so did a tour of the Salem Witch Museum.  It’s more of a pre-recorded presentation in-the-round with scary dioramas of girls having hysteria, people being tried, pressed to death, and hung.  19 people were killed in Salem 1692 – but apparently hundreds of thousands of presumed witches in Europe were killed around the same time – where is their museum, I wonder?  Next tasting in Salem I will allocate more time beforehand and visit the awesome Peabody Essex Museum.

Salem Witch Museum Sign


April 24, 2008 Posted by | Wine | , , , | 1 Comment

L’Atalante – Movie Review

L\'Atalante Movie Poster

L’Atalante is a beautiful little French film from 1934 directed by Jean Vigo, who was dying of tuberculosis at age 29 while creating this film, and indeed directed some scenes from a stretcher. Such a pity this talented director had to be alive and at his creative peak during a time before the invention of antibiotics! So sad.

This is a simple and poignant tale of a young couple, Jean and Juliette, who marry and move onto the barge ‘L’Atalante’ where the groom is Captain. Also on board are the colorful first mate Pere Jules and a cabin-boy. I have to say I was underwhelmed with the first few minutes of the film which were sort of a bit slap sticky, but soon enough I was engrossed in the tale of what happens when 2 not entirely similar people try to make a marriage work. The arguments – the painful separations – the returns to closeness.  There is some really beautiful camera work by cinematographer Boris Kaufman who went on to DP On The Waterfront, 12 Angry Men, Splendor In The Grass, and other celebrated Hollywood films.  (I am a total sucker for beautiful photography).  Also some great songs by Maurice Jaubert reinforce and tie together emotional elements.

Actually Roger Ebert has this film in his “Great Films” list and has written just a wonderfully insightful review here.  But don’t read the review until after you’ve seen the film – Ebert always gives away just about every plot detail.

Grade: A+ all the way, poignant and beautiful

April 17, 2008 Posted by | Film | | 5 Comments

Blackboard Jungle – Movie Review

Last night I watched for the first time the American film classic Blackboard Jungle starring Glenn Ford, Sidney Poiter, Vic Morrow, Anne Francis, and Richard Kiley. This is the story of a determined and resilient new high school teacher thrown into a den of wolves – actually a bunch of secondary school miscreants determined to make life hell for the new English teacher. Sidney Poiter plays a student and seems too old and/or mature for the role. Anne Francis plays the supportive wife and is forced to recite some terrifically anachronistic supportive wife shtick. I was most impressed with Vic Morrow’s performance as the toughest of the junior hoods, and completely wowed by the similarities between his acting and performances I’ve seen from daughter Jennifer Jason-Leigh. I mean, it’s uncanny! On a personal note, Glenn Ford is the spitting image of my ex-bf R. F. and certainly brought back some memories for me.

Grade: B+ for Glenn Ford’s and Vic Morrow’s excellent performances, with points off for dialogue and plot anachronisms, but added points for making me think about biological determinism

April 12, 2008 Posted by | Film | | Leave a comment

Léon the Professional – Movie Review

Léon the Professional is currently rated at #37 in the IMDB top rated movies list, and I have just gotten around to seeing it (what kind of film buff am I?). Directed by Frenchman Luc Besson, it’s thematically presages his famous lady-assassin film La Femme Nikita (although made after that film). Natalie Portman, in her first starring role, is at 12 the most self-assured pre-pubescent actress in the history of film making. She is formidable. She plays an orphan who latches onto Leon the Professional (hitman) (played by Spanish-French actor Jean Reno) out of desperation. The pair develop a touching relationship – there are not many films where a father/daughter relationship is so beautifully developed. Both leads are fantastic, and Gary Oldman adds manic drug-addled crazy gusto goodness as a crooked DEA cop.

Grade: A for great acting, beautiful film making, and an unconventional love story

April 10, 2008 Posted by | Film | | 12 Comments

Wine Blogging Wednesday #44 – French Cabernet Franc

Wine Blogging Wednesday

This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday entry is hosted by an obscure wine store owner named Gregg Vandercharles or somesuch? heh no, Gary Vaynerchuk of course the ridonculously popular host of video blog Wine Library TV. This month’s theme is Cabernet Franc from France. I had some help selecting a wine during my visit to Wine Library this past weekend from an accommodating distributor whose name I didn’t catch. I was aware that this varietal had a reputation for having overly vegetal flavor characteristics and wasn’t wild about drinking liquid broccoli, so he selected one for me where the fruit was generally expected to be more forward. Not sure if that has to do with the appellation of Saumur-Champigny in general or the producer Thierry Germain in particular. The wine he picked out for me: 2005 Thierry Germain Saumur-Champigny. 100% Cab Franc. Saumur-Champigny is an appellation in the Loire Valley. Label says: Mis en bouteille a la propriete pour Thierry Germain Selection (49).

Cabernet Franc

So I took the bottle out of my handy new 28-bottle wine refrigeration unit, popped and poured it. I think I know what broccoli and bell pepper smell like, but I don’t sniff any here. More like black cherries and maybe leather and perhaps a bit of minty herbal eucalyptus. Mouth drying tannins but not too much. Medium-bodied, or maybe a little lighter. Nice drink. I’d give it an 87 in CellarTracker.

Thanks to GV for an interesting choice.

April 2, 2008 Posted by | Wine | , | 5 Comments