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A few weeks ago, I got a close look at the 2017 Continental at the Bel-Aire Hotel with Lincoln Design Director David Woodhouse and Chief Engineer of the Continental, Michael Celentino. From the start, Woodhouse and Celentino were lockstep in describing the overall vibe of the car with a slew of words that highlighted the “quiet luxury” approach that’s at the core of Lincoln’s revamped marketing approach.
Elegant. Serene. Warm. Beautiful. These words just rolled off the tongue of Lincoln’s design director. And he’s not wrong. The 2017 Continental is all of these things. Maybe it was the British accent, the younger Jonathan Pryce-like delivery or the aptness of the adjectives, but I found myself agreeing with Woodhouse quite a bit. Meeting this car for the first time is an experience worthy of hyperbole.
Celentino was quite convincing as well. He described what went into the four and a half years of development to bring back a Lincoln worthy of the name Continental. Celentino and his team spent a lot of upfront time trying to figure out a direction. They drew a lot of inspiration from some of the iconic Continentals of old. Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1940 Lincoln Continental. The Continental Mark II of the 1950s driven by Frank Sinatra. And the long presidential Lincoln Continental of the 1960s made famous by JFK.
“We didn’t want to go retro, but we wanted to acknowledge these cars,” Celentino said. And as inspiring as these classics were, “they were also a little intimidating, too.”
Woodhouse said that they looked at “brutalisitc themes” and “progressive themes” in order to arrive at something “not too old school, not too progressive.”
“We deliberately went down this middle road to find that balance,” Woodhouse explained.
According to Woodhouse, the new signature face of Lincoln happened through this program. This was a big source of inspiration as the Continental was being developed.
“I always feel that chrome is more exuberant and more American, he said.”
That grill, though. It just works. With all the elegance and serenity and other superlatives at play, the front face of this Lincoln Continental is its most distinctive feature. There’s no way around it, this car is handsome.
Relaxed Approach to Luxury
The 2017 Continental comes in 2.7 L V6, 3.0 L V6, 3.7 L V6 options that vary from 305 to 400hp. Full specs can be found here. But let’s face it, if you’re looking to get a Lincoln Continental of your own, specs aren’t your primary concern.
Specs are nice and all, but as Celentino explained, “the emphasis is on smoothness and smooth shifts.” This is still a 5,000 lb. car. With adaptive front steering, adaptive cruise control, auto hold brake and tires that shift to guide you through turns, Continental’s chief engineer just wants drivers to enjoy the ride.
“When you’re on the 405, just calm down and let the car drive,” Celentino said.
Both Woodhouse and Celentino admit that Lincoln is not trying to chase their top rivals in the luxury space. To them, performance is important, but to focus strictly on performance is so very German. Lincoln’s approach to luxury is different.
“Luxury is more about wellness,” Woodhouse told me. “We’re taking a more relaxed approach.”
And the wellness is real. From the first glance, you can see it. There’s the “relaxed gesture from front to rear” and “right stance and gesture on the road” that Woodhouse described to me. There’s the soft release of the electronic door latching, the first touch point of the car. At night, drivers and passengers are treated to a friendly embrace as they approach the Continental. This warm hello comes in the form of extra floor and interior lights that illuminate before you enter the car.
In short, the 2017 Lincoln is basically a high-end day spa on wheels. And that was very much the intention.
“We want you to look forward to your 20 to 30-minute drive,” Celentino said, “and arrive a little more refreshed.”
That approach is what gets you things like the 30-way adjustable Perfect Comfort Seat. You got options for upper and lower back adjustments, massage time and thigh adjustment. Drivers tend to place more or less weight on one leg all the time. Setting each leg at a different stance is just another way to settle into this comfy living room chair that just happens to live in a car. Woodhouse said that people didn’t want to get out of the seats during testing.
I believe it. It’s a lot like leaving the massage chair in Brookstone when your lady wants to keep shopping at the mall. You just always end up wanting a few more minutes in that seat before you go about your business for the day.
But you can’t have quiet luxury without the quiet, and as Celentino described, the 2017 Continental is “the quietest Lincoln ever.” Acoustic glass is found all around, including the back, because the back cabin is equally important in this car.
Understanding the Chinese Market
This focus on comfort in the back was a product of market research, specifically in China. Both Woodhouse and Celentino were keen to underscore the influence of Chinese market sensibilities in the design and development of the new Continental.
In China, luxury car customers are often driven around during the week and drive themselves on the weekends. This caused Lincoln to pay more attention to the rear passenger experience. The result was the rear seat amenities package.
The goal is to maximize controls from the rear seat. Things like full recline, massage, heat, lumbar support, Revel audio controls and available USB are in the mix. Customers in China can feel all the comforts of the Continental no matter where they’re seated, whether they’re leveraging the quiet rear cabin for a business meeting, being driven around long distances or taking the wheel themselves.
China was the third country to see the 2017 Continental, after Lincoln launched in the US and Canada, so the market is clearly an important one for the American brand. According to Forbes, Lincoln’s sales in China were up 191% year over year in the third quarter of 2016. Celentino said that China will be the biggest luxury market in the world by 2019 or 2020, and Lincoln plans to have 60 dealerships open in China by the end of the year.
Ending on a High Note
Part of my day out with the 2017 Lincoln Continental included a visit to The Village Studios, a former masonic temple that was converted into a recording studio in the 1960s. Located just off Santa Monica Blvd, right near the 405 in West LA, The Village has been home to some pretty amazing recording sessions. The Stones recorded “Angie” there. Heart recorded “Barracuda” there. This is the spot where Dr. Dre and Snopp Dogg recorded the Chronic.
We met up at The Village with electronic music producer Photek and previewed the Revel audio system, a major highlight of the 2017 Lincoln Continental.
Perched in front of a sweet, 48 channel Neve Mixing Console that was built in 1972 and shipped over years ago from Chicago, Photek broke down a few tracks for us, going through the different component parts of two remixes (including Photek’s remix of “One Love” from Bob Marley and the Wailers) and a new track he was working on.
“The car is the test ground for a lot of music as you’re making it,” Photek said. It’s the best spot for “listening to the version in the works.”
And what better way to preview a working track than a day spa on wheels with the best in-car sound system ever created?
Seriously though, the Revel sound system in the 2017 Lincoln Continental is no joke. Revel has an exclusive deal with Lincoln and rolled out their first car sound system in the MKX. The Revel team dictated the placement of all 19 speakers in the car. The attention to detail is just unimaginable.
Imagine a car stereo system where all sounds it each passenger at the same time a magnitude. Where smooth distribution of high frequency sounds is a goal of in-door waveguides. Where shorting rings provide a sound so crisp you’ll hear parts of songs you never knew where there. Where you can adjust your experience to listen to stereo, onstage or audience modes.
Now imagine a sound system that actually uncompresses your music files. This is the next level quantum logic system from Revel that’s in place in the Conintental. All your compressed MP3 files and streaming music sources are injected with a fullness that opens up frequencies and provides a richer sounding listening. It’s great way to earn back those frequencies we all tend sacrifice in the name of convenience.
If you’re not a fidelity nerd and you don’t care about frequencies and waveguides and distortion and all that, that’s okay. You don’t really have to worry about that stuff. Revel spent the last 19 years trying to sort it all out. You just need to know that this is the best sound system you’ve ever experienced in a car. Period.
