Edit ModuleShow Tags

Mar 7, 201310:13 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Famous Musicians Get in on the Wine Biz

Dave Matthews owns Blenheim Vineyards in Charlottesville, Va.

Raj Gupta

Celebrity endorsements are a tricky proposition. You like the celeb because you've seen them in the movies or on TV or you love their music, and so maybe what they are telling you about a product gets your attention, forces you to consider a purchase.

 

That’s the idea anyway. Maybe the way it’s all presented does not carry a lot of weight with you. Maybe the celeb you recognize and feel good about is not on his/her best behavior in real life, or possibly the product and the celeb are not in sync (who really wants to believe football legend Joe Theismann has to take pills to control his bathroom habits while announcing a football game? Yecch!). And there are times it’s pretty obvious the celebrity is neither a user of the product nor a believer. He’s only in it for the paycheck. 

 

And who among us did not shake our heads knowingly but in complete jest to O.J.’s legal troubles with references to him running through airports for Hertz? What about Tiger Woods and all of his endorsements, going off the track for four years? And who has no opinion even now with American “hero” Lance Armstrong experiencing such incredible push-back from every group he has endorsed?

 

Celebrity endorsements are messy propositions.

 

But what about celebrity involvement? Those are products in which a celebrity has a hand in their creation and manufacture. Paul Newman’s entire line of food items, Newman’s Own, has become quite a large and quality brand name in such diverse areas as salad dressings and popcorn.

 

Celebrity involvement is a different kettle of fish from celebrity endorsement.

 

A friend and I recently contacted a number of rock and roll musicians who not only sell a lot of music, but they are involved with making wines. “Involved” being the key word.  These popular musicians actually work with the winemaker in deciding on blends and which grapes are to be used to the point where they participate in regular test tastings of the proposed release even when they are on the road on tour.

 

Jonathan Cain of Journey is one of those wine guys in a rock world. From an early age, his father and grandfather made wine in the home and he was around the process. The desire to make good wine never left him. Even with the siren-call of rock 'n' roll, and being an integral member of an amazing group, churning out hit after hit after hit (who could ever listen to a lineup of 80s and 90s hits and not hear at least one Journey tune?), Cain still wanted to make wine.

 

Along the way he was introduced to Dennis De La Montanya, an excellent Sonoma County winemaker in the Russian River and Dry Creek area, and together they determined to create something special. They did just that.

 

Finale Wines are the love children of Cain and De La Montanya. The Chanconne (means a slow dance) Pinot Noir is a tough-to-get label but the wines are wonderful. The name is descriptive of what the wine experiences in its life, with gentle intervention from the winemaker and Cain. Sort of like the song "Open Arms."

 

Then there’s the Big Surprise, the Grand Finale. Oh boy! Talk about something that will knock your socks off. And it’s not just the $95 suggested price, if you can find it. This Bordeaux Blend is a Double-Gold Winner at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest competition, 6,000 wines, of American wines in the world. (Disclosure: I have been an invited judge at this event for more than 10 years.)

 

Like many celebrity winemakers, Cain is not in the wine business for money. All of the wine’s profits are dedicated to San Francisco Bay Area children’s charities. Got that feel-good feeling all over?

 

Another more unlikely rocker making some damn fine wine is David Coverdale of Whitesnake. David is certifiably over-the-top (in a good way) in his personality.  His wines, on the other hand, are excellent, almost restrained, expressions and reflections of the agriculture advantages of Sonoma County.

 

Importantly, the tasting experience of Coverdale’s Zinfandel perfectly follows the listening experience of his great hit “Here I Go Again.”

 

It’s a building monster, but it starts out gently. You can sense, however, what’s coming. This English guy taking a great interest in America’s grape is something to behold.  David readily admits to being a big fan of White Burgundy, and this Zinfandel is about as far away as you can get from that. Love the conflict!

 

Dave Matthews is another rock artist who can’t resist the attraction of the grapes. While Matthews was born in South Africa, his adopted home, America, has furnished him two opportunities to create wines on both the East and West Coast. Oh, and by the way, from 2000 to 2010 Dave Matthews sold more concert tickets and had higher earnings than any other musical group. Success wherever he goes with just about everything he touches, that’s Dave Matthews.

 

In Virginia, the Charlottesville area to be more specific, Matthews, in 2000, began to design and construct a new winery that would deal with mostly white Rhone grapes, viognier, marsanne, rousanne, and some chardonnay. On the red side, cabernet franc, malbec, syrah and merlot carry the load.

 

Blenheim Vineyards, Matthews' winery, was constructed on a very historic site, dating back well before our country’s founding and there is even a story of Thomas Jefferson and his bride stopping by here to find relief from a snow storm on their way home to Monticello.

 

Across the continent in the North Coast and Central Coast regions of California, Matthews is also involved with another project, Dreaming Tree Wines. Up in Alexander Valley, Steve Reeder, amazing winemaker for Simi and great friend of New Orleans, teamed up with Matthews to create a lineup of fun wines, ready to enjoy on their release.

 

Crush is a proprietary red blend with a preponderance of merlot, but also with syrah, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, petite syrah, and zinfandel (hey, this is northern Sonoma). There is also a Dreaming Tree Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

Among other musicians making wines are Olivia Newton-John, Mick Fleetwood and Sting.

 

The point is, an artist is an artist. It matters not in what medium they are working, they are also probably well-versed and intrigued about other artful pursuits away from their abundant talents.

 

We are fortunate that many of the musicians whose music we love also allow us to share with them their ability and passion in making fine wine. The big problem is deciding whether we play the songs loudly on the sound system while enjoying the wine, sharing with everyone in earshot both joys.

 

Or do we insert the ear buds, keep it to ourselves and savor the wine with the music in our own private world?

 

                             -30-

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

about

In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.

 

Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; the Executive Editor and monthly features writer for Gulf Coast Wine + Dine Online; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.

 

Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.

 

Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.

 

They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.

 

Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.

 

Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.

 

Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.

 

It’s a good gig. 

recent

archive

feed

Atom Feed Subscribe to the Happy Hour Feed »

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags