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Finding Parallels in Wine and Music?

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jul 20, 2007 11:54am ET

I love music. Especially jazz.

Living in New York, it’s easy to hear some live music. Our office is just across the street from Jazz Standard, one of the best live venues in town.

It can be expensive though. An evening for two at the Blue Note taking in a big-name act, with dinner, can easily cost upwards of $200.

The other night I went to 55 Bar (www.55bar.com), a self-described “Prohibition-era dive bar.” The young tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin (www.donnymccaslin.com) was playing. I had just bought his new CD and had heard good things about him.

At 55, the cover is $10, with a two-drink minimum. It holds about 50 people. The place was packed during the first set, after which it cleared out. There were about 12 of us hanging in to hear the second set.

Despite the small crowd, McCaslin and his band played like their lives depended on it. And that’s what is so great about jazz in New York. There’s so much incredible talent around.

It got me thinking about wine.

You can buy the famous labels, and it will cost you. But there are lots of interesting, authentic and delicious wines made by dedicated growers and vintners that are very reasonably priced.

This year, I have discovered some tasty, inexpensive and very serious wines while buying a few cases for my parents and a birthday party for my wife.

Charles Ellner is a small Champagne house in Epernay. I have reviewed (and enyoyed) their wines since 2000 and met the family a few times at Vinexpo. Until recently, distribution in the United States was spotty. This year, I have been drinking the Brut Rosé NV, a rich mélange of strawberry and cherry with a hint of toast. It’s firmly structured, because the Ellner style is without malolactic fermentation. It cost me $27.

One of the wines I bought for my parents was Robert-Denogent’s Mâcon-Solutré Clos des Bertillones 2004 ($19). It is full of honey, floral and lemon aromas and flavors, very clean and pure, with richness and a dollop of mineral on the finish. After tasting it, I immediately bought a case.

Another instant purchase came after tasting a bottle of the Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2005 ($17). Its fresh aromas of macerated cherries, cinnamon and cherry flavors, with hints of tea and mineral on a light- to medium-bodied frame are captivating.

I have always been a fan of Cabernet Franc from the Loire since I lived in Paris years ago. When a friend who works for a retailer in Florida suggested the Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes 2005 for $13, I jumped at it. It’s a great year for Loire Valley wines, both red and white. The wine did not disappoint either, boasting a classic Cabernet Franc nose: black currant, with hints of raspberry and olive and concentrated mineral notes.

These are just a few of the inexpensive wines I have bought and enjoyed this year. Each one offers plenty of character and terroir. Like music, there’s a lot of good stuff out there if you scratch beneath the surface.

John Miller
Windsor, CA —  July 20, 2007 1:29pm ET
Music and wine parallel in so many ways. I agree with your analogy of great unknown musicians and great unknown wines. Another parallel is that I don't think a true music lover likes one type of music (ever met a "Deadhead"?), or a wine lover likes one type of wine (ever met a pinothead?). When people ask me "What's your favorite type of wine", the only answer I can honestly give is "good wine". The answer to "what's your favorite music" is similar.
Anacleto Ludovic
paris france  —  July 24, 2007 11:24am ET
Winton Marsalis with a glass of Grande Dame Rosé, paradise on Earth!
Christy Dufault
San Francisco, CA —  July 28, 2007 9:06pm ET
Hi Bruce, Great blog. As a sommelier and a piano student, I also think about the parallels in wine and music. For another authentic NY jazz experience, check out the [dive] bar Grassroots Tavern on St. Marks Place. They have great jazz on Sundays with talanted musicians- particularly bass player Jeremy Stratton. (Go to www.jeremystratton.com for schedule.)Although, I don't think you will find any wine there. You may have to have a beer or perhaps a Makers Mark neat. Cheers.
Charles Mcgrath
Florida —  July 30, 2007 7:25pm ET
Bruce, a little off this particular subject, but on to one of your expertise subjects, Champagne. When you rate an NV Champagne through the years is there anyway to tell what year of release you are rating? ThanksCharles
Domaine Drouhin Oregon
Dayton, OR —  August 7, 2007 10:58am ET
Hi Bruce,It¿s great that live music is part of your life. With fewer venues and declining audiences, it can be hard for a working musician to get gigs. Out here in Oregon wine country, we¿re lucky to have Nick¿s Italian Caf¿in McMinnville. Owner Nick Peirano is a huge jazz fan and puts together wonderful Monday night shows at the restaurant. The food and wine are incredible, but so is the joy of hearing top musicians stretching out.On a separate but related note: just as wine (particularly bubbles) is an important part of my house, so is music. I love good music and good sound (yes, I'm a stereo geek), and I love the way it flows through the house, bringing everything alive. The act of listening takes time and focus, things that are hard to come by these days, but the benefit is enormous, Just like slowing down to enjoy dinner, thinking about the ingredients in the food, the story behind a bottle of wine, the pleasure of being with family and friends. Best Regards,David MillmanDDO
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  August 8, 2007 10:34am ET
Charles--Each year, we ask the Champagne houses and growers to submit their new NV cuvee. I also ask many (but not all) for the base year of the blend and amount and years of reserve wines.As a consumer, unless this information, or disgorgement date is on the bottle, it is difficult to determine the exact year of release. Most houses/growers code their bottles so they can track this information, however, the consumer does not have easy access to this, other than to contact the Champagne producer.My advice is to establish a good relationship with a local retailer to insure the NV you buy is fresh and well stored.
Charles Mcgrath
Florida —  August 9, 2007 11:02am ET
Thanks Bruce, the Perrier Jouet seems to have some good ratings for the last 1 or 2 releases as you reviewed last Dec 06 and Jun 07. So if the stock at the retailer has been refreshed recently it should be the release that was reviewed unless the retailer and distributor have large stocks of former releases? Thanks againCharles
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  August 9, 2007 11:05am ET
Charles--Yes, since most sales of Champagne occur in the last quarter, a retailer with good turnover should have the new shipment.
Anacleto Ludovic
paris france  —  August 13, 2007 4:26pm ET
dear mr Sanderson, why your blogs, always very informative and fantastically accurate are so rares? please post more blogs !!!!
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  August 13, 2007 4:33pm ET
Ludovic--Your timing is perfect. I am working on one now. Stay tuned...
Philippe Gressier
Beaune, France —  August 28, 2007 3:39pm ET
Hi Bruce,I'm a new WSonline subscriber... and a resident of beautiful Beaune for the last 9 years! Couldn't agree with you more on the analogy between music and wine. Sometimes unknown artists are pure gems (Blues is my thing), just like unknown wines (wherever they might come from). Similarly, you have to feel the passion of both the musician and the winemaker when they play their part or tell you their own wine stories.I'm sure you know there's a wine bar and jazz club in the center of Beaune. Next time you're in town, if you wanna share a glass of wine with a bit of music, feel free to let me know!Philippe

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