After the first three albums were chosen we took time to get in tune with the music. Bob, Paul, and I listened to the albums and watched many documentaries on the making of the albums/movie. A few years back I never would have envisioned I would be at work and watching the Stones, the Dark Side of the Moon and Woodstock. Only at Mendocino Wine Co!
While “in study”, notes were written down about any musical message, personalities, the instruments contributions to the sound, themes and inspirations behind the music or message and attitude. What did the music make you think and most importantly how did it make you feel? Woodstock was cheerful and about community. The Stones 40 Licks was about familiar determined consistent style without a lot of bells and whistles. The Dark side was complex, dark and brooding. After that, thought was put into what each of the classical varieties of wine was about and each was discussed on its own merit. Examples flowed about the attributes of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Touriga Nacional (actually not that last one…).
The notes from the music were compared to the wines. Similarities emerged between the styles of music and what certain wine varietals evoked. Not much science here, just a personal choice on what music makes you feel and what a wine can also call up.
All wines have an aroma, a sense of sweetness to dryness, a flavor or combination of flavors (often fruits or herbs) and a sense of sweetness to dryness that you first notice.
There is also an expression of acidity, body or weight, tannin, and finish. Some may also have a hard to describe “something-ness” that eludes a good description. While all wines may have these components, it is how the components stand out from one another or mutually work with each other that sets wines apart.
Some wines have an aroma, fruit or herb flavor, sweetness, oak-driven vanilla, tannin or acidity that “grand-stand” and pop out more than the other supporting cast of characters. Or there is any combination of degrees of intensity of these characters which means there are a limitless number of possibilities here. Just like there are all sorts of musical styles or takes on what is labeled as rock and roll or blues, they are plenty of variations on a Merlot or Chardonnay.
What version of a wine we choose to is not something that is as simple as right or wrong, just like you could say Bob Dylan’s version of “All along the Watchtower” is different than Jimi Hendrix’s version. Neither one is wrong, they are just different and both can be appreciated for their unique expression that song. Many factors effect the differences in wines from clones, rootstock, regional weather, soil chemistry, compaction, and water holding capacity, access to water, canopy management, sunlight hours, temperature fluctuations between day and nighttime (diurnal shifts), the grapes exposure to the sun, rain and humidity, pests, diseases, slope and orientation to the sun, crop level, vegetative vigor, and of course when the grapes are actually picked.
Then there are all the decisions in the cellar. Whole cluster or crushed and destemmed, some whole berries or not, temperature control level, native or inoculated fermentation, pump-overs or punch-downs, extended maceration or early pressing, malo-lactic or not, barrels or stainless steel, how long to age the wine, keep it on lees or not and on and on. Over the life of a wine there are literally thousands of decisions from the planting to the bottling that have to be made. Some wineries have a cookbook recipe that they never stray from in hopes of re-creating the same type of wine every year. This is what I call the soda pop wine.
We accept that every year is different and our wines will reflect this. So as long as the winery has chosen to embrace Mother Nature’s fingerprint on the wines and not try to smudge it out every year, then you can experience a wonderful diversity in wines of the same varietal.
Sensing music other than by hearing it? Actually, if you look at studies on synthnesia or cognitive priming there clearly is proof that music has an effect on our other senses. Or anecdotally someone might reflect back on an experience in college where someone was convinced they could actually taste that Allman Brothers guitar solo…
Anyway, before I get off-track I would like to point out that enjoying the pairing of wine and music is something I happened across early in my wine career. It was a method of description that helped me turn something stressful to enjoyable. I had worked a new winery job for about a year and shown a good palate and ability to recognize flaws in wines. So eventually the winemaker invited me to participate in a blind competitive tasting. For those of you not familiar with this, a blind tasting is where a group of tasters will sample approximately 10 different wines that have a few things in common such as vintage and variety and even price point to compare against one another. The name of the wine however is concealed by enclosing the bottle in a paper bag which is lettered “A, B, C”, etc. The wines are passed around and then sniffed and tasted and ranked quietly by each person. Later the results are tallied and wines are given a score from best to worst. The worst wine is first described and then the bag is pulled off and the winery is revealed.
