An Interview with Troma Films president Lloyd Kaufman
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Troma Entertainment, a fact that will be celebrated this very month at the fifth annual Tromadance Film Festival in Park City, Utah (the same weekend as another, rather more respectable film festival that shall go unnamed). Founded by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz in 1974, Troma is one of the oldest independent film studios in America. Home to such fine cinematic entertainment as The Toxic Avenger, Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, Class of Nuke 'em High and Surf Nazis Must Die, Troma is also one of the most infamous.
5 p.m. Lloyd Kaufman personal appearance at Burning Paradise (800 Central SW)
9 p.m. Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV screening at Guild Cinema (4125 Central NE).
11 p.m. Booksigning at Guild Cinema courtesy of Bookworks.
Mayor announces 2004 agenda. Last week, Mayor Martin Chavez announced his list of 2004 New Year's resolutions.
The 26 items ranged from the politically pragmatic (increase the police force to 955 sworn officers), to the culturally enriching (the new Japanese Gardens at the BioPark will enable kids to “understand marvelous, contemplative nature,” the mayor explained), to basic capital outlay (finish the balloon museum, open more community centers, build new fire sub stations), to the humane (reduce rates of euthanasia at city animal shelters) and finally to the it's about time! (Tingley Beach will get a makeover, starting in March).
Shhh ... don't talk about water. It seemed more like Mad magazine or National Lampoon, but at a closer look, it was indeed the Albuquerque Journal, running a frontpage headline on Tuesday, Dec. 30, that read “Rio Rancho Gaining Momentum.”
Dateline: Serbia—Children in the central Serbian town of Kragujevac watched in horror as a helicopter carrying a man dressed as Santa Claus crashed into the street in front of them. A crowd of children had gathered to greet Santa Claus on New Year's Day when the helicopter shuttling him and his bag of presents crashed a few hundred yards from them. The pilot, co-pilot and Santa were all injured, Beta news agency reported. Hospital officials reported that, despite the injuries, no lives were in danger. The cause of the crash has not been determined. Serbs celebrate Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7, but children receive presents at New Year—a holdover from the years of communist rule when Christmas was not an officially celebrated holiday.
Why a 2,000 percent increase in inmates over the past two decades?
At breakfast with friends on the Monday morning after Christmas, I heard a piece of information that scared me silly. Well, two pieces of information if you count Mad Cow Disease, a subject that demands its own full-column treatment in the near future, once I finish reading the books Fast Food Nation and American Mad Cow.
Mad Cow Disease a real downer for the beef industry
Watching the reaction of various public officials to the first documented case of Mad Cow Disease in the United States brings to mind the performance of Mayor Vaughn, the political head of Amity in Steven Speilberg's classic Jaws. Despite all the obvious signs that there might just be trouble lurking off the waters of the coastal community, Mayor Vaughn insists that the locals continue to swim in the ocean because doing otherwise would be bad for the summer tourist season. Instead of acknowledging the problem early on, clearing the beaches and letting Brody, Quint and Hooper get to work, the shark continues to feast and hysteria eventually overtakes the town. Needless to say, the Amity Chamber of Commerce had something of a public relations challenge in the aftermath.
Yeah, it's a bar ... but with food that's not “bar food”
When Richard Agee isn't dropping off copies of this paper at a location near you he is the man behind the menu at Atomic Cantina (315 Gold SW, 242-2200). I got him to take a few minutes out of his morning to talk with us about cooking, girls and white truffles.
