Vinyl&Wine 12: Joe Williams + Bedell Cellars Merlot

If there is only one skill, trait, or job that I wish I could have and be successful at, it would be jazz singer/ pianist. I am talking about the slow jazz and blues style of singer with a rich crooning style baritone voice. I’ve sat in jazz clubs and listened to all different kinds of acts perform. I didn’t have the discipline early on when I took piano lessons to stick with it. Instead, I chose the more glamorous instrument of the rock stars, guitar. I’ve been playing since I was an early teenager and I am pretty average to above average on the six-string.  As my metabolism has been slowing down and my ears tend to be a little more sensitive to volume, I am more at peace with classic jazz and blues, though a good rock show is great every now and then. Surprisingly a recent find at the record shop is a singer named Joe Williams.

I actually bought Joe Williams’s vinyl record, The Overwhelming Joe Williams, by accident. I am also a fan of delta blues guitarist and singer, Big Joe Williams, and probably by mistake by the shop staff, the vinyl I bought was stocked in the wrong spot. When I got home and began to spin the new vinyl like a kid and his new toys on Christmas, I was a little perplexed with Joe’s departure from his delta blues style and deep voice. With further investigation, it became clear that Joe Williams and Big Joe Williams were two totally different people. Luckily for me, both are completely amazing. To my surprise, Joe Williams is a singer, eight-time Grammy nominated and winner of a Grammy in 1984. He has been inducted into nearly every jazz or blues hall of fame out there, including the Grammy hall of fame. The Overwhelming Joe Williams is a collection of live recordings including songs from Ray Charles, D. Ellington, Stoller & Lieber, and originals. All of the songs are big band jazz arrangements with percussion, horns, strings, and woodwinds. Williams has a smooth baritone voice and feels like silk on skin. He has the unique skill to be gentle when with his vocals, but you can feel and hear the force pushing out his words from deep within. I liken Joe to a cross between Frank Sinatra and Cab Calloway, which is why I drink Merlot with this vinyl and daydream about having his vocal skills.

Merlot has had a bit of a tumultuous past in the wine world. It reigns king on the right bank of Bordeaux, but has fallen out of favor in the new world after becoming flabby and weak. The release of the movie Sideways was the finishing shot to the already fading grape. It isn’t until the last few years that new world merlots are becoming more austere and tight leaving the jammy flab behind. One of the unique attributes to merlot is the texture of its juice. It is hard to define the texture of a liquid, especially the differences between very similar ones like different kinds of wine. Merlot, by far, stands out in the crowd as having a silky smooth texture. Even as current releases have tight gripping tannins, the body texture is silky and round like Joe Williams voice. One of my favorite spots to find great merlot is on the Long Island in New York State. New York wine geeks and regional folks are well aware of the quality of wines that come out of the region, but the opposite coast and the rest of the world, not so much love. The north fork at the east end of the island has the most vines planted. Bedell Winery makes one of my favorites. Planted in the fantastic soils of the island, merlot seems to be a thriving grape of the region. Bedell has received great accolades and high ratings for their Merlot and it was even served at the Presidential Inauguration in 2009. I’ve traveled to the region and been to Bedell. They people are as wonderful as their wines. I recommend the trip.

If I were to put on Joe Williams vinyl, The Overwhelming Joe Williams, and blind pour you a glass of Bedell Cellars Merlot, you would think I just poured you a $50 bottle of high quality California or French wine, but the jokes on you, it is from long island. But who cares anyways, because the pairing is so much better. Do yourself a favor and find Joe Williams on vinyl, or just download it on Itunes, buy some Long Island merlot, preferably from Bedell, and have yourself a great night.

Joe Williams vinyl,  The Overwhelming Joe Williams , and Bedell Cellars Merlot

Joe Williams vinyl, The Overwhelming Joe Williams, and Bedell Cellars Merlot

Vinyl&Wine 11: Alabama Shakes + Benziger Sonoma County Chardonnay

I’ve never been a big fan of the south. It’s just a little too hot and humid for my warm blood. Fortunately, good things tend to travel like wild fires. Some of the best foods in the world like the slow and low culture have really found a home away from home in the north over the past few years. Music also travels. From jazz and blues, to back country twang, it all started in the south. One of my newly acquired favorite vinyls is one called Boys and Girls, by Alabama Shakes from Athens, Alabama.