The entry price for the 2017 Lincoln Continental is about $45,000. The price point gets into the high 70s for the super sweet Black Label rear seat amenity loaded Continentals that I checked out. If you’re into being comfy in any seat, enjoying a smooth ride in a dapper car with some serious history or if you just love music so much that you want to spend more time listening to tunes in your car than living life outside of it, the first Lincoln Continental to come out since 2002 is definitely worth checking out.
MANjr writer Jeremy Johnson takes the 2017 Ford Escape to Joshua Tree, CA
The desert has a way of putting you in your place. One step out of our press fleet Ford Escape and the hot air stuck to my face like the oven door was open. I was stunned by the sudden shift from a dual climate controlled cocoon to the bone dry desert air and took a moment to get my bearings. The Mojave desert is definitely not Los Angeles. The barren moonscape is dotted with mystical rock piles and joshua trees straight out of a Dr Seuss book. With red tailed hawks circling overhead, we departed the electronic influence of civilization, flipped on the satellite radio and cranked the AC. Our peaceful retreat to the desert had begun, and with it our test of the 2017 Ford Escape was underway.
Though still a flagship vehicle for Ford (306,492 sold in 2015) the Ford Escape is under heavy fire from competitors at home and abroad. It’s not hard to see why the compact SUV segment is in such demand, the size and accessibility offers a little bit of everything for everyone. Increased competition by automakers has resulted in an arms race of features and comfort, traditionally found in more luxurious brands. This one-upmanship helped get us to the 2017 model year, where Ford has focused on refreshing the design of the Escape, offering new engine sizes, a tightened up exterior, and a more upscale and open interior.
We gave the Escape a fair shake, asking it to perform in many varied terrains. It delivered.
From the front, the Escape benefits from some minor tweaks. The trapezoidal grill and headlights are framed in chrome while the air intakes and fog lamps have a more subdued finish. Side panels follow two clear lines with slightly concave door panels and gray matte rocker panels run the length of the doors. Up top the Escape pinches smoothly towards the back and manages to appear aerodynamic without losing all of its aggressive notes. The rear finishes with strength in the corners and a broad shouldered roofline. The 2017 refresh ends all comparisons to older Explorers and latches firmly on to the styling embraced by the newer Explorer and Edge models.
Clearly a lot of attention paid here. The gear shifter has been moved back and the traditional pull parking brake has been replaced with an electronic model, opening up the center console for two cup holders and device storage. The arm rest is wide and useful and the instrument panel remains simple and clearly laid out. Nearly all surfaces have been refreshed with more high end materials and the cabin succeeds in offering a more open and useful space. The two rows of seating offer enough to comfortably seat four full size adults and the split fold 60/40 rear seats give an already substantial cargo area in the rear more than double the space. We packed a 3 night weekend, including groceries, with room to spare and the back seats upright. Plenty of space for glamping and play dates alike.
My favorite part. In city driving, the Escape showed off it’s car chassis and modest size with a smooth ride and easy parking. The optional Parallel Park Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control offer more than a glimpse of self driving technology to great success. Swinging into a perpendicular spot between two cars was a breeze, the added height of the driver’s seat position combined with the slightly tapered nose gave great visibility in and out of tight spots. Mostly seamless automatic start and stop helped save fuel mileage (20 city, 27 highway) and the constantly monitoring blind spot indicators helped keep an extra eye on adjacent lanes. Out on the open road the 2.0L turbocharged engine flashed enough power to overtake semis and commuters with ease and managed little to no turbo lag. The 6 speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly through it’s paces and a “Sport” setting offers the option of paddle shifters and a more responsive throttle. We spent most of our time in the sport mode, where the Escape was able to showcase it’s relatively nimble handling and effective acceleration in turns and straightaways. Ford’s claims of best in class handling may be up for debate but the 2017 Escape showed an athleticism rarely found in the Small Crossover SUV marketplace. Out of the city and off of the road, the optional 4WD proved very capable in loose sand and gravel across the California Desert. There was little to no backslide and when encouraged to do so, the Escape found its nose and continued on with little oversteer at all.
The Finish Line
The 2017 Escape grew on me the more we asked it to do. It is an exceptionally useful vehicle, combining practicality with some premium touches to offer a definite upgrade of years past. 2017 seems to be a year where Ford addresses some of their critics biggest complaints by fixing the infotainment system and focusing heavily on more upscale interiors. The Ford Escape starts at $23,600 and tops out fully loaded at just over $38k.
Last month I got to take the 2017 Lincoln MKZ out for a drive around LA. The day started with a lunch at Broken Spanish, a hip spot near the Staples Center where Chef Ray Garcia reimagines classic Mexican dishes with a modern touch. The folks at Lincoln wanted to make sure we were all properly fed before testing out the MKZ, and fed we were. Calabacitas tamal, campechana, ensalada verde, ensalada rusa, birria, ridiculously tasty guac, tres leches cake – you get the idea. It was almost too much, but nothing could go to waste. Even after I hit capacity, the grub was too good to pass up.
During lunch, I met Solomon Song, the Exterior Design Manager for the MKZ. When Song spoke to the group, he introduced himself by saying “I’m a little quirky.” I found his quirkiness entertaining and his passion for design refreshing. Song described the amount of detail that went into designing the exterior of the MKZ, which was first introduced in 2013. From the refractive quality of the headlamps (which were inspired by crystal chandeliers and vases) to the need for “quiet luxury” (an appreciation of the finer things that embraces understatement and shies away from in-your-face swagger), Song spoke about the MKZ like a proud parent.
“Treat it like a rocket ship,” he said, where every detail is a painstaking decision but function leads the way. Song spoke of the human to machine interface that really defines the driving experience. He also stressed his focus on depth as a core point of design emphasis. He highlighted the tight radius in the front of the car flowing into the bigger radius in the back – pleasing lines that he likened to a well-tailored suit. While most of the media folks in attendance powered through course after course at Broken Spanish, Song sat down with a pen and produced MKZ sketches for everyone. The proud parent’s joy was on full display when Song sketched out the familiar lines of the MKZ from memory.
Song’s partner in crime is Tom Ozog, the Chief Program Engineer for the MKZ. As Song put it, Song gets to come up with the concepts, like a retractable glass roof, and Ozog has to figure out how to execute it. Continuing with the “quiet luxury” theme, Ozog underscored the isolation from outside noises in the cabin as a core part of the MKZ experience.
“Quality is quietness,” Ozog explained. He encouraged all the folks who would be testing out the MKZ to pay attention to this important feature. Ozog also emphasized the exterior design, overall craftsmanship and the “effortless performance” of the driving experience as distinctive features of the new MKZ.
After the good eats and introductory chats, it was time to hit the road. My destination was Hammer & Nails, a manicure/pedicure salon for men located in West Hollywood. I’ve never gotten a manicure before, so that was an interesting bit of man-pampering that I got to experience. If you’re a guy and you need to up your hand/food grooming game in a chill environment with cool people, check em’ out.