Usually the winery hosting the tasting has one of their wines in the mix in hopes theirs will show best. It is not uncommon that someone ranks their own wine last. So I made it into the big room with all the big shots and I was anxious to prove I deserved to be there. Everyone else had done this many times and this was my first shot at showing some skills and I wanted to be invited back again for the next time.
So a glass for each one for each person was set up, the wines were passed around, our blank score sheets handed out and we all got started at the 5 S’s;
After this everyone wrote down notes about the appearance, aroma, flavor and so on. The person next to me wrote out a sonnet on each of the wines. I was writing down little more than yum vs. yuck, raspberry vs. blackberry. Well at least I know what I liked and I felt fine to vote.
After a few minutes of quiet contemplation, someone mentions that each person will need to read their thoughts on a few of the wines to share with the group. Crap. I was okay scoring the wines, but now my Kindergarten level of wine description was going to be revealed. I was not going to fake some fancy terms or anything so I just had to think of language that described something else that was enjoyable, sensory based, and I was opinionated on. Cars? No, I do not know enough on that. Girls? That will get me in trouble. Music? Bingo! I described each wine as a song, musician, or a regionally based style of music. This got me back in to a descriptive state of qualitative thought and I was able to describe each wine distinctly.
When the tasting concluded and it was my time to talk about the wine, I felt comfortable describing the wine which was spicy, yet a bit subdued as an acoustic set by Carlos Santana. The room laughed and much of tension that was there before lifted. While my technique was not as descriptively useful as what some people would have preferred, it was an icebreaker for the room which was somber and straight faced up to that point. They did invite me back to more tastings and over the years I have added a slew of terms to my sensory library of reference, but the music catalog has expanded as well. It’s prett sweet to reflect back on that moment and be part of the Wines that Rock Project today.
OUR NEXT TASTING EVENT
This past Saturday and Sunday, Wines That Rock was out in force at 2 separate Stew Leonard's locations to pour it out and and let people try and buy Wines That Rock. It was a really fun time. So nice to let people taste and talk about the wines. We got some great reactions, comments and made a bunch of new friends. It was always a treat to see people catch a glimps of the bottles for the first time, and watch them light up as they realized what they were looking at. Never underestimate the power of Rock 'n Roll.
After tasting all 3 varietals, and putting a few bottles of Dark Side of the Moon in her shopping cart, Mary Ann rolled up her paints leg to show us her true musical passions.
Classic!! The entire Wines That Rock team really enjoyed meeting everyone. It was a fun 2 days.
Another fun moment came when Crystal was sampling The Rolling Stones Merlot. We had some videos of the Stones playing in the store, and as she took a sip and tried the wine, the lyrics of You Can't Always Get What You Want sang out:
I saw her today at the reception - A glass of wine in her hand
We all agreed it was a "sign" and Crystal grabbed a few bottles of Forty Licks Merlot. We all had a good laugh over that. Thanks Crystal.
Crystal - "It won't take 40 Licks!- Loved it!"
Lots of folk coming out mentioned where they had heard of us (Stew Leonard's Wines Website, Facebook, Twitter, The Today Show, and a bunch more), and were excited to try the wine for the fist time.
Here is a shot of our Yonkers Display
Special Thanks go out the entire Stew Leonards team at BOTH locations.
Stew Leonard's Wines of Farmingdale and Stew Leonard's Yonkers, NY
The Today show featured Wines That Rock on the Today Show this morning as one of the coolest Holiday Gifts of 2009
GQ magazine’s style editor Adam Rapoport presents some of the coolest gifts for 2009, and Wines THat Rock made the list!
"When you go to Christmas parties, and you bring a bottle of wine, the host don't remember who gave them. they forgets who brought them. They will NOT forget these - WINES THAT ROCK, you've got Pink Floyd, The Stones, Woodstock - You can't go wrong & they will NOT forget these bottles - the Wine is VERY good"
- GQ magazine’s style editor Adam Rapoport
Saturday December 12th in Farmingdale
Sunday December 13th in Yonkers