Like many things from the south, the Shakes, have an original sound. The Shakes meld together styles of music like the blues, roots rock, and country-style R & B, with a sassy sultry attitude. A young band, they formed in 2009, Brittney Howard and current bassist formed a group in high school and began playing together with songs by Led Zepplin, AC/DC, and James Brown; a strong foreshadowing of what was to come on their first full length record Boys and Girls, which has now gone gold selling over 500,000 copies worldwide. Since I bought this vinyl in the late summer, it gets played in regular rotation on my turn table. Brittney’s box microphone/ Janis Joplin-like vocals can catch the soul and keep you hanging on to every note. Her passion for singing is clearly evident and will be heard for years to come.

I like drinking chardonnay while listening to Boys and Girls, especially one with a kick of fresh zippiness to it. What do I mean by that? I like chardonnays to have crisp acidity and aren’t necessarily unoaked.  A fairly easy one to find and has the fresh notes a chardonnay should have is Benziger Sonoma County Chardonnay. Like Alabama Shakes, Benziger has an organic soul and grows their grapes with biodynamic farming methods. They are located in the bowl of a dormant volcano and believe in giving back to the earth. When I visited the vineyard a few years back, it was pretty evident that the Benziger family takes a lot of pride in the way that they farm.  I am personally am not sold for or against organic farming, I just believe in good wines, and like the Shakes, Benziger makes a great product.  

The raw, organic, and passionate feeling exuded from Alabama Shakes makes a great compliment with a wine like the Benziger Sonoma County Chardonnay. Tasting a grape like a chardonnay the way it is supposed to be had, without adulteration, gobs of oak wood, and overdone malolactic fermentation, is awakening to the soul and palate. Sure, there are many wines that would go well with Boys and Girls, but if you are looking for a perfect complement, just ask for Benziger.  

Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls on Vinyl

Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls on Vinyl

Vinyl&Wine 10: Minus The Bear + Val De Salis Viognier

I’ve done a lot of traveling in the last five years. I’ve been to Europe a few times, and across the country on numerous occasions. Regionally, I’ve been countless hours in my car making six hour drives from Virginia to New England states. Before I really got into vinyl collecting and played a lot of music from my IPod, and I always had my IPod tuned to the Seattle, WA based indie rock band Minus The Bear.

Calling an indie rock band, unique, is kind of redundant for the mere nature of an indie rock group is to experiment and put out music that may go against mainstream popular culture. Minus The Bear is a truly unique style of music for my ears personal. They blend together electronic synthesizer, finger-tapping guitars, and lyrics that follow story lines. One of my favorite albums of all time is there first release from 2002 called Highly Refined Pirates. They have since released four other full length albums and countless amounts of EPs and other various recordings, including two albums called Acoustics I and Acoustics II. I own four Minus The Bear full length vinyl records, but only one of the acoustics, Acoustic II.

As simple as the releases are titled, Acoustics II is a stripped down version of many of their songs; ten to be exact. It is most noticeably missing many of the electronic aspects the original versions push to the forefront of chorus lines.  It includes songs from all of their full lengths. It has become my favorite vinyl of theirs to spin at any time of the day. I love playing it over and over again in the afternoon while preparing dinner with a glass of wine.

I can’t explain why my choice of wine with this vinyl is always a white wine, but it mostly has to do with the relaxed feeling from the original recordings. The music isn’t overpowering to your senses. It just expresses pleasing feelings in all respects.  A palate killing red just wouldn’t do with this vinyl, possibly a pinot noir or cru Beaujolais; think of this vinyl as an afternoon drinking auditory companion.  The hard part is choosing the right white to go with this album. I tend to lean of southern French whites, a few Greek grapes, and Oregon pinot blancs. Val De Salis is a winery/ vineyard from the Languedoc region of the France. They specialize in regional whites and a few other interesting wines that don’t reach the top end of the palate crushing alcohol and tannin levels you need with a steak or a John Coltrane album. Their Viognier is one of my favorite wines I called a “house” wine. It is great substitute for chardonnay. A lot of winemakers tend to overdo their chardonnay and turn them into high alcohol, oak drenched, and sun soaked popcorn balls. A simple viognier can still have the plump body of a chard but loaded with great aromatics and austere acidity, which compliments Minus The Bear’s vinyl, Acoustics II. Both taken at the raw pure existence are certified gold in my eyes. There is a beauty to the already organic sounds and flavors of each.

Listen to this vinyl on an otherwise lonely, slow day. Listen to the stories lead singer Jake Snider sings, and the beautifully choreographed dances between keyboards and guitars. Have a glass of viognier from southern France, where the pomp and circumstance of winemaking was never an issue unlike in Champagne and Bordeaux. The cultivation of purity and heart is plenty and fruitful with Val De Salis and Minus The Bear.  