The 2017 MKZ Reserve AWD was my ride for the day. It came in Magnetic Grey Metallic with an Ebony Leather interior. As advertised, the overall luxury look-and-feel of the car definitely came with a dose of subtly. It’s clearly in the luxury class, but it doesn’t need to try too hard to flaunt this distinction. The outside lines are pleasing and display a certain depth, something I was keen to look for after chatting with Song. The interior cabin is a like a tastefully designed living room. Nothing gaudy. No gold and marble. Just cozy and comfortable with a touch of class.
The MKZ had a few features that I knew I had to test out. The first was Auto Hold, a system that allows you to remove your foot off the brake when the car is idle. I was initially hesitant to activate this feature, as I can be pretty absent minded and clumsy at times. After working up a bit of courage, I gave it a go. It’s the type of feature that you wouldn’t think is really necessary. I’ve been leaving my foot on the brake when idle my whole life, so I never thought about active foot pressure being an inconvenience. After flipping the switch though, I never went back. It’s a subtle indulgence that may seem unneeded, but being able to chill at a red light and adjust your comfort level without having to worry about the brake is really quite nice. There’s no hiccup when you want to press the gas and go. It’s all pretty seamless.
Another feature that I was keen on testing was the Active Cruise Control. I’m not really a big cruise control guy. I get that it can be convenient for long road trips, but just like using my foot to control the brakes, I’m pretty used to actively driving cars without assistance. With Lincoln’s ACC, the cruise control senses traffic slowing ahead and reduces your speed to maintain a preset distance automatically. Your cruising speed resumes when traffic has passed, which is nifty. AAC also includes forward collision warning with brake support. This feature flashes a heads-up display to warn you of potential impact and even pre-charges/increases the sensitivity of brake assist to provide a more responsive braking situation if you’re about to smash into someone.
Any review of the MKZ wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of the Revel Audio System. The MKZ comes in 14 and 20 speaker options. I’m glad I got the 20 speaker Ultima setup. I just got back from Spain so I was keen on bumping some tunes that I picked up at the Rastro. Like this record. Pairing my phone up to the Revel Audio System was super easy, and I was blasting travel tunes in no time. The sound system really is a major selling point here, especially with the overall quietness of the cabin helping to isolate the sounds you actually want to hear. No matter what seat you end up in, you’re going to get a crisp, rich audio experience in this ride. It also helped that the redesigned control panel was as intuitive as advertised, allowing me to jump from Spotify playlists to the navigation map with ease.
There’s a lot to like about the new MKZ: the understated luxury, the signature grille, comfort and quality sound for all passengers, clean lines, a fully retractable panoramic glass roof. You can’t argue with 41 city/38 hwy/40 combined mpg from the 2.0L Atkinson-Cycle I-4 Hybrid Engine either. It’s the little things that go a long way with this car, and with releases like this, it’s easy to understand why Lincoln is experiencing double-digit growth in year-over-year sales.
Do you answer your critics or double down on what got you there?
That’s the question facing Lexus these days. Every few years since 1998 Lexus has launched a new RX in the American market. Each version is lauded as the pinnacle of comfort and practicality and gently dismissed as lacking performance and excitement.
The RX then spends another year at the top of the Luxury Crossover SUV segment, often selling 100,000 units and beating the market by a wide margin.
This year, more than ever before, the RX looked to answer the criticism with a renewed emphasis on driver experience and performance.
The new RX has ditched the egg shaped profile of its past, leaving previous models looking a bit tame by comparison. The redesign lets us read the tea leaves into the next 5 years of design from the Toyota Motor Corp. They have embraced sharp angles and masculine lines and gone all in on their now signature spindle grille. This younger, more masculine look will undoubtedly move down the line until finally landing on the Corolla. Notes like L shaped LED daytime running lamps give a brightness to the front end of the car. The vehicle uses long, pronounced lines and the appearance of a floating roof to make it look as though more than 5″ has been added to last years model.
Even more than the visual redesign, this is where Lexus tried to address their critics the most. Easily the biggest improvement in the F Sport trim level is the addition of the Adaptive Variable Suspension. This allows you to adjust the ride to “S+” mode, which lowers the vehicle by nearly an inch and tightens the shocks. This stiffens the ride, allowing for a better driver experience with tighter turning and less body roll. The winding roads of Marin County and the Pacific Coast Highway proved a fine testing ground for the 25 extra horsepower and tightened suspension. For a vehicle with a curb weight of almost 4,400 pounds it performed well in and out of turns and provided enough acceleration to pass slower traffic with ease. Though far from a sports car, the improvements to handling and acceleration are noticeable and worthy of the F Sport badge.
Classy. Pronounced stitching and premium materials give the interior a very posh appearance. The optional 12.3″ navigation system (8″ standard) perches atop the center of the dash and communicates all of the entertainment, climate control and navigation information clearly. The Remote Touch makes a slightly less clunky reappearance. The software now predicts what you’re trying to interact with to varying degrees of success. As you get used to the tendencies it gets easier but the industry wide struggle for intuitive controls continues another year. The 2016 edition builds on the success of its previous incarnations with a comfortable and luxurious ride up front with just enough space in back for average sized adults. The driver centered cabin helps the operator and vehicle communicate safely and comfortably.
It’s not often I get into a car and get surprised by a new bell or whistle. The empirical nature of auto design gives away the surprise a little at a time every year, so by the time a feature is in place it’s already been hinted at for years.
Not so with the 360 degree view shown when you put the RX in reverse. Four cameras are used, one in the grille, one under each side mirror and the backup camera in the rear. The resulting image is stitched together by all four, giving you a helicopter style view in tight spaces. Think the original Grand Theft Auto overhead view. I called it my validation cam. Get into a tight spot, engage the overhead camera and see how great (or terrible) of a parking job you did. The usefulness of the technology really shines when reversing out of parking spaces into busy streets or lots. The Rear Cross Traffic Alert warns of any bogeys coming in from the side, the overhead camera gives a 360 degree view and the parking assist shows the line that the car will continue on if the wheels are set in that direction. For a car with a big hood and a long body these features are invaluable for visibility. Absolutely loved them and used them constantly.
Then there’s All Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Alphabet soup, I know. That rather wordy feature is new to the RX and can be summed up easily. It is quite simply the future of driving. Set the maximum speed you wish the car to attain and let your foot off the gas. The vehicle will maintain a safe follow distance up to that speed without any input from the driver. On a long road trip this feature is an absolute game changer. Set the control to 73 and rest your legs. The car will sense when the vehicle in front slows down and adjust speed safely until the desired follow distance is achieved.
This feature works with normal traffic and unexpected stops alike. If necessary it is capable of bringing the car to a complete stop.
Anyone who has driven the 5 Freeway through central California just salivated a little at the idea. I felt fresh as a daisy and never strayed too far over the speed limit. As an enthusiast I can’t say I looked forward to the driverless car but this feature got me thinking.
For Lexus, and every automaker, design and engineering is a balancing act. Go too far to the new and they lose their roots. Too much performance usually means too much comfort, too much comfort makes for a pedestrian ride. A vehicle that sits squarely in the middle will be accused of being vanilla and lacking identity. This years Lexus RX is a great redesign in that respect. They manage to push back against their detractors without losing much of what a hundred thousand buyers a year are looking for.