Why do we anticipate the holidays with such excitement when so many of us barely endure them without complete breakdowns? Sure, holidays are great for kids, what with hordes of relatives around to spoil them with sweets, lax enforcement of the rules and heaps of presents. And frankly, holidays are largely cake for menfolk too. Sure is tough keeping that La-Z-Boy warm, huh Grandpa? Meanwhile we ladies are making up spare beds (with extra pillows!), filling the fridge with bizarre requests (diet decaf Coke with lemon?) and working desperately to avoid the path of oncoming emotional shitstorms (“If you'd given me what I really wanted for Christmas you would have cleaned your house.”) On top of all that we do the menu planning, shopping and cooking, too. All of which we could handle if only someone else in the goddamn house would do some dishes! Mother's voice rings loud and clear through the heads of women everywhere as they silently freak out at the sight of dirty coffee cups in the sink—right next to the empty dishwasher. “Oh no, did I forget to show them where I keep the magic key that unlocks this mystery machine?” (Shitstorm warning in effect for your area!) And then, at last, peace. They're gone and we have six months to forget how miserable it was and remember what a great time we had “bonding” together. Yay!
Restaurants come and restaurants go, sometimes so fast you can barely keep up! Before I even noticed that Café Broadway had closed, Maximito's opened in its place at 606 Broadway SE. Maximito's Chef Eddie Stern was formerly the owner of Tio Tito's, a Mexican restaurant near University and Menaul that he closed about four years ago. Around the same time as the closing of Tio Tito's, Stern's father Maximo passed away. The new restaurant is named for him. As for the food, Stern describes Maximito's menu as, “exactly the same as Tio Tito's but I've gotten better over the past few years.” Among the Mexican dishes like nachos, tostadas, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas and chimichangas lie a number of vegetarian entrées and vegan possibilities. The beans and rice are both vegan, Stern says, and many dishes can be made with vegetables but without cheese. Stern and his girlfriend, owner Julie Dahl, also remodeled the space, building bancos around the dining room, adding splashes of bright color with fresh paint everywhere. Call 242-1222 for hours and information.
Rocky Mountain High—The Taos Mountain Film Festival is celebrating its recent induction into the International Alliance of Mountain Film by heading out on the road this winter with a selection of award-wining films from the 2003 festival. “The Best of the Taos Mountain Film Festival” will open at Keller Hall on the UNM campus on Sunday, Jan. 11, at 7:30 p.m. This special screening will feature Farther Than the Eye Can See, an inspirational film produced by Outside TV about blind climber Eric Wienmayer's ascent of the world's highest peak. Tickets are $12 and can be obtained at www.tickets.com (1-800-905-3315). On Monday, Jan. 12, the “Best Of” tour hikes up to Santa Fe's historic Lensic Theatre. Beginning at 7:30 p.m., ex-Gov. Gary Johnson and mountain guide Dave Hahn will appear in person to show a video presentation of their successful 2003 climb up Mt. Everest. Tickets are $12 and are available at the Lensic box office (505-988-1234).
Tim Burton lies like a rug in fantastical family drama
Tim Burton has established himself as one of the master fantasists of modern filmmaking. His dramatis personæ is that of a dysfunctional boy wonder, a gloomy, wild-haired Walt Disney for the discontented. His fractured fairy tales—from Pee Wee's Big Adventure to Beetlejuice to Edward Scissorhands to The Nightmare Before Christmas to Ed Wood—tell of misunderstood social misfits happy (more or less) to live in worlds of their own creation. Burton's latest, Big Fish, is both more of the same and a bold new direction for the merry misanthrope.
One of Albuquerque's longest-surviving blues bands, The Albuquerque Blues Connection, will kick off 2004 with a concert on Saturday, Jan. 10, at Pucinni's Golden West at 9 p.m. Currently promoting their CD debut, West of Texas, ABC are also hard at work in the studio recording tracks for their upcoming release, Burning It Up. ... Speaking of CDs by local bands, Fast Heart Mart have finished work on The Movie Theater, which is one of the best local releases I've heard in awhile. It'll be reviewed on these pages in the coming weeks, just as soon as I get some artwork to scan. ... Calls from bands wanting to be involved in this year's Alibi Spring Crawl are already beginning to pour in, so I offer my standard response to such queries in print with the hope that aspiring Crawl bands will heed the advice: Our Crawls are not “new band showcases.” The events are not designed to debut bands to the public. Participating bands are chosen in large part by the venues in which they are eventually booked for the Crawls, which means that club owners generally choose bands they've heard of and or have a good history with in terms of those bands that can create a reliable draw. So the best thing you can do as a new and/or fairly unknown band (especially with regard to the Downtown scene) is market yourself, book some gigs Downtown, post fliers for your shows and create your own buzz. It's not too late to get yourself a Spring Crawl slot, but you've got to be willing to do the work. Good luck!
