Music Monday: Broken Glass In Your Wine

The Music

Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day. I could post a brilliantly romantic song like millions of other people are doing right this second, but I’m kind of feeling something a little more risqué. Ladies and Gentlemen: The Last Shadow Puppets. It’s like James Bond going through a scenester phase. I happen to like it an awful lot.

2007 Winehaven Riesling

2007 Winehaven RieslingI picked up this gem on a business trip to the frozen north. While in Minneapolis, I stopped at a wine shop called Sorella Wines & Spirits. This place had a fantastic selection of local wines from Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. In addition to this one, I also picked up a couple Rieslings from Michigan and the Voyageur from Alexis Bailly Vineyards, a red wine blend of Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, and Frontenac varieties.

I understand that the northern Midwest is ideally a white wine region, thus the focus on Rieslings, but I’ve also heard good things about the Alsatian specialized red grapes growing in the area, and I wanted to give them a try as well.

The wine is a very deep golden yellow with a fairly low viscosity. The nose is very grape-y, like white grape juice. Aside from that. there are notes of white floral, ripe pear, and apricots.

The texture is rich, very, very smooth, though not quite as full as most Rieslings. It’s  off-dry, with a significant amount of residual sugar to the flavor. It’s not quite a dessert wine, though the sweetness is palpable. There’s a brief attack of pear, then the flavor abruptly dissipates. The finish consists of honey and floral. As it gets warmer, the more complex flavors start to come out, and the mid-palate starts to gain some citrusy qualities, specifically mandarin orange. It’s a little too sweet, and the alcohol and acidity could stand to be a bit higher, as the wine was a bit cloying. It wasn’t terribly imbalanced, though.

Match this guy up with some spicy seafood or chicken, though nothing overwhelming. The body is a little light, but the sweetness can take on some heat. The flavors themselves are built to suit a beginner’s palate, though they’ve still got the taste of a classic Riesling. I’d highly suggest this one to wean those you love off of White Zinfandel.

This is a wine that really needs to be consumed a bit warmer than 50 degrees to get the full range of its flavors. Too cold, and it’s flat and dull. This was even evident the second day, when any flavors that would need time to open up would have come about already.

Surprisingly good, though very simple, from the land of Minnesota. 5/10

One final note about this wine, and it’s a good lesson to learn about many other wines:

I opened the bottle, and what did I find but this stuff all over the cork and the inside of the bottle neck. Looks like broken glass or rock salt, right? It’s actually tartaric crystals, a solidification of potassium salts left over from the winemaking process. Someone might open a bottle of wine and find this stuff on the cork and believe the wine to be tainted. Rest assured, your wine is perfectly fine.

Many winemakers, mostly in Europe, elect to not put their wines through cold stabilization before bottling, which would cause these salts to form into their crystals for easy removal. When they don’t, the crystals will form on their own in the bottle as the temperature drops. Go ahead and taste them if you want. They’re odorless, essentially tasteless, not sugary or salty or anything else that will affect the flavor of your wine. Just filter them out or ring them out with a decanter and enjoy your wine as you normally would.

The Wine: Winehaven Riesling

Producer: Winehaven Winery

Vintage: 2007

Region: Minnesota, US

Varieties: 100% Riesling

Alcohol: 10.7%

Price: $12

Music Thursday: Art Rock and Washington Riesling

The triumphant return of the blog comes with one of the best new bands in my library paired with one of the best white wines I’ve had the pleasure of sipping.

The Music

I have been obsessed with this band the past few weeks. They’re a British art rock band with heavy progressive rock and electronic influences. Their vocals heavily depend on male-female harmonies and chant-like repetition, all laid over a saturation of rapid bass and rhythm guitar strokes. The band seems more keen on creating an atmosphere than a poppy sing-along, embracing programmed drums and waves of synthesizers to fill the void left by conventional instruments. The only real breaks in the music seem to be focused on giving full weight to a vocal harmony.

Anyway, the track is “ii) Apogee iii) Requiem for the Lovers” by Pure Reason Revolution. The video is a combination of footage from their tour and a show in London back when they were performing this music before it was released in studio, so you’ll also get to see glimpses of their recording session. Really, all it did was make me desperately want to see them live. Hopefully they’ll come stateside soon.

2009 Kung Fu Girl

Now for the wine: I celebrated a successful first day of my participation in the Midwest Grape & Wine Conference with a bottle of Riesling. I’d originally set out for a bottle of Champagne, but, alas, it was near impossible to find a wine shop open after the conference’s day session, and the hotel bar stopped serving at 7, so I decided to open the Riesling recommended to me by Collin at The Wine And Cheese Place in Ballwin, MO, the previous afternoon. Kung Fu Girl, from the Columbia Valley in Washington, it was.

