It is no secret I have a love for all things guitar, especially the tones of surf rock and rockabilly. I remember getting into guitar playing around the age of 10, but it wasn't until I heard the amped-up energy of Brian Setzer's big fat Gretsch guitar as a frontman for the Stray Cats in 1992. They were on the decline at the time, but it was easy enough for me to find their back catalog and other like them. One of the bands I found that I instantly loved was a group called the Los Straightjackets.
The Los Straightjackets have a distinct Link Wray/ Dick Dale/ Dessert sound to them. An all instrumental act, they wear Lucha Libre masks and suits when playing live shows and it is a unique show to witness and dance to.
As the years went on they always managed to make their way back into my headphones. In September of 2011, only two weeks before my wedding to my lovely wife Erin, I was sent to California on a 5 day business trip to Napa and Sonoma. That's right, two weeks before my wedding when things were starting to get a little hectic. At this time, some old friends came back into my life, the Los Straightjackets. My Ipod was loaded for the trip and there was a lot of Straightjackets on it. Each morning on the trip I would play them as I was getting ready. When I had the chance on our tour van, I got a few songs in between winery visits and conversations. One morning we started our day with a visit to the sprawling estate of Mondavi.
We were greeted at the get by a man (forgot his name, he was super nice though!) He got onto our shuttle with a rack of wine glasses and a few bottles of wine. Keep in mind it was only 8:30am. This was pretty typical on a this sort of jam backed business trip. He instructed our driver off the property and around to a vineyard site to visit 100 year old bush vine Sauvignon Blanc plants. We were in the famous vineyard to To Kalon. This vineyard is more known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, but does contain a few other grapes like these 100 yr bush Sauvignon Blanc. They were about a week away from harvest at this time and there was a little hustle and bustle in the vineyards. He poured us some wine. It was the 2009 Mondavi I-Block To Kalon Vineyard Reserve Fume Blanc. There hasn't been too many times were a wine has hit my palate as perfect as that one did in 2011. Maybe it was the cool fresh morning, my happy Los Straightjackets mood, or simply the perfection of the wine itself. The bush vines were gnarly, fat, and grapes clusters were few. One of the more memorable notes for me was noticing just how soft the dirt in this particular vineyard was. It wasn't like the dirt we see in our backyards, or on other vineyards we had already seen on this trip. It was fine and delicate. I would say it was fluffy and powdery, and it felt like you were on a very soft fluffy memory foam carpet. A great wine to me is well-balanced, and changes every time you take a sip. This did just that. There were too many flavors and feelings it brought forth to explain in a blog over two years later, but it was the best wine I tried all trip and we visited some heavy hitters in the Napa and Sonoma Valley.
So for me, Surf Rock and Fume Blanc will always be tied together in that early morning glass of wine with my shoes dug into the dirt, sun reflecting off the wine into my sunglasses. What a fantastic breakfast that was. If you ever have a chance to try this Fume Blanc, do it. It would be even better to do it while listening to the Los Straightjackets.