I would be guilty of gross falsification were I to pretend that I am able to audition more than a fraction of the classical releases that arrive weekly chez Serinus. I therefore abandon all pretence to inclusiveness, and instead focus on the vocal issues that have led me closest to the gates of heaven these past 12 months.
with Greg Brown
Sunday, Jan. 11; Lensic Performing Arts Center (Santa Fe, all ages, 7 p.m.): While many folks are content—eager, even—to accept Hank III as neo-country music's bona fide badboy, the title actually belongs to Steve Earle, Americana's equivalent to rock's Bruce Springsteen. His antiestablishment attitude has remained untouched by his various addictions and run-ins with the law, and his songwriting—largely as a result of his various addictions and run-ins with the law—has only gotten better, more precise.
with his giant, gaping pie hole
Wednesday, Jan. 14; Hiland Theater (all ages, 7 p.m.): I get it now. My former punk rock idol, Henry Rollins, has become a comedian in much the same way that Jello Biafra has become an almost grateful victim of “The System.” Both Rollins and Biafra are smart guys, magical public speakers and charming beyond any shadow of a doubt. They are not, however, orators of the James Campbell stripe. But because they both once fronted punk bands—Black Flag and Dead Kennedys, respectively—they still command a certain audience.
Twenty years after its original release, Demon's third album sounds dated, lackluster and tired, despite having been remixed and remastered for its reissue. Even by 1983 standards, this one's second-rate—a vaguely hewn Orwellian concept album that lacks any real spark. Not poetic or progressive enough to compare to prog rock bands like Marillion, nor bold, heavy or technically stunning enough to stand up next to the Queensryches of the metal world, The Plague would be laughable if not for the fact that Demon got better as the years went on. Skip this and check out The Best of Demon.
Back in 1972, the New York Times published a glowing review of a novel by first-time writer Dow Mossman called The Stones of Summer. The review insisted that Mossman's book was a breathtakingly original literary experiment. Motivated by the review, Mark Moskowitz, then only 18, hunted down a copy of the book but couldn't get past the first 20 pages. Something about the book just didn't click with him. Apparently, he wasn't alone. The Stones of Summer has been out of print for 30 years.
2004 Revolutions International Theatre Festival
Any of you whiners still complaining that we're culturally isolated out here in New Mexico should shut your pie holes. There's plenty going on in these parts. To take yet another example, consider the 2004 Revolutions International Theatre Festival.
Tickets are available in advance at any UNM ticket office, by calling 851-5050 or by logging onto www.tickets.com. Group rates available by calling 254-8393.
516 Magnífico Artspace
Two large-scale installations by a pair of New Mexican artists go on display at 516 Magnífico Artspace starting this week. In The Royal Flush, Charmaine G. Brown reimagines and enlarges an ordinary deck of playing cards to lend poignant insights into the experiences of people with disabilities. In The Three Athenas, Rachel Stevens takes advantage of the Artspace's high entry hall to present a series of tall feminine sculptures created from transparent fabric and stainless steel. These two extraordinary exhibits will open with a joint reception on Friday, Jan. 9, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. There will be an artist talk on Saturday, Jan. 17, at 2 p.m. The show runs through Feb. 21. 242-8244.
From weapons of mass destruction to Jayson Blair, we trusted them and they punk'd us. Why do we keep coming back for more?
