I learned distractions are necessary for a successful quarantine—and the more outlandish, the better.
If there’s one thing to be said of 2020, it’s that the year has “only amplified the importance of pop culture phenomenons,” writes Julian Ford on the Retriever blog, adding “perhaps one of the best things for society to have realized is that a little break from reality is a good thing.”
Of all the reality breaks the pandemic spawned, few have been more conversational than big-cat true-crime drama “Tiger King.” Launched on Netflix shortly after Covid-19 was declared a national emergency, it was the sideshow we couldn’t stop watching, and it jolted us into an [un]reality that was to last way longer than anyone could imagine. Well, thank goodness stock-tank spas, WFH pet memes and squirrel tables popped up to bring us back down to earth.
Animals may have helped us get though some of the rough patches, but credit Netflix, a welcome break from seeing humans in Zoom boxes, for giving us mighty-welcome distractions from our collective anxiety. Booze helped, too (one friend reported going through 17 bottles of Mezcal!), as I noted in Part I of What I Watched and Drank During Lockdown, but once inured to our new reality, I shifted to wine and lighter streaming fare. Let’s hope the vaccine and a new administration are the cracks that let the light in next year, this is the final of my lockdown pairings.
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Drinking with Tiger King was rich with options. The obvious, of course, would have been anything produced by Ménage à Trois. If I could have brought myself to drink it, I would have gone for the Moscato: a more appropriate wine for this lurid tale of “Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” can’t be found. But three others called me. Noble Vines from California produces a rosé and a red blend, “Marquis Red,” which I chose for its subtle nod to pop royalty and also as a portrayal to the polar fringes of Joe Exotic. The “515” rosé was a decent Provence imposter and the Marquis was a ripe-fruited jammy wine similar to MàT. A more subtle match was the RosCATo Rosso Dolce Sweet Red (emphasis added), in homage to the cat-obsessed Carole Baskin (OK, a terrible stretch, but stay with me here). A low-alcohol light northern Italian red with a bit of fizz and florality, the wine’s easy charm belies its deeper layers of dark wild berries. Kinda like Carole herself.
Moving from Joe Exotic’s Oklahoma animal kingdom to New Mexico, I streamed Better Call Saul and poured Mon Frère Pinot Noir, a nod to the relationship between Jimmy McGill and his sardonic brother Chuck. This is an easy-going value-driven juicy bottle from a blend of Sonoma Coast vineyards. Plush and approachable, it’s more Jimmy than Chuck. Lawyerly love interest Kim Wexler needed a long tall sip of cool, and Prüm “Blue” Riesling Kabinett fit the bill. Sleek, slightly austere and very elegant, this is a wine that performs with grace (and with the green curry dish I had with it). Classic markers of stone fruit and clean minerality. And then, there’s Jimmy. I couldn’t think of a wine that covered all the bases, but the full-bodied and dynamic Sella + Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva DOC, worked well for its multiple layers: stewed strawberries and tart berries made for an interesting interplay, then mingled with blood orange and black licorice. Lots of mineral, lots of iodine. This was a complex wine from the island of Sardinia. Drink with Season 2, episode 6, with its Bali Ha’i island motif (I know, groan. sorry!)
Oh, so much to say about Schitt’s Creek, easily the most joyful watching this year. Given the family moniker, anything rosé was a shoo-in. Like the formerly rich Rose family, the Fleur de Mer from Saint Tropez bore a patina of wealth with its coat of arms on its pretty, elegant label. This was a appealing blend of cherry, watermelon and tangerine flavors that didn’t require second thought—ideal for Alexis Rose. The Yealands Sauvignon Blanc had the sharp-tongued Stevie Budd all over it—a very direct wine with lots of limey zing tempered by tropical fruits (pineapple, guava). I tried to think of something that had as much eccentric flair as Moira Rose, who clearly knows a thing or two about wine, and the Lost Eden Red Blend from the former republic of Georgia with its brocaded capsule and ornate bas-relief packaging was the clear winner—a bottle that, like Moira, combines gothic and haute fashion. The Saperavi-driven wine features dark berries and cassis, cocoa and smooth tannins. David Rose should drink sparkling wine all day, but because he’s broke, he can’t afford Champagne. But since he’s so stylish, no doubt he’d enjoy Ferrari Brut from northern Italy—a well-regarded sparkling producer known for both its quality (made in the traditional method as Champagne, but at a fraction of the price) and alignment with some of Italy’s flashiest luxury brands. Patriarch Johnny Rose deserves a wine as steadfast and generous as his character, and the Hickinbotham “Elder Hill “ Grenache 2016 (McLaren Vale) fit the profile with its intertwined layers of fruit, earth and botanics. Ripe cherry preserves and black fruits, and a streak of what I imagine is the Australian equivalent of garrigue showing olive and wild herbs elevate this wine. It’s approachable now but will also be there for you for the long haul, just like Johnny.
Second only to Schitt’s Creek in joy was Mucho Mucho Amor, a documentary about the beloved astrologer Walter Mercado, who rose to fame during the 1970s. A bejeweled, caftaned spectacle who claimed to have “sexuality with the wind,” Mercado was the psychic lift I needed after my stay in a pricey pandemic pod was cut short by mean-girl housemates (a mismatch made worse by the Rachel McAdams-like mate conducting sage burnings, new moon ceremonies and gong sound journeys. But, I digress.) ANYWAY, back to MMA for which I went mucho retro, choosing Lillet blanc and red wine-based apertifs. Made from Bordeaux grapes (Semillon for the white and Merlot for the red) and macerated fruit liqueurs, the spirits were popular in the 1960-70s. Now going through somewhat of a revival, they were perfect sips with Mercado, especially nice on ice. The blanc was a shimmery pale gold, with intriguing herbal and floral aromas, followed by a honeyed citrus palate, pine notes and a bit of nutmeg. The red showed fruits on the tart side—cranberry and young raspberry, a bit of blood orange. The entire pairing experience was the perfect break from reality, and mean girls, I needed.
What did you watch and drink during the pandemic? LMK on IG @pourLana