Vines and Vinyl: Wine and Record Pairings By Discerning Winemakers
Wine and music are both beautiful, soulful, complex entities that exist for our pleasure, enlightenment and development as human beings. When one finds a match in the other, their gifts collide, strengthening each other and taking it to the next level. No one knows the musical partner for a wine better than the person, or people, who actually made it. This is why I went straight to the source and asked eight crazy talented, badass winemakers whose wines I STAN to share their own pairing for one of their wines with its album counterpart.
Sonic Juice Outsources: Winemakers Pair Their Wines With Records
Thomas Monroe and Kate Norris
Division Wine Co., Portland, Oregon
Wine: 2017 Division Winemaking Company, Division-Villages, “Beton”, Oregon
65% Cabernet Franc, 20% Gamay, 10% Cot, 5% Pinot Noir
Record: “Brothers in Arms”, Dire Straights
We decided to chose the Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms" album paired with our Division-Villages "Beton," which is a Loire-inspired Cab Franc based blend. Not only is the record just a kick ass classic at the height of Dire Straits’ career, but the title track feels very familiar to Kate and Tom’s wine partnership and the group of people, our "brothers" that we make wine with at the SE Wine Collective in Portland. The Beton is an in the pocket and melodic wine that takes a little funk and spice from the Cab Franc, some sweet soul from the Gamay, something completely unique from the Cot and just enough class from the Pinot Noir to make this ensemble really groove. Much the same could be said about the tunes on this record.
Matthiasson, Napa Valley, California
Wine: Matthiasson Vineyard, Ribolla Gialla, Napa Valley, California
100% Ribolla Gialla
Record: “Daydream Nation”, Sonic Youth
A wine and music pairing that immediately comes to mind is the Sonic Youth album “Daydream Nation” and our Matthiasson Vineyard Napa Valley Ribolla Gialla. That album embraced chaos and uncertainty, but within a melodic, almost orchestral structure. Dirty dissonant guitar sounds soar together into a logical coherent pattern. One discovers that the “faults,” though springing up spontaneously, have their place in the overall beauty, and the cacophony continually comes around and the symmetry re-emerges. That album was an epiphany for me when it came out.
Our Ribolla Gialla similarly embraces chaos—the variety shouldn’t exist in Napa or even California—it was smuggled into the country, it has all kinds of plant viruses, it’s the grapevine version of the re-tuned thrift store guitars of Sonic Youth. The whole cluster fermentation always goes completely awry, becoming strange, bitter, reductive, tannic, feral. Twelve months later, after resting on a blanket of lees with no SO2 and infrequent topping, VA (volatile acidity) creeping up, the tannins oxidizing, it goes through another period of entropy and all seems lost. Somehow, though, 15-16 months in, it starts to open up and come back together, and by the time it gets bottled, after 18-20 months, it has coalesced into what it is, like a Sonic Youth song it is energetic and edgy, but strangely pleasing and delicious. It’s a process that I don’t understand at all, I’m a spectator to the whole thing, but keeping the faith with an open mind seems to work.
Meinklang, Burgenland, Austria
Wine: 2017 Meinklang, Nacht, Burgenland, Austria
100% Pinot Noir
Record: “22, A Million”, Bon Iver
Last year we made a wine called Nacht (German for Night) which came from an idea my friend and I had at a music festival in Copenhagen called Haven. We had great days and nights with lots of talks about art, wine and music. The idea was to create an elegant, though fresh wine which you can also drink late in the night. My friend is an artist named Billy Ward who interprets music into paintings, so he created the label for it. The musical match is easy to choose from one of our favorites, who also played at that festival: Bon Iver, and in particular the song “Over Soon”. The song inspired us for the Meinklang Nacht wine and label, with the red dots representing the five words “It Might Be Over Soon.” That whole album, “22, A Million” fits the mood and the energy of how this project started. Bon Iver played most of the tracks of “22, A Million” at that concert. The songs “8 (circle)” and “00000 Million” are other favorites of mine from the record.
Hope Well, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Wine: 2017 Hope Well, Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Record: “Roxy Music”, Roxy Music
I met this album when I was in middle school; the ‘old school’ college kids who hung out at the record store played this album a lot, even though by then it was retro. I loved the juxtaposition of lyric and tone, and the layers and textures. It felt raw and unpolished, but the potential was clear. Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno were just laying down the beginnings of what would inspire synth glam rock and art pop and so much more. They were truly dipping their toes in the water of an expanding shoreline they landed.
With Hope Well, we are also trying to alight from a new shore. The philosophy is experimental; we cannot learn without trying. We do not make progress standing still. The belief is in the work and the process; the journey is the point. If I did this with an audience in mind it would be about the product. Embracing the problems, the barricades, the loneliness -- I want to take it as far as I can. I just want to make something pure that screams aloud the urgent words on my heart. If anyone hears them, if they ring true, that’s real.