The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth. —H.L. Mencken
New Mexico troops battle financial problems. Imagine you live paycheck-to paycheck. Since the majority of Americans do, that should be an easy lifestyle to consider. But then imagine you live paycheck-to-paycheck and have to support a family and all its related expenses: mortgage, car payment, insurance, children, you name it. Now imagine that your income was just cut by one-fifth, or even more, and at the same time you had to say goodbye to your family in hopes of seeing them again in about 18 months.
Don't worry, KRQE—even the Times is dead wrong, sometimes. A few weeks ago, “Thin Line” chalked up News 13's premature report of Joe Skeen's death to the station's need to be the first to report the story, and we still think the gaffe made the station look pretty stupid. But they might feel better to know that lots of news outlets have a hard time discerning if their subjects are dead or not. Last week, we received a copy of an internal memo sent to employees at the New York Times, chiding writers to verify cause of death in an obituary to avoid running an obit on someone who isn't dead.
A rocket, a 54 chevy and inverted cones make public debate easier
I am always amazed at how high emotions can soar in this town over public art controversies. These are after all, essentially matters of individual taste and carry at most symbolic importance.
City Hall brings us up to date with Don Juan de Oñate sculpture
Christmas is the season for giving. At the first Yuletide, gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh were presented to a child in a manger. Two thousand years later, the tradition has evolved—there weren't too many folks receiving frankincense or myrrh last week—but gold is still a favorite followed closely, apparently, by bronze statues.
Dateline: Finland—Hard economic times have reached as far as the North Pole, where even Santa has been forced to lay off his elves. SantaPark, a tourist attraction near the Arctic Circle 520 miles North of Helsinki, has accumulated $550,000 worth of debt in its five years of operation and has been forced to lay off many of the elves staffing its carousel, souvenir stands and restaurant. While business is booming in the surrounding wilderness known as Lapland—home of the nomadic, reindeer-herding Lapps—SantaPark has seen visits decline. Tourism officials in Finland expect a new December record of more than 100,000 foreign visitors. Such numbers have not helped SantaPark, however, which has been accused of overstaffing and mismanagement.
While we're busy discussing the best of 2003, it's hard to ignore that other favorite topic: the worst of 2003. Just as the best rises to the top like cream, the worst sinks to the bottom like ... well, a few other substances I can think of. Here, then, are the sinkers and stinkers of 2003.
Japanese hotels, French grannies, Brazilian gangsters and humble hobbits make up this year's best
Rather than promote yet another annoying ballot on which most people in past years have penciled in their votes for Xtina, Britney, Limp Shitstick, and so on and so on, I decided to foist upon you my own picks for the best music of 2003. Undoubtedly, many of you will disagree with my picks and/or be disappointed that your personal faves didn't make this cut. But frankly, after a decade of sifting through literally thousands of CDs looking for a few gems worthy (mostly) of review in this fine publication, I believe I've earned the right to force my opinion on what records to buy down your gullet. That's what I like to think anyway. Without further ado, I proudly present what I honestly believe to be the best music released during the past year.
January Book Events
Colorado author Robert Greer pleased a lot of readers with his C.J. Floyd mystery series. In his newest novel, Heat Shock, he brings his experience as a practicing surgical pathologist and research scientist to a gripping new thriller about a bizarre biotechnology abuse involving two prize fighting cocks. An emergency room doctor and a white-water rafter join forces to track down the stolen cocks and uncover a secret biotech scheme that could be worth billions of dollars.
The Top 10 Arts and Books of 2003
Drum roll, please.
After much strained thought and ruthless self-flagellation (smacking myself with a stick helps me think), I've narrowed my favorite arts and literature experiences of 2003 down to this brief list. It hasn't been easy, friends. A lot has happened in 2003. I've seen lots of great plays and exhibits. I've read lots of great books. In the end, though, these are the 10 artsy-litsy thing-a-ma-jing-a-ma-bobs that I felt were truly unforgettable. I present them to you now in no particular order.
