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15 Pop Culture-Inspired Wines

50 Shades of Grey mania has officially reached fever pitch: Among the many items that are launching to capitalize on the film’s Valentine’s Day release are a Christian Grey teddy bear, complete with mask and handcuffs, a kale cookbook (?), and plenty of adult toys that shall not be named. For the less pain-inclined among us, there’s also a duo of 50 Shades of Grey wines, which are a must for any collector of pop culture wines.

1. 50 SHADES OF GREY WINE

50 Shades of Grey fans are bound (pun intended) to want to raise a glass to author E.L. James, who personally blended this naughty pair of wines: Red Satin, a 2011 blend of Petite Sirah and Syrah aged in French oak barrels, and White Silk, a 2012 blend of Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc that’s character is as rich as Mr. Grey himself.

2. DOWNTON ABBEY WINE

Much like the Crawleys’ fortunes, the Downton Abbey Wine line continues to grow. In January, to coincide with the series’ fifth season premiere, California-based LCF Wines paid tribute to Cora Crawley’s American roots with the Countess of Grantham Collection, a series of bold-yet-fruity blends, including a Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, that make the perfect all-American counterpart the line's more traditional bottles of Bordeaux.

3. WALKING DEAD WINE SERIES

Clean water may be the beverage of choice of the Survivors on The Walking Dead, but nothing classes up a good zombie kill better than a cool glass of White Zinfandel. Personal Wine’s Walking Dead Wine Collector’s Series features a line of morbidly-named vinos—Cadaver Cabernet Sauvignon, Still Alive By Way of The Antidote, The UnDead Apocalyptic Red, and The Zinfection Blight Zinfandel—that are best enjoyed as a foursome.

4. CANNIBAL CHIANTI & SUIT YOURSELF PINOT GRIGIO

There are few fictional oenophiles as well known as Hannibal Lecter. So it was only a matter of time before some smart cineastes developed a Silence of the Lambs-inspired Chianti to go with your plate of liver and fava beans. Enter The Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain, who in 2013 announced their Cannibal Chianti and Suit Yourself Pinot Grigio. Unfortunately, the wines were limited editions, which means that you might need to enlist the help of Clarice Starling to find a bottle.

5. STAR TREK WINES

Fear not, Trekkies: The granddaddy of all merchandise-happy series has got its own collection of wines, too—four of them altogether: The Trouble with Tribbles, Mirror Mirror, and The City on the Edge of Forever are each named for popular episodes from the series, while Klingon Bloodwine is a celebratory drink, all of them with custom designed labels by artist Juan Ortiz.

6. ROLLING STONES 40 LICKS MERLOT

Regardless of what the label says, you’ll want to sip—not lick—this fruit-forward Mendocino County merlot, which tastes of black cherry and vanilla but looks totally rock ‘n’ roll.

7. DUCK COMMANDER

The Robertson clan of Louisiana rose to fame—and then infamy—with their A&E series Duck Dynasty, a rags-to-riches reality show about a family who found success with the Duck Commander duck call. At the height of the show’s popularity, the Robertsons added another item to their product line when they partnered with California’s Trinchero Family Estates to launch a line of Duck Commander wines, including a red Triple Threat, Wood Duck Chardonnay, Miss Priss Pink Moscato, Pintail Moscato, and Teal Hen Pinot Grigio.

8. REAL HOUSEWIVES WINES

The Real Housewives of [Fill In the City] wouldn’t be The Real Housewives of [Fill In the City] if there weren’t a plethora of wine on hand. So it’s hardly surprising that so many of the ladies have parlayed their reality fame into vino ventures, including Ramona Singer, who is rarely seen without a glass of Ramona Pinot Grigio in her hand; restaurateur/tiny-dog-lover Lisa Vanderpump, who produces her own red and pink sangrias by the bottle; current inmate Teresa Giudice’s Fabellini Proseccos; and O.C. ladies Tamra Barney and Vicki Gunvalson’s Wine by Wives wine club, which may or may not still be in business (judging by their under-construction Website and un-updated Facebook page).

9. WINES OF WESTEROS

File this one under “maybe.” Though not officially associated with Game of Thrones, the fan-funded Wines of Westeros promises that “Hangovers are Coming.” The concept is that there will ultimately be a dozen varietals, one for each of GOT’s 12 houses. We’re curious to taste The Dothraki.

10. AC/DC WINES

Wine gets badass with The Ultimate Rocker collection, which includes three bottles of all four AC/DC Wine varietals, including the Highway to Hell Cabernet Sauvignon, Thunderstruck Chardonnay, Hells Bells Sauvignon Blanc, and Back in Black Shiraz.