Now, about those self driving cars…
2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
3.5L V6 Engine with 295 HP
8 speed automatic transmission
0-60 6.9 seconds
$55,645 – $59,325
Last week we joined our friends at Jägermeister for a night of creative cocktail delights at Honeycut in Downtown LA. The Jägermeister Stag’s Club event was hosted by Global Brand Ambassador Nils Boese and Brand Meister Willy Shine. Shots were had, dance moves were danced, German was spoken and various amusements were on display, including entertainment from a quality beat boxer named Austin and a Jäger-inspired art battle from artists ShaYne and Nathan.
When most people think of Jägermeister, they think of shots. And for good reason.
“We still love to serve shots,” Nils explained to the crowd with a thick German accent you’d expect from zee Global Brand Ambassador of Jägermeister.
Jägermeister and it’s blend of 56 different natural herbs and spices was designed as a digestive drink.
“Basically it’s the reason why we are so successful,” Nils said. “You drink a shot of Jägermeister and you get a clean palette. There’s nothing you don’t like. You get a huge amount of pleasure and taste and a nice warming sensation. It’s like a warm embrace. And then, it’s kind of gone. There’s nothing hanging in your mouth, clawing, like you want to get rid of.”
But just because shots of Jäger are so popular, it doesn’t mean the German digestif can’t be consumed in other ways.
“We can do better than just get shit-faced and forget about tomorrow,” Nils said. “It’s still a good concept nonetheless.”
That’s where the handy work of Nils, Willy Shine and the cocktail creators of Honeycut came in. They designed six custom Jägermeister concoctions for this event. Check out the selection:
Created by Honeycut, Los Angeles
- 1 part Jägermeister
- 1 part Brandy
- 1/2 part Crème de Cacao
- 1/4 part Dry Curacao
- Mint Sprig
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Top with smooth whipped cream and one small mint sprig.
Created by Honeycut, Los Angeles
- 1 part. Jägermeister
- 1 part Sweet Vermouth
- 1 part Lime Juice
- 1/2 part Pineapple Gomme Syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Orange Oil
- Pineapple Wedge
Shake all ingredients and strain into a double old fashioned glass with new ice, pre-rimmed with your choice of ginger, cinnamon or pulverized orange peel. Garnish with flamed orange oil and a pineapple wedge.
Created by Honeycut, Los Angeles
- 1 part Jägermeister
- 1/2 part Blended Jamaican Rum
- 1/2 part 5 Year Old Barbados Rum
- 1/2 part Orange Juice
- 1/2 part Lime Juice
- 1/2 part Passionfruit Syrup
- 1/2 part Orgeat
- Float 1/2 part 151 Proof Rum in an upturned lime. Top with Cinnamon for fire show!
- 1/2 a Lime
Whip all ingredients except for 151 Proof Rum and pour into a collins glass. Top with crushed ice and an upturned lime half. Fill with 151 Proof Rum and light on fire. Sprinkle cinnamon into the flame.
Created by Nils Boese, Jägermeister Global Brand Ambassador, Hildesheim, Germany
- 2 Barspoons Jägermeister
- 1 1/2 parts Gin
- 1 part Roses® Lime Juice
- 2 parts Fresh Lime Juice
Stir all the ingredients on ice in a mixing glass and strain in a cold coupette.
Created by Nils Boese, Jägermeister Global Brand Ambassador, Hildesheim, Germany
- 2 Barspoons Jägermeister
- 1 1/2 Parts Gin
- 1/2 Part Dry Vermouth
- 2 Lemon Zest
- 2 Barspoons Olive Brine
Stir all the ingredients with one zest on ice in a mixing glass, strain into a cold coupe. Garnish with an olive and remaining lemon zest.
Mexikaner Old Fashioned
Created by Willy Shine, Jägermeister Brand Meister
- 1 part Jägermeister
- 1 part Anejo Tequila
- 1/2 part Agave Nectar
- Absinthe Rinse
- Orange Peel
- Star Anise
Rinse old fashioned glass with Absinthe. Build remaining ingredients in the glass. Stir to temperature. Garnish with orange peel and star anise.
The Spice Slice was super mellow, but the Feisty Meister was definitely a winner. Who knew Jäger, rum, fruit juice and flames would play so nice together?
“I love that name,” Nils said. “I’m kind of jealous, really. I have to say that. I am working my ass off for this brand and I never came up with this Feisty Meister.”
So the next time you meet a bottle of Jägermeister, put down the Red Bull. Appreciate the shot for what it is, but know that with a little bit of creativity, this 80 year old digestif can be the foundation for some seriously tasty craft cocktails.
Seasonal change doesn’t exist in Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Who doesn’t like wearing shorts in November? It’s a pretty sweet perk, actually. But the months do tend to blend together here on the left coast. So when the folks at GM reached out to us to participate in the nationwide #FindNewRoads trip for the 2016 Chevy Camaro, we signed up for some different scenery.
Over 150 outlets participated in the Find New Roads Trip that spanned 48 states, 16 cities and about 160,000 miles over a four week period. Sure, we could’ve kept it local. LA to San Francisco is a pretty drive, but it’s not new to us. We chose the Syracuse to Boston leg of the program because we wanted to experience an actual autumn. And if we could hit up the Baseball Hall of Fame, party in Albany, pay a visit to the Johnson Family compound in Worcester and explore Cambridge and the Freedom Trail on foot in the process, not a bad plan, right?
Well that’s what we did. On one tank of gas no less. Can you imagine?
Taking the Scenic Route
All the media members in Syracuse selected keys from a Camaro bag to see which ride they would end up with. I pulled a manual 3.6L V6 in bright yellow. As I was driving this No. 2 pencil rocket more than 350 miles, I noticed that it turned quite a few heads. But I suspect most of those head turns weren’t due to the humming purr of the 335 horsepower engine or the svelte new look of the noticeably trimmer new model. Nope. I think people were honestly tripping on the color and wondering why anyone would take such a pretty machine and paint it to look like a lemon. Luckily, Chevy offers 9 additional color options for folks that believe a high performance sports car shouldn’t resemble a banana.
Color aside, it’s still a fantastic ride. This sixth-gen Camaro offers up 240 percent more horsepower than the first-gen Camaro’s 3.7L six-cylinder that was produced in 1967, so it was nice that I pulled a manual transmission. My camera gal was a little less enthused about the manual option, because you see, your humble car reviewer here hasn’t driven a stick since the 90s. I live LA, what can I say. But despite the early cries over safety concerns from my lovely passenger, the whole shifter car thing came back to me real quick, and I made good use of it as we put Syracuse in our rearview and bolted out to scenic Route 20 on our way to Cooperstown.
The designated scenic byway section of US Route 20 was a thing of beauty. I’ve been to New York City before, but us Angelenos tend to forget that our nation’s fourth most populous state isn’t just a series of gigantic cities. The 108 mile corridor from Lafayette to Duanesburg cuts across Central New York and rewards motorists with a colorful views of a lost American landscape. Think rolling hills, sprawls of agricultural expanse, derelict barns, every shade of tree and a distinct lack of human inhabitants. Carving through the turns of this scenic country byway made me feel like I was driving inside a warm, comfortable sweater.
Cooperstown to Albany
Albany seemed like a reasonable midpoint between Syracuse and Boston, so Cooperstown was a natural stop. Americana was on the agenda in a big way the entire road trip, so why not check out the hallowed halls of America’s pastime?