1) The Guaymas Chronicles: La Mandadera David E. Stuart
It's a new year! And you still have the same old fat ass! Only it's just a little bit fatter now, isn't it? Just where-oh-where did those mystery ass-pounds come from? Let's see, 17 red and green foil-wrapped mini Reese's peanut butter cups at 80 trillion grams of fat each, plus a half tin of sugar-sprinkled Danish butter cookies at 11 quatrillion grams of fat per tin, plus six glasses of egg nog at 99 million grams of fat each. And let's mutiply that by 31 days in December ... well, what do you know? It adds up. Wanna know the easiest way to drop a few pounds quick? This mystery diet has been around for centuries. It's called: eating vegetables. (Hint: potatoes are not vegetables.) Vegetables are the green things your mom made for dinner when you were a kid. They are variously known by such names as green beans, broccoli, squash, spinach and eggplant. You hated them back then but you had to eat them or Mom would get mad. Now Mom isn't hovering over your plate anymore but your punishment for not eating vegetables is ... you guessed it ... your fat ass! Make an effort to eat some green stuff at every meal and you'll watch those ass-pounds melt away like butter. If that doesn't work we'll refund every penny you paid for this paper.
Wean yourself off of Christmas candies with these slightly-
less- fattening treats
On Thanksgiving Day my friend Jamie brought over homemade peppermint patties shaped like turkeys and with feathers painted on in real gold paint. They tasted way, way better than store-bought patties and the turkey shapes made everyone ooh and aah. Jamie got the recipe from the Dec. 1998 issue of Gourmet magazine but over the year's she has changed it a little, adding more peppermint and the gold paint. Use your Christmas cookie cutters to make the patties in any shape you like and feel free to dip in dark chocolate or use some of the colored “confectionary coating” they sell at the Specialty Shop (5823 Lomas NE, 266-1212).
The top 10 (ok nine) food news stories of the year
The Parkay Tub Says, “Buh-Bye!” One of our favorite events of the year was all of the attention paid to trans fatty acids, the kind of fat found in partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening (like margarine and Crisco). Last summer the Food and Drug Administration announced that they would require food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fatty acids in addition to the breakdown of saturated and unsaturated fats. They also said that trans-fat consumption should be kept to an absolute minimum. While the FDA stopped short of recommending eaters switch to butter or lard (which contain higher amounts of saturated fat but far less trans-fats) we like to interpret their findings as a perfectly good case for the all-butter pie crust and lard-only tamales. Hey, it's all about heart health.
Spotlight on David Diamond
One of the more prolific American composers of the last century, 88-year-old David Diamond has created an impressive body of finely crafted work whose tuneful romanticism and ruminative feel continue to win converts.
Joe Pernice has Brian Wilson's uncommon gift for popcraft as high art, and his ability to express the full range of love is pure genius. But the more I listen to his latest release, I'm reminded more of how I felt when I first listened to The Smiths' ode to love and heartache, Strangeways ... than I am of when first I listened to Pet Sounds. Lyrics and delivery are more than slightly reminiscent of Morrissey's, and while echoes of Johnny Marr's incomparable hooks can be heard within the guitar figures throughout, the arrangements sound hauntingly like 20/20-era Beach Boys.
Release date: out now
Thanks to the Albuquerque Journal publisher Tom Lang, the National Hispanic Cultural Center has the $500,000 it needed to complete construction of the Roy E. Disney Center for the Performing Arts. Therefore, the 700-seat proscenium theater—the largest of the center's three venues—will be dubbed Albuquerque Journal Theatre. Shit, for half a million dollars, I will legally change my name to Tom Lang's Michael Henningsen. ... Local metal band ATG wrap up the year as winners of both the 2003 New Mexico Showcase and 103.3 The Zone's Local Access Showcase III, making them the only band to have won both contests in the same year. They've also completed their debut full-length album, which is to be released sometime in early 2004. Furthermore, ATG have applied for a showcase at next year's South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, which all local bands should have done by now. Congratulations on all your successes, guys. ... Thirsty Ear's American Icons Series kicks off on Jan. 30, 2004, with a concert by the one and only Bo Diddley. So far, other performers scheduled to appear on later dates in the series are Eric Bibb, Chris Smither and Taj Mahal. Season tickets are still available. Visit www.ThirstyEarFestival.com or call (505) 473-5723 for more information. ... In case you hadn't noticed, pretty much nothing at all is going on this week.