11. MARGE & HOMER SIMPSON

More of an art concept than an honest-to-goodness wine brand, Russian designer Constantin Bolimond’s Piet Mondrian-inspired Marge and Homer Simpson wine bottles are almost too pretty to drink. But what exactly is in the bottle? The label makes that a bit ambiguous: “The drink was brought to life together with the cartoon characters in 1987. Maybe it is wine, maybe not. We are inviting you to find out yourselves.”

12. TRAIN WINES

San Francisco-based band Train took their “Drops of Jupiter” hit pretty seriously. So seriously that they created a wine around the title, Drops of Jupiter California Red, a fruit-forward Petite Sirah. For white wine lovers, there’s Calling All Angels Chardonnay—not to mention California 37 Cabernet Sauvignon, Soul Sister Pinot Noir, Hella Fine Merlot, and Bulletproof Picasso Sauvignon Blanc, all of which are available through the band’s Save Me, San Francisco Wine Company (which admirably dedicates a portion of its proceeds to charity).

13. THE SOPRANOS WINES

Like the legendary mob series itself, The Sopranos Wines collection—a collaboration between HBO and the Vesuvio Import Company that was launched in 2008, more than a year after the series concluded—is a thing of the past. But bottles of the five varietals, which included a Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Noir, can still be found if you look (or Google) hard enough.

14. HELLO KITTY WINE

Hello Kitty has got this marketing thing down. Though she may have started life as a cute kiddie toy, but in the more than 40 years since her introduction, she’s been emblazoned on just about any product one could imagine, including a line of light and fruity wines, featuring a sparkling Rosé and an Italian Spumante.

15. FOGHAT CELLARS

A 2007 performance at the California Mid State Fair proved serendipitous for the British blues-rock band Foghat (think: “Slow Ride”). For it’s here that they met fan and winemaker Steve Rasmussen, who thought that the name Foghat would perfectly translate to a California wine brand. Thus the idea for Foghat Cellars was born, and nine months later the new collaborators bottled their first vino, a limited edition 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, there are five vintages, all blended with the slogan, “Music & Wine… Passions Combined.”

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8 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 3
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[Warning: There are lots of Stranger Things season two spoilers ahead.]

Stranger Things season two is in the books, and like we all hoped, it turned out to be a worthy follow-up to an addictive debut season. Now, though, we’re left with plenty of questions, mysteries, and theories to chew on as the wait for a third season begins. But for everything we don’t know about what the next year of Stranger Things will bring us (such as an actual release date), there are more than enough things we do know to keep those fan theories coming well into 2018. While the show hasn't been officially greenlit for a third season by Netflix yet, new details have already begun to trickle out. Here’s everything we know about Stranger Things season three so far.

1. THERE WILL BE ANOTHER TIME JUMP.

The third season of Stranger Things won’t pick up right where the second one left off. Like the show experienced between the first two seasons, there will be a time jump between seasons two and three as well. The reason is simple: the child actors are all growing up, and instead of having the kids look noticeably older without explanation for year three, the Duffer Brothers told The Hollywood Reporter:

“Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast. They're going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can't start right after season two ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing.”

2. THE IDEA IS TO BE SMALLER IN SCALE.

If the series’s second season was about expanding the Stranger Things mythology, the third season won't go bigger just for the sake of it, with the brothers even going so far as to say that it will be a more intimate story.

“It’s not necessarily going to be bigger in scale,” Matt Duffer said in an interview with IndieWire. “What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on.”

Ross Duffer did stress, though, that as of early November, season three is basically “… Matt and me working with some writers and figuring out where it’s going to go.”

3. THE MIND FLAYER WILL BE BACK.

The second season ended on a bit of a foreboding note when it was revealed that the Mind Flayer was still in the Upside Down and was seen looming over the Hawkins school as the winter dance was going on. Though we know there will be a time jump at the start of next season, it’s clear that the monster will still have a big presence on the show.

Executive producer Dan Cohen told TV Guide: "There were other ways we could have ended beyond that, but I think that was a very strong, lyrical ending, and it really lets us decide to focus where we ultimately are going to want to go as we dive into Season 3."

What does the Mind Flayer’s presence mean for the new crop of episodes? Well, there will be plenty of fan theories to ponder between now and the season three premiere (whenever that may be).

4. PLENTY OF LEFTOVER SEASON TWO STORYLINES WILL BE IN SEASON THREE.

The Duffer Brothers had a lot of material for the latest season of the show—probably a bit too much. Talking to Vulture, Matt Duffer detailed a few details and plot points that had to be pushed to season three:

"Billy was supposed to have a bigger role. We ended up having so many characters it ended up, in a way, more teed up for season three than anything. There was a whole teen supernatural story line that just got booted because it was just too cluttered, you know? A lot of that’s just getting kicked into season three."

