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Valentine on Wine

Yvette Perry

The beauty and serenity of the Hudson River and its surrounding environs has been a longtime source of inspiration for artists of all types. Attend any tasting any weekend at most wineries here and you will most likely be met with the popular pairing of wine and music. Come Friday, one can find an abundance of wine and music events listed on the websites and blogs of the various wineries in the region. Walking around beautiful grounds while sipping from a glass of wine – who doesn’t enjoy listening to music while tasting the latest Riesling or Cab Franc at their favorite Hudson Valley winery? This got us thinking: why is the pairing of music and wine such a natural connection?

Good wine and great music just go together. They are two of life’s greatest pleasures. Wine contributes to our enjoyment of music. And it can also be said that music contributes to our enjoyment of wine. Each enhances the other. Emotionally, they both move us to feel more, to feel deeper, to feel differently, and to feel better.

Wine and music are found in every known culture, dating back to the earliest civilizations and on to the present time. Both having developed into fundamental components of human life, they are cultural ground-breakers which have historically affected mankind in divergent ways throughout the centuries. Then, as now, they share common traits: creativity, emotional resonance, and cultural relevance.


BashaKill Vineyards: Taking Cues From the LandA culture’s music is influenced by social and economic factors, climate, and access to technology. Varying by region and time period are the emotions and ideas that a piece of music conveys and the situations in which that music is played and heard. Much the same could be said of wine making. Both are works of art in their own right where the creative progression with its interplay of nuances results in something truly magical and unique. Both are mediums where the sum is greater than its individual parts, where the end product is the culmination of an artistic process. One can make the argument that the passion for good wine and the passion for music come from a similar place inside us. Both can affect or reflect the way we are feeling. Just as a song can make us feel better, a glass of wine can fill our senses, lift our spirits, and nurture our souls. Both provide us with a channel for cherished memories and each affects us personally and in different ways. What’s a good wine? What’s a good song? Simply, it’s the one we like. With a piece of music it may be a melody, the words, or the groove that grabs you. With a wine it may be the flavors, complexity, or elegance that does the same.

Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to appreciate the plentiful presence of wines in the songs we know and love. Wine has been a longtime subject for songwriters. Search popular artists’ lyrics and you will discover myriad references to the wonders of wine. Okay, so maybe alcohol is somewhat intrinsically associated with rock ’n’ roll – maybe it’s even a source of inspiration. It has been mentioned in songs of every type of genre and they reflect every type of emotion. There are songs that are happy, silly, romantic, sad, and really, really sad. Which song makes you happy? Which one reminds you of that lost love? Think about your own favorites as you check out the lyrics in the songs noted here.


As wine retailer and music festival organizer Peter Eastlake states, “There are a lot of wine-loving musicians.” In today’s culture, with so many high-profile celebrities and entertainers, it is perhaps fitting that wine is being made by musicians who draw from these wells of fruit as they do cherished lyrics. Artists who created imprints into our souls through music are now doing the same with their wines.

Winemaking has become a second love to some of today’s most prominent melody makers and is shaping the culture tastefully. The trend of celebrities owning wineries and vineyards is not a recent phenomenon. In ancient Greek and Roman times, the leading philosophers, playwrights, politicians, and generals often owned a vineyard for personal use. There are many reasons why celebrities gravitate to the world of wine. It’s an investment. It offers the lifelong wine enthusiast an entrée to the wine industry. It’s the challenge of a new enterprise. And some leverage their name recognition as a selling tool in the wine industry. Today celebrity-owned wineries are a lucrative business; and many musicians are bridging the gap between rock ’n’ roll and a generation of sophisticated connoisseurs eager for the two art forms to converge.

Prophetic are the words from Bob Dylan’s indelible hit, “All Along the Watchtower”: “Businessmen they drink my wine, Plowmen dig my earth / None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.” For the most part, musician winemakers do not seem to be in the business to make a profit; rather, they seem to be more interested in creating a beautiful product and doing so in sustainable and communal ways. Some have chosen to remain behind the scenes, while others are more visible. And in all cases, they treat the art of winemaking in exactly the same spirit as they do their songwriting craft. Either owning a winery or partnering with well-known vintners, well-known musicians across every genre have gotten into the wine business. So what’s the driving force?