Astor Piazzolla, Argentinean tango master and the man responsible for introducing the form to dance floors and concert halls worldwide, has been dead nearly 15 years. But his musical genius and richly hued legacy lives on in this remarkable set. Contemporary elctronica artists—Koop, 2 Banks of 4, Fantasista, Nickodemus and Osiris and many others—were given original masters from which to create remixes of classic Piazzolla works. The results vary from trippy, neo-psychedelic groove to deep house, and all 15 tracks are genuinely stunning. An album of the original tracks reinterpreted here is forthcoming. This one truly kicks ass.
Release date: out now
This is an expanded reissue of Knife in the Water's acclaimed 2000 release. Dark with brief emotional flares, quietly shimmering but occasionally and unexpectedly brutal, Red River quintessentially defines the Austin-based quintet who made it. Bill McCullough's pedal steel is used sparingly, but in—and only in—all the right places amid spacious psychedelic organ and dueling vocals by songwriter/guitarist Aaron Blount and keyboardist Laura Krause. Think Nick Cave colliding head-on with the Handsome Family and you'll have a pretty good idea of just how cool KITW and this album in particular really are.
Release date: out now
Threads at the Richard Levy Gallery
The Richard Levy Gallery isn't exactly known for peddling crafts. The gallery specializes in showcasing some of the most radical cutting edge art in town. For this reason, it might surprise many people to learn that the current exhibit at the gallery features work by artists who share a common interest in sewing.
So, you've been slapping plastic on retail counters all over the state for a month, buying mountains and mountains of gifts for everyone from your closest family and friends to your third Ukrainian cousin thrice removed who you've never met and aren't entirely sure even exists. Christmas—praise Jesus—is over, and it's time to start spending money on someone who really matters: yourself.
Christmas is great and it also kind of sucks. Mostly it sucks if you're not Christian, but even those of us (whose families at least) belong to the “I Heart Jesus” club can get pretty down around this time of year. For one thing, all that shopping stress can really send you hurtling headfirst towards either another religion or an anti-capitalist cult. Baby Jesus's birthday can also be a real bummer if you're not one of those folks roasting up a big haunch of meat and mashing several pounds of Yukon Golds while nibbling on Grandma's date bar cookies. But hey, I saw Will Ferrell in Elf, and I know all you need is a little of that good old Christmas spirit! Or shall I say, Christmas spirits. That's right, there's no case of holiday blues that can't be cured with a bucket of KFC Original Recipe, a handle of Jim Beam, a couple good friends and some really bad TV. Yee-haw!
Our panel suffers through an afternoon of champagne-
sipping to find the best cheap bubblies
You walk into your favorite bottle shop and all you know is that you need to buy some sparkling wine to take to a party. You don't want to look like a jerk bringing Tott's but you're also not prepared to drop 200 bucks on a bottle o' bub'. So if you're going to buy (relatively) cheap bubbly, which one's the best? To figure that out we assembled a panel of tasters who sipped and bickered and picked favorites from a group of 10 that all cost less than $30. The panel was composed of Alibi Food Editor Gwyneth Doland, Editorial Intern Laura Marrich, National Distributing's Ryan Twitchell and Bill Nolan of Bacchus/Wine Patrol/Southern Wines and Spirits along with Sam Etheridge and Jamal Davis of Ambrozia (Rio Grande and Central, 242-6560).
