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Guardians of the Galaxy & Sonoma Zinfandel

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 is nearly here! We've seen the Guardians do cross-overs in so many other Marvel movies, it's easy to forget that it's been six whole years since their last stand-alone movie.

In case you're not up-to-speed why, Director James Gunn got canceled and fired from the franchise back in 2018. The cast and fans rebelled and he got his job back a few months later, but it was already too late to undo all of the damage. In the intervening time, Gunn's dance card filled up, so Guardians fans had to wait for him to finish directing The Suicide Squad (2021) and Peacemaker before he could get back to them.

Given how long it's been, I could use a reminder of how we got here and what better way than to rewatch the first movie with a Sonoma Zinfandel, like Ridge's?

Heads up, I interned for Marvel Studios way back in 2008, though I never worked on "Guardians of the Galaxy." I disclose this in case you care whether I might be biased or you expect me to exhibit something like journalistic ethics... Don't everyone care at once.

The Movie

Fast-paced, action-packed, and humor-filled, "Guardians of the Galaxy" follows Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a space adventurer who prefers to go by the moniker "Star-Lord". After stealing a mysterious, orbicular (look it up) Macguffin (same), Quill becomes a fugitive. Chance and circumstance throw him together with several other misfits: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an assassin; Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a literal-minded warrior out for revenge; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a gun-toting, genetically modified raccoon; and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), an Ent of few words. With its irreverent tone, character-driven humor, and thrilling plot, "Guardians of the Galaxy" is a unique and entertaining addition to the superhero genre.

The casting is superb, except I have some questions. First, what straight man decided to cast Bradley Cooper in a superhero movie as a fully-CGI character? Don't get me wrong, I love him as Rocket, but that's a waste of a perfectly good six-pack. Second, does anyone know what happened to Glenn Close's character? Where did she go? You don't cast Glenn Close, use her for five seconds and never come back to her. She's way too good an actress for that, what the hell?

"Guardians of the Galaxy" shines in its ability to mix humor and heart. The dialogue is sharp but the film is also grounded by real emotional depth, with themes of friendship, loss, and finding one's place in the universe. The character arcs are well-developed and compelling, each guardian facing their own demons and past traumas, adding layers of complexity to their personalities.

In my opinion, "Guardians of the Galaxy" is when the Marvel Cinematic Universe really hit its stride. Their machine was well-oiled but they weren't yet releasing more projects than producer and studio mainstay Kevin Feige could wrap his arms around. Also, the "Guardians of the Galaxy" comic series didn't yet have the same name recognition as Marvel's other properties, so James Gunn got more free rein to take risks than he otherwise would have. Those risks paid off, how else do you think we got Guardians' soundtrack?

My only real criticism is the villain, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). There was a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe's only interesting villain was Loki, and Ronan is a fantastic example of just how mediocre they used to be. (Nobody blames you, Lee Pace, you didn't have anything to work with.) But all's well that end's well, Marvel figured out how to villain eventually.

The Wine

From Sonoma, California's Dry Creek Valley, Lytton Springs is not a pure Zinfandel but rather a blend, with Petite Sirah, Carignan, and Mataro playing supporting roles. Known for its commitment to traditional, minimal-intervention winemaking methods, Ridge consistently crafts wines that express the unique character of its vineyard sites.

On the nose, Lytton Springs presents an aromatic complexity of ripe black cherries, blackberries, and plums, interwoven with notes of baking spices, licorice, and a hint of vanilla. The palate reveals a full-bodied, structured wine, where ripe red and black fruit flavors are balanced with lively acidity and firm tannins. Layers of spice, earthiness, and a touch of oak contribute to the wine's complexity, leading to a long, satisfying finish.

Why They Pair Well

Guardians isn't about a single hero, but instead a ragtag bunch, each with their own personality. A blend is called for. The Lytton Springs alternates between fruity and tannins, much like how Guardians flips between humor and genuine feeling. The acidity keeps the wine and film fun. Ridge's low-intervention practices give each of its wines a unique character each year, and Guardians knows a thing or two about unique characters.

What wine would you pair with "Guardians of the Galaxy?"

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