For singer/songwriter Dave Matthews, known for his commitment to organic farming (he’s been on the board of Farm Aid since 2001), it’s being able to maintain sustainable agricultural practices at his own Blenheim Vineyards. A native of Virginia, he purchased the Charlottesville, VA, farm in 1999. A year later the first planting was established and the winery now maintains 16 acres of grapes which include Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Mourvedre. Much like his laidback style of music, Matthews maintains minimal environmental impact throughout the winery, the tasting room, and in the wine production process.

BashaKill Vineyards: Taking Cues From the LandThere is Fred Smith, who was the original bassist with Blondie. Then he left to join Television. Then he played with The Roches, Willie Nile, Tom Verlaine, and The Fleshtones. The constant in his life today is playing with Television, and a small winery in Bloomington in the Hudson Valley, where he and his wife, Paula Cereghino, are handcrafting wine with an Old World approach, using grapes sourced from small growers.

Of the connection between wine and music, Fred says, “I love them both and feel very fortunate to have careers in two things that I’m passionate about.” Fred is the first to tell you his background in wine mainly comes from touring Europe as a musician, gaining exposure to fine wines from generous promoters and wine-savvy English roadies. An homage to his art and profession, Cereghino Smith makes a Rock ’N Roll Red blend that features on the label their friends, Tish and Snooky Bellomo – sisters, singers, and founders of Manic Panic.

Even former rock business managers RZO have partnered with the Mendocino Wine Company of California with the goal to produce great tasting, quality wines that are inspired by rock classics. Among their many “Official Wines of Rock ’n’ Roll” are: Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon; The Rolling Stones’ Forty Licks Merlot; Grateful Dead ‘Steal Your Face’ Red Wine Blend; and Woodstock Chardonnay. Each has beautiful artwork on the front label with back labels resembling the back of the album jacket. As it says on the label, “Pop the Cork, Turn up the Tunes and enjoy the taste of WinesThat Rock.”

BashaKill Vineyards: Taking Cues From the Land


Wine tasting at a winery is no longer about just tasting wines. Music now plays an integral part of the event. What may have begun as background music has flourished in recent years to a groundswell of wholesale concert series! And they include wineries small and large, local and nationally recognized. Conviction and passion – both are on display by vineyard owners producing wines and presenting music. From discovering a local band to hearing world-renowned artists, there is something for every musical taste. Pun intended.

This couldn’t be more true than here in the Hudson Valley. Many of the wineries’ websites announce it right there on their home page: “Live music every weekend.” And on the events page, you will find the list of open mic nights, concerts, and music festivals – a seemingly endless sea of music and wine to be savored.

The Vintners

At the forefront is Palaia Vineyards, a working farm in the Hudson Valley for over 200 years, and now home to over ten acres of vineyards, where the “Treehouse” and the “Sweet Clover Room” serve as music venues. Of her vineyards, owner Jan Palaggi told us, “it has turned into one of the Hudson Valley’s better music venues thanks to the incredible talent that is in the area and comes to play here. We are musicians, and so have a great respect for other musicians and try to make playing here a good experience for them . . . BashaKill Vineyards: Taking Cues From the Land The guys who work in the vineyard bring music out with them, and even when we are bottling the wine there is music playing in the cellar. We play it outside so you can hear it from the picnic area . . . Music is everywhere here. It is a part of who we are.” Palaia’s open mic night is one of their most popular attractions. Of special note, Jermaine Paul, the R&B/soul singer and songwriter who was the winner of the second season of NBC’s “The Voice” and who was born and raised in the Hudson Valley, was one of Palaia’s famous musical guests on open mic night, rocking the house with his incredible R&B vocals.

But open mic night is just the beginning at Palaia Vineyards. Both indoors and outside throughout the year they host a Beatles Tribute, an Allman Brothers Band Tribute, a Neil Young Tribute, a “Woodstock” festival, “Rick Larrimore IS Rod Stewart!,” and Patrick Perone as “ELVIS!.” If this doesn’t illustrate Palaia’s committment to music, you need another glass of wine.

