Archives for the month of: October, 2013

A woman walks through an empty, dim, maze-like house, holding her laptop in front of her.

“Baby?  Can you see me?”

She moves from room to room, attempting to strengthen her Wi-fi signal.

“Baby?  Can you see Mommy?”

“I can hear you, but I can’t see you.”

She continues to pace through the stale house.  A Christmas tree, strewn with lights, withers in the corner.

“Can you see me now, Baby?”

“Yes…Mommy…who’s that behind you?”

The_Pact (1)

And so begins the 2012 horror movie The Pact.  Upon the passing of their estranged mother, two sisters return home to manage her estate and plan her funeral. These arrangement are waylaid when the elder sister vanishes, ostensibly, into the walls of her mother’s Middle America tract home.

The younger sister, desperately searching for her sibling, is pushed to uncover the creepy and deviant legacy hidden within the walls of her mother’s house.

The Pact, directed by Nicholas McCarthy and starring Caity Lotz is quiet, understated, and intensely ominous.  It’s a moody ghost story that slyly packs grisly punches and ghastly images into its labyrinthine, well paced plot.  Old Ghost Zinfandel, Lodi 2011, hosts a sneaky right hook: it’s a big, but eloquent wine much like the themes within The Pact.


La Dolce Vita- KittenRam’s Gate Winery, located at the gateway to Sonoma Country, is a stunningly handsome winery. Half open-air and half enclosed, this unparalleled structure is described on their website as a “modern interpretation of the weathered farmstead of old Carneros.”

Ram’s Gate’s allure, however, doesn’t rely solely on its aesthetics. The people behind Ram’s Gate have managed to create an experience: sit-down tastings, guided tours. My favorite, though, is the picnic lunch, comprised of a charcuterie plate, artisan cheeses, french bread, homemade pickles, fig jam, and candied almonds.

After a wine tasting, you can pick a bottle to accompany your picnic basket and enjoy an afternoon by their pond, tailor fit for a bon vivant.

Below is what to expect from an afternoon at Ram’s Gate:

The Basket


I’m always so deflated when I have to leave Ram’s Gate. One time I even broke down, crying all the way back to San Francisco. Fortunately, I have the perfect remedy for this infliction: an extension of this deliciously sensual afternoon via cinema.

La Dolce Vita, directed by Federico Fellini in 1960, offers a morality tale about the “bon vivant” lifestyle. This film centers around a celebrity journalist who aspires to write a beautiful novel. Because of his work, he is surrounded by famous actors and the idle rich, and he becomes completely seduced by their frivolous lifestyle. Our protagonist begins as someone who can see and appreciate real beauty, but he ends as someone who becomes so dissipated, he can no longer recognize beauty and goodness as it waves at him from across the beach.

But, I wouldn’t concern yourself too much with the moral of the movie while you savor your afternoon at Ram’s Gate.

Incendies Poster

Incendies, written and directed by Oscar nominated Denis Villeneuve, follows twins who, at their mother’s posthumous request, must travel to the Middle East to discover their family’s luridly unorthodox origin. Jumping back and forth from past to present, Indendies examines the stark contrast, as well as the startling similarities, between unrest and peace within a country and within oneself. Montreal, where the twins were raised protected from their mother’s past, is shot in muted, blue hues: these urban sets are haunted by monolithic structures, gray and quiet, and gridded, vacant city streets. The Montreal set projects safety but emits coldness and sterility. Scenes from their mother’s Middle East, by contrast, are filled with invitingly lush but violent images: rustic olive tree groves, grainy limestone and sandstone mountains, carved by deep gorges, and razed villages indelibly ruined by the Lebanese Civil War.

Incendies’ brilliance lies in its ability to balance polarities. The characters, and the viewers, are forcefully shifted between fury and love, cruelty and compassion, hope and desperation, and past and present; but Villeneuve manages to allay the turbulence, which happens from such dramatic transitions, by his camera work, lighting, and editing.

With a movie as intense and complex as this, I usually ten toward a counterpoint wine: something simple and straightforward, like a table wine. Recently, though, I was introduced to Lebanese wine and its archaic history.

Lebanese winemaking, which dates back 5000 years to the Phoenicians (or so we are told in the Bible), has seen its fair share of bullets and tanks during the Lebanese Civil War. Its story is also one that balances polarities: despite wrenching violence in their backyard, the vintners not only maintained the integrity of their ancient recipes, they improved and refined their art while also incorporating French Provençal techniques to make well-balanced and delicious wines.  Bekaa Valley’s Chateau Musar, in particular, is held in high regard and distributes outstanding wine globally.

While tasting Chateau Musar’s Hochar 2007, Justin Chin (aka, a former Marine, sommelier, and personal trainer) offered these tasting notes:

As you drink the Hochar while watching Incendies, consider how the struggle between ferocity and tenderness, despair and dedication, come through in every frame of the film, and in every sip of this feisty wine.

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