Sleight of Hand Cellars, Walla Walla, Washington
Wine: Sleight of Hand Cellars, “The Psychedelic”, Walla Walla, Washington
Record: “Dark Side of the Moon”, Pink Floyd
I chose to pair Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” with one of my single vineyard Estate Syrahs called “The Psychedelic”. It’s the perfect pairing by name alone, right? You could consider “Dark Side” to be a safe choice when picking an album to pair, but it truly is one of the all time great albums. I have three copies on vinyl alone (one for home, and one each for our tasting rooms, where we play vinyl instead of streaming music). I’ve always liked concept albums, and this is one of the best. It’s an album you have to play front to back, as each song melds seamlessly into one another. And storytelling was key with Pink Floyd. All four members are credited as songwriters on this album (Waters, Gilmore, Mason, and Wright). It’s very similar to what we do at Sleight of Hand. We have a winemaking team of three people, including myself, my business partner Jerry Solomon, and my production winemaker Keith Johnson. All decisions are made as a collective. And just like in a band, you will have disagreements about what to do in regards to making the wines. That’s where great communication and trust come in.
Like “Dark Side of the Moon,” the Psychedelic Syrah has many different layers. First, we foot crush most of the grapes to include the stems in the fermentation. We allow the native ferment to take over, and once dry, we more the wine to mostly older large format barrels. It stays on the lees for 15 months without racking, never disturbed, and then bottled unfined and unfiltered. The key word to the wine is savory. The first five adjectives are non-fruit related. You smell and taste things like fresh game, lavender, smoke, tobacco, brown spices, minerality, and THEN you get to some purple fruits. You get the idea. This place was MADE for Syrah. It is grown in our Estate Vineyard, called “Stoney Vine Vineyard”. The Rocks District of Milton Freewater AVA (American Viticultural Area) is a sub-AVA in the greater Walla Walla Valley AVA. It is arguably the most distinctive terroir in the U.S. It has also garnered more press, and has the highest cumulative average scores amongst wine writers than any other area in the states. Names like Cayuse and Reynvaan have their Estate vineyards located right next door to Stoney Vine. In fact, the Psychedelic has an amazing track record for the first three vintages: 94-95 points from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine Advocate. Of course, my Mom gave this wine 98 points for the 2016 vintage. She has an amazing palate.
Mullineaux and Leeu Family Wines, Swartland, South Africa
Wine: 2017 Mullineux, Old Vines White, Swartland, South Africa
65% Chenin Blanc, 13% Grenache Blanc, 10% Viognier, 10% Clairette Blanche, 2% Semillon Gris
Record: “Labrinth, Sia and Diplo present LSD”, LSD
I love the idea of a Supergroup that can combine all of their talents to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. I love Labrinth, Sia and Diplo as individual artists, but put them together and KA-POW! The music is edgy, yet nostalgic. There is a beat that you can dance to, groove to, or just chill to. The song “Audio” is all about needing music and the rhythm that surrounds it in your life. Life is always a bit easier, more fun, more sexy when you have got a great beat in the background, so if you have a fabulous soundtrack you can accomplish anything. “Thunderclouds”, on the other hand deals with fear and distrust that can be in a relationship but that the best people in your life are the ones that can ride out the storm with you and comfort you in the process. Both of these songs could actually be about an awesome bottle of wine, too. It is a short album, but there is more to come and I cannot wait.
There are a lot of parallels with the wines we make and what we have accomplished in the Swartland. First of all, we are sort of also a supergroup. When we started the Swartland Revolution with Adi Baadenhorst, Eben Sadie and Callie Louw, we had no idea that working together would help to bring such awesome notoriety to the region. We shared inspirations, ideas, and many bottles of wine while helping to create a new identity for our region. Now we have more than 30 like-minded, yet unique wineries in the Swartland.
The Mullineux Old Vines White is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Viognier, and Semillon Gris. Again, each of these elements helps to contribute to a greater wine. Chenin Blanc is the backbone made from vines that are up to 80 years old, bringing concentration and structure. The Grenache Blanc always has a salty acidity that follows through on the palate for ages. Clairette Blanche is all about texture, and the more it matures, the more silky-beeswaxy mouthfeel there is to experience. Viognier immediately seduces with blossomy perfume and the phenolic grip of Semillon Gris brings a perceived freshness and moreish finish. These grapes come from different backgrounds and all ended up in South Africa at different times for different reasons, but when these varieties come together, I also want to dance, or groove, or just chill with a glass of Mullineux Old Vines White in hand.
Gilles de Domingo
Cooper Mountain, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Wine: 2017 Cooper Mountain, Life Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
100% Pinot Noir
Record: “Street Hassle”, Lou Reed
We put an immense effort into this wine from the soil to the bottle to make it the most genuine as possible with the character of the terroir and a great potential for aging. Because 99.99% of the Pinot Noir produced by wineries are with sulfites added, the profile of this wine using no added sulfites is per definition, quite different: more vivid, flashy, provocative and in a certain sense more pure. I will define this wine as the “soft rebel” in the wine category.
Because this wine is a soft rebel, I will humbly associate it with Lou Reed and especially one of his greatest albums: “Street Hassle”.
“Street Hassle” is, in my opinion, one of the most underestimated Lou Reed albums. Lou Reed’s soft voice with his punk tone reveal intelligence, creativity, honesty and especially the story telling. The “Street Hassle” song combines violins, guitars, his gentle voice and the story of a woman’s death from drug overdose. The honesty of Lou Reed on this album is purely genuine and without any commercial compromise. He went to write, play and produce this album without seeking fame but, without any doubt, for the pure love of the homage. The homage is about the Velvet Underground, the end of a relationship and his past. In my opinion, Street Hassle brings a different style of music and authenticity to an excellent poetic work.