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Cool Hand Luke


As we inch our way toward autumn, wine lovers turn their thoughts to harvest time.  Visions of grape pickers working the vineyards fill our heads, lovingly fondling each cluster of Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon before gently plucking it from the vine and sending it on its way to the sorting table.At the beginning of “Cool Hand Luke,” Paul Newman’s character is drunk and lovingly pruning the head from a parking meter.  Two things you should never say to a policeman: “Hold my beer” and “Are you the guy from the Village People?”

As a result of his ill-advised adventure, Newman gets to join a group of men working in the fields.  They don’t get paid even a low wage.   They work in chains and are watched over by a prison guard with mean sunglasses and a shotgun.  At a regular job, he’d be called mid-management.  Where’s our shop steward?

These days, a lot of grape picking occurs at night.  Tractors with enough light banks to illuminate a ballpark make it easy for the harvesters to work when it’s cool.  It sounds very kind-hearted, until you realize it’s done that way for the benefit of the grapes, not the pickers.

I’m thinking it’s jailbreak time – make a run for the nearest wine tasting event and hang out near the media.   In your dirty, sweaty, tattered rags, you’ll blend right in.   But remember to sip, swirl and spit – otherwise, what we have here is… failure to expectorate.

I once worked for a guy who reminded me so much of Strother Martin that it was creepy.   We made many jokes that played off the “failure to communicate” line.   I was always ready to turn in my notice at the first sight of a new hire with badass sunglasses.

Paul Newman’s chain gang had to work all morning, into the blazing midday and right through the blistering afternoon.  A fella could really use a cool, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc after a day like that.  Or at least a Budweiser.   In prison, bread and water will have to do.  Come to think of it, I prefer water to Budweiser.

The prisoners in “Cool Hand Luke” live in eight by ten foot cells.  At work, you get a six by eight cubicle.   Good behavior in prison gets you time off.  On the job it gets you more work.  In prison, Luke is hanging around so many felons, he thought he was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.

The wine pairing for “Cool Hand Luke” is so easy, even Dragline could have thought of it.  Newman’s Own Wine offers a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon – all tasting great and benefitting charities.

The Prisoner – Predominantly Zinfandel, with a chain gang of other grapes mixed in, this Dave Phinney favorite is one to take with you if you’re going away for a long time.

Communication Block Wine – A Mt. Veeder red blend from Lampyridae Vineyards, this wine is a benefit, too.   It helps kids who depend on technology for communication..

Keel and Curley Florida Blueberry Wine – Don’t make that Jägermeister face.  They make it sweet or dry.   And it’s really good.