Minus The Bear - Acoustic II on vinyl

Minus The Bear - Acoustic II on vinyl

Vinyl&Wine 9: The Slackers + Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé

The Slackers can legally drink! After 13 full length albums and almost 23 years on the road, the rock steady/ ska/ reggae/ dub/ soul group consistently makes it onto my record player, especially my favorite album from 1997, RedLight. When my wife and I have guests over, most are curious about my vinyl record collection and go digging to see what treasures are in there. Most of them don’t own vinyl records and aren’t aware that people play them and that the market for them is growing rapidly. RedLight always manages to catch the attention of guests. When they ask what it is and ask to play it, I just smile and grab the needle off whatever vinyl was spinning and lay down the Slackers.

Formed in 1991 in Manhattan, NY, the Slackers have been loyal soldier artist for Hellcat Records playing blend of reggae, jazz, and ska all over the world from punk tours like the Warped Tour to the Montreal Jazz Fest.  Lead singer Victor Ruggiero carries a soulful whisky-laced voice over his keyboards backed by percussion, guitar, bass, and horns. The band dresses in black suits, ties, and sometime black fedoras and sunglasses. They may almost remind of the colorful men from the film Reservoir Dogs. The band is fantastic live and evokes movement from their fans. Whether you dance or bob your head to the upbeat rhythms, The Slackers always put me in a good mood and gives me the urge to dance. I like it when my wine dances too. I love watching the bubbles move in a glass of sparkling wine.

My wife and I share a common preference for sparkling wine and tend to always a bottle of two available in the cellar. Even when we go out to dinner, we will typically order a bottle of sparkling wine for share for no reason other than we agree on it and we are out to dinner. Most people will open a sparkling wine for celebration, which is great, but more people should drink it on a regular basis. Aside from being fantastic, it is a really good pairing wine because of the effervescence it has. It has the unique ability for a wine to cleanse the palate. CO2 bubbles can lift heavy fats off your palate leaving it refreshed for more food and wine, whereas a rich red wine is going to leave your palate fatigued and heavy. If sparkling wine had a personality, it would that one person in your circle of friends who is always having a great time.

One of our favorite sparkling wines is Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé from the hills of the Sonoma Valley, in California. All Schramsberg sparkling wines are absolutely fantastic, but we tend to always fall back on this one. It is a special blend of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes and after two years of aging, this rosé has a rich, fiery punch and is itchin’ to be drunk. It maintains a distinct creaminess and unique flavors of strawberry, guava, grapefruit, and citrus.

This pairing will never go wrong. When listening to The Slackers, you may think of drinking a Red Stripe and smoking a joint, but try some sparkling wine and barbecue chicken for you next cook out. Even if it is a cold and snowy winter day, the fiery bubbles of Schramsberg and cookin’ beats of The Slackers will keep you warm and moving all night.

Tonight is New Year’s Eve, if you are reading this at your office and watching the clock waiting for it to hit 5:oopm, forget your plans for the evening, plan a trip to your local wine shop before they close, and pick up a bottle of sparkling wine and find The Slackers on your favorite online streaming radio station, and have a relaxing and happy evening… 

The Slackers - RedLIght

Vinyl&Wine 8: Max Roach + Pirramimma Petit Verdot

My preferred music listening styles tend to fluctuate and move in waves. During the holidays, I lean heavily on jazz. There is just something about the feeling of jazz music, cold weather, wine, and holiday get-togethers. I have nothing against Christmas music, but when Baby its cold out is played four times inside of an hour, my brain wants to implode. When intermediate jazz fans think of the greats, people like Davis, Coltrane, Peterson, Dizzy, Monk, and Armstrong come to mind. There is one man that has played with them all and not your typical front man, drummer Max Roach.

I only own one Mac Roach vinyl, a Riverside Records release called Deeds, Not Words from 1958. Max had released dozens of records over his decades and appeared as a guest on dozens more.  With only one of his original songs on this vinyl, you would be shocked to learn he didn’t write them all. His style was unique. Roach is the only person I’ve ever heard that can make a drum set sit back and hold up the quintet, or seemingly take his rhythm and almost play them with a melody. Born in 1924, Roach was hailed as the “Pioneer of Bebop” music. Bebop is characterized by a fast tempo, improvisational expertise, and harmonic structure.  It is a style of music when played without a great drummer, is unpleasing to the ear. Roach was able to provide a backbone to the style of music he was best known for. When watching Roach play, you could note the limited movement and obvious lightness of his playing, but the beats that rumbled out were aggressive and persuasive. When I am at the crest of the music wave, I listen to jazz vinyl records, and Deeds, Not Words by Max Roach is always in the cue.

Being the winter time, red wine is usually what I am sipping. Maybe times I would have started with a glass of white, but red carries me through the evening. Roach’s bebop style takes hard tempo twists and turns. The horn improvisation almost sounds stressed and angry, but can soften to dramatic suspenseful melodies. It is a vinyl that can keep your blood racing and heart rate up, which just won’t do with light wines. I tend to open bottles on the heavier side of the red spectrum. It is rare I have a Petit Verdot in the cellar, but when I do, it makes a perfect pairing for this vinyl. Petit Verdot is best known for its added backbone in left bank Bordeaux wines. It is usually added in small amount upwards of 1-3% only. Petit Verdot has a big tannic structure and is a very dark color of plum or purple. In years when the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec aren’t quite balancing out the quintet of grapes, it is Petit Verdots time to shine in Bordeaux. It is a fairly difficult grape to grow and recently been falling out of favor in Bordeaux, but it has been on the rise in other countries around the world with soils it is better suited to. Australia, California, and Virginia have had great success with Petit Verdot. One of my personal favorites, and easier one to find, is Pirramimma Petit Verdot from McLaren Vale, Australia. It is inky black in color, rich, and ripe. I have always felt something special towards this bottle because it is a wine that has a mouth-feel like I have never tasted before.  When it coats the mouth, lingers all over, not just on my tongue and cheeks. I liken this wine to Max Roach because it plays such an important role with a group, but can stand alone as a front man on stage.  It is a hard working grape and rarely recognized. It is a perfect pairing with Max Roach. Unfortunately, Roach died in 2007, but he left us many recordings and Deeds, Not Words

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Vinyl&Wine 7: Jimi Hendrix + Rosenblum Zinfandel

No matter what kind of music you listen to, there are few artists that are universally recognized as the “best” at their craft. Miles Davis was the best jazz trumpet player ever to grace our ears with horn-blown poetry. There is not a jazz musician in the world that would ever argue that point. The same goes for Jimi Hendrix. As a guitar player, a fan of blues and rock n’ roll music, I hereby declare Hendrix as the best guitar player to ever live.  That statement may fall on deaf ears from years of amplified speakers cranked to 11 and snickering “Yeah, duuuh’s” from all of you who read this. When I first started playing guitar and got a hold of Hendrix’s greatest hits album, I have to admit that I wasn’t fond of it. I truly didn’t understand it. Maybe it was because I was only a novice guitar player at the time. I may have been more upset that I didn’t know what Hendrix was doing. I could hear the elements of blues oozing out of the speakers, but there was a driving force to his songs and it wasn’t just straight blues, it was madness, it was out of this world and all over the place.  I was drawn to clean cut styles of B.B. King and Clapton early on. He was a tormented player that pushed himself to the limits of his abilities. In 1961, Hendrix began playing the guitar at the age of 15, and only a mere 6 years later he played one of his most iconic performances ever recorded at the Monterey Pop Festival. His vinyl record, Are you Experienced?, is now in the regular rotation on my turntable. Playing off an original Reprise Records pressing, I can only imagine what I was like to sit in the control booth listening to Hendrix play guitar. The vinyl feature Hendrix signature guitar feedback improvisation style and to me is the best album he ever released.  When I have some zinfandel in the house, I usually have a Rosenblum Cellars Richard Sauret Reserve Zinfandel among the selections. It is my perfect pairing with my Hendrix vinyl. Hendrix was born to play guitar, just as Kent Rosenblum was meant to make the deep, rich styles of California zinfandel.

In 1978, a mere 11 years after Are You Experienced was released, Kent Rosenblum opened Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda California not far from the legendary Monterey Pop Festival performance site. Rosenblum is highly regarded as the “King of Zin” in California by his peers and followers. Rosenblum did not follow traditional wine making norms in the late 1970s and 1980s. He chose growing sites that were off the beaten path and focused his attention on the Zinfandel grape, a grape traditionally and originally noted to be a native California grape. Genealogists would later discover its links to grapes of Italian descent, but that didn’t matter at all, because California is the greatest spot in the world to grow Zinfandel. Rosenblum knew he could take the grape and truly let it shine. No matter what vineyard sites his grapes came from, mountainside or valley floor vineyards, Rosenblum always puts out top notch wine. Just has other performer’s watched Jimi Hendrix play his iconic Monterey concert and shared at him in awe and probably thought he was an alien from Mars, other wine makers must feel the same way about Kent Rosenblum with every Zinfandel he released. He was a true icon in the Zinfandel world, Dr. Zin, The King of Zins. John Kane is now the winemaker at Rosenblum. After working next Kent Rosenblum for 9 years, he still continues with the Rosenblum Legacy of incredible wines and signature styles.