Ellerd and Josephine García share fond memories of a Christmas tradition
Ah, the holidays in New Mexico—the smell of wood burning in the fireplace and the delectable aromas of posole, tamales and biscochitos that fill the air and warm the soul.
Most of us were surprised to find that this wine was American and not French because it seemed French in style. Several of us noted that it was “well made” or “well structured” as well as crisp and clean” with “steely, nice fruits and a great bouquet.” One taster dissented and called it, “pretty and honest but [without] a whole lot of personality—not as complex as I'd like it to be.” Still, after repeated tastes and discussion we all chose it to be among our top three.
This French Champagne impressed us with what one taster described as a, “seductively fruity nose with enticing flavors of Pinot Noir”—otherwise known as “fruit and earth” with “a nice finish”. Others described it as “elegant” but “unassuming” and “great for a party” but “without much character.” Though we couldn't find it for under $33 on the day of the tasting, we heard sworn testimony that it can be found for as little as $27 on sale at Cost Plus World Market.
We had a near consensus that this wine was “soft and pretty” with an “earthy, sweet nose” of “green apples.” We did disagree over whether the finish was “lingering” or “quick” but even the dissenters who derided the Blanc de Blancs as “unfocused” conceded that they'd have no qualms about serving it at a party.
Those of us who like our bubblies lean and mean were wooed by this vintage bottle from the California arm of Taittinger. Some thought it was “fresh and lively” if also “simple and innocuous”. It was “approachable and crisp” with a “very nice flavor at first” even though others pointed out that the charm faded quickly. After one taster labeled it a “wedding toast” wine, several others concurred that this “refreshing” sparkler would do well for toasting.
This was certainly the best value of the tasting, easily placing ahead of the only cheaper wine (Seaview Brut). New Mexico's favorite everyday sparkling wine was variously described as being “clean”, “lean” and having a “steely nose”, which some did think indicated a “lack of depth” or “not much character.” Still, we found the bigger bubbles “vibrant” and “refreshing” and all appreciated the low price.
This is Gruet's sweeter sparkling wine and even tasting blind most tasters recognized it immediately. We admired its “floral nose” and “golden apple” flavor and thought it would be a good introduction for non-wine folks; In fact, one taster called it “training wheels for new bubbly drinkers”. Others called it “easy drinking” even though one suspected it would produce a “wicked hangover”.
Another American-made sparkler from a French Champagne house, we liked the “meatiness” that Pinot Noir grapes give the wine even though we could agree it was not that complex. We appreciated the “good acid and crisp finish” and suggested it would be good for slurping with friends at a party. One taster picked up a hint of cherry flavor and others quickly agreed, prompting a discussion of possible food pairings including classic French cherry clafouti.
The only Italian sparkling wine in the tasting, Franciacorta's Bellavista seemed a bit “metallic” and “somewhat sweet” though one taster was enamored of the “soft pear and apple flavors” and “just enough acidity”; Another called it “an ’I got lucky last night' morning-after” wine. Two suggested it for mimosas.
This Australian bubbly was the biggest disappointment of the tasting. Several of us reacted with chagrin when it was revealed that we had flatly rejected a wine we had highly recommended in the past. Either the wine has changed dramatically over the past few years or this experience taught us again the value of tasting blind. Though most of us were charmed by what we described variously as a “seductive nose”, “intoxicating smell” and “very nice bouquet”, we were disappointed by the fading bubbles, lack of acidity and quick finish. One taster went so far as to label it “not good at all—barely drinkable” but another suggested it might make a good end to the night, with “some leftover P.F. Chang's, a date and bad television.”
And finally, we tasted a sparkling Shiraz/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Australia. This unusual, dry red with bubbles provoked a number of furrowed brows until the folks from Ambrozia brought out a plate full of chocolate truffles. Eureka! We discovered that this red bubbly is a stellar match for not-too-sweet chocolate desserts like truffles (especially flavored with Framboise) and, we suspect, flourless chocolate cake.