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Martha Stoumen Honeymoon and Lana Del Rey's Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Martha Stoumen Honeymoon and Lana Del Rey's Norman Fucking Rockwell!

I never gave much thought to or particularly cared for Lana Del Rey or wine made from the grape colombard, but I sure do now thanks to the utterly seductive “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” and Martha Stoumen’s Honeymoon

These two works of art are both made by modern California women that capture the current California moment through how they experience it. Lana Del Rey is a New York-raised, Fordham University-educated, self-taught singer and musician who made her way to the West Coast and sings about boys, beaches and identity with a listless melancholy. 

Martha Stoumen.  photo credit: Kathryn Rummel

Martha Stoumen. photo credit: Kathryn Rummel

Martha Stoumen is at the forefront of the California natural wine movement, making wines from grapes that thrive in the warmth and sun of Northern California and are unencumbered by the use of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, stabilizers or excessive sulphites. Like Lana’s romantic California lyrical imagery and musical style, Martha celebrates her home state by growing and fermenting grapes that are most compatible with the soils and the climate in the vineyards she farms and sources from.   

One of those grapes that makes up 85% of Martha Stoumen’s Honeymoon is the white grape colombard. Colombard is like an extra on a movie set. It’s usually a blending grape, used to make cheap bulk wine, or used for wine-based spirits like brandy and Armagnac. It’s filler. It’s there to give context or used as a tool for a greater purpose. Martha proves otherwise, giving it a leading role which it performs the shit out of. 

It’s not only the grape selection but the intention for the end result that makes the Honeymoon so good that I would marry it and bring it on a honeymoon myself. This particular colombard from the Ricetti Vineyard in Redwood Valley was grown on 48 year old vines, and partially botrytized at harvest. Botrycis, a.k.a. Noble Rot is a harmless fungus that dries out grapes, shrinking them while increasing their natural sugars. What you get in the Honeymoon is an escape of honey, florals, nuts and orange blossom aromas with deeper honey, apricot, tea and white peach flavors. It’s delicious. It’s sexy. It’s simply what you want to be drinking.   

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Speaking of sexy, “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” expresses the duality of Lana’s soft, sultry vocals and biting, shamelessly honest lyrics. It begins with a contender for the best opening lines on any album: “Goddamn manchild/ You fucked me so good that I almost said ‘I love you’.” The first impression of this wine and record together is both exotic and comforting. 

The manchild she’s referring to is essentially a fuck boy who’s “fun and wild” but completely careless with his lover’s feelings. This opening track hints at what could be political commentary, declaring that his “poetry’s bad and you blame the news”, which sounds a lot like our president whose “poetry” is crazed, racist outbursts and says that everything wrong with this country is the media’s fault. This speaks to the meaning of the album title “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” as a sarcastic take on our state of the union: a fucked up, twisted semblance of the American way of life that’s “great again”.

The next two songs, “Mariners Apartment Complex” and “Venice Bitch” are total classics. Like Martha who apprenticed under various winemaking legends like Giusto Occhipinti in Sicily, Reinhard Loweinstein in Mosel and Chris Brockway in California, Lana teamed up with pop producing wiz kid Jack Antonoff for NFR!. 

Martha used what she learned from her mentors to develop her craft and Lana collaborated with the person who would understand and elevate her songs. Jack wrote and played the music for these songs that feature prominent electric guitar, soft percussion, electronic effects and delicate piano that intensifies the whole mood without overshadowing her style. The nine minute “Venice Bitch” departs on a hazy, spaced out jam session half way through. With the Los Angeles setting, elaborate experimental musical arrangements and Lana’s sweet voice, they made the sad girl’s Beach Boys.

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Throughout NFR!, Lana is so vulnerable, revealing personal struggles and flaws with her listeners. On “Mariners Apartment Complex” she laments “I fucked up, I know that, but Jesus/ Can’t a girl just do the best she can”. On “Fuck It I Love You” she admits “If I wasn’t so fucked up I think I’d fuck you all the time”. On “Happiness is a Butterfly” she questions “If he’s a serial killer, then what’s the worst that can happen to a girl who’s already hurt?” Every line on the track “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have” seems to be her working through some past transgressions and painful memories.

Her candidness aligns with the spirit of Martha Stoumen’s wines, which are raw, stripped down, pure expressions of the land and her natural winemaking. Her practices are totally transparent and there’s nothing in her wines that don’t need to be there. They’re both producing their authentic truth, and while they accomplish popularity and critical success, that’s not what drives them.

Honeymoon and “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” are as complex and forthcoming as the California women who made them. I can say with full confidence that I have a newfound reverence—crush, even—on Lana Del Rey and colombard.      

Movia Rebula and Bjork's Homogenic

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