If you own Are You Experienced? and love Zinfandel, do yourself a favor and find a bottle of Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel. It doesn’t have to be a single vineyard if you can’t find, the Paso Robles and Sonoma zins are fantastic choices. The pairing of this vinyl and zinfandel will send you into a welcomed state of madness and you will find yourself transcending to a whole new place.  So pour a glass, turn the volume up, turn off your cell phone, and take the ride. 

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Vinyl&Wine 6: Bright Eyes + Bastide Miraflores

I love great storytellers. One of the most important aspects of the life of a folk artist, or even some singer songwriters, is the little stress put into the standard corporate structure of song. There is a standard format to making a hit song complete with rhyming verses and chorus, produced and compressed down for maximum volume and impact. The heavy hitter producers behind all your favorite teen pop sensations do this very well. The folk artist doesn’t necessarily shun the standard song format, but their focus is on the lyrics, story, and message. I remember when I was first introduced to the album LIFTED or the story is in the soil, so keep your ear to the ground by Bright Eye from Omaha, Nebraska. It was 2002 when I first heard this album and I have to admit, I wasn’t sold at first due to the raw and unkempt production quality. Conor Oberst is the charmingly tortured soul behind Bright Eyes. I was used to the overproduced sound corporate record companies and radio station would spit out as if they were on an assembly line. LIFTED turned out to be an orchestrated piece of genius by Oberst. The album is heard as quite personal and political for Oberst. The songs on the album range some Oberst and his acoustic guitar to a full 13 piece unusual orchestra made of up of heavy amounts of stringed instruments and horns.

I saw Bright Eyes tour this album that year in Nashville with M. Ward, and The Bruces at a small theater. I cannot remember the name of the theater, but it looked like it had been around for 50+ years and it only held about 250 people. The show was general admission and seemed to be over sold with Bright Eyes admirers sitting in front of the stage and flooding the isles between seats. It was a fire marshal nightmare. Good thing there were no pyrotechnics set up. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t because the amount of music equipment, chairs, microphones, and people; the stage was already overflowing.  When Bright Eyes finally took the stage, Oberst came out with a glass of wine and a bottle to go along with it. He set it down next to the base of the mic stand and the 15 member band began to play. The crowd began to cheer loudly every time Oberst took a sip of wine. At one point, while the crowd was cheering, he laughed and said, “No, you really should be booing me every time I drink.” On cue, the crowd did so, it was pretty funny. The stage was dressed in red curtains from side to side, and front to back and it made for the evening to turn into a truly surreal event.  Every time I listen to the double vinyl, I am drawn to red wine, no matter what time of year, no matter who is with me. It takes me back to that surreal night in Nashville.  

The double vinyl LIFTED is rich with heart, creativity, and rooted in story. For me, the heartier the red, the better, and one of the best pairings I have found is a bottle of Bastide Miraflores Syrah & Vielles Vignes De Grenache Cotes Castalanes. I absolutely adore this wine. It is rich, extremely balanced and fairly inexpensive. Syrah to me is a brooding; sometimes misunderstand soul of a grape. It can sometimes be too intense on its own for some people, but when accompanied with other grapes like Grenache that adds the ripe fruit and acidy, it is easier to swallow.  I feel Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes may have that same effect on people. Solo and raw, he may be too intense, but with a large like on the album LIFTED, his stories truly shine through. This southern French red is truly amazing and incredibly balanced. If you ever fall into a mood where you just need to be transported into a foreign land, or altered state of mind. Find this bottle and find this vinyl, sit back and listen to Oberst lyrics and listen to his stories. Read one of them below. 

