When I was in my early twenties and working in my first wine job, myself and many of the other folks at work would frequent a local bar after hours. New York state law prohibited wine and spirits from being sold after 9pm. The bar we would head to many nights was a beer, sports, shots, and darts kind of bar with greasy floors; a pretty typical rendezvous point for a 21 year old. It was pretty raucous most nights, even early in the week. One thing always stood out about this bar to me, and was the selection of music in the jukebox. There was about ten current albums and then every recording Frank Sinatra ever released. I was always a fan of the big band crooner sound, but initially it felt out of place when you are pouring shots down your throat and yelling at the TV when your favorite team is losing the third period of a hockey game. After a while, the Sinatra sounds became common place to me and I would become angry when a newcomer would put something else on the jukebox. It wasn’t just me, all the patrons would get upset and the bartender would usually pull the plug on the jukebox to cut the song off. I always wondered why they just didn’t take out the other music, but I think it was bait to weed out the people who didn’t fit in. I listen to Frank Sinatra all the time and own many vinyl records from him. I love to listen to him when I am making dinner and drinking wine, especially Italian nights.
There really is too much to say about Frank Sinatra, so I am not going to. If you don’t know who he is, you should just close this webpage now and go do a YouTube search for him and enter into a black hole only to return in a week and reread this. One of my favorite vinyl records is This is Sinatra! It is a release of B-sides and singles including, I’ve got the world on a string, From here to Eternity, and My One and Only Love. It was released in 1956 and probably cost way less than a dollar back then, but I came across it in a $1 bin at the record store and I couldn’t have been happier with the quality and the songs. There is something about the Frank’s crooning voice that gets my head nodding and finger snapping to his songs. He exudes confidence and class, which I try to match with my wines when listening to his music.
One of the best perfect pairings I have found is Sinatra, Italian wine, and Italian food. Okay, well that is almost common sense, but it really does work every time. Luckily for me, I work for an Italian wine importer and get to try a lot of Italian wines, one of which is Cozzo Mario Barbaresco from the north Italian region of Piedmont. Cozzo Mario is a vineyard that has been around for a very long time. They actually have a symbol of the “town key” on it, because it is supposed represent the key the Cozzo Mario patriarch gave to Napoleon Bonaparte when his campaign marched through Piedmont. I don’t believe they really wanted to give him a warm welcome, but they didn’t want their village and vineyards destroyed either. Today, their wines hold up well and present themselves with the same class and confidence as Sinatra. Barbaresco is made from a grape called Nebbiolo and is a fairly big wine, yet Cozzo Mario makes theirs with a little touch of restraint. It is that bit of restraint from the winemakers that shows their trust in the grapes themselves and their confidence in the product.
Wines from the small sub region of Barbaresco can range in price from $35 - $100+. If that price is out of range for you, I recommend looking for any wine labeled as Nebbiolo and it should be about half of the price. Better yet, just find any wines from Piedmont, they are all pretty damn good. Make some pasta and meatballs, spin a little Sinatra, and have yourself a fantastic night. Ciao!