Music and wine are arts that we imitate. We build the soundtrack of our lives and our experiences around them like the bull’s eye on the dartboard.
Everyone has a real or imagined mix tape that makes up the soundtrack to her life. It might sound like a DJ’s collage, a cut-and-paste of our past, present and future. It might be a stripped-down acoustic guitar and a single muted trumpet. It might be hard house and the MP3 mix that spins us through the impossible workout, breakup or day.
Whatever the genre, music is lyric perfume and it steeps like tea, then rises up and over us – its beats, its grooves, its rhythms and stories are our lives’ metaphors. It marks our moments and our memories. It is a trigger, a sign pointing at the other things it reminds us of.
Wine, like music, is an icon and point of departure. It is an arrow pointing at a feeling, an experience, a sensation. Wine is a ticker tape marking our best dinners, our celebrations, our discoveries drinking wine with the winemaker at the winery, our conquests, our let downs and our nights out. We remember around it.
Here in Austin, our music culture is ubiquitous. It is in our cars, our groceries stores, our clubs, our streets. It’s like the air we breathe. And this time of year, with football tailgates, backyard grilling and the Austin City Limits Music Festival, I imagine a sun-baked afternoon full of deep grooves and open bottles.
Remember that game “Picture Pages,” where you had to match the pictures that related, like the shoe with the foot, the badge with the policeman? I have attempted to “picture page” and soundtrack the 2008 ACL Music Fest performers with the wines they sound like, taste like, smell like, feel like.
MIXED METAPHOR GALORE: ACL Lineup & Wines to Accompany
THE BLACK & WHITE YEARS
Local band I’ve been following for more than a year that doesn’t play its hometown often enough. It’s the musical version of the German expressionist painters, full of emotion, and makes you feel like you’re the actor in their music video. A band to watch. Download their “Broken Hand” single.
Five minutes out of the ice, this cool, thirst-quenching wine will be worth the wait, but it keeps changing as it warms up. With lime, white flowers and honey- suckle flavors, it’s like a viewfinder picture show of your first good make-out session! Try Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc from Sonoma, or ask the folks at Taste Select Wines to recommend something from Alsace, France.
If you caught the recent Thievery Corporation pre- or after-show at Stubb’s, you heard Ocote Soul Sounds, which shares members with Antibalas. The afro/jazz/world/funk/bebop yearbook pictures were just taken and all the members of Antibalas were voted most likely to proceed.
This funky little grape lives and thrives in Chile, but once was the runaway grape of French Bordeaux, and was often mistaken for Merlot. It’s best – like Antibalas – when blended with other great components.
It’s not as well made when it stands alone. It’s the stowaway on the Spanish ship crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. Try Montes Cabernet/Carmenere.
One of the most authentic performers out there, her music is transparent and lovely, but haunting and layered, like a whisper spoken through a slinky. I once saw her perform and was trying to figure out how to get her to sing me to sleep.
This complex, layered wine has perfume like crushed fall flowers, herbs and peach marmalade, but when made well still has a playful acid that delivers flavors of honeycomb wrapped up with a copper ribbon. Try d’Arenberg Marsanne/Viognier, also known as “The Hermit Crab,” or Penner-Ash for a taste of Oregon Viognier.
The creative queen of hip-hop and high priestess of soul keeps company with The Roots, Common and Dr. Dre. She takes inspiration from Mother Earth, ancient Egyptian spirituality and archetypes, and plays with words like Einstein calculating with a giant abacus. Seriously, her presence and message are as big as her afro. Personally, I have experienced some of life’s best moments with Erykah tripping her tongue over tight hip-hop snare beats with a walking bass in the background.
As many as 16 grapes can combine to make this complex, opulent, earthy juice. It can stand up to the strongest food flavors and it pours out like a red velvet carpet. If a wine were ever to be com- pared with the warm, luscious sounds that come from a record laid down on wax instead of CD, it would be Chateauneuf-du-Pape. You know the heat waves that come off the Austin streets in the summer and keep rolling? This wine embodies that phenomenon and is the gift that keeps on giving. Try red Chateauneuf-du-Pape Feraud- Brunel. This wine comes from a winemaking partnership between two talented growers: Laurence Feraud and my favorite producer, Andre Brunel.
This UK duo (now touring as a five-piece) has been getting spin from their track “Time to Pretend” and has been touring internationally to keep up. The music is like psychedelic lights sprinkled over sugar cookies on a long drive in the Outback. Or Ghostland Observatory meets Apples in Stereo at the acoustic hootenanny for the Rolling Stones.
NEW ZEALAND SAUVIGNON BLANC
This is white wine suited up and driving the Paris Grand Prix. It’s fast, even on the curves, and racy, spicy, like citrus fruit popsicles on a 105-degree Austin day. This wine is zesty, refreshing, the standard for your sangrias and spritzers – and the best white to drink with spicy pork ribs when tailgating. Try Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc.
THE SWELL SEASON
If you could open up a winter field like it was a hardback book and turn to the page with the denouement before ever reading a word of the story, this is the music that would come pouring out of the book. This acoustic duo (him: piano and vocals, her: guitar and vocals) knows something about the space between the notes and the power of dynamics, and building and resolving tension. Often strings are laid over mysterious harmonies. Lean in and listen. You might recognize them from the soundtrack for “Once.”
SEA SMOKE’S “GRATIS” CHARDONNAY
You cannot buy it. You have to find it or have someone give you a bottle. Occasionally, it’s available at auction and it’s worth hunting for. It tastes like Le Montrachet (Grand Cru white Burgundy) with an aged Grand Champagne Cognac finish (think Hine’s Rare and Delicate). Very special stuff. Since Sea Smoke’s “Gratis” is so hard to come by and Le Montrachet requires the equivalent payment of your firstborn child, try a Premier Cru Puligny Montrachet from Domain Leflaive. There are five vineyards that are designated Premier Cru in Puligny. Try Leflaive’s Puligny Montrachet “Les Pucelles.”