SALUTÈ: Wine Notes

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A chance tasting of a Cabernet Sauvignon led to the discovery that several well-known musicians own wineries. Turn up your speakers and listen to some classic tunes while you enjoy these rock star wines.


STORY: Mary Ann DeSantis  /  ILLUSTRATION: Anthony Casto

Ever wonder what happened to your favorite rock star or pop group frontman? He 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.


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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