The Sunday Magazine- Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas

One of the really wonderful things about this time of year is I think even the most Scrooge-y of us allow the opportunity for hope to catch a foothold. People smile more freely at each other. Because I wear a Santa hat from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas I might get a few more of those than others. One of the things that happens during the season that has stealthily found a foothold in my heart is something else which takes place from Thanksgiving through Christmas, the Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas.

Starting on the weekend after Thanksgiving the Hallmark Channel shows made-for-tv movies about Christmas 24/7. The movies are all sweet fables about the season with happy endings and I find myself shedding a tear or two more often that I’d readily admit. These are as schmaltzy as ugly Christmas sweater contests but they carry that unfashionable emotion so unapologetically it makes it cool.

There are many common themes which crop up in multiple movies. There are lots of department stores in trouble but because they understand the meaning of Christmas they persevere and thrive by the time the end credits roll. Santa is trying to pass on the family business to his son and his progeny has to leave the North Pole to find his happiness so he can take over for Dad. He does and Christmas is saved. Many city dwellers are thrust into rustic surroundings with equally charming Holiday traditions which make the fish out of water character flail about helplessly until one of the townspeople, of the opposite sex, shows them the magic of Christmas. Love is what Christmas is all about. The non-believer being made to believe. Besides Santa’s son a few elves make their way into the world to share North Pole wisdom. There are angels aplenty helping spread joy. There are at least two movies which represent each of those descriptions I listed above. Originality is not the goal; feeling good is; and familiarity helps make that happen a little easier.

hallmark countdown to xmas

The movies cover a lot of time and they are fun because each one is a little time capsule. Just watching the evolution of cell phones over the course of watching the movies is a source of amusement. The hot young stars of the moment are the actors most often used. This leads to a game in our household where Mrs. C and I try and remember what show they were on when they were in the film. IMDB and Wikipedia are our arbiters on who remembered best.

Because this is Hallmark Channel they could be way more egregious in how they use their captive audience. So far this year I have only seen one clear cross-promotion. The little commercials about using a card to mark a special occasion with the tag line “Life is Special” are almost 60-second versions of the movies they are giving us a break from. I applaud Hallmark for getting that a viewer doesn’t need to be bombarded and keeping their merchandising low key.

Especially over the last two weeks leading up to Christmas I can say that Hallmark Channel is what we are watching if the television is on. It has become as much a part of my Holiday season as egg nog and mistletoe. When you need a break flip over to Hallmark Channel and take a two-hour break with an uplifting story about Christmas.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Vince Guaraldi


If I asked you to do a quick word association game and I said Christmas Music there are a number of responses I would expect. Bing Crosby and White Christmas, Elvis Presley and Blue Christmas, Eartha Kitt and Santa Baby among many. Each of those songs are as known for the artist behind them as the song. Another response I would likely get is Charlie Brown Christmas. If I asked who was the musician I bet that not many could name the man behind music which has become so entwined with the Holiday season. It wasn’t until I was an adult at a friend’s house and he was playing a song called “Cast your Fate to the Wind” that I discovered the answer myself. Like the Peanuts music it immediately captured my attention. I asked my friend who the musician was and he replied, Y’know the Peanuts guy, Vince Guaraldi.” I didn’t know but I quickly learned.

a charlie brown christmas

Back in 1965 when the producer of the Charlie Brown animated specials, Lee Mendelson, heard the same song he called Mr. Guaraldi to score “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. The Vince Guaraldi Trio with Mr. Guaraldi on piano, Fred Marshall on bass, and Jerry Granelli on drums would record the soundtrack. In a vacuum without seeing them accompanying the antics of the Peanuts gang as they discover the meaning of Christmas these are beautiful jazz compositions that more than stand on their own. Combine them with one of the most beloved cartoons of all time and it transcends itself. The song which plays in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when all of the gang is dancing is called “Linus and Lucy”. It has no obvious Christmas tone except for the visual which goes along with it but there is nobody who doesn’t immediately think Christmas when they hear it.

