Vinyl&Wine 14: Stray Cats + Penfolds Bin 28 Shiraz

The year 1982, my birth year, was an historic year in ways. In the wine world, 1982 produced some of the world’s greatest wines ever tasted, especially in Bordeaux. Those bottles are fetching some of the highest prices at auction ever right now. In the summer of 1981, MTV was introduced to the airwaves creating the prolific following year of the video music star. There was a short, yet extremely severe, economic recession that sent the financial world into an uproar. It was also the year my favorite band on earth release their second hit record, Built For Speed, by the Stray Cats. A lot of friends have asked me when I was going to write a Vinyl&Wine piece featuring the Stray Cats, and I never really have had a great answer for them. They all thought it would have been the first one written. Truth is, as a fan and Stray Cats geek, I’ve thought about this for a while and never thought I could do it properly. I love the music so much and know so much information about the band, that I couldn’t possibly figure out how to keep it scaled down to the format I’ve developed for these. So I have just decided just to keep it simple and straight to the point.

 I own multiple Stray Cat vinyl’s, but Built For Speed is the one that keeps coming back into rotation. Formed in Massapequa, NY by Brian Setzer, the Stray Cats were a rockabilly/ new wave band following in the footsteps of Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, and Carl Perkins, but with a somewhat faster tempo and pronounced edginess. Built For Speed was the album that catapulted the band into rock n’ roll history. It was there third major release, first on EMI America. It was the first appearances of songs such as Rock This Town, Stray Cat Strut, and Rumble in Brighton. I have no doubt that you have heard of at least one of those songs. The album rose quickly to #2 on the charts and took the band around the world many times playing shows, television appearances, talk shows, stadium shows, and the band enjoyed the party that came along with it. Over the next ten years, the partying kept going strong, but following releases never had as much of a footprint on the music industry as Build For Speed ever did and subsequently broke up right around 1992. They did fully reunited for a tour of Europe in 2004. The story and timeline of the Stray Cats is pretty typical of many bands. They had a quick rise to fame, only to decline in popularity, and with their own personal relationships until it all eventually broke apart. What is interesting about the Stray Cats and, lead singer and guitarist Brian Setzer most importantly, is that they were able to reinvent a classic form of music and bring it to a younger new age audience.  Rockabilly was a popular form of music in the 1950’s and had all but died out because of the 60’s peace movements, and 70’s disco and anathematic rock movements. After the Stray Cats broke up and all members went on to solo projects, Brian Setzer was again able to revitalize an even older kind of music just like he had done before, swing and big band, with the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Built For Speed is somewhat of a comfort vinyl for me. It is one I can put on; know all the lyrics and guitar licks by heart. Sometimes I play it as background music, or sometime I will sit right in front of my record played with vinyl sleeve in my lap listening. Many times, this is an afternoon vinyl for me, but at night when it comes on, it is usually when I am in a good mood and want to keep the “happy high” going. That kind of mood deserves a glass of wine.

Now I could easily pair this vinyl with a bottle of vintage 1982 Bordeaux, but frankly, I have only had one in my lifetime. It was a Leoville Barton.  It was extremely superb, but I just can’t afford a bottle like that these days.That is one of the downsides about being born in a fantastic wine year; buying a birth year wine when you are of age to drink is almost impossible unless you paid extremely well. I could pair it with a nice bottle of Long Island sauvignon blanc; Paumanok Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc comes to mind as a favorite of mine, but I don’t know if that is the best fit for this vinyl. Instead I am going to choose a grape that is a favorite of mine, Syrah or Shiraz. Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz is one of my favorites. From Australia, Penfolds is by far one of the overwhelming heavyweights of wine making and shiraz. The Penfolds Grange is typically regarded as the best of all Aussie wines. Like the Stray Cats and Brian Setzer reinvented a classic into something new, Penfolds was able to do the same with syrah. Penfolds has been around since the 1870s, so saying they “reinvented” anything is difficult, maybe reinvigorated is a more appropriate term. Wine is made in pretty much every country around the world with methods brought with early explorers and settlers. In 1844, Dr. Christopher Penfolds purchased the property where the vineyard still operated today. 100 years later, in 1945; Penfolds bought the Kalimna Vineyards in the Barossa Valley now being used to make the Bin 28 Shiraz. Along with the wide line up of wines produced at Penfolds, by the 1990’s, they were on the forefront of all Australian wine making and people all across the globe were taking notice and sales were skyrocketing. In 1995 famed wine critic Robert Parker said that Penfolds Grange, “is a leading candidate for the richest, most concentrated dry table wine on the planet,” solidifying its reinvigoration of the mighty shiraz among some of the world’s finest wines and leading grapes.

As I listen to Built For Speed by the Stray Cats, there is no question I have tried a lot of wines while enjoying their guitar licks and dancing beats. Penfolds Bin 28 Shiraz makes a beautiful pairing. It is an amped up Shiraz full of punch and pizazz, but its class and sophistication is validated by its years of training and technique like Setzer. Both the Stray Cats and Penfolds are lifelong hall-of-famers in my eyes. 

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