#20 HALLOWEEN SPIRITS, ELECTION DAY POURS, ASSORTED TERRORS … AND PLAYING PRESIDENT

Scared yet? How’s that anxiety going?

Thought so.

Halloween feels like it’s leading too fast into Election Day.

2020 vision: COVID-19 unchecked, apocalyptic wildfires, 27 hurricanes, and, of course, the arrival of murder hornets.

And the only analysis you want to hear is from a distinguished panel of Lewis Black, Dennis Miller, John Cleese, and Amber Ruffin, maybe moderated by Andy Borowitz. Guest appearance: John Oliver.

No wonder sales of wines and liquors have shot up quicker than travel plans have fallen. It’s time to uncork a few moderately priced bottles from places you can’t visit.

FRENCH

A trip to the Rhone section of your wine shop and the region of France can be a pricey proposition. It’s the home of wines such as Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Cornas, Saint-Joseph, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

But there are bargains, too.

The 2017 M. Chapoutier Costieres de Nimes La Ciboise Rouge (★★ $17) is a very satisfying red from a major producer. Blackberry, cherry, and a hint of anise define a mainly grenache wine with smooth tannins. Ideal with beef and lamb.

Also, from the Costieres de Nimes:  the 2019 Chateau de Campuget Tradition Rose (★★ $11), a fruity, minerally, versatile rose that could accompany Thanksgiving dinner.

The 2017 Vidal-Fleury Rouge from the Cotes du Ventoux (★★ $15) is a full-bodied red, primarily syrah, with berry, pepper, and floral notes. Consider it a hearty, straightforward partner for red meat.

And the 2018 Domaine du Mistral Rouge Grignan-les-Adhemer (★★ $11) delivers lots of ripe red fruit, silky tannins, and a minerally edge. It will complement red meat.

Alsace is a region revered for its outstanding dry white wines.

The 2018 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Blanc (★★★ $20) is a fairly priced introduction to the wines of this great producer. Enjoy the balanced, white fruit-driven pinot blanc as an aperitif, or with roast or sauteed chicken, and fish such as trout or flounder.

For a more complex white: the 2017 Domaine Ostertag “Les Jardins” Pinot Gris (★★★ $28), dry and minerally, with hints of apricot and citrus, as well as pear. Try it with Asian cuisine, especially Thai and Vietnamese; cured meats; and loin of pork.

The 2018 Emile Beyer Riesling Tradition (★★★ $28) is a fine complement for seared scallops, steamed crab, steamed lobster, and freshwater fish, from trout and salmon to smelt and walleye. Heady with apple, pear, and citrus, this riesling is an excellent intro to the Emile Beyer repertoire.

ITALIAN

For a spirited white, consider the fresh and lemony 2019 Enrico Serafino “Grifo del Quartaro” Gavi di Gavi (★★ $17), a bright Piedmontese selection made with the Cortese grape. A match for pasta with pesto or cream sauce, vegetable antipasti, a light seafood risotto.

The 2018 Enrico Serafino “Picotener” Langhe (★★ $25) uncorks loaded with black fruit, especially plum. It’s a bit earthy, and a very focused red, related to the Nebbiolo grape, the peak of the Piedmontese vineyards that yield Barolo and Barbaresco. Ready for beef tenderloin, duck, braised pork.

A balanced and full-bodied red, the 2017 Poggio Trevvelle Pontolungo Montecucco Rosso (★★ $20) offers a blackberry harvest. The red blend includes sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon; the pairings, beef and lamb.

And, for a very appealing taste of Tuscany, look for the 2017 Tenuta Frescobaldi Castiglioni (★★★ $25), a fruity red blend with depth and freshness. You’ll detect blackberry, plum, cherry, pepper, and vanilla. Serve it with red meat. The wine is excellent with cured meats, too.

SPANISH

Crossing into Spain, consider the refreshing 2018 Pazo Barrantes Albarino (★ $20), a pleasing and full-bodied white from Rias Baixas, with traces of pear and flowers. It’s a tasty sipper and also good with light tapas and seafood appetizers.

The 2012 Bodegas LAN Reserva (★★ $20) is a smooth and ripe tempranillo from Rioja. The vibrant red has a floral accent and plenty of berries. Sample it with skirt steak, chorizo sausage, roast pork.

And the 2016 Bodegas LAN Crianza (★ $14) also is a tempranillo, with red fruit, especially raspberry. It’s a more casual choice, recommended with everything from cured pork to pizza with all the toppings.

HIGHER OCTANE

Alize Mango (★ $19.99) has an eye-catching color, and is a welcome addition to the portfolio, with the tropical appeal of both mango and passion fruit nectar going into French vodka. Easy to enjoy. Add a star if vodka is your beverage of choice. Other Alize flavors include peach, pineapple, and apple.