The good news is that he also told the site that this wealth of cut material could make the writing process for the third season much quicker.

5. THERE WILL BE MORE ERICA.

Stranger Things already had a roster of fan-favorite characters heading into season two, but newcomer Erica, Lucas’s little sister, may have overshadowed them all. Played by 11-year-old Priah Ferguson, Erica is equal parts expressive, snarky, and charismatic. And the Duffer Brothers couldn’t agree more, saying that there will be much more Erica next season.

“There will definitely be more Erica in Season 3,” Ross Duffer told Yahoo!. “That is the fun thing about the show—you discover stuff as you’re filming. We were able to integrate more of her in, but not as much you want because the story [was] already going. ‘We got to use more Erica’—that was one of the first things we said in the writers’ room.”

“I thought she’s very GIF-able, if that’s a word,” Matt Duffer added. “She was great.”

6. EXPECT KALI TO RETURN.

The season two episode “The Lost Sister” was a bit of an outlier for the series. It’s a standalone episode that focuses solely on the character Eleven, leaving the central plot and main cast of Hawkins behind. As well-received as Stranger Things season two was, this episode was a near-unanimous miss among fans and critics.

The episode did, however, introduce us to the character of Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), who has the ability to manipulate people’s minds with illusions she creates. Despite the reaction, the Duffers felt the episode was vital to Eleven’s development, and that Kali won’t be forgotten moving forward.

“It feels weird to me that we wouldn’t solve [Kali’s] storyline. I would say chances are very high she comes back,” Matt Duffer said at the Vulture Festival.

7. OTHER "NUMBERS" MIGHT SHOW UP.

We're already well acquainted with Eleven, and season two introduced us to Eight (a.k.a. Kali), and executive producer Shawn Levy heavily hinted to E! that there are probably more Hawkins Laboratory experiments on the horizon.

"I think we've clearly implied there are other numbers, and I can't imagine that the world will only ever know Eleven and Eight," Levy said.

8. THERE MIGHT NOT BE MANY SEASONS LEFT.

Don’t be in too much of a rush to find out everything about the next season of Stranger Things; there might not be many more left. The Duffer Brothers have said in the past that the plan is to do four seasons and end it. However, Levy gave fans a glimmer of hope that things may go on a little while longer—just by a bit, though.

“Hearts were heard breaking in Netflix headquarters when the Brothers made four seasons sound like an official end, and I was suddenly getting phone calls from our actors’ agents,” Levy told Entertainment Weekly. “The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”

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A Speedy History of the Hess Truck
Hess Corporation
Hess Corporation

Unless you know someone crazy about air fresheners or caffeine pills, holiday gifts purchased at gas stations don’t usually provoke much excitement. But if you were one of the millions who grew up in the northeast, the annual release of the Hess toy truck at Hess gas stations—usually green, always labeled with a Hess logo, always boxed with batteries—was and is as much a part of the holiday as Santa Claus and his sleigh.

The idea for an affordable, quality children’s toy sold at service stations at thousands of Hess locations in 16 states was courtesy of Leon Hess, the college dropout-turned-fuel magnate who began selling oil door-to-door in 1933 and graduated to gas stops by 1960. Hess decided he would trump the cheap merchandise given away by gas stations—mugs, glassware—by commissioning a durable, feature-heavy toy truck modeled after the first oil tanker he ever bought for his company. Unlike most toys of the era, it would have headlights that really worked and a tank that kids could either fill up or drain with water.

Most importantly, Hess insisted it come with batteries—he knew the frustration suffered by kids who tore into a holiday present, only to discover they’d have to wait until it had a power source before it could be operated.

The Hess Tanker Truck went on sale in 1964 for $1.29 and sold out almost instantly. Hess released the toy again in 1965, and then introduced the Voyager Tanker Ship in 1966. For the next 50 years, hardly a year went by without Hess issuing a new vehicle that stood up to heavy play and offered quality and features comparable to the “real” toys on store shelves. Incredibly, fathers would wait in line for hours for an opportunity to buy one for their child.

The toy truck became so important to the Hess brand and developed such a strong following that when the company was bought out in 2014 and locations converted to the Speedway umbrella, new owners Marathon Petroleum promised they would keep making the Hess trucks. They’re now sold online, with the newest—the Dump Truck and Loader, complete with working hydraulics and STEM lesson plans—retailing for $33.99. Bigger, better toy trucks may be out there, but a half-century of tradition is hard to replicate.

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