Vince Guaraldi

Vince Guaraldi

The music of Mr. Guaraldi is probably some of the most widely heard jazz music ever. Think about that. Mr. Guaraldi has very likely been heard by more people than those that are easily seen as jazz greats. I think Mr. Guaraldi is extremely underrated when it comes to discussions about those jazz greats. He didn’t sell out to do this music he stayed true to his jazz roots. Listen to his later compositions for the less well-known Peanuts specials and they all have his indelible style but if you didn’t know they were the score for a cartoon you would just appreciate them for the music on its own terms.

Another reason for Mr. Guaraldi not receiving the accolades I believe are due him is he passed away at the age of 47 in 1976. Coincidentally he had just finished his score for “It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown” in the afternoon. That evening he would be struck by a heart attack and die.

As you listen to your Holiday music this year when the music of A Charlie Brown Christmas plays give a thought to the man who made that music. He deserves to be as well-known as Bing, Elvis, or Eartha.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

One of the more interesting features of iTunes is the counter of how many times you have listened to a song. The single song that I have listened to the most over the last 11+ years is also a seasonal classic. From the very first moment I heard it in 1987 it has been a staple of my Holiday playlist. I am far from alone in this affection it has been named the Number One Christmas song of all time in many polls; most recently in 2012 in a British ranking. The song is not a happy song. The song is not performed by the most famous of singers. The song took almost two years to go from conception to release. The song is Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

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One of the early reasons for the song being written was an urban myth. The Pogues producer in 1985 was Elvis Costello and he supposedly bet the band they could not write a hit Christmas single. That has turned out to not be true and it came out of the more mundane reason of, “Hey why don’t we release a Christmas single.”  The lead singer of The Pogues is Shane MacGowan and soon after they wanted to do this he came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized. During his hospitalization he wrote most of the lyrics saying in an interview, “you get a lot of delirium and stuff, so I got quite a few good images out of that.”

The lyrics tell a tale of Irish immigrants reminiscing on their life in New York covering their hopeful early days through days of addiction and finally to resigned acceptance. It is a tragedy in three verses of call and response between the couple. While the band was working out the tune they needed to find a female lead singer to play the part. All of this ended up taking two years and by 1987 all of the elements were in place. The lyrics by Mr. MacGowan, the band had crafted a melody, and singer Kirsty MacColl would provide the female vocals.


Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan from the video of the song

Ms. MacColl was meant to be a placeholder as she was the wife of new producer Steve Lillywhite. She laid down a track of the female part for her husband to use while guiding the band through laying down the other tracks. Except it was perfect and the band got so used to her they couldn’t consider releasing the song without her contribution. It is interesting that she never did the song with the band at all. It almost makes the song seem like separate reveries to me whenever I hear it because of this. Ms. MacColl does a tremendous job of supplying the right emotion to each section. It is her voice which cues the listener to each phase. When she finishes her first verse with “You promised me Broadway was waiting for me” it is imbued with hope. By the second verse it ends with a bitterly delivered, “Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it’s our last.” As it has all fallen apart. The final line delivered by Ms. MacColl she says, “You took my dreams from me when I first found you.” With Mr. MacGowan’s equally emotionally delivered lyrics it is a magical pairing, without ever meeting.

I like the optimistic happy Christmas songs which have happy endings but Fairytale of New York captures something else which also appeals during this season. The final verse shows me two survivors who are still standing and have found some place from which to look back with acceptance. It is probably that which makes the song so enduring for at year’s end it is natural to look back and when we are still standing it is something worth singing about.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Killers’ Christmas Songs

The Holiday season is full of uniquely personal traditions big and small. One of the small traditions I use as the kickoff for the musical portion of the festivities is the release of The Killers new Christmas song to benefit Project (RED).


The Killers are a rock band which got their start in Las Vegas. Since 2001 they have put out four albums. The band has never been one to crank out new music every year. They work at their own pace and I believe they are one of the best bands in this time span. I look forward to every release.

Project (RED) was formed in 2006 to raise money to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. Over the past few years there have been many (RED) branded products which donate their proceeds to the initiative.


The Killers agreed to be part of the inaugural year of events and released a Christmas song called “A Great Big Sled” to benefit Project (RED). From a band who has made music that really connects with me this song has become my sing-along anthem to the holidays. Most sing Frosty or Rudolph you’ll catch me in my car singing lyrics like, “but little boys have action toys for brains, I’m living proof it can last a long time”.


Since that first song The Killers release a new Christmas song during the first week of December to coincide with World AIDS Day on December 1. I consider the collection of eight songs over the last few years to be the band’s “fifth” album. Over the eight songs 2009’s “Happy Birthday Guadalupe” is about the hope for simple love on Christmas Day. Last year’s “Christmas in LA” is all about spending the holiday away from family because you chose to follow your dreams. 2008 saw Elton John and Neil Tennant join in for “Joseph, Better You than Me” which explores the faith inherent in the man who would be baby Jesus’ earthly parent. This song resonates more with me than traditional hymns as the song asks, “Will my faith stand still or run away”. The band indulges in a silly little ditty for 2011’s “The Cowboy Christmas Ball”.

What sets these songs apart from other artists who release Holiday songs is these feel more like songs really considered over the year between releases. As a result the songs stand on their own more surely and don’t lend themselves to becoming a musical time capsule more emblematic of the time period it was released.

Sometime this week I will get my annual e-mail that the new The Killers Christmas song has been released and I will be downloading as fast as the internet will allow me to. Then I’ll begin humming my way through December into the New Year.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Cocktails with Amaro


With the return of cocktail culture over the last few years, thank you “Mad Men”, there has been an influx of ingredients found on the liquor store shelf which rarely showed up previously. One whole category of liqueurs that has really found a foothold are those called Amaro.

Amaro liqueurs are a class of herbal, bittersweet liqueur. For those who live in Europe, Amaro liqueurs have been drunk neat as a digestif for years. As bartenders in the US wanted to add new spins on their own contemporary cocktails they turned to importing some of the more interesting versions. While Amaro describes the group the variations are very broad.


Fernet-Branca is an amaro which has a strong herbal licorice character; more Ricola than Twizzlers. It also has an almost perfume like combination of other ingredients including saffron, cardamom, rhubarb, and myrrh. Yes myrrh. The smell of Fernet-Branca is a wonderfully bitter design. My favorite Fernet-Branca cocktail is to add it to a traditional martini. That cocktail is called a Hanky Panky.

Hanky Panky

1 part gin

1 part sweet vermouth

Two healthy dashes of Fernet-Branca

Stir all of the ingredients in a glass filled with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an orange peel. Like a martini feel free to reduce the vermouth and up the Fernet-Branca to taste.

st germain

The forerunner of the amaros finding their way to the US was the introduction in 2007 of St. Germain liqueur. St. Germain is an elderflower liqueur which was a trendy drink prior to cocktail culture taking off. Once it did St. Germain was a natural to become used as any other amaro is used. It is part of one of my favorite champagne cocktail recipes that gets a lot of use during the Holidays called the Bois de Rose.

Bois de Rose

1 part gin

¾ part St. Germian Liqueur

¼ part Aperol Liqueur

¼ part lemon juice

Brut Rose Sparkling wine

Take everything but the champagne and add to a shaker containing ice. Strain into a champagne flute filling it halfway and then fill the rest of the way with the sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist.


My favorite amaro is called Cynar. Cynar is a mix of multiple herbal ingredients but is it what is pictured on the label which makes it distinctive, an artichoke. I first came across Cynar in a drink called The Norma Jean where it is combined with gin, lemon juice, mint, and simple syrup. It is one of my favorite summer drinks. My favorite use of Cynar is my alternative to egg nog called The Warm Fuzzies.

The Warm Fuzzies

1 part rum

1 part cognac

2/3 part Cynar

1 ¼ part simple syrup

2/3 part lemon juice

1 egg

Put all of the ingredients in a shaker with no ice. Shake for about 30 seconds. Then add ice and shake for another 30 seconds. Strain into a glass and sprinkle some nutmeg on top.    

As we enter the Holiday season give an amaro a try in your favorite drinks. It adds a unique kick to everything.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

When I was in graduate school in the early 1980’s there was this late night talk show that ran at 12:30 called Late Night with David Letterman. It was weird. It was different. It was just what I needed after a long day and night in the lab. The 12:30 slot for late night talk show hosts has offered up many unique versions of the talk show. One of the best, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, is coming to an end on December 19, 2014.


I first became aware of Craig Ferguson when he played the boss Mr. Wick. From 1996-2003. While I thought he was good in the role I had no idea how good he would be when he made the leap to host of The Late Late Show in 2005 succeeding Craig Kilborn. What has stood out even from the earliest shows was the removal of the typical talk show tropes. There is no band. There is no human sidekick. The monologue comes after a cold open sketch. This is what the 12:30 slot has always represented as the hosts have some freedom to make their own rules. Mr. Ferguson has taken this freedom and created a talk show which makes fun of talk shows.


As I mentioned Mr. Ferguson has no human sidekicks but he does have two sidekicks. One is a robot skeleton by the name of Geoff Peterson who joined the show in 2010. Grant Imahara of Mythbusters was looking for Twitter followers and he told Mr. Ferguson if he could get him 100,000 twitter followers he would make him a robot sidekick. The milestone was achieved and Mr. Imahara delivered Geoff Peterson, a robot skeleton. This is in itself a comment on the near vacuous quality of the typical late night sidekick. Geoff is voiced by one of the writers on the show, Josh Robert Thompson. The interplay between Geoff and Mr. Ferguson is my favorite part of The Late Late Show. It allows these two characters to impale the inane brilliantly. The other sidekick is Secretariat which is two guys in a horse suit. Secretariat doesn’t speak but hangs out in a stall on the opposite side of the stage from Geoff. Again there is biting satire that two guys in a horse suit function as a sidekick as well as any human.

Mr. Ferguson has a refreshing interview style where he doesn’t have his staff pre-interview the guest and help shape the questions. Instead Mr. Ferguson takes some time to find out about the guest and they have a real conversation. This reminds me of the old style of interview you saw on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson or The Dick Cavett Show. By not being sort of scripted it allows for spontaneity and sometimes chaotic side trips. When Kristen Bell is the guest it is a treat to watch two similarly minded comics trade riffs back and forth.

The final segment of every show is “What Did We Learn on the Show Tonight, Craig?” This is a parody of those sensationalistic shows like The Jerry Springer Show where after an hour of yelling and screaming a tacked on coda is meant to add meaning to the idiocy. When Mr. Ferguson does it he acknowledges the silliness of it and sometimes makes it wickedly subversive.

Before he starts his monologue Mr. Ferguson says, “It’s a great day for America” and for ten years is has been. On December 20 it will not be a great day for America because The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson will be done.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Charles Demuth

When I spent time in New York City during the mid-1980’s one of the things I was most fascinated by was modern art. In those first years of my time in The Big Apple I was a glutton for seeing the artists I had admired. Even better was the opportunity to discover new artists who I had never heard of. One of these discoveries was Charles Demuth and he was my introduction to the concept of Precisionism.


My Egypt by Charles Demuth (1927)

Precisionism arose from the more widely-known schools of Cubism and Futurism. The preferred subject of the Precisionist movement was the industrial landscape, in particular the American industrial landscape. Mr. Demuth would become one of the major artists within this genre. The painting which captivated me was the one seen above “My Egypt”. I would come to find out this was part of a seven painting set by Mr. Demuth that he did between 1927 and 1933. These seven paintings would be the capstone to his career. What I saw was a recognition that through the creation of the large industry of the early twentieth century America was creating its own pyramids. When I look at My Egypt through the fractured planes Mr. Demuth uses I see it as a flawed reflection which has come true in the nearly one hundred years since he painted them.


Incense of a New Church by Charles Demuth (1921)

Mr. Demuth did most of his work in the house he shared with his mother in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Precisionist style flourished from about 1916-1936 and Mr. Demuth’s earliest examples come from 1921. The one seen above, “Incense of a New Church”, has become one of my favorite paintings by Mr. Demuth. The tendrils of resinous smoke put together in overlapping segments so that it almost looks like reptilian. The smokestacks of the factory replacing the altar of the old church. I have a lithograph of this which is one of my daily inspirations.

charles dumuth by arthur stieglitz

Charles Demuth (Photo: Alfred Stieglitz)

The 2008 retrospective that was held at the Whitney Museum in New York is still one of my favorites as I was able for the first time to take in many of his earlier pieces. It also confirmed that for me once he made the move to Precisionism that was where his best work was. He was a contemporary and close friend of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. Upon his death in 1935 he left all of his paintings to Ms. O’Keeffe trusting her to be the proper arbiter of their eventual resting place. The picture of Mr. Demuth above was taken by Mr. Stieglitz and it is one of the few pictures of him we have.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Green Day

One of my favorite musical memories was standing on a hill next to the South Stage at Woodstock 1994. As I’ve mentioned many times I was an original punk during the 1970’s and early 80’s but it had faded. The next band scheduled for the stage was a trio from California called Green Day. I had worn out the cassette of their debut album “Dookie” by this mid-August day. I turned to my two friends and said, “This might be the day punk comes back.” Over the next hour Green Day took the stage ripped through their set while engaging in a mud fight. Also notable was in the middle of the musical chaos a security guard mistook bassist Mike Dirnt for a stage invader and swept his legs out from underneath him breaking some of his teeth. He got up and without missing a beat continued shredding his bass. From that moment I knew punk was back.

green day 1994

Green Day post Woodstock 1994 set Mike Dirnt in the middle showing off his chipped teeth.

Green Day is lead singer and guitar Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool. Like the best bands they have evolved over the past twenty years. I am very happy to see that they are nominated to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year at their first opportunity. When punk first came around it burned itself out within ten years. Since its rebirth in 1994 it has stormed along for the last twenty years and I believe it has much to do with the success of Green Day.

green day 2014

Green Day in 2014

Off of that momentum from Woodstock the band would have a spectacular five years of success releasing three more albums in that time. Then they took a well-deserved break. When they returned to the studio in 2004 I think they produced one of the great albums of the 21st century, “American Idiot”. American Idiot was the first punk rock opera in the tradition of other rock operas of the past as it follows its musical protagonist Jesus of Suburbia through his life. It was a scathing indictment of America at that time. It hearkened back to the disillusioned youth of England that spawned the punk rock movement in the first place. The title song encapsulates all of this as it is very punk in its lyrics but the band has gone from a stripped down sound to something very much more powerful and together. As much as I adored Dookie I listen to American Idiot frequently because it is one of my favorite contemporary releases.

American Idiot would be adapted to become a proper Broadway musical and played for a little over a year in 2010-2011. Billie Joe Armstrong played in the cast for a few of the performances and also appeared on some of the show’s touring dates.

There have been four more releases since American Idiot and while the sound continues to change underneath it all is still the snarl and crack of the three young men I saw re-start punk rock in 1994. I really hope to see them inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year I think they deserve it.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Blacklist

Every new television season I manage to pick up one or two new series which eventually get a season pass on my DVR. The sad thing is when it comes to the next new television season I find it is those that I watched the year before which I delete from my DVR to make room for the new potentials. In almost every artistic endeavor you can name, sustaining creativity and building upon it is extremely difficult. I imagine for a new television series it is even more daunting. When you film your original order of thirteen episodes you likely put all of your good ideas on the line. Then if you’re successful you’re asked for nine more episodes to complete the first season. Now what? The truly creative manage to get over this; others have problems and it is why you often see those final nine episodes of a freshman television series become so maddeningly inconsistent. Of the new shows I began watching last year one of them has not only come back stronger than when it began but it feels like it is peaking at the moment. That show is NBC’s The Blacklist.

the blacklist

The premise of The Blacklist is that a one-time agent who had turned to a life of crime by becoming the man who brokers deals between international criminals turns himself in. The character’s name is Raymond “Red” Reddington and he is played by James Spader in one of the best performances on television. It is his performance which makes the show watchable even when the plotting gets a little too byzantine. The structure of the show is Red only works with one profiler in the FBI, Lizzie Keen played by Megan Boone. The mythology weaving its way through the show is about Red’s and Lizzie’s relationship. There is some connection and the show feeds the audience bits and pieces about it around the case of the week. Those cases are people who are on The Blacklist, criminals so careful the police agencies don’t even know about them. Every episode starts with a name. Sometimes they have supervillain like names The Kingmaker or The Alchemist; sometimes it is just the name of a person or group. By the end of the hour the titular villain is thwarted.