The wine is surprisingly active, forming a lot of bubbles on the glass after the pour. It has a light straw color, and the swirl suggests quite a bit of heft behind the wine.

The nose is very light and crisp with lilac, citrus, peach, and pear. It just smells like spring. There’s no hint of alcohol heat, no unsavory scents to be had at all.

The flavor is a  mouth-coating blend of white peach, lemon, and pear, with a fantastic perceived sweetness and a touch of minerality. Pear lasts on the medium-long finish. The wine takes all these beautiful delicate spring notes and creates an intense, rich experience. It’s truly an exemplary Riesling. Fantastic balance, with a zesty acidity that you can feel without tasting. The alcohol backs up the body well without overpowering the light flavors.

I’m drinking this wine in the dead of winter after a major snowstorm in a cold city, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. For optimal results, break this one out in a bright, sunshiney kind of picnic setting, with a light white-meat or seafood offering. [insert aforementioned meat here]-salad sandwiches, deviled eggs, cheese-and-crackers. The sugar can handle a touch of spice, and the body of the wine is built to handle the assault of a primarily poultry meal.

In short, this is one of the best sub-$20 Rieslings I’ve ever had. 8/10.

As a bonus, I sipped from Oenophilia’s Polycarbonate Wine Glasses. Shatterproof wine glasses that look just like their glass counterparts, they were one of the most popular products that I demo’d at the conference. I would wait until a couple people walked past, not really paying attention, and then chuck the glass at a metal display or a table across the way. They’d panic until they realized the glass didn’t break. It cracked me up every time.

The Wine: Kung Fu Girl

Producer: Charles Smith Wines

Vintage: 2009

Region: Columbia Valley, Washington, US

Varieties: 100% Riesling

Alcohol: 12.5%

Price: $18

Music Monday: Chardonnay and New Jersey Punk

Every Monday, I’m bringing you what I sipped on over the weekend as well as what I listened to to enhance the experience.

The Music

This weekend, I reconnected with my college days with the band Hidden in Plain View. Yes, I was one for the weepy pop-punk brand of emotional bloodletting, and in some cases, I still am. Not exactly a world-beater in talent or popularity, they’re still a lot of fun for singing along to at an unnecessarily high volume in the car, screechingly-nasal falsetto highly recommended.

I can only imagine how much fun it would be to be their drummer… nothing fancy in his work, nothing intricate, just a straight-up 4/4 hard rock with ample room for fills. He really does drive the band; as often as they cut to him on chorus transitions just in time for a drumstick flourish or crash cymbal roll, his energy necessarily has to be infectious.

The Wine

2008 Concannon Conservancy ChardonnayThe wine for the weekend was a stalwart classic, the California-style Chardonnay. From Concannon Winery’s Conservancy vineyards in the Livermore Valley, the 2008 Conservancy Chardonnay brings every classic characteristic of the California Chardonnay with an ecological benefit: the vineyards were planted to protect land from urban development, and the production of wine is just an added bonus.

The wine has all the traditional notes on its nose: palpable oak, a touch of toast, a hint of butter, a good dose of vanilla, and just a bit of apple and lemon untouched by oak. The flavors match, with just a hint of citrus and tropical fruits that manage to overcome a significant oaking in French and American oak barrels.

Though the wine underwent malolactic fermentation and oak aging, the mouthfeel is not as round as you would expect, as the acidity is a little off. The alcohol, however, provides ample structure at 13.5% without bringing the heat.

Overall, I’d say it’s a serviceable Chardonnay, subtle enough to avoid becoming one of the many over-oaked monstrosities that originate in California, and at $15, it’s not going to put a hurt on your wallet to give it a try. 5/10.

Spin the Wheel: Indie Music Wine Pairings, Reverse Edition

This week I’m going to pick the music to pair with given wines. This first one was inspired by Brian from Norcal Wingman, who suggested on my previous pairing post that my Jeniferever music video, what with all the snow and the chilly-looking guy trudging headlong through it, would pair well with an Eiswein. I had to agree, but it got me thinking about reversing this process.

Instead of choosing the wine to fit the music, I want to try to find a song that is the aural equivalent of a certain specific style of wine. I approached this idea briefly when I paired a Tokaji with “And You Lied to Me” by The Besnard Lakes, using the complex layered-guitar outro as a metaphor for the finish of a fine wine. Consider this an expansion of that line of thinking. First up? The Eiswein. If Eiswein were a music video, what would it be? I’m thinking “A Jagged Gorgeous Winter” by The Main Drag.

