Wine Pairing: Small Lot GSM
When making the GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre), my goal is make sure each of the grapes bring something to the party, without stepping on the toes of the others. Syrah brings wild blackberry , a honey-baked gamey note and is responsible for the majority of the structure of the wine; Mourvedre brings white pepper, earth and leather aromas; Grenache brings a cherry spiced wine aroma and vibrant acidity. The Phantogram song, When I’m Small begins with a dirty, hypnotic drum loop reminiscent of a bootlegged Sublime track. Then, enters a distinctive guitar sound (like Dick Dale on a Stratocaster), which makes you feel like you are in a Quentin Tarantino movie and you know something badass is going to be said or done. Lastly, the high and sturdy voice enters the song and the trinity is complete. Sure, there are other instruments, but this song is distinctly about these three parts…like the wine is about the blending of three grapes. Syrah is like funky guitar/primal surf…Mourvedre is exotic, untamed, old school, low-fi, earthy funk. Grenache is the dreamy, sugary quality of the vocals. All tied together on the high end with dreamy Fender Rhodes, which represents a combination of the oak influence in the wine and the intangible mixture of the three grapes. Rhone blends usually have a certain amount of fun—as does this song. Primitive and wild, yet angelic, creating a tension with the grounded nature of the funky rhythm. The structure of the wine is rich with gripping tannins, but is light enough that you notice the delicacy of the flavors, much like the breakdown early in the song, before the strong foundation comes back…as if to say we can have silky flavors and a sturdy foundation at the same time. Both the song and the wine are unapologetically funky.
Wine Pairing: Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay
The song Up, Up, Up by Givers is intense without being heavy. Upbeat and light with a subtle depth and seriousness; intense, yet light sounds. Eric’s Chardonnay is simple (no barrel fermentation or barrel aging; no malo-lactic fermentation, no sur lies aging), yet has incredible complexity of flavors—apple, pear, minerality, apricot, and a hint of tropical fruits. The complexity is due to the exceptional farming of Wente and Old-Wente clones of Chardonnay in the Livermore Valley, which can deliver upbeat and subtle fruit overtones. In the song, bright major tonality is immediately apparent. Everything about the texture of the music is bright, upbeat, and optimistic. At the beginning of the song there is an immediate introduction to the breadth of the instrumentation: flutes in harmony; electric guitar—first playing single notes, and then developing into a slightly west-African groove; a rich forest of percussion from light and rich Gamelan bells to bamboo; the keys and vocal reverb serve as a halo to the entire song, remaining high and ethereal—like the wine itself. On top of all of this, the drum kit holds everything together in the way that the beautiful natural acidity of the wine holds the breadth of fruit flavors together. When the song is finished and/or the wine is swallowed, there is an urge to continue dancing to the beat that remains in your head and an urge to savor the sturdy delicacy of the fruit flavors that remain in your mouth. Cheers to enjoying the Givers and Eric’s Chardonnay from Wente Vineyards.
Wine Pairing: Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc
A B & The Sea is a throwback to the previous generation. I swear I was listening to this music on my dad’s LPs 25 years ago. But no, the song and the band is relevant today. If there is any doubt that this crew embraces this style of music with every ounce of their being, I had the pleasure of having them to my house for a house party. The songs they played were distinctly from the early side of the Beatles, their sound is authentic; almost a 1950s style of innocence. The Louis Mel Sauvignon blanc is clean, crisp, vibrant, with a great snap of natural acidity. The aromas of grapefruit, lychee, citrus, and grassall intermingle while the acidity carries the flavors on a joy ride through out your mouth. As if searching for peace of mind, the music is as snappy as the acidity. This snappiness counteracts the delicacy of the fruit flavors and the high vocals. And, as if the song was named specifically for this wine, our Sauvignon Blanc is literally: Bone Dry.
Wine Pairing: Nth Degree Cabernet Sauvignon
Birds and Batteries establishes the rhythm and instrumentation from the first second of the song: Stranger Kind of Mirror. Then there is a vocal harmony that says: we’re here, before a voice you think you’ve heard before (Petty anyone?). Cabernet Sauvignon is (rightly or wrongly) the mirror by which the best wines of California are judged—the most sought-after red wine. The song is dark and rich, bittersweet with a halo of reverb. At the same time as the bitterness, there is a hint of hopefulness about the realization of the mirrors of life. Like the structure of the Nth Degree Cabernet Sauvignon, the bass line and drum is a simple grove, yet is coherent, cohesive, and with exceptional integrity—it does not draw attention to itself, but is a solid foundation. This foundation allows for the vocals and keys to shine, like the classic structure of the Nth Degree Cabernet Sauvignon, which allows for the beautiful aromas of cassis, leather, tobacco and black cherry. When you think the song is done, there is a resurrection as if to say: the story’s been told, now meditate on it. Like the strong finish to this Cabernet Sauvignon, there is plenty upon which to reflect.
Wine Pairing: Riva Ranch Chardonnay
There are stars up above and Chardonnay is a star. I cannot stop moving forward with Chardonnay. I cannot stop the pursuit with the grape that my uncle Phil claims allows the winemaker the biggest pallet upon which to paint. I can literally get lost in my mind with the flavors of chardonnay. The Head and the Heart, in particular the song Lost in My Mind, is unapologetically American, like our Riva Ranch Chardonnay. Rich and delicate at the same time. There are aromas of tropical fruits, apricot, apple and pear, along with hints of creamy and toasty oak and butterscotch, but always in balance. There is an alluring pace to the song, but like the wine, is in balance. My family has been farming Chardonnay for almost 100 years—during this time we have worked hard to express the fruit of Chardonnay, and not let it get lost in the mix of oak, malolactic fermentation, and sur-lie aging, which serve to support the fruit. This is similar to the song Lost in My Mind where the rhythm and instrumentation serve to support the vocals. Enjoy!
Wine Pairing: Sandstone Merlot
One listen to the song Losers, by Belle Brigade and you are drawn into a song that is sweet and dark, with an earthy/folk feel. There is certain spiciness to the song, which is in major key, but tackles the darker side of the major, with frequent trips to the relative minor. Despite the darker side of the song, there is optimism and irony. The vocals are strong, with a cascade of harmonies on top and are backed by a classic acoustic guitar, solid drums and slightly psychedelic keys. Our Sandstone Merlot has aromas of plum, black cherries, anise, brown sugar and raspberry jam. Merlot is a classic wine—traditionally known as mellower and lighter than its sibling Cabernet Sauvignon. Even though the tannins are silky smooth, this wine has a sturdy mouth-feel—like the simple, yet entirely satisfying backbeat that is present after the brief introduction of just vocals and acoustic guitar. Like the wine on the palate, the song Losers saved a new layer of energy which creeps up to a crescendo of pride and realization. On top of this, there is a theme of humility and self-awareness—much like what Merlot faced in the wake of the movie Sideways. Merlot has had a place among the best red wines in the world and as the song says, “there is no need to constantly compare…no need to remain in a rat race, but rather be content with who and what you are.”