The first thing that struck me about the village of Cooperstown was that it was, without a doubt, a village. Less than 2,000 people live there. When I parked the Camaro on Main Street, I felt like I was on a movie set or something. It’s a well maintained area that embraces nostalgia without hesitation. Cooperstown pulls it off so well that it all seems not quite real.
That’s probably because by design, this place hasn’t changed in generations. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum opened up in the historic district in 1939. The post office directly across the street was completed in 1936 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. It’s just a time warp experience worth seeing for yourself.
After soaking up some baseball lore and chowing down on New York style pizza (or as the locals call it, “pizza”), it was time to get back on the road.
Inside the 2016 Chevy Camaro, 95 mph feels like 35. It’s really quite remarkable. You can be flying down a highway at top speed and the ride still feels pedestrian. The simplest nudge of your foot delivers the sweetest hum of power inside the cockpit. Just a little tap wraps you up in a low frequency sound blanket that you never want to remove. It never feels like you’re too much either. You accelerate as you want, when you want, with no hesitation or even the slightest hint of unsteadiness. Going fast in this car just feels right.
By nightfall we checked ourselves and the Camaro into the 74 State Hotel and went out for a wander. At the Albany Distilling Company, co-founder John treated us like homies, gave us a tour of the joint and sat with us to sample tasty rye whiskey and full-bodied bourbon. He sent us off with good spirits and a recommendation to visit Speakeasy 518.
The Prohibition-era throwback spot on Howard St. was the truth, man. Spotting the dingy red light above the door is the only way to track this dimly lit gem that’s unmarked from the outside. Of course, it wouldn’t be a speakeasy if you didn’t have to go through the motions of knocking on the door and working your way in all clandestine-like. It’s good fun though, and the service at this place was matched only by the quality of the craft cocktails they serve. Engaging bartenders, dated décor, live jazz and a no cell phone policy made this stop a real treat.
Onwards to Worcester and Boston
Jeremy Johnson is arguably the more senior auto writer here at MANjr, but he grew up in Massachusetts, so clearly he didn’t need to be on this mission. But we couldn’t pass through Western Mass on our way to Boston without making a stop in Worcester to visit the Johnson fam. Hanging out with your buddy’s parents without your buddy present makes for interesting conversation. It’s like I picked up an unauthorized biography that’s more authorized than any other source out there. And where else can you expect to find embarrassing childhood photo gold like this?
After enjoying the hospitality, lively chats and good eats at the Johnson household, it was time to make the final push to Boston. We rode Highway 90 across the entire state, and I don’t know why, but this particular stretch of asphalt just demanded to be driven with all deliberate speed. We weren’t in a rush and there was no emergency. There was just something about that fiery foliage backdrop, situational openness and the complete lack of awareness from criminally slow, aging, fast lane-clogging Mass-holes that just made me want to gun it across the state.
As was the case the entire trip, the 2016 Camaro responded well. Maybe it’s because the car’s more than 200 pounds lighter than the 2015 fifth-gen V6. Maybe it’s the increased aerodynamics, reduced drag or the improved chassis. Maybe I was feeling more comfortable in general because I could charge my phone quickly and sync up to Chevrolet Mylink with ease and flip through my phone’s Spotify selections using the on-wheel controls while still maintaining top speeds. Whatever the primary cause, the new sixth-generation Camaro is a winner.
Parting with this machine was bittersweet, but it did free us up to explore Cambridge and Boston on foot and by train. From Beacon Hill to Cambridge Commons, Fenway to the Freedom Trail, we soaked in all Beantown had to offer. If you ever get a chance to drink in historic pubs, dance to quality soul music selections and absorb all the history and character this city has to offer, I highly recommend it. And if you want in on the leaner, more powerful 2016 Camaro, they start at just over $25K. Not bad for a quality first entry of a new generation.
And if this whole road trip recap is just too long for you do read, check the video instead:
I remember a time, just a few years ago, when I would try to order Bulleit at a bar or restaurant and the bartender or server would look back at me with total confusion. “I’m sorry, Bulleit what now?” was was a common response to my order. People just didn’t know. It just wasn’t readily available.
That’s simply not the case anymore. Bulleit Bourbon is no longer some up-and-coming craft whiskey brand that few people know about. It’s everywhere. Nowadays, if you can’t spot the trademark Bulleit bottles with their slightly askew labels sitting on the shelf of your favorite bar, it’s the exception, not the rule. But what’s really interesting is how the brand achieved this, how it went from this modest word-of-mouth spirit to the whiskey sitting at the cool kids table.
I first fell in love with Bulleit three years ago, and I’ve had a front row seat for this Bulleit boom ever since. After my first Bulleit Bourbon review, I was hooked. I cut single malt Scotch completely out of my rotation. Bulleit Rye became my go-to drink of choice, and it didn’t stop with me. Friends and family followed suit. I championed the brand in part because I love the taste, but also because MANjr and Bulleit have had some pretty fun times together.
There was that time we hung out with Isaiah Washington and his wife after the Pan African Film Festival and just talked around a table and sipped Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year in the back of a restaurant. Washington was like me, a Macallan man, but he made the switch to Bulleit and didn’t look back.
There was the trip to Austin for SXSW back in 2013, when my love for Bulleit Rye & Coke was first established. From Chef Ben Ford’s cookbook launch party in a Beverly Hills backyard to the Bulleit Woody event last night at the Coolhaus in Culver City, my experiences with the brand have always been positive. That’s why I push Bulleit like I’m some heavy duty shareholder or something. For me, it’s a quality product that’s been paired with quality experience, and I genuinely want to share this vibe with other people.
That’s why the brand has grown so much in the past few years. Just a couple weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal ran a story about it:
Sales of Diageo’s craft-style Bulleit bourbon—inherited in 2001 when it bought Seagram Co.’s wine-and-spirits portfolio—rose 35%, stripping out currency fluctuations, in the year ended June 30, making it the company’s fastest-growing unflavored North American whiskey. Mr. Menezes has said Diageo aimed to build Bulleit through word-of-mouth, creating “a lot of experiential stuff” and working with bartenders rather than doing large-scale TV advertising.
“I want to make sure Bulleit stays with the hipsters in Williamsburg and does not become a mass brand,” Mr. Menezes said on a January conference call.
And you know what? It worked. It totally worked. You know about the brand because someone who liked it told you about it. You don’t see big billboards or huge print ads or any TV coverage whatsoever. Bulleit has built up brand loyalty by creating brand champions who associate a good product with a good time. It’s a really smart way to market to a generation that craves authenticity over hype, craft quality over mass production.
Last night’s event is just another example of this clever marketing strategy at work. The mission was simple: cultivate an atmosphere where friendly people can enjoy craft culture at work, expose them to quality products and create brand champion converts who spread the good word.
The Bulleit Woody at the Coolhaus in Culver
It starts with the location. Coolhaus in Culver City is an ice cream shop that started as an art project. Co-Founder Natasha Case toyed with the idea of Farchitecture or “Food + Architecture” as a way of “bringing architecture to the people.” She partnered with Freya Estreller and started creating uniquely flavored ice cream sandwiches inspired by architecture and architecture movements. They capitalized on the food truck craze, bought a busted postal van on Craigslist and used it to serve ice cream sandwiches at Coachella. Quality product paired with a good time experience led to media attention that was amplified to new levels through Twitter and other social outlets. Now they’re blowing up. Multiple store fronts. Fleets of trucks in multiple states. Prepackaged in-store products. Catered events for celebrities. You get the idea.