To brace yourself regardless of your political persuasion, invest in Amaro Lucano (★★ $32.99). More than 30 herbs are in the recipe. The main flavor of the fruity, bittersweet liqueur is citrusy, with some prune and tart cherry. Very good, either neat or in cocktails. And it’s a silky digestif.

ON THE ROCKS

Bourbon definitely will do by Nov. 4. Open a bottle of the least complicated Maker’s Mark (★★ $24.99). Balanced and full-flavored, with suggestions of vanilla and caramel. Neat or with an ice cube. Sip.

Q

Q Mixers produces crisp company for gin. A notable choice: the variety pack of six 500ml bottles, which includes Indian Tonic Water, less sweet and meant to go with London Dry Gin; and all-purpose Spectacular Tonic Water. The Hibiscus Ginger Beer is spice-filled, from coriander to cardamom, and is fine solo or as a mixer. Kola emphasizes the spicy, with cinnamon and nutmeg. Apropos for a Cuba Libre. Others Q Mixers: Light Tonic Water, Ginger Ale, Club Soda, Grapefruit, Elderflower. The variety pack is $27.37 on Amazon; a 24-pack of Hibiscus Ginger Beer, $24.65. Also available in 6.7 oz. bottles and 7.5 oz. cans. Sold at Target and CVS, too.

THE HORROR, THE HORROR

On the cusp of Halloween, pick from a century of frights on film.

The horror movie is a genre with plenty of variations, among them monster, ghost, werewolf, vampire, zombie, as well as the messier movies involving chainsaws, torturers, and serial killers.

But there’s more to it than that, especially in Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography, from “Psycho” (1960) and “The Birds” (1963) till he neatly ties one last knot in ‘Frenzy” (1972).

Or in Jonathan Demme’s brilliant, multiple Oscar winner, “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991); and Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1980), which improved on Stephen King’s novel and eventually received the acclaim it deserved.

They’ve all earned a broad fan base, in theaters and on television, as have M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” (1999) and “The Blair Witch Project” (1999), from Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez.

But, if you want to start near the beginning, venture into the silent world of German Expressionism, specifically F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” (1922), starring Max Schreck as the ultimate, cursed vampire; and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920), Robert Wiene’s trip into madness, with a cast that includes Conrad Veidt, two decades before he played Major Strasser in “Casablanca.”

Peter Lorre, who never got to use those letters of transit in “Casablanca” starred earlier in Fritz Lang’s “M” (1931), a thrilling, creepy sound movie about a child-murdering serial killer.

That also was the time of James Whale’s “Frankenstein” (1931) with Boris Karloff and Colin Clive – a film that Mel Brooks gloriously spoofed in “Young Frankenstein” (1974); and Tod Browning and Karl Freund’s “Dracula” (1931) with the immortal Bela Lugosi.

A year later, Browning’s disturbing “Freaks” (1932) generated real-life controversy after casting, or exploiting, deformed performers from the carnival sideshow industry, down to its still shocking finale.

It does make you want to flash forward to the postwar Abbott and Costello movies, wherein they meet Frankenstein (1948) Karloff (1949), the Invisible Man (1951), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953), and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Bud and Lou also starred in light-hearted hits such as “Hold That Ghost” (1941) and “The Time of Their Lives” (1946), seen countless times by Boomer devotees of Million Dollar Movie.

But before you flash forward to Michael Myers of John Carpenter’s “Halloween” (1978) and that film’s slashing heirs; or Freddy Krueger first supernatural cut up in Wes Craven’s “Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984), there are more mesmerizing frights.

Between his Oscar-winning duo of “West Side Story” (1961) and “The Sound of Music” (1965), director Robert Wise directed one of the most terrifying of all horror films.

“The Haunting” (1963) is based on Shirley Jackson’s novel, “The Haunting of Hill House.” It stars Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, and Russ Tamblyn (yes, Riff, the Jets gang leader in “West Side Story.”)

But the real star is the incomparable haunted house itself, lensed by David Boulton. You will never want to spend the night there – and might exit before the movie ends. Skip the tedious, dreadful 1999 remake with Liam Neeson.

“The Innocents” (1961), Jack Clayton’s superbly spooky adaptation of Henry James’ novella, “The Turn of the Screw,” boasts a screenplay by Truman Capote and William Archibald. Deborah Kerr is marvelous the governess in a film that plays perfectly with your imagination.

“Dead of Night” (1945) is an anthology movie, with parts directed by Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer, and Alberto Cavalcanti. It’s Cavalcanti’s section that will disturb your sleep. A ventriloquist, portrayed by Michael Redgrave, is having some problems with his, well, lively dummy.

“The Night of Hunter” (1955) was directed by actor Charles Laughton. It’s a stunning thriller with just enough horror contributed by Robert Mitchum at his evil best, playing a preacher of sorts who’s a serial killer. The screenplay by Laughton and James Agee is based both on a novel and a true story. It would be Laughton’s only direction, and a masterpiece that took decades to be appreciated

Daphne du Maurier’s short story is the source for “Don’t Look Now” (1973), Nicolas Roeg’s evocative, enigmatic “nothing is what it seems” look at grief, murder, precognition, and Venice at its most moody and mysterious. Seductive and compelling in every way. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie head the cast. Beware of red coats.

