Vinyl&Wine 28: Lake Street Dive + Mouton Noir Oregogne

I haven’t found much new music that I really enjoy in a while. I can’t say I have actively been searching for it either. That said, in the past few weeks, I have come across two groups that have been making me really happy in the otherwise dull and slow moving month of August. Earlier this week, my wife played me a clip on Youtube of an amazing vocalist named Rachael Price. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but it was later in the evening and I was pretty focused on a television show; though I did recognize the talent. Her voice sounded a bit reminiscent of Amy Whinehouse, Fiona Apple, and Diana Krall. It was easy to tell she is naturally a great singer, but must have had some strong jazz training. I looked into her music the next day and realized she is the lead singer for an amazing band out of Boston called Lake Street Dive. They are a pop band, with hints of blues, jazz, and gospel. I give credit to my wife and finding this one. I called my local record store to see if they had their newly released album on vinyl. Sure enough, they had a few copies left. It is called Bad Self Portraits.

It has been three days straight now, and I cannot stop listening to this band. The sultry and playful sound of Price’s vocals has me hooked from start to finish on this vinyl. The four piece is comprised of drums, guitar, upright bass, and vocals, with the addition of trumpet frequently on this records titled, Bad Self Portraits. On any given song, you can call out hints of music giants from yesterday, like The Cure, Carol King, The Supremes, Norah Jones, and The Beatles to name a few, but Lake Street Dive is uniquely original and a breath of fresh air. The great part about the band is when you can just visualize them at band practice, and on the road, they are having fun. For anyone who has never played in a band, that statement sounds a little dumb, but most working musicians know that fun isn’t always fun and is very tiring and stressful. I can’t imagine Lake Street Dive feeling that way, and that makes me happy. As this record has been seeing its fair share of rotation in the short few days I’ve owned it, wine has been opened and opened again. Lake Street Dive is so fresh and a relief to my ears among the many of acts in this musical era of over-produced pop singers and electronic dance music. It deserves to be paired with a wine that that mirrors its creativity, freshness, and sultry attitude. That, for me, immediately rules out most offerings from the old world regions Europe. I thought about popping an Australian wine, and there are a lot of choices from the Southern Hemisphere, but I went with a new world Pinot Noir. I happened to get a bottle of an Oregon Pinot Noir produced by the fairly young winery, Mouton Noir.

Mouton Noir was created in 2007 by Sommelier, Andre Mack as a fantastic Oregon wine label and lifestyle operation, which is pretty self-evident if you visit their website. I opened a bottle of the Mouton Noir Oregogne, from the Willamette Valley. I loved the liveliness of this wine and its freshness. The name “Oregogne” gives a shout out to the best region in the world for Pinot Noir, Burgundy. What I loved about this wine is the subtle kicks of blueberries, and ripe cherries on the attack, great acidity, and a long lasting, but not too heavy finish. The aromas are sweet and very floral. If I had a green thumb I would tell you just what flowers I was picking up, but I am not good with flower names; hydrangeas? Chrysanthemums?  The Oregogne is so much like the Bad Self Portraits record it is uncanny. Lake Street Dive and Mouton Noir should do some sort of project together, or at least play a show in Oregon at the winery. As many new world pinot noirs are, it goes down with a little bit of playful mystery and a lot of love.

Both Lake Street Dive and Mouton Noir have risen to the top of my music and wine playlist. Do yourself a favor and go get Bad Self Portraits and a bottle of Mouton Noir. You can thank me later.

Oh, and for the other group I mentioned in the introduction; that is coming next week.


Vinyl&Wine 21: Galactic + d'Arenberg Laughing Magpie

If there is ever a specific time to let go of all your inhibitions and go with the flow, it is at a Galactic concert. I have seen them on three occasions. Once at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, another as an opening act for Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade (of Primus and Claypool Cellars Winery in Sonoma), and the last time was a headlining show at Washington D.C.’s famous 9:30 club.

 The first time I saw them, I had no clue what I was about to see. I had never heard them before. It was a hot night on a closed off Downtown Street and the funk just went off through the city streets. The words, “Holy Shit!” crossed my mind more than a few times. Unfortunately, it was over as quickly as started it seemed. The second time was a quick show as well. When you are opening for Les Claypool, it is probably best to play a short set, because Claypool/ Primus devotees can be a tough crowd. It wasn’t until I saw them in D.C. did I really see how this New Orleans based jazz/ funk/ fusion/ hip hop/ electronica/ blues band really sounds. They played for nearly two hours plus encores and from note one til the last, the energy level never dropped below eleven on a ten point scale. The crowd was sold out and a second show the following night had been added. With over ten guys on stage dancing, playing their horns and other instruments, the volume was at critical mass. I left the concert like I did when I was in high school, drenched in sweat and dehydrated, except instead of moshing to a punk band, I had been dancing to funk band. The music is infectious and lively. It is a collaborations of many styles, and great players. When I try to recreate that night at home, I put on their vinyl Ya-Ka-May.

The band is led by famous New Orleans drummer, Stanton Moore. He can be found playing at the famous Tipitina’s in New Orleans weekly with numerous groups. They formed nearly eighteen years ago as a collaboration for Mardi Gras events. The popularity grew with local and slowly, they began playing together more often until Galactic became an institution. Their 2010 release, Ya-Ka-May, is a great example of what you will get in a full Galactic concert. It starts off with a punch of energy with the song, Friends of Science and even has a song entitled, Bacchus, the Roman God of wine. The album is loaded with other familiar New Orleans names like, Trombone Shorty, Allen Toussaint, Rebirth Brass Band, Cheeky Blakk, and others. Pairing a wine with this isn’t always easy. It takes a wine that is full of lively energy, pizazz,s it leaves a smile on your face, and possibly even exhausted by the end of the bottle. I usually decide on a blended wine, a single varietal just won’t cut it. A white wine could work, it has lively acidity, and depending on the grapes, it could have snappy flavors, but it may be missing the punch you need to hold up to trombones, and kick drum of Galactic.