Coolhaus served up seriously tasty sammies last night. The menu was full of tough choices. I mean you really couldn’t go wrong with cookie options like choco chip, double chocolate, snickerdoodle and gluten-free coconut almond supporting ice cream options like fried chicken and waffles, salted chocolate, dirty mint chip, vanilla bean, seasonal sorbet or whiskey lucky charms. I went for the chicken and waffles ice cream on peanut butter cookie. It tasted as amazing as it sounds.
But all this craft culture goodness didn’t stop with desert. The main event was the showcasing of the Bulleit Woody, a trailer designed by Brad Ford that features a fully stocked Bulleit bar and 150 year old wood that’s been repurposed from Bulleit barrels. The trailer was originally created as a Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gift Guide item. It came with a year’s supply of Bulleit and a price tag of $150,000. This thing became so popular at events that Bulleit had three more trailers produced to cater to demand.
And what would a Bulleit event be without tasty Bulleit cocktails? Here’s what was on the menu:
BLT (Bulleit, Lemon & Tonic)
1.3 oz. Bulleit® Bourbon
2 lemon wedges
3 oz. tonic
Preparation: Build in a rocks glass, serve over ice.
1.33 oz Bulleit Bourbon
0.33 oz Coffee liqueur
2 dashes Orange bitters
Preparation: Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a wide strip of orange peel.
It doesn’t get much hipper than a well-designed trailer serving whiskey cocktails to bloggers and media folk in the back parking lot of an architectually inspired ice cream sandwich spot. The craft culture was on display all around. Good times were had. Brand champions were made. Stories will be shared.
It’s a brilliant strategy that has worked wonders. It has worked and will continue to work on me, my friends and family, bars and restaurants in LA and the entire whiskey marketplace in America. It’s cool to be hip, but you can’t manufacture hipness with mass production and overexposure. The hipness needs to drip slowly and gather up over time before it spills over and covers everything like it’s always been there. That’s a difficult, calculated and balance-dependent marketing play, but there’s no denying that Bulleit has executed it to perfection.
Who doesn’t love The Cutting Edge? Seriously, find me someone who won’t watch this movie whenever it’s on. You can’t. Don’t lie to me, you can’t. It’s an undisputed classic that totally dominates the genre of sports romance. It’s got everything: a love/skate relationship, social class inequity, toe picks and tequila shots and montage sequences that teleport you back to the grainy, guitar-heavy days of 1992.
So when I saw The Cutting Edge was on TV, there was little I could do but enjoy it from start to finish. As am I watching this thing I took to IMDB to scope out some trivia, see what Moira Kelly looks like now, you know, the usual. And I learned things. Interesting things. Things you may not have known about this classic movie. Here are 10 of them, in no particular order:
The Film Was Directed by the Original Starsky
Yep, The Cutting Edge was directed by Paul Manfred Glaser aka the OG Starsky. He directed five episodes of Starsky and Hutch back in the late 70s, three episodes of Miami Vice and followed that up with films like The Running Man, The Air Up There and Kazaam. He mostly sticks to the small screen now from what I can tell.
They Made Three Friggin Sequels
I missed out on 2006’s The Cutting Edge: Going for the Gold, aka The Cutting Edge 2. I also missed The Cutting Edge 3: Chasing the Dream, a TV movie from 2008. The Cutting Edge: Fire & Ice, another TV movie from 2010 slipped through the cracks as well. Yep, I missed all three sequels, and you know what? I’m totally okay with that.
The Guy Who Directed The Cutting Edge: Fire & Ice Made Some Awesome Movies 20+ Years Ago
Director Stephen Herek is the guy responsible for The Cutting Edge 4. That’s not really what he’s known for though. This guy had some pretty sweet hits in the late 80s/early 90s. Films like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead and The Mighty Ducks. That’s an impressive resume, no doubt. But that’s before he got into the sequel/spinoff phase of his career. That dark period began in 2003 with Young MacGyver, a TV movie that was actually a pilot for a larger series. MacGyver’s young nephew Clay couldn’t capture the magic of his uncle though, so the show was never picked up.
The Guy Who Wrote The Cutting Edge Also Wrote All the Bourne Identity Films
That’s right, Rene Russo’s brother-in-law Tony Gilroy wrote all the four films in the Jason Bourne series (Identity, Supremacy, Ultimatum and Legacy), but his first screenplay was The Cutting Edge. His other writing credits include The Devil’s Advocate, Armageddon and Proof of Life. He also wrote and directed Michael Clayton and Duplicity. But it all start with a figure skating rom-com script back in 1992.
Moira Kelly Coulda Been in A League of Their Own
Moira Kelly shoulda been a bigger deal. She should be known for more than this film, Chaplin and being that cute chick from With Honors and West Wing. Instead she left it all on the ice. Kelly injured her ankle during shooting and had to be moved about on a porter’s truck in between scenes. She was cast to play Kit Keller in A League of Their Own in 1992, but the ankle injury she suffered forced her to pass it up. That role went to Lori Petty. Moira Kelly coulda been the next Tank Girl. Think about it.
Anton Pamchenko Was a British Fighter Pilot and WWII POW
Roy Dotrice, the guy who played the Russian figure skating coach who lent his name to the Pamchenko Twist, isn’t Russian at all. He’s a Brit. Not just any Brit, either. Dude joined the RAF when he was 16 and was shot down in 1942 and captured by the enemy. Guy spent three years in Germany as a prisoner of war. In an attempt to lift the collective spirits of his fellow POWs, he would stage performances. After the war he took up acting. He put together an impressive career and even appeared in a couple Game of Thrones episodes in 2012.
Moira Kelly and D.B. Sweeney Are Still Buddies
The two main stars of the film spent two months together training to be realistic figure skaters. They became good friends and they’re still homies if you believe IMDB. See folks, that figure skating chemistry was real!
If you’re a whiskey and beer drinking kinda guy, you probably don’t have a great relationship with wine. And that’s okay. Wine isn’t for everyone. But it isn’t just a chick beverage, either. If you’re like me, wine is just something that’s never been a viable option. Sure, you may have gotten tipsy during a wine tasting or two, but what if you don’t know the basics? How are you supposed to dive in and enjoy the delicious chemical balance of fermented grapes without any real frame of reference?
Well fear not, fellow wine noobs. We got the basics covered for you right here. To prep this Wine 101 for Dudes guide, we spoke with Lauren Waters, the Senior Wine Education Manager at Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines. Lauren gave us the lowdown on everything from introductory wine selections to ordering tips to tannins and Grenache and so much more. Keep reading and get yourself up to speed, bucko!
Know What Noobs Like: Fruit Forward
“People who are new to the wine category or haven’t been dabbling in wine for that long, what they really love are wines that are really fruit-forward, and by that I mean that they’ve got tons of intensity and tons of fruit flavors and all types of fruit character in them and that they’re pretty easy to drink.”
Remember fellas, when it comes to wine, fruity is good.
Safe Bet: Red Blends
“Consider wines that aren’t really heavy, either in tannin or acidity or all these other things that you might hear about; wines that are just basically easy to drink, easy to appreciate and easy to enjoy. To that end, we typically find ourselves looking towards California wines because they’re more of a riper, more approachable style over all, so red blend.”