First of all, I just want to point out that the lead singers in the band are dressed as Calvin and Hobbes, and the rest of the guys are dressed as Snow Goons. That sets the stage for one of the silliest music videos I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. The music combines whimsical guitar, subdued bass, and electronic drums with a playful synth backdrop. The fact that they have people playing real instruments even though much of the music is very obviously programmed gives it that adorable sort of playing pretend feel that just accentuates the childishness of the video.

The lyrics themselves are a stream-of-consciousness jaunt through various childhood winter activities juxtaposed with college drama. There is absolutely nothing dark or mysterious about what they’re singing. Sure, they’re singing lines like “all the lies you told about me they were totally totally totally true,” but the general feel is more that all these relationship problems can be cured by a snowball upside the head, Susie Derkins-style.

Because of the sweetness of the music and the winter theme, of course I’m picking this song to match the Eiswein. Since I’ve been encountering a lot of white wine pairings with these music posts lately (not surprising, since the majority of my work music is uplifting and light-hearted), I’m going to strike out into red wine territory with a Primitivo. Let’s find a song that can embrace the juiciness that is a big red ripened in the long, hot Italian sun. My money’s on something from Alkaline Trio. Let’s try “Stupid Kid.”

Alkaline Trio is one of those bands that never quite settles with you. They play such gleeful, energetic music with fairly innocent lyrics, but there are always these ridiculously dark, almost ungodly undertones to their music. This music video is an absolutely perfect example of their music. Matt Skiba, the lead singer and lead guitarist, seems just a bit too manic as he sings about making relationship mistakes as a youth. The music video begins innocently enough with a child who struggles to fit in and develops a crush on his teacher. The last 30 seconds of the video, however, are a kick to the gut with how twisted it becomes.

A Primitivo is a bright, juicy, potent red wine, but there are always dark fruits present that keep the flavor from being too giddy. The ample Italian sun offers a fantastic ripeness to the wine that differentiates it from its Zinfandel cousin in other regions. It still has the ability to creep up on you with a high alcohol content, and it’s just a bit heavier than its rustic red fruit flavors would suggest. I’m actually drinking one as I watch this video!

DIY Ethics in Punk and the Wine Blog Movement

Josh: Today, it is my great honor to welcome Matt Mauldin from Wineheimer, veteran of both the DIY punk scene and the wine industry. I’m calling on his unique perspective to help me flesh out some recent thoughts I’ve had on music and wine (which, as you know, I often blend together even without reason). Specifically, I’ve noticed a certain parallel between the evolution of DIY punk and the rise of wine blogging.

Punk used to be a cultural curiosity, small sects of closely-bound performers who amassed a dedicated, hardcore following in their various scenes (D.C., London, Richmond, Pacific Northwest, etc). At some point, and I almost want to blame the emo movement for this, even though it’s still my favorite musical movement, bands such as Rites of Spring and Embrace began softening the punk sound and inviting bands like Texas is the Reason, Sunny Day Real Estate, and The Promise Ring to appropriate the sound for a much more pop-friendly style. For example, compare Fugazi, circa 1988, to Brokencyde, circa an era that should soon be forgotten:

As soon as these bands achieved commercial success, the genre rather suddenly morphed into a widespread pop culture fixture that is an utter mockery of the DIY ethics that founded the punk movement. As someone who was a member of the punk scene during those years of upheaval, what was your experience?

Matt: The way the DIY culture morphed into the mainstream in the late 90′s and early 2000′s was just a link in a long chain.  Just as early psychedelic rock morphed into commercial arena rock in the 70′s; glam rock, heavy metal, and hard rock into hair metal; punk rock into commercial new wave; hardcore punk into crossover metal- then eventually leading to commercial crunch-core; grunge and 80′s indie into commercial alternative; DIY into commercial pop-punk and commercial “emo”.

Emo band Still Life

Whatever the subgenre is, no matter how radical the sound- it’s only one or two steps removed from commercialization.  The key event in this chain is how the original movement adapts to the commercialization.  With punk, after the original wave was commercialized it went underground with hardcore.  After the hardcore style more or less morphed into metal, “hardcore” became DIY.  DIY was a plethora of styles- mostly based in in the original tenants of punk and hardcore.

The two leading styles commercially that grew out of this were melodic or pop punk, and emo (with its various incarnations).  Both of these styles were easily commercialized once fanbases was established.  Since then, music on the underground level has mushroomed- there are so many styles and there is so much going on… I don’t see central movements anymore as much as I see loose collections.  What I’m saying is that with any of these movements, the sound can easily be manipulated.  It’s the aesthetic that makes it real.

My experience being a part of the 90′s DIY scene was more or less about refusing not to be a part of it.  When I played in Car Vs. Driver, we believed in the infrastructure.  It was a fulfilling way for us to operate.  There was no worrying about where we were going, or about much of anything other than communicating our music through our aesthetic.  We shunned most any potential entry way out of that world.  The business of our band was done on a very primal level.  And when it was time to move on, we ceased to exist.  We could have played just about any style of music; it was our aesthetic that made us a part of that movement.