I find one of my favorite pairings for Galactic is an Aussie import, from the vineyards of d’Arenberg. They are known for their blends and have a really awesome line of wines under $10 named The Stump Jump. Those aren’t the specific bottles I choose for this pairing through. When I can grab a few bottles, the d’Arenberg “Laughing Magpie” Shiraz/Viognier is my number one choice. Yes, you are reading that correctly, a red and white grape blended together, and no it isn’t pink after blending. They only use upwards of 10% viognier in certain years and it is just enough to make a completely different wine then there standard Shiraz. Australian Shiraz is a powerhouse of a wine to begin with. It has high alcohol levels, rich fruit flavors, and gobs spice. With the addition of Viognier to the already powerful wine, the lively bright acidity and extremely floral aromatics change the wine into something completely fantastic. The addition of viognier to syrah isn’t an Aussie original though, winemakers began doing that in Northern Rhone to their Cote-Rotie’s years before. Syrah’s color tend to fade rather quickly compared to other big red grapes, but the wines last for a long time. The wine makers found that the addition of some white wine and its acidity helped save the color from fading as quick. In addition, to saving color, it also makes some fantastic tasting wine, a true collaboration of completely opposite grapes. This method as translated well to Australian wineries.  

Much like Galactic’s Ya-Ka-May, d’Arenberg’s “Laughing Magpie” is loaded with unexpected flavors, zippiness, and punch. Opposites do attract, each filling the void of what the other doesn’t have. This pairing is one of my favorites and it isn’t just on the palate, you feel it in your whole body, so turn the volume up. 

Vinyl&Wine 20: Weather Report + Tegernseerhof Riesling

I don’t always watch the news every morning. For the most part, the local news is boring in the morning. It is filled with traffic updates every five minutes, quick blurbs about late night mischievous, and the weather report. Lately, I have been watching the weather report a lot. It seems lately this winter just won’t go away. Last weekend, the sky dumped almost 10 inches of snow on us and was 60 degrees a couple days later. It is beginning to feel a little frustrating. My face every morning is becoming reminiscent of Bill Murray’s in the movie Groundhogs day. When going fingering through my vinyls this week, I came across a vinyl that made me laugh. It was Heavy Weather by Weather Report. “Finally, a forecast I want to see,” I said to myself. It has always been a favorite of mine. Weather Report is one of the best jazz fusion groups from the 1970s and early 1980s.

As a Miles Davis fan, I have explored all of his music, even into his weirder fusion albums like the famous Bitches Brew. Weather Report creator, Joe Zawinul (keyboards) and Wayne Shorter (saxophone), were integral in the early days of Miles Davis’s fusion binges backing him and collaborating with him on many occasions. Zawinul and Shorter soon went full time with their own concept of jazz fusion, free jazz, or exploration jazz. The first song I ever heard by Weather Report was called Birdland. It is one of their catchier songs and most popular. It is a great introduction and full of grooves with a lot of bass. Right off the bat it has at tempo that gets your blood moving and little unexpected fills and licks that make you smile, maybe are even a little humorous. Heavy Weather isn’t all catchy, it does go into deep atmospheric jams, and even some hard to grasp fusions that may just sound like a lot of noise to non-fusion music fans. When played straight through on my record player, Heavy Weather sounds like a motion picture soundtrack with ups and downs, and a full range of emotions. It is actually very similar to outrageous weather we have been experiencing in upstate New York this past month. When we are stuck inside on these everlasting snow days and there is nothing else to do, pop a bottle of wine and enjoy a good Weather Report for once. Like the versatility of the Weather Reports music, Riesling makes a great pairing and a wine we always have in cellar.

In my eyes, Riesling is the most noble of all grape varietals for a number of different reasons. It can be made in many different styles from dessert, to off-dry, to the far opposite of bone dry. It is a cool climate grape and grows well in regions like France, Washington, Germany, Austria, and New York. Rieslings age very well, and is my preferred bottle. As they age, they show more nuances of petroleum and concentrated apricot flavors. My taste buds lend themselves to the most extreme of flavor profiles, bone dry and ice wine. The best Riesling I have ever drank was a 1997 Trimbach clos St Hune from France. I drank that bottle with a roasted vegetable terrine and roasted tomato Riesling aioli. Recently, my favorites have been the Lake Dana Vineyard releases from Fox Run Vineyards, Boundary Breaks Vineyards, and Austrian Rieslings. When I can get it, Tegernseerhof Vineyards located on the Danube River in what I consider the most beautiful part of the country I have seen, is my absolute favorite. Like founding member of Weather Report and Austrian, Joe Zawinul, the Rieslings from the Wachau region are complex, deep, rich, and sometimes airy and catchy. Owner/ Winemaker Martin Mittlbach is at the top of his game and winning awards all over Europe and receiving great scores in publications like Wine Enthusiast and Wine and Spirits. He has been able to a wide range of complex flavors and the unique versatility of the grape itself across his lineup of single vineyard releases.

Heavy Weather and Tegernseerhof make a great pairing, especially with the chaotic weather we have been experiencing. If you cannot, find Tegernseerhof where you live, I suggest trying any Austrian Riesling you can get your hands, or your favorite one in general. I promise you won’t be disappointed with the overall experience. 

Tegernseerhof Vineyards and Danube River