Rock-Star Wines

Originally published in Lake & Sumter Style, May 2014 • Photo Illustration by Anthony Casto


Ever wonder what your favorite rock stars or pop group singers do in their spare time? They may have traded the stage for a vineyard — at least part of the time. After all, making music and wine are both artistic endeavors that appeal to creative types. Turn up your speakers and listen to some classic tunes while you enjoy these rock star wines by several well-known musicians who own wineries.


Updated: May 25, 2014

Boz Scaggs

Singer & Songwriter
Genre: Rhythm and Blues
Winery: Scaggs Vineyard, Napa, Calif.
Well-known Song(s): “Lowdown,” “Lido Shuffle,” “Look What You’ve Done to Me.”

A few weeks after my deadline for the May “Salute,” I read a review for Scaggs Vineyard’s Mt. Veeder Montage, a Rhone-style blend. I couldn’t believe the vineyard was owned by none other than Boz Scaggs, one of the 1970s greatest recording artists. Anyone who attended a prom in the late 70s probably danced toBozScaggsWine_Web “Lowdown” and the “Lido Shuffle.”

In 1996, Scaggs and his wife, Dominique, moved to the hills above Napa Valley and planted fruit trees. A friend suggested they put in some Syrah vines, which he just happened to have on his truck. The vines did so well that the Scaggs researched other grapes that might do well in the area. As lovers of France’s Rhone Valley wines, they chose Mourvedre and Grenache. From the beginning they were committed to sustainable farming. They made their first wine in 2000 and were certified as organic in 2006.

Scaggs is hands-on in the vineyard management and works closely with his winemaker to craft a small, highly select production of estate wines. They produce only 350 cases annually of the Mt. Veeder Montage and 100 cases of a Grenache rosé.

For a recent “rock-star” wine tasting, I sampled the 2010 Mt. Veeder Montage, a well-balanced blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, and Counoise that is aged in French Oak. The wine was earthy with a hint of tobacco and flint amidst plum, blueberry, and spice notes. The wine sells for $40 a bottle at scaggsvineyards.com; however, they do not ship to Florida during the summer months.

And if you think all that wine making leaves Scaggs little time to record, check out his 2013 release, “Memphis.” It’s the perfect background music for his wine.


Dave Matthews

Dave Matthews Band
Musical genre: Jazz, rock
Wineries: Dreaming Tree, Sonoma County; Blenheim Vineyards, Charlottesville, Va.
Well-known song: “Crush”

In the early 1990s, my favorite radio program was “Jazz Flavors,” which played a lot of music by a new band out of Charlottesville, Va. I would always take special note when songs by the Dave Matthews Band aired. The blending of jazz and earthy soul with some funk thrown in was a nice escape after a stressful day — much like a glass of wine.

I really hadn’t thought much about the Dave Matthews Band in recent years; however, one of my friends who shared my love for jazz opened a bottle of Dreaming Tree Cabernet when I visited her last year. As I raved about the wine, she pointed out the paragraph on the back label about Grammy-winner Dave Matthews.

Although Matthews had been passionate about winemaking for decades and has owned a Virginia winery since 2000, he knew he needed an expert when he relocated to Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. Matthews collaborated with veteran winemaker Steve Reeder, a Sonoma legend who is said to have an “artist’s soul.” Together, the duo has certainly found the right tones and flavors for their Dreaming Tree wines, which are readily available in our area.


Jonathan Cain

Journey
Genre: Classic rock
Winery: Finale, Healdsburg, Calif.
WELL-KNOWN SONG: “Don’t Stop Believin’”

Journey has been one of my all-time favorite bands for as long as I can remember, and Jonathan Cain is one of my favorite songwriters. Healdsburg, Calif., is one of my favorite towns, along with the surrounding northern Sonoma County. It makes sense, then, that Finale may become one of my favorite all-time wineries.

Cain’s family has an unusual winemaking history: his grandfather made his own wine from Muscat grapes when he arrived in Arkansas from Czechoslovakia in 1920. Cain himself has enjoyed fine wine and the winemaking process since he arrived in northern California in 1981. At a barrel tasting in the Russian River Valley, he and his wife met winemaker Dennis De La Montanya who talked Cain into partnering with him to release several wines to benefit Bay Area children’s charities. Two years later, they launched Finale Wines with winemaker Darryl Groom. The venture, Cain says, is a way to blend the arts of music and winemaking.

Finale Wines currently has five releases: Chanconne Pinot Noir, Finale Pinot Noir, All Access Cabernet Sauvignon, Finale Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grand Finale, a Bordeaux-style blend from Napa. All can be ordered through finalewines.com.


Kix Brooks

Brooks & Dunn
Genre: Country
Winery: Arrington Vineyards,
Nashville, Tenn.
WELL-KNOWN SONG: “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”

Brooks & Dunn won more Country Music Association Awards than any other act before they retired, but to me, they will always be those “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” boys. Imagine my surprise to learn Kix Brooks founded a winery in 2007. Granted, no one thinks of Tennessee as a winemaking state, but the hills around Nashville have certainly proven certain varietals can grow there. Arrington’s winemaker, Kip Summers, planted Chambourcin grapes in 2003 just down the road from the farmhouse that now houses the winery’s tasting room. And those Chambourcin grapes are the basis for Encore, a rich, Port-style wine that seemed to be flying out the door when I visited.

Arrington Vineyards grows five varietals, and the wines have an elegance that is unexpected. The wine I kicked up my boots for was the Viognier 2012, a dry, medium-bodied wine described as pairing well with “turnips and other slow-cooked root vegetables.”

Arrington Vineyards is a relaxing place to visit and enjoy a picnic if you are in Nashville, especially on weekends for the Music in the Vines programs. And you just might see Brooks helping out in the tasting room. Arrington Wines can be shipped to Florida from arringtonvineyards.com.


Train

Genre: Pop rock
Winery: Save Me, San Francisco
Wine Company
WELL-KNOWN SONG: “Soul Sister”

The coolest cats to enter the wine business have to be members of Train, a San Francisco-based band that in 2011 founded a wine company named after their hit album, “Save Me, San Francisco.” In a partnership with ACME Wine Movers, the company sells wines named after the band’s various hits, which include Drops of Jupiter California Red, Calling All Angels Chardonnay, Soul Sister Pinot Noir, California 37 Cabernet Sauvignon, and Hella Fine Merlot. The wines, which range from $12 to $20, are available in local stores.

“Wine and music tell stories and connect those who share it,” says Jimmy Stafford, the band’s “lead wine explorer.”

But the intent, explains Stafford, has not been to make money off the wine. Proceeds from sales are donated to support Family House, a nonprofit organization that provides temporary housing to families of seriously ill children at Benioff Children’s Hospital at the University of California/San Francisco.


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