Josh: So what you’re saying, then, is that, like any innovation, it didn’t take long for people to figure out ways to commodify your music scene. The irony, of course, is that a movement in music that was expressedly built around self-reliance and purity was becoming diluted in order to bring in outside support.

Screamo band Suis La Lune

Because I grew up during the last throes of the DIY scene’s “death,” I experienced this music in the other direction. I began listening to the commercialized bands, then working my way back through their influences until I reached the Guy Picciotto and Ian MacKaye braintrust.

The reason I brought up this music history, of course, is to compare it to what is happening to wine writing today. Now, more than ever, wine is becoming an everyday consumer’s alcoholic beverage of choice. With the internet aiding the spread of hype for certain brands, with shipping so simple and prevalent, any consumer or any shop can get their hands on just about any wine, if they have enough money and willpower. This has taken the appreciation of fine wines from a “club” mentality spearheaded by a few centralized experts to a disorganized wave of bloggers who, though they don’t have the world experience of professional writers, still offer up reviews and opinions for mass consumption on the internet.

This isn’t to say that either side is right or wrong, or that either group will be phasing out of power. They still serve their separate purposes, just as bands still exist that are dedicated to the original DIY ethics while their pop compatriots proudly dumb down the spirit of the music in the name of a dollar. Obviously, I have an opinion on which one is better, though I understand that both serve their purpose and can even appreciate certain pop bands. It seems to me that a similar attitude exists in the wine-writing world. Again, I was not around in the wine world when internet writing really took hold, so I’m deferring to your wisdom on this. How would you say this current trend of wine-writing compares to the punk scene 20 years ago? Any conclusions we can reach as to the future of wine-writing based on this phenomenon of commodification?

Matt: Your perspective on coming into the music in interesting.  As much as my peers may lament some of the more commercial directions of that music, how bad can it be if it brings new people back to the roots… where it all came from?  I should appreciate the fact that there are probably people like yourself somewhere out there who appreciate what happened during that time because they were exposed to it commercially and had the interest to get to the core of it.  Nothing stays the same forever- emo either commercialized and moved out of the underground, or the movers and shakers stayed underground the music grew and changed.

Screamo band I Would Set Myself on Fire for You

I’m still pretty new myself when it comes to the wine-blogging thing.  Obviously, the DIY aspect of blogging is comparable to the underground music scene of the 80′s and early 90′s.  People are creating viable information sources out of informal projects.  Real and credible sources of information are born out of people’s creativity and initiative.  In wine, I think it’s already carved out a niche as being a nice compliment to traditional and professional information sources.  What will be interesting to see is what new identities are created for wine information.. what will stick.  Do people want wine to be de-mystified?  Or is the beauty of wine the complexity and details of the story, cultivation, production, and enjoyment.

Will wine blogging uncover some new region, previously unknown, because of that voice in the wilderness?  It definitely brings up new ideas and interesting questions.  I think ultimately, the biggest and brightest voices will consolidate and figure out a way to commercialize it to the extent that they can make a living from it.  At that point, I think you’ll see the original waves of blogging appear more closely resembling the traditional sources.  But with the accessibility of the internet to the masses, I’m sure there will always be a reinvention of wine and other forms of blogging going on beneath the established surfaces…

Josh: My original perceived outcome was less rose-tinted; my initial concern was that wine blogging would become commercial shilling by part-time writers who make spare cash by accepting corporate sponsorship with certain caveats as to which wines they should review, not unlike chain wine sellers who require their employees to suggest certain brands over others. By asking you to draw these parallels, though, I now see the artist’s perspective of it:

Wine bloggers write because they are passionate about their wine, and while some may stray down the road towards being “friends with benefits” with distributors, that independent streak that made DIY punk so pure will also continue to drive the wine-blogging community.

I especially like your “voice in the wilderness” message. There are underrepresented regions in the US that are gaining publicity because of bloggers who have a pure passion for local wines. Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Georgia… these states (and dozens more) all have collections of wine bloggers who strive to make their region’s product internationally respected. As long as there are aspects of the wine world to be discovered, there will be discerning, dedicated wine writers who will fight to get the word out.

As a parting gift to all the discerning punk lovers out there, I’d like to present a live video of one of the bands keeping DIY alive today: Suis La Lune from Sweden:

Matt Mauldin is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and has been in the wine and spirits business for over 13 years.  He enjoys all things wine, as well as sharing his thoughts and ideas about wine.  He also is into punk rock and disc golf.  Please check out www.mattwineheimer.net for more.

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