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.
THE ARTISTIC PROCESS
A 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.
THE BUSINESS OF WINE & MUSIC
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.
There 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.”
THE WINERY EFFECT
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.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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. . .
and acoustic folk
the region has
no shortage of
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.
A MELODIOUS MATCH
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.