Vinyl&Wine 16: The Black Keys + King Estate Pinot Gris

There is a certain power and creativity that comes from duos. It doesn’t matter whether the duo is involved with arts, sports, business, you name it. When it comes to music, you don’t typically think of a band as a duo. They are more typically trios or more, purely to have enough hands to play all instruments required. But occasionally, groups of two have been successful, and with a stripped down presence, their true creativity shines through. They are forced to use different tactics to amplify a lack of rhythm or melody from extra band members. The rawness and shallow sounds are appealing and show off deep roots and soulful passions. One of the best duos playing today is The Black Keys from Ohio.

Formed in 2001, The Black Keys have elevated to elite rock n’ roll status now in 2014. It wasn’t always that way for the band. Even though they had released recording throughout the years on their own or on small labels, it wasn’t until 2008 that the Black Keys released Attack and Release, that the band brought in the help from an outside producer and created a full on studio album. The producer was Danger Mouse, the creative genius behind many collaborative projects including Gnarls Barkley and many other hip hop acts.  It was at this time when I moved to Virginia in the early summer two months after the Black keys released Attack and Release. If you live anywhere in Northern Virginia or south, you know how incredible uncomfortable the summers are with high heat and sticky humidity. I have upstate New York in my blood and that Virginia weather felt like kryptonite to me, so I rarely went outside that summer. Occasionally there would be cooler nights and I was would sit on my balcony of my first apartment sipping a glass of white wine listening to Attack and Release from inside. I would listen to it on repeat and loudly. I have a distinct association with this album and hot summer nights. If you listen this album, you can almost imagine the band playing inside of a hot and sweaty house with now air condition, singing their soulful songs to a small group of friends barely moving because all their energy has been sucked out of them by the day’s last rays of sun. I recently purchased the album on vinyl and with a little bit of extra crackle from the needle, the production is launched into a unique realm of another hallucinated world. With this vinyl, I need a counter balance like the King Estate Pinot Gris.

I was and still am into the richer styles of Oregon pinot gris. They have less acidic bite than a pinot grigio from Italy or leanness from an Alsatian one. One of my favorite is from King Estate. Located near Eugene, Oregon and not far from the Pacific Ocean, King Estate is set up in an ideal location to produce an aromatic and mildly viscous style of pinot gris. The grapes are stainless steel fermented and sur-lie aged for five months. If you don’t know what Sur Lie means, it is when a wine is aged without filtering out dead yeast cells after fermentation which creates a creamy/ viscous mouth feel.  (Dead yeast cells sound like the name of a Black Keys song.) On a hot summer night, wines like this are perfect by themselves, with food and friends, or with music like the Black Keys. As the heat and raw emotion from the band can boil your blood, the crisp and creamy aromatic King Estate Pinot Gris will act as the contrast and bring you back down to a level of comfort and happiness.

I have never been able to visit the wineries of Oregon, but it is on my winery bucket list. I know someday I will get there and I will be sure that have the Black Keys in my headphones as I travel through the Oregon hills. There are many rules when pairing foods and wines. One of them is a rule of contrast like with a salty food, try a wine with more sweetness, so each part of your palate is in balance. I.e. cave-aged blue cheese like Maytag Blue pairing with a sweeter style Riesling, port, or Sauternes is amazing. It works the same way with music pairing. Sound has a way of affected your whole being, whether its lyrics are connecting with an emotion or tones are elevating your energy levels and excitement, sometimes to stay in balance, finding a contrast is a necessity to maintain the experience. 

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