Since there’s going to be ample time available, also consider “Hour of the Wolf” (1968), an artful, psychological, very dark work from Ingmar Bergman; “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992), the full-blooded adaptation and potent metaphor from Francis Ford Coppola, with Gary Oldman as a vengeful, feverishly romantic  count; and “Alien” (1979) and “Aliens” (1986), the first directed by Ridley Scott; the second by James Cameron, both underscoring that “in space, no one can hear you scream.”

Follow up with “Kwaidan” (1965), a ghostly anthology beautifully filmed by director Masaki Kobayashi, inspired by Lafcadio Hearn stories; “The Thing” (1982), a science-fiction, shape-shifting nightmare directed by John Carpenter; the hallucinatory shocker, “Repulsion” (1965) with a superior performance by Catherine Deneuve, and “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), with its eerie lullaby and terrific cast, both from Roman Polanski.

And then: Richard Donner’s “The Omen” (1976), with Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, and stirring Jerry Goldsmith music; “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962), the sometimes campy, always dread-filled Bette Davis-Joan Crawford horrorfest, directed by Robert Aldrich after “Attack!’’ (1956) and before “The Dirty Dozen” (1967); “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956), from Don Siegel, who’d later direct  Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry” (1971); and its remake (1978), from director Philip Kaufman, who’d soar with Sam Shepard, Ed Harris, and Scott Glenn in “The Right Stuff” (1983).

PLAYING PRESIDENT

To the still undecided, there are scores of notable presidential portraits to savor separate the good and the bad.

Daniel Day-Lewis is the paradigm in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” (2012). Abraham Lincoln fittingly has earned the most performances. Honorable mentions: Henry Fonda in “Young Mr. Lincoln” (1939) and Raymond Massey in “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” (1940).

Charlton Heston has grand presence as a deep-voiced, jut-jawed, perfectly coiffed, and idealized Andrew Jackson in two otherwise mediocre movies, “The President’s Lady” (1953) and “The Buccaneer” (1958)

Robin Williams’ offers a comic Theodore Roosevelt in “Night at the Museum” (2009); and Alexander Knox, a well-done but sanitized Woodrow in “Wilson” (1944).

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had the good fortune to be played by Ralph Bellamy in the theatrical “Sunrise at Campobello” (1960); Edward Herrmann in the miniseries “Eleanor and Franklin” (1976) and “Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years” (1977); and Bill Murray in “Hyde Park on Hudson” (2012).

Harry Truman was deftly brought to the screen  by James Whitmore in “Give ‘em Hell, Harry” (1975) and Gary Sinise in “Truman” (1980) on HBO; Dwight D. Eisenhower, by Robert Duvall in the miniseries “Ike” (1979).

John F. Kennedy benefitted from sharp performances: by Martin Sheen in the miniseries “Kennedy” (1983); William Devane in “The Missiles of October” (1974) a miniseries that featured Sheen as Robert F. Kennedy; and Bruce Greenwood in “Thirteen Days” (2000).

Lyndon B. Johnson came to life through Donald Moffat in “The Right Stuff” (1983); and Bryan Cranston in “All the Way” (2016), on HBO and on stage.

And Richard M. Nixon had actors present the inside more than the outside of the president, who along with Johnson, was the most Shakespearean of modern times. See Philip Baker Hall in “Secret Honor” (1984), Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” (2008), and Anthony Hopkins in “Nixon” (1995)

Hopkins also memorably portrayed John Quincy Adams in “Amistad” (1997).

Josh Brolin was a solid George W. Bush in “W” (2008); likewise, Sam Rockwell in “Vice” (2018).

And it would be impossible to discuss recent presidents without mentioning the merciless imitations on “Saturday Night Live.”

Dan Aykroyd (Nixon, Jimmy Carter), Dana Carvey (George H.W. Bush), Darrell Hammond and Phil Hartman (Bill Clinton), Will Ferrell (George W. Bush), and Alec Baldwin (Donald J. Trump) are satirical highlights.

Better get out that bourbon.


ABOUT THE BLOGGER

For 34 years, Peter Gianotti reviewed wines, spirits, restaurants, and books at Newsday. He twice won Press Club of New York awards for food writing. Before he became a food critic, Gianotti was a Washington correspondent, a financial writer, and New York City reporter for the newspaper. His books include “Food Lovers’ Guide to Long Island” and “A Guide to Long Island Wine Country.” Gianotti received his B.A. from Fordham University, where he taught journalism; and his M.S. from Columbia University, where he also was a Bagehot Fellow. Harry, his Creamsicle-hued assistant, prefers the bouquets of riesling and pinot noir.

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