Grammy award-winning jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson is the smoky-voiced songwriter known for indelible opuses such as "Blue Light Til Dawn," "Traveling Miles," "New Moon Daughter" and "Loverly." Wilson, 54, is also a passionate wine lover who stocks her recording sessions with her favorite bottles to the point that the studio time almost becomes, in her words, "a food-and-wine tasting." The Mississippi native spoke with Wine Spectator about what wines she likes to have on tour, the role wine has played in her music, and her desire to develop her own wine label.
Wine Spectator: What types of wine do you like?
Cassandra Wilson: I love French white wines. When I’m shopping, I may get something from the Loire Valley—Sancerre and Vouvray, for example. Or I may get a Viognier. I like Château de Puligny-Montrachet Clos du Château. But I also like Robert Mondavi Coastal Private Selection Chardonnay.
WS: Do you remember the first time you had wine?
CW: Oh my god, yes. It was very bad wine. It was at a party that some kids were throwing in high school. It was called Boone’s Farm [laughs].
WS: What do you drink these days?
CW: I’m so into entertaining that while the recording is going on, I make sure there are delicious wines and foods lurking around because it should be a full experience that is reflected in the music. Our recording sessions are more like food-and-wine tastings. When we’re recording in Mississippi, we enjoy a lot of the native food—gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée, catfish and West African–style tamales. These are rich dishes, so white wines work well with them. I may serve Korbel because it’s a good time. Or I may serve Veuve Clicquot, which I absolutely love. If the guys are being fed and pampered a certain way, you hear it in the way they play. Wine is an essential element on every European tour. One former musical director, Brandon Ross, always requested a Brunello di Montalcino or Château Coufran for the artist rider. And we have always made it a point to explore the local wines and cuisine wherever we travel.
WS: Do you like red wine?
CW: In the winter, I like Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Domaine Vacheron-Pouizin Châteauneuf-du-Pape stands out. Those smoky, heady flavors remind me of my music.
WS: You’ve come a long way from those Boone’s Farm days.
CW: Yes. Traveling to wine regions like Switzerland, France and Italy has definitely afforded me the privilege of exploring wine in various ways. I sip wine every day. I think it’s such an important part of enjoying your life. I really believe that you should have a glass or two of wine every day.
WS: Have you ever performed in a vineyard?
CW: Yes. The Robert Mondavi Winery in California is my absolute favorite. It’s beautiful, and the hospitality and warmth there is outstanding.
WS: What does your wine future hold?
CW: I would love to work with a winery in developing a private label, a signature wine. I want to compose some heavenly elixir that would go well with the kind of music I make—seductive, heady, smoky and hypnotic.
WS: Perhaps, the Loverly label?
CW: It’s a secret.
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