Basically, if you’re looking at a wine list and you’re lost, reach for a California red blend. It’s a nice, friendly, fruit forward introductory selection.
Put It in Neutral: White Wines
“In terms of white wine, I find that a lot of people like, especially when they’re starting out, things that are more neutral. So they don’t tend to like the really oaky chardonnays or things like that. They tend to like wines that have less oak character and less pungent flavors. Unoaked chardonnays are always a hit. Pinot Grigio is always kind of a neutral variety. Riesling is something that a lot of consumers that are new to the category tend to like because they tend to have a little bit of sweetness to the wine that makes them really easy to like.”
So if you’re not feeling fruit forward, you can always play it safe and go for a nice white. But how are you supposed to know which wine to reach for?
Know the Situation: Red vs. White
“The difference between red and white wine is really when and how you want to enjoy it. So really it’s about the occasion. So if it’s a really hot summer day or you’re sitting by the pool or it’s a beach day or something like that, you want something that’s light and fresh and cool and can also quench your thirst. So that’s a great time for a white wine. Also if you’re out to dinner and you’re having like a lighter food option, say you’re having like fish tacos or something like that, white wine is really the perfect selection to go along with that. Speaking to red wine, red wines are typically served right around room temperature so it’s not like that cool, thirst-quenching kind of feeling that you would get from a white wine which would be served cooler. So for red wines, I tend to think of them as more evening wines. You would pair them with bigger food items. So if you’re out for dinner and you’re going to have steak or if you’re grilling BBQ or having stuff like that, your bigger profiles will go best with red wine.”
So there you go. Look at you, big guy. You’re ready to order the appropriate wine for the right occasion. But does this mean you gotta get all crazy about food and wine pairings? Nah, bro. Just do want you want!
There Are No Rules: Wine Pairing
“I think the most important thing to remember about pairing is there are no rules. You don’t have to follow any specific strategy like you can only drink white wine with fish or you can only drink cabernet with steak. All those rules are, in my opinion, silly. People need to find what they like. It’s all about experimentation, it’s all about discovery and it’s all about how they meet social experiences with wine. What works for one person does not necessarily work for another person because everybody is different and wine overall is just such a subjective type of a topic so keep in mind, there are no rules. It’s all about experimentation, discovery and finding what works for you.”
So if you wanna pair your Sloppy Joe with a Sauvignon Blanc, just do your thing! Don’t let some punk wine snob tell you what’s what.
Facing Your Fears: Navigating a Wine Shop
“First of all, it’s totally overwhelming. You walk into BevMo and you’re thinking, ‘OK, where do I even start? There’s like 15 aisles here. There’s wines that range in price from $2.99 to $2,000, where do I even start?’ It’s good to have your price point in mind. Are you looking for a bottle that’s $15 to $20? Are you looking to splurge and spend a lot or are you looking for a Wednesday night $10 bottle. Having a good kind of price point in mind is always a good way to start because that cuts the store probably into a fifth and you can really pinpoint the section that you’re looking for.”
Think about the occasion and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s still manly to ask for help in a wine shop. It’s not like you’re asking for map directions or anything.
“The guys that are walking in those aisles are paid to be there and help you. So if you can tell them ‘Hey, I’m looking to spend $20. I’m having a bunch of friends over on Friday and we’re going to do burgers after work on the grill. What do you recommend? Point me in the right direction. Give me three options.’ It’s always a good thing to use your resources.
Intimidation Be Damned: How to Dominate a Wine List
“Opening a wine list in a restaurant, especially if you’re out on a date or you’re with people that you work with or whatever, it can be a really scary experience. You’re handed the list and all of a sudden you have this giant list of things that are probably written in multiple languages sitting in front of you and the only thing you can probably relate to is the dollar amount.”
So what’s a guy supposed to do?
“My recommendation when you’re in a situation like that is to figure out how the wine list is set. Is it set by country or by label? Once you know how this particular wine list works, try to find some options in there that might fit what the group is looking for.”
Think safe red blends. Chill whites. You know the drill. But what if you can’t even say the name of the wine you want to order?
“Half the time, I feel like people pick the wine because they can say it. I mean I’ve done this. When I first started out with wine I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m ordering this wine because I can’t say it and I don’t want to sound like an idiot, so I’ll take this wine even though I have no idea what it is but I can say it and at least I’ll feel like I’m halfway intelligent.’ So this is just a little trick – there’s usually a number, or a bin number is what it’s called, written next to the wine and the reason why the bin number is there is because it tells the server or the wait staff person where to find that precise wine. So when they go into the wine area, the wine cellar, whatever they have in that restaurant, each wine has a slot. So rather than saying ‘I’ll take the 2002 Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Chateau le Nerf’ or some tough-twister name, you can just look for the number and say ‘Bin 312’ and they’ll know exactly what you mean and you don’t have to say it. If there’s not a bin number listed, you can also just look for one word that you know how to say. So maybe you don’t know any of those words but you know the vintage so you kind of point to it and say, ‘We’ll try this 2002, it should be pretty good.’ Just try to find any kind of common ground.”
Bam, there you have it gents. Act like you been there before with bin numbers, pointing gestures and vintage/year dropping.
Getting Started: The Stark Raving Collection and Sterling Vineyards
Lauren represents Diageo, and they have quite a few wine selections under their belt. The Stark Collection is a good place to start.
“In terms of recommendations from the Diageo portfolio, the Stark Raving lineup, to me is such an amazing lineup of wines because the wines are, first of all they’re just freakin’ delicious. The quality is really high, the packaging looks beautiful, so it’s definitely a wine that you could bring to a party or rollup to a BBQ with and not have any qualms about how the wine looks. The red blend from Stark Raving is a killer wine, as well as the Malbec. The Malbec is from Argentina, from the Malbec region. That’s also a really fantastic wine. In terms of white, the Sterling Vineyards Collection which is part of the Sterling Vineyards portfolio, has a wine called the Aromatic White which is fairly new out there and it’s a blend. It’s a white blend and as the name suggests. It’s got really strong aromas and it’s really a lovely kind of sipping wine on the palate that a lot of people tend to love so that’s a really great wine. Also from that portfolio, the Sauvignon Blanc is a really nice wine too. It’s light and clean and fresh and completely inoffensive in every single way but just really delicious.
So look at you, newly minted wine expert. You even have some specific selections to fall back on.
What’s in an Age: Understanding Vintages
Have you ever wondered if there’s a good rule of thumb about wine age?
“So here’s the good news on that question. Over 90% of all wines produced are not meant to be aged. It’s only the top tier of wine that we encounter that are either meant to be aged or can withstand aging, because there’s a couple of components when you look at aging a wine. Does it have the necessary structural elements to age? So then you get into all those geeky things like does it have enough tannin? Does it have enough acid? Is the concentration there? Does it have enough stuffing to be able to age? But then the other question is, is it worth aging? If I put this wine in my cellar or in my coat closet in a dark corner (which is a really great place to keep wine if you don’t have a cellar), if I keep this wine for five years and I open it five years later, is it going to be better? Is it actually worth aging it? So that’s the question, but like I said, the good news is that most wines are meant to be drunk upon release.”
So you’re new to this wine thing, man. Don’t worry too much about buying something that’s old enough or aging something to make it better. Just pick a wine that you like and enjoy it.