The cases are pretty standard television fare. The performance of Mr. Spader is not. He excels at playing these morally ambiguous characters. He really became one of my favorite actors when he played the role of lawyer Alan Shore on the last season of the show The Practice before being spun-off into his own show Boston Legal. There is common ground between Red and Alan, besides the actor who brings them to life, both happily almost gleefully use unethical means to ensure positive outcomes. It is this ability to portray a character who contains a strong adherence to a personal ethos which makes Mr. Spader so much fun to watch. In The Blacklist he has never been better.

If you are looking for something to catch up on and binge watch as the weather turns colder I can highly recommend doing so with Season 1 of The Blacklist. Then catch up to the current season because it is only getting better.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Argentinian Malbec Wine

Location, location, location is a widely known axiom in real estate. It also applies to wine making as well. For great wines to be made it requires a combination of the right amount of sunshine, the right temperature range, and the right kind of soil. These considerations are all combined in a single concept called terroir. Terroir loosely translates to “sense of place”. When the term was first coined I suspected that it was more a marketing ploy by France and California to continue to promote the idea that they were the premiere wine growing regions in the world. It wouldn’t be until the early Naughts that I actually came to believe in the concept and it wasn’t a French or California wine that convinced me it was one from Argentina.


Malbec grapes on the vine in Mendoza

The malbec grape was a widely used blending grape for the French and California red wines. It was primarily used to soften some of the rougher edges a particular vintage might produce. By itself malbec was never considered to be a wine on its own because it just didn’t have enough character. In France after a particular rough winter in 1956 where most of the malbec vines were lost vintners gravitated to other varietals when replanting like cabernet franc. In California the opposite happened as it wasn’t until the mid-1990’s that malbec began to be produced in significant quantities for use as a blending grape.

I remember going to my favorite wine store in Boston and being offered this new wine from Argentina. i freely admit I’m a wine snob and so I expected this new wine from Argentina to be uninspiring. Except when I took my first sip the incredible texture and flavor made me reassess my thoughts on Argentinian wine making. When I asked what the wine was I was told it was Terrazas de los Andes Malbec. I was flummoxed; not only Argentinian but a flaccid tasting grape like malbec. How could this be? The answer was in the name of the wine I had tasted.


Nicolas Catena Zapata

The introduction of the malbec grape came from French agronomist Miguel Pouget who brought some cuttings with him to Argentina in the mid-18th century. It wouldn’t be until 1994 when winemaker Nicolas Catena Zapata would decide to plant malbec grapes in the high-altitude of the Andes Mountains that these spectacular wines would be cultivated. His Bodega Catena vineyard is the result.

The region in the Andes known for this is called Mendoza. The vineyards that are in the region all exist from altitudes of 3,000-5,000 feet above sea level. The soil is also very flinty as you might expect from being on the side of a mountain range. You would also expect that being on the side of a mountain at altitude the grapes are exposed to a greater and more intense amount of sunlight. All of this is probably true and together they transform the malbec grape grown in Mendoza into one of the best red wines in the world. Terroir indeed.


The malbec wine imported to the US is uniformly good and unlike most other big red wines is drinkable right away without further aging. These malbecs don’t have a lot of the tannins and harshness that require some mellowing by aging in the bottle. This quality makes them very accessible. What even makes them more accessible is the best malbecs are still available at less than $20 a bottle, often less than $15 a bottle. Compared to their French and California counterparts which are over a $100 a bottle these are fabulous bargains.

Malbecs go with any kind of meat dishes or robust tomato-based dishes. Whatever you would pair a cabernet sauvignon or Bordeaux with a malbec will serve just as well. The best vineyards are Terrazas de los Andes, Bodega Catena, Trapiche, Layer Cake, and Cigar Box. So far I can say there hasn’t been a poor vintage yet produced which is another oddity as the terroir seems to be remarkably stable in the conditions for the grapes to grow.

If you’re looking for a great red wine that doesn’t cost a lot heading into the fall and winter you just need to head to the Argentina aisle in your local wine store and say “Malbec please.”

Mark Behnke