Bright Eyes – Bowl of Oranges 

The rain, it started tapping on the window near my bed. There was a loophole in my dreaming,
so I got out of it. And to my surprise my eyes were wide and already open.
Just my nightstand and my dresser where those nightmares had just been.
So I dressed myself and left then, out into the gray streets.
But everything seemed different and completely new to me.
The sky, the trees, houses, buildings, even my own body.
And each person I encountered, I couldn't wait to meet.
I came upon a doctor who appeared in quite poor health.
I said "{I am terribly sorry but} there is nothing I can do for you
{that} you can't do for yourself."
He said "Oh yes you can. Just hold my hand. I think that would help."
So I sat with him a while and then I asked him how he felt.
He said, "I think I'm cured. No, in fact, I'm sure.
Thank you Stranger, for your therapeutic smile."
So that is how I learned the lesson that everyone is alone.
And your eyes must do some raining if you are ever going to grow.
But when crying don't help and you can't compose yourself.
It is best to compose a poem, an honest verse of longing or simple song of hope.
That is why I'm singing...
Baby don't worry cause now I got your back. And every time you feel like crying,
I'm gonna try and make you laugh. And if I can't, if it just hurts too bad,
then we will wait for it to pass and I will keep you company
through those days so long and black.
And we'll keep working on the problem we know we'll never solve 
Of Love's uneven remainders, our lives are fractions of a whole.
But if the world could remain within a frame like a painting on a wall.
Then I think we would see the beauty.
Then we would stand staring in awe at our still lives posed like a bowl of oranges,
like a story told by the fault lines and the soil.

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This video is NOT from LIFTED, but it is a good one that I like. Enjoy. 

Vinyl&Wine 5: Blackalicious + Three Old vine Zinfandel

Every now and then I find myself in a mood that just needs a steady beat to it. It’s the same mood you feel when you were a kid and wake up to your mother telling you school is canceled, because of a snow storm. You’re energy level is boosted with excitement and creativity.  As an adult, I still get that feeling sometimes. I wake up already nodding my head to the beats in my head. Now just add the music, friends, and some wine at night then you’ll be set up for a win that day. One of the vinyl albums that consistently fill the beat-void for me is The Craft by Blackalicious.

Blackalicious is Tim parker and Xavier Mosley, aka Gift of Gab and DJ/ Producer Xcel. Together they first met in high school in the Sacramento area of California. They went their separate ways but met up again in Davis, California where they both went to college at University of California Davis. UC Davis is also the leading college in the United States for viticulture and oenology. It is a home for creative and scientific minds that always land on the forefront of their respected crafts. While in school and collaborating with influential hip hop gurus like Lyrics Born, Lateef, and DJ Shadow, the duo released the first Blackalicious EP in the mid 1990s. In 2000 the group signed their first major label deal with MCA and released Blazing Arrows in 2002 featuring guests like Zach De La Rocha from Rage Against the Machine and also the Roots. The album was a hit. It was hit in the hip hop world. In 2005, Blackalicious followed up Blazing Arrows with The Craft. They worked with engineer Russell Elevato who is the genius behind some of the greatest albums from D’angelo, Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, and many more. The Craft is one of my personal favorite hip hop albums of all time and its creativity lyrically and musically is exquisite. Horn use is full blast and guest appearances are abundant. I don’t have very many hip hop vinyls at home, just a few from groups like Blackalicious, Jurassic 5, and Mos Def, but The Craft definitely gets the most play.

One of my favorite wine pairings with this vinyl is Three Wine Co. Old Vines Zinfandel. Owner/ Winermaker Matt Cline of the Cline Wine dynasty and his wife Erin launched Three in the early 2000s. Matt attended UC Davis just before Blackalicious to hone his own personal “craft.” I was fortunate enough to enjoy a dinner with Matt in Virginia at Trummers on Main in Clifton, Virginia. He is a very smart and passionate about his wines. The wines he makes are fantastic. It is no surprise that his Zinfandels are superb beyond belief. Hailing from a family with reigning superiority over zinfandel production in the Sonoma, it is obvious he had learned a few things over the year and they took some of the creativity of his to put a spin on the juice. The grapes for his old vines zinfandel comes from vines that have an average age of 100 years old. Producing spicy, rich, and concentrated zinfandels is an art, his art. Matt is an artist and his Old Vine Zinfandel is his very craft.  If you can get your hands on this vinyl and a bottle of Three Old Vine Zinfandel, pop them both open. Turn the speaker  volume on full blast, and sit back. The combination will overtake your senses. You will find your inner-dialogue always interrupting your train of thought all evening long and it would say something like, “holy smokes, this is really f*cking good.”

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Blackalicious live in Seattle, Washington. 2006. 

