WBW #58 – Wine and Coltrane

Francis Coppola 2007 Alicante Bouschet Katie over at gonzo gastronomy issued a creative challenge:  write about your experience with a wine or wines and different kinds of music.   I love music and wine so I simply could not pass up this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW) theme.

I’m approaching the task as an opportunity to try a grape I’ve never tasted before by a producer whose wines are also unfamiliar to me.  To give credit where it is due, I got the idea to go outside my wine comfort zone after watching Gary Vaynerchuk in a video with the ladies of Galavanting TV.

So I visited my local wine shop, and asked the wine director for a suggestion in the obscure red grape department.  He handed me  a 2007 Francis Coppola Alicante Bouschet and told me that the Coppola winery was one of the few left in California still producing the wine for commercial consumption.   He said it was a hearty food wine.   Actually, I had only planned to serve the wine with a meal of music, so just to be safe, I asked for a cheese suggestion, to which he quickly replied, blue.  I just so happened to have some in my fridge.

When I got home, I consulted my copy of the Wine Lover’s Companion for more information on this mysterious grape (mysterious to me anyway).  I learned that Alicante Bouschet is a hybrid vine created by Frenchman Louis Bouschet de Bernard and his son by crossing Grenache and Petit Bouschet, Petit Bouschet itself a blend of Teinturier du Cher and Aramon.   Planted widely in Southern France and North Africa, the grape is cultivated to provide intense color to wine, not to stand on its own, though Francis Coppola would beg to differ and I do too; this wine can stand alone…with the right kind of music.

As to the music,  I wanted to sample the wine first with something I had never heard before, so I stopped off at my favorite internet radio site, Beyond Jazz, and cued up the tune Breakdown by Homecut featuring Andreya Triana from the compilation mix, Boom-Boom-Boom.  I uncorked and hit play at the same time.   The vibe was melodic and smooth, a sort of soul-hop groove.  The nose was a bit mellow, with some muted signs of berries.  A taste revealed cherries, maybe raspberry even some raisins in there, and a sugary taffy aftertaste like a cherry Now and Later.  I dug the tune and the hypnotic refrain: “I know there’s something much better, something much more than this”.   I hope so! Time for the next group, Jazz Liberatorz and a tune called Mountain Sunlight featuring Mos Def.   This is an upbeat composition featured on the same Beyond Jazz mix with a jazzy hip-hop feel and some trippy synth effects.  My mood changed and the wine seemed to sweeten and elevate, scaling the mountain.   I felt like dancing.

Next stop to music I know – Santana from Welcome – a cut called Yours is the Light.  Really old stuff – 1973.  Makes me want to drink right from the bottle and pass it around Woodstock style.  There’s a tinge of smoke to this wine, and a little acidity, two substances quite popular in 1973.   Feeling a bit hungry, I broke out the blue cheese and to my delight the two paired magically with Santana.

Shifting gears, I broke out my Stereolab LP, something from a compilation called Serene Velocity.  I chose this record because the album art has a h45016twjlumagenta like coloration that matches the wine label and it just looks like wine in the abstract.  I put on Come and Play in the Milky Night and immediately got lost in the sound and forgot about the wine.  I took a sip to wake up, but the wine seemed asleep too.  I had to switch into overdrive.

Jazz, but something complex and intellectual.  Coltrane’s Giant Stepsh90867ek9wk.  This is it.  I’ve found the right music for this wine.  The title track, Giant Steps, brought out my senses, a heightened awareness of my surroundings.  And there is so much going on in Coltrane’s work – for me it’s like a spiritual experience trying to follow his saxophone solo.  Coltrane plays like no other could, with complete mastery.  He rescued my mood from the spacey sounds of Stereolab and transformed this otherwise ordinary grape into a wine with structure, complexity and balance – giant steps indeed!

The Roots of Accidental Music

In my last post, I explored the idea of accidental music – the serendipitous and random nature of a first encounter.   My first exposure to the music of Pat Metheny happened while browsing through a stack of LPs in a used record store some 25 years ago.  Without even having heard of the group, I purchased the LP American Garage just because I liked the album cover art.  Some 25 years later, I still love this band and the music on the LP.  I thought it would be interesting to detail other random encounters with some of my favorite music.   And as you read this, reflect on your own experiences;  no doubt, you have some interesting stories too about how you stumbled across some fantastic music.


A few years ago, I had the idea to to digitize all my CDs.  It’s much easier to do now, as you may know, than before – computers are so much faster these days and have enormous storage capacity.Stereolab Dots and Loops Anyway, before converting anything, I needed to decide on the best format:  MP3, AAC, OOG or WMA.  In the process, I went to many sites, all with a strong opinion as to the superior format, but I couldn’t tell any difference between the sound of a MP3 at 128 kbps and 192, or a WMA encoded at a bit rate of 64 kbps.    One site had an MP3 sample at 128 kbps and it sounded great – not the quality of the sound recording so much as the music – an incredible find.   It was a tune called “Miss Modular” from the Stereolab album  Dots and Loops.  What a find and I wasn’t even looking! By the way, I use Exact Audio Copy for ripping along with a LAME MP3 Encoder.

Johnny McLaughlin Electric Guitarist

I used to listen to a lot of guitar oriented bands when I was in high school – Yes, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and of course to some of the original guitar heroes –  Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton (my first concert ever), BB King, Carlos Santana and Jeff Beck.   johnny-mclaughlinI also used to buy Guitar Player magazine every month.  I don’t know why.  I didn’t own or play guitar.  Anyway, in 1978, I bought an issue with John McLaughlin on the cover.  I had never heard of him.  I read the feature article in which he was billed as the world’s fastest guitarist.  I hurried down to Peaches Records and Tapes and purchased his latest LP, Electric Guitarist.   The hippie who rung me up was impressed with my selection.  He said that there weren’t too many kids who had ever heard of John McLaughlin.  This place was a head shop.  I remember the glass display case over the register was full of bongs, pipes and rolling papers.  I got home, put it on my turntable and was absolutely floored by the sound.  To this day, Electric Guitarist is still one of my favorite albums.

What are you listening to right now?

Right now I’m listening to a tune called Double Rocker from the UK band Stereolab.  Check out the vid, to hear the song.  If you like what you hear, hop on over to Listen free at Last.fm for vids and streams of the band, and sample some tunes from their compilation Serene Velocity at AllMusic.com.


I think you’ll dig the vibe.

What are you listening to right now?