Open This Baby Up: Understanding Decanting
If you know wine connoisseurs, you’ve probably seen them decant wine before. Do all wines need to be decanted before being consumed?
“White wine, no. Sparkling wines, no. Red wines, sure. It’s not really necessary by any stretch again for the great majority of wine. The reason why you would want to decant a wine is that it’s super, super young. This could mean that the wine was just released, so it’s got like really high tannin, it’s really concentrated and you kind of want to open it up, so that’s why you would decant. The other reason why you would decant is if a wine is really old and it’s got lots of sediment and all kinds of things floating around in it. You’d want to decant to separate the particles from your glass because obviously nobody wants to drink a glass of wine that’s got tons of things floating around. Those are the two reasons but sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s about the show. It doesn’t really have to be just for quality. It can be just for the fun of it and just for the look of it. There’s no doubt that when you do extra things like this, it starts to make it feel more special.”
So if you want to show off and make it an experience, break out the decanter. Otherwise, just grab some glasses and get right to it.
Know Your Ingredients: What the Hell Is Tannin?
“Tannin is not just present in wine. It’s present in a lot of different foods. Basically tannin is responsible for a dry sensation on the gums and the mouth. The best way to encounter tannin, if you’re not sure exactly what it is, is to eat an unripe banana and you will get a full dose of tannin. You will never, ever, ever have to ask again what tannin means. And you’ll probably never, ever want to try that experiment again.”
In other words, it’s “an astringent, bitter plant polyphenolic compound that binds to and precipitates proteins and various other organic compounds including amino acids and alkaloids.” So there you go.
Know Your Ingredients: What the Hell Is Grenache?
When I went wine tasting, the only thing I took away from it (other than mo wine, mo cheese, please) is that I really liked Grenache. I wonder why that is?
“Grenache is a low tannin varietal that’s very intense and really fruity so we’re back to one of my very first comments which is people love wines that are soft, intense and fruity, that is Grenache to a tee, so that’s the reason why you like that wine and that’s the reason why Grenache is typically found in most Californian red blends because it adds that element of fruitiness and it’s just a really loveable, easy to appreciate grape and it translates in the wine. It’s just plain delicious!”
We talked about the friendly approachability of the red blends. Based on my extra-limited wine tasting experience, you can’t go wrong with a Grenache blend. Do it.
Going Green: The Fuss About Organic Wines
Wait, isn’t all wine organic? What’s all the fuss about?
“Well, that’s a really interesting question. It’s very similar to other food products in the way that the vineyards are farmed. So just like you could have organic strawberries that were grown without chemicals or pesticides or anything like that, the same thing can happen with vineyards which are basically grapevines. So they can be farmed conventionally, which is when the farmer has the ability to use any kind of fertilizer or chemical compound that’s allowed by law. When you talk about organic, again it’s very similar to other foods and other farming techniques. Organic would be minimal use of sulfur and all of the fertilizers and all of the protectants would be of an organic natural. So they wouldn’t be using pesticides, they’d be using things that are natural.”
Why So Serious: Just Have Fun
“Don’t get bogged down on the details. Wine is, at its core, it’s a social beverage. It’s meant to be enjoyed. It’s meant to be fun. So don’t think you have to know everything about it. The most important thing is just ask questions. Ask questions to the waiter who brought you the wine list, to the salesman who’s walking around in BevMo, just ask questions. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.”
Educating yourself is one thing, but you don’t have to trip if you’re not a wine snob. Stick to being snobby and dickish about single malt Scotch. That shit matters. Wine is a playful beverage. Just have a good time, dude!
Things were different in 1998. Back then, no one worried about stuff like subprime mortgages, record unemployment or Facebook status updates. In 1998 we were just wired differently. Boy bands and ska music filled the airwaves. Politicians were worried about blue dresses and naughty White House behavior. Dawson’s Creek was a hit show. People liked saying the word “globalization.” In 1998 it seemed like we were on the brink of some sort of altruistic interconnected global culture. And the US was leading the way. We were kings of the world.
Sure in ’98 the Euros made the Euro, but we blasted a 77-year old man into outer space just to say we could. We were riding high on a dot-com bubble that wouldn’t burst for another couple years. Michael Jordan was still playing basketball. Everything was coming together. We were comfortable.
It was just a different time, man. And there were different movies back then, too. Good ones. Lots of ‘em.
For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, 1998 is packed with quality movies. Just an all around good mix of films you can watch over and over. Anyone can pick out a decent list of 10-15 films from just about any year. But there’s just something about these 1998 selections that, as a whole, give this year in film an extra level of distinction.
So here’s the list. It’s totally subjective and by no means comprehensive. It’s just 10 movies from 1998 that deliver nostalgic entertainment value, repeat viewability, quotable quotes and a high level of goodness.
10. Saving Private Ryan
This film has to make the cut. It’s less cerebral than The Thin Red Line and it has just the right amount of schmaltz. If I needed to dial up a gritty, big-budget WWII drama, I’d probably reach for Band of Brothers or even The Pacific, but those projects would’ve never been made without the success of this film. Quality acting and decent directing by Steven Spielberg (back when he still had the touch). Smash at the box office, 11 Academy Award nominations, you get the idea. This isn’t a film you can watch weekly, but if you haven’t seen it in awhile, it’s worth a revisit.
9. There’s Something About Mary
Might not hold up as well anymore, but if you saw this in the theaters you remember what a gut-buster it was. It was just a different type of comedy for the time. In the world of 2012, Ben Stiller’s been relegated to making movies called Heist Tower with Eddie Murphy, but in the world of 1998, Ben Stiller was about to blow up. His performance in There’s Something About Mary was classic. Plus, Cameron Diaz was attractive back then.
8. Can’t Hardly Wait
I know, this one’s all cheese. Trip McNeally. 92% The beer has gone bad. Did anyone order a loveburger? Well done.
I used to love anything that Wes Anderson did. I kind of scaled back my Wes Anderson appreciation over the years, but it’s hard not love this movie.
6. Run Lola Run
Don’t worry, it’s okay to scream in the casino.
5. Fear Loathing in Las Vegas
Some movies trip you out for a scene or two, but this entire film is one big head change. I was trippin’ balls after I saw this in theater during my first date with my now-fiancée. It’s the kinda film that makes you want ice water with extra ice.
4. The Big Lebowski
At first I didn’t get what all the fuss was about, but this is definitely a movie that gets better with repeat viewings.
Pay heem hees money!
2. The Negotiator
This movie made the top three? I wonder why that is. You got two actors in their prime: Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson. This is Spacey, after The Usual Suspects and before the American Beauty overhype and Sam L, before he became a Jedi. And David Morse, you just know he isn’t a good person any time he walks on screen in any film.
1. The Siege
Pre-9/11 New York is under attack by terrorists. Denzel Washington doesn’t support torture. He’s better than that. He won’t let the fight against terrorism threaten our civil liberties. But Hawkish, internment-lover general Bruce Willis stands in his way. With the help of Annette Benning (a shorthaired spy-floozy) and Tony Shalhoub (an Arab federal agent named “Frank”), Denzel must stand up for Tariq Husseini and find the last cell before the terrorists strike again…
Man, is this movie fantastic.
Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
A Simple Plan
What’d I miss?