Vinyl&Wine 4: Chuck Berry + Catena Malbec

There are a handful of vinyl records I constantly play at home. There are some that just have a sentimental value or sounds as if they are singing right to my soul. St. Louis to Frisco to Memphis by the Legend Chuck Berry is one of them. It is a double vinyl with a collection of live recordings including the memorial Filmore concert in San Francisco backed by the amazing Steve Miller Band. I remember when I was a teenager and just learning to play guitar, I found a love for rockabilly and the early 1950-1960’s blues rock sound. Chuck Berry is the godfather of this sound. His music was simple, raw, and most importantly, the kids found it very easy to dance to helping the movement sky rocket on the radio and concert halls. Most importantly he made no fuss about playing to white and black kids alike. His music is for all. When I first got ahold of my the Filmore recording, I was expecting that fast paced sound of Maybelline and Johnny B Goode, but found a slower jam band sound. It was so unexpected. But with the Steve Miller Band backing up Berry, the sound was bound to stray from the typical quick rock n’ roll sound us fans were used to.  This Vinyl is loaded with harmonica, keyboards, and steady drum beats.  This is present is tracks like Everyday I have the blues and Rockin’ at the Filmore, but is slows way down and jams out on tracks such as C.C. Rider and Feelin’ it flying Home.

As the godfather of pop blues stuck a chord with me personal on this album, he is still going strong playing shows all over the world today. If there is one thing you can say about Chuck Berry it’s that longevity has been no problem for him. I’m sure it is a little easier when you are an originator of a sound. When I listen to this vinyl, a lot of times I’ll listen with a beer, but wine works too.

The vinyl pairs really well with Catena Malbec. Argentinian malbec is nothing new to wine drinkers these days, and it is safe to say that the Catena label is well recognized in local wine shops across the world. The Catena family was one of the first major wine families in the Mendoza region, and has successfully created a brand with longevity ahead of them. I was fortunate to speak with Laura Catena and watch a lecture with her in Washington D.C. and she said her father early on was trying to emulate what the Mondavis have did with Cabernet Sauvignon in California decades earlier. I believe they were successful in doing just that with the Malbec production and sell thousands, probably millions of cases a year of Catena wine. The Cantena Malbec has longevity and opens up great with a perfume intriguing to the senses like Chuck Berry’s St. Louis to Frisco to Memphis vinyl. There is nothing like a great pairing of classic originators of truly stylistic shifts to the senses. 

Full live album of the Filmore concert from 1967 in San Francisco. 

My Vinyl and My Wine

My Vinyl and My Wine

Vinyl&Wine 3: Lilac and Champagne + Dr. Loosen Blue Slate Reisling

The word relax comes to mind when I listen to Lilacs and Champagne. I only found this group because of their name. As a champagne lover, I had to click on the “also suggested” link on itunes. I fell in love with them and more specifically the album, Danish & Blue. I believe this duo is hails from New York City. Lilacs and Champagne is Alex Hall and Emil Amos. Together they created strangely warped mixture of guitar solos and mixed jazz, with beats from deep under the earth’s soil.  There are a lot of tracks filled with ambient sounds which give tracks like le Grand a resonance that reaches deep inside your gut. The album Danish and Blue is a well-traveled journey from start to finish. It is all-in-all an instrumental album with a few tracks sampling in words.  I have to admit, I am not the foremost authority on this genre of music. To be honest, I don’t even know what genre it is. My Itunes files are blank for genre. I don’t normally listen to many groups like this, but in my rack, I would join them with groups like Medeski, Martin, & Wood, The Herbaliser from London.  Truly this is a creative album and project. When there are nights I need to just chill out and slow the heartbeat, drink some white wine and shut my eyes. This Lilacs and Champagne vinyl is a great start.

I am not sure why, but I usually am drifting towards white wine with this album. It is a hard album to understand, but maybe because the contrast of subterranean mixes from the vinyl and bright acidity and lighter floral notes from the white wine, they blend well together. Riesling tends to work very well for me and is a varietal my wife and I always have in the house. We have bottles from New York, Washington, and Germany in the wine cellar. One of our favorite is from Dr. Ernst Loosen, his Blue Slate Kabinet Reisling, which is a dryer style of German Riesling. It has great bright acidity and notes of clean minerals. Almost like that refreshing taste of drinking cold bottle of pure spring water. There is just a quality about it that touches deep and reaches deep into the soil. If you have ever been to or seen pictures of the terraced vineyards where these grapes grow, you know these vines have to reach deep for water and nutrients. Though the juice in the completely opposite of the Lilacs and Champagne Vinyl, they both of have been created from somewhere deep within the earth. 

