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If you’re like me, you plan to uncork a bottle of wine this Sunday night when the red carpet is rolled out and all across America we get to celebrate the year’s fabulous Hollywood films (okay, and gorgeous gowns too). The Academy Awards are as good a time as any to drink wine, sure, but […]

If you’re like me, you plan to uncork a bottle of wine this Sunday night when the red carpet is rolled out and all across America we get to celebrate the year’s fabulous Hollywood films (okay, and gorgeous gowns too). The Academy Awards are as good a time as any to drink wine, sure, but did you know there are several California wineries with deep roots in Hollywood?

A few years ago I had the pleasure of dining with Rich Frank at Meadowood in Napa Valley. This former president of Walt Disney Studios and longtime producer has not only judged Academy Awards nominations, but also founded Frank Family Vineyards (frankfamilyvineyards.com) in Napa Valley back in 1992. Today, the winery boasts a diverse portfolio of wines. Although I have not tried the current releases, I’m familiar with past vintages and feel comfortable recommending its Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Francis Ford Coppola (this probably goes without saying, but he’s the film director, producer or screenwriter behind Oscar-winning films like “Patton,” “The Godfather” and “The Godfather II”) is also heavily into the wine business out in California. Francis Ford Coppola Winery (franciscoppolawinery.com) is his current project. I highly recommend tasting the fruits of his winery’s labor. Of excellent value among the forty-something wines is the 2010 Francis Ford Coppola “Rosso” (Geyserville, Calif., $12), a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petite Sirah with sultry, jammy notes of blackberry and raspberry and an earthy bouquet. It’s extremely approachable, and the perfect bottle to buy a case of and open at your Oscar-viewing party. And, yep, it would even pair well with pizza delivered to your door. 

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EVENT OF THE WEEK
Is your calendar open Friday night? If so (or even if it isn’t), think about heading down to Hilton Milwaukee City Center for the 8th annual Milwaukee Wine Opener. This year the charity partner benefiting from the event is the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The admission price is more than fair ($60 in advance and $75 at the door) considering you can sample up to about 100 different wines. Tasting stations hosted by local restaurants are part of the deal too. Kicking off at 6 p.m., the four-hour event promises to introduce your palate to so many wines you might want to think about reserving a room at the hotel. You might want to bring a little notebook too, for jotting down the names of your favorite wines to purchase later. A silent auction, raffle and live music by local guy Ryan McIntyre (a 7-time WAMI winner) is also part of the evening. Visit cff.org to buy your ticket.

DEAL OF THE WEEK
Next time you go to Ray’s Wine & Spirits (rayswine.com) in Wauwatosa, grab that little white piece of paper near the cash register, arm yourself with a pen, and sign up for the store’s email list (you can also sign up online). E-mails are sent out once or twice a week and it’s all about saving a few bucks – or, sometimes, 20 to 30 percent – on a bottle of wine. What I like about this e-mail list is that Ray’s resident tasters Orey and Rick Laev, who have seasoned palates, rummage through the hundreds of wines available through distributors and select only the best. I’d tell you what the current deals are but here’s the thing: After that e-mail blast goes out, it’s only a matter of hours before the deal is sold out. Last week, however, I scored the “Gorgeous New Gamba Offer,” a bottle of 2008 Gamba Vineyards & Winery Old Vine Zinfandel Moratto Vineyard for $39.99, normally $45. But what thrilled me is to get my hands on this rare 690-case allotment. And yesterday, a “15 percent off everything in our store” deal sailed into my in-box courtesy of Ray’s (the only restrictions are that wines must cost $14.99 or more and the discount maxes out at 12 bottles).

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WINE OF THE WEEK
2010 Charles Krug Winery Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, Calif., $18), with its crisp aftertaste preceded by intriguing banana and grapefruit notes, is a reminder that spring is en route. You’re also sipping a bit of history when you drink this: Charles Krug Winery, operated by the esteemed Peter Mondavi family, is Napa Valley’s oldest winery and, in fact, celebrated 150 years last year. For those who detest the zippy nature of Sauvignon Blancs hailing from New Zealand, try Napa Valley’s twist on the grape for a smoother, less acidic approach. (charleskrug.com)

Frank Family Vineyards photo from frankfamilyvineyards.com 

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