BashaKill Vineyards: Taking Cues From the Land
Depending on your mood, you can take in just about any genre of music at almost any winery, on any given weekend. From a capella harmonies to urban folk to classic covers, you’ll find free live music in the courtyard every weekend at Brotherhood Winery. At Bashakill Vineyards you’ll hear performances by some of the region’s favorite rockers every Saturday night.

Warwick Valley Winery also rocks with a series of events like the Watkins Glen Revisited Festival, and with musical tributes to some of their favorite icons, including Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead. They also host “Black and Blues Weekends,” featuring well-known “Saturday Blues” bands such as the Midnight Street Shakers and Chris (“Prince of Blues”) Beard. On “Black Sunday,” performers such as Tim O’Donohue and The Whiskey Sinners, pay homage to the life and music of Johnny Cash.

BashaKill Vineyards: Taking Cues From the Land
Robibero Winery likes to mix it up most every weekend with a range of musical styles by guest performers. They feature a Jazz Fest, a Sangria Fest, and, of course, “Winestock – 1 Day of Peace, Music & Wine,” where you can relive the experience of Woodstock with some of the region’s most notable cover bands.

If you’re in the mood for blues or jazz, the Hudson Valley wineries offer that, too. In addition to free music in the courtyard every Saturday and Sunday, Applewood Winery features a “BBQ & Blues Experience” in August. At Millbrook Vineyards, their “Jazz at the Vineyard Grille” series runs all summer long, capping off with a “Once in a Blue Moon Blues Concert & BBQ,” featuring the region’s well-known Blue In Green Jazz Quartet. Brookview Station Winery hosts “Wine, Women & Song” wine and cheese parties and books multiple bands for their annual “Apple Festival” each Fall. BashaKill Vineyards: Taking Cues From the Land
Or plan a trip to Benmarl Winery or Hudson-Chatham Winery during their Sangria Fests, and you will enjoy authentic Flamenco guitar music complete with singing, dancing, and palmas (handclaps). Live music resounds throughout the winery and vineyards during Benmarl’s Annual Harvest and Grape Stomping Festivals, too. And the list goes on. . .

The Musicians

Hard-rocking bandleaders, musical groups, touring musicians, solo artists and acoustic folk troubadours – the region has no shortage of talented, hardworking musicians that play at the wineries. You might even catch some of the same Hudson Valley favorites playing at different winery events – musicians like Marc Von Em, Al Westphal, Sarah Morr, and Jack Higgins of Mud Belly, and groups like The Brian Dougherty Band and Michael Patrick’s Ring of Fire Band, are among the many.

One such Hudson Valley favorite son is Matt Turk. He has toured the world and shared the stage with Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Norah Jones, The Dave Matthews Band, and The Doobie Brothers, to name a few. Asked about his connection to wine and why he likes to perform at Hudson Valley wineries, Turk replied: “Wine and music are two of the finest and most necessary ingredients in a good life. They are an ultimate elixir for conversation, the enjoyment of food, friendship, and love. They both access essential components of the human spirit that are sometimes hidden.” The wineries, he says, “are gathering places. . . Folks come from near and far to walk beautiful grounds and enjoy the serenity of where wine is made. I enjoy the atmosphere – they are down-to-earth places, filled with energy .. . a fabulous environment for live music.” We agree.


The melding of the two worlds constitutes a new form of entertainment. The new cultural landscape is created from a blend of the things we love. And the pairing of wine and music is one example of a modern touchstone. This current trend is engaging precisely because together they encompass all the elements that these audiences and customers prize: products that speak to them, that touch their souls, their emotions, and affect their moods; they speak to their desire to do good, to be environmentally aware, and conservation conscious; they bestow sharing, friendship, and happiness; and they provide a source of stylish entertainment that seems new and fresh and timely. Do songs inspire wine drinking? Check. Do roaring guitar licks make you want to pour a glass of Cabernet? Check. Do you reach for a mellow Merlot when you’re listening to Al Green or Van Morrison? Does some Joni Mitchell call for a contemplative Baco Noir? Check and check. Just witness the various musical genres that are performed at winery events throughout the Hudson Valley wineries – all ages enjoy their favorite music. And all enjoy their favorite Hudson Valley wine.

BashaKill Vineyards: Taking Cues From the Land


Hudson Valley Wine magazine Summer 2014 issue

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