Lilacs and Champagne

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Vinyl&Wine 2: The Wild Feathers + Marietta Petite Sirah

I am a big fan of storytelling and backwoodsy anthem-fueled music. I discovered a band a while ago called The Wild Feathers from Nashville, Tennessee. Their songs are the quintessential heartfelt American, country, roots, and blues songs you would expect to find from a music town like Nashville. They have been compared to everyone from the Allman Brothers to Tom Petty to Black Crowes and the Grateful Dead. This five piece band shares vocals and stories all across the album, and with the listener.  The great thing about this self – titled album is the layers and depth of the production quality.  It has an airiness and ethereal sense of compassion to it. It sounds great on my laptop, but even better when I spin the wax with a glass of wine. There is enough grit and unctuousness to this album to make this a fantastic pairing with one of my favorite grapes in the world, Petite Sirah.

The last time I listened to the Wild Feathers, I paired it with a glass Marietta Petite Sirah from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, California. Both vinyl and wine evoke a hard-working country road attitude to me.  As in the track, Hard Wind, the big nature of the wine holds up in depth and finishes long and strong.  If you drink this wine on the east coast like me, think of it traveling on all the back country roads from California to your glass and imagine the stories it would have when it reached you.  I really enjoy this pairing and if you decided to add a char grilled steak to it, your evening would be perfect.  There is a story in the soil and the grapes tell all. 

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Vinyl&Wine 1: Miles Davis + Fox Run Pinot Noir

Friday is Wine and Vinyl day at my house. Sometimes it is just me enjoying the static buzz of needle to wax while making dinner, or with my wife, and sometimes my sisters swing over. I don’t know when it actually happened, but I believe it was around 2006 when I became enamored with vinyl records.  I had taking classes in school for sound engineering/ mixing and I began to understand what really went into taking the music from a musician to stereo speakers. Much like the journey of grape to glass is complicated, so is sound recording.  I couldn’t even begin to tell which is harder to do, because scientifically, they are both go far out of my wheel house, but creatively and artistically, they are awesome and something I understand.

It’s no secret vinyl records were the standard from the 1950s through the 1970s and into the ‘80s, but the invention of cassette tape and eventually compact disc, nearly sealed the fate of vinyl. But there was an interesting resurgence was on the horizon in the early years of the new millennium. As cassette tapes became extinct and file sharing on the internet exploded thanks to Napster, Vinyl records were starting to reappear, and not just old dusty pressings from the bellows of your grandparent’s basement. Current artists were releasing their new material on vinyl along with the standard discs and digital. Then, smaller record labels began to reissue back catalogs onto vinyl. Some albums were from bands now defunct. For me now, when I find new music, I always search for it on vinyl first before I just buy it digitally. I believe there is a warming element that goes along with playing a vinyl record. For starters, the music isn’t made from sharp angels and compressed sound waves into 1’s and 0’s. On wax, you can hear music the way it was truly recorded by the artist with the full sound waves, studio resonance and reverb, and other white noise. It is a richer, fuller feeling, and there is something to the little bit of static from the needle. It is like popping the cork on a bottle of wine instead of twisting a screw top. Sure a screw top is a far better enclose for the wine, but popping the cork evokes a romance.

The first vinyl record I ever owner is still my favorite album of all time and probably the greatest recording ever. It is Miles Davis – Kind of blue. It was recorded in 1959 with Evans, Adderley, Coltrane, Chambers and Cobb rounding out the sextet. They finished the album in two sessions. It was actually ranked #12 of 500 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of ‘Top 500 Greatest Album of all time.’

I have opened many bottles listening to the album, both red and white. Since it is the holiday season, red wine is calling my name tonight. Jazz, decorations, and red wine is a sure sign the year is coming to a close and Christmas is only a few weeks away. Tonight I am going to pair this album with a New York State red wine. Since Kind of Blue was recorded in New York, I thought we should keep it all homegrown.  I will pop open my last bottle of Pinot Noir from Fox Run Vineyards along Seneca Lake, NY. They make some of the best wines in the Finger Lakes AVA and are owned and operated by Scott and Ruth Osborn; good friends of mine. Pinot Noir can grow well in our cool climate region and Fox Run does of the best. In fantastic vintages they will release a reserve Pinot Noir that has fans running crazy for like parents trying to find the last Tickle-Me-Elmo on Christmas Eve for little Sally-Hoo. 

Please visit Fox Run Vineyards when in the Finger Lakes and buy Kind Of Blue, the next time you are on Itunes, you won’t be disappointed. 


Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue

Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue