ED NOTE: In anticipation of Outside Lands 2014 we really wanted to dig in and explore the staggering wine selection that the festival organizers have curated. We recruited the help of Sommelier Joshua Thomas, who was named as one of Wine & Spirits Magazine “Best New Sommeliers” to give us a hand. Joshua is currently the Wine Director at Prospect restaurant in San Francisco. While the editors here at Pinpoint wrote the quick quips about each band, we left it up to Joshua to explain each wine and which Outside Lands 2014 artist it best pairs with; Joshua’s voice will be italicized
So when Pinpoint asked me to help with this piece I was not sure what to think. As a Sommelier, I’ve studied wine the majority of my adult life, and I have always made a connection between wine and music. In fact I occasionally even use music to describe wines to consumers. However to pair a specific list of wines to bands playing Outside Lands 2014 is a bit of a different challenge. Obviously the entire aesthetic of a band can’t be distilled into a few lines, and neither can the complexity of these wines. In some instances theses pairings make sense because the band and the wines share some characteristics. In other situations I just think this would be a fantastic wine to enjoy, and complements a bands particular flavor of music Either way we’re going to have a bit of fun with this one.
Let’s start with some basics…Pairing wine and food is all about balance. I generally use a few helpful tips, or rules when approaching a pairing. We use an obvious one called mirroring in which you are matching similar characters such as the flavors textures and notes in wine with the food that is on your plate, or in this case the band in your ear. Another important tip is using wine as the acid or palate refresher for the meal. Think of it as the lemon squeeze on your piece of fish.
Relentlessly pretentious, Kanye was born a superstar; it just took the rest of us until his teen years to anoint him as such. Quintessentially his persona is Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston after the knockout punch, but for like 37 years. He knew he had us all knocked out before the bell rang for the first round, now he spends his time trying to convince us he’s the greatest thing that’s ever lived.
Scharffenberger Brut Rose NV -This red fruited Brut sparkler is the perfect match for Kayne. Pale salmon and sexy in the glass with a nice fine mousse. It is a classy beverage trying its hardest to be Champagne. The only thing is… It’s not.
Yes these Brits get it, like internationally, they get it. Even back when your Mum and Dad were making mistakes in the rear of a Ford Escort, this is what they would have called a Rock Band. They fill up every place they play, and ladies 8-58 have Beatles level conniption fits every minute they’re in site. Guys spend time trying to sap their style; you know that one where you spend enough time in the mirror to get every hair right while simultaneously looking like you roll out of bed that way? Effortless cool.
Chenin Blanc Folk Machine 2013 by Hobo Wine Company – Kenny Likitprakong’s Chenin is Crisp and fresh with tons of tension yellow apple and Meyer Lemon. An effortlessly perfect glass for a group with a ton of energy.
Run the Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike)
On its face it’s a coin flip proposition, at best. Untie two rap/hip-hop stars as bright as El-P & Killer Mike and see what happens. Is it going to create a new universe or open a black hole? As it happens these guys have found a fine balance, and rotate on a perfect axis. Hard beats and harder lyrics orbit around each other, and the give and take couldn’t be more fluid.
Sean Thackrey’s NV Pleiades XXIII -I think some “purple drink” is in store for this dynamic duo. Thackery’s unknown blend of red varieties, from who knows what years, is a bit of a coin flip on its own. You are never too sure what you are going to get, but it’s generally light and fresh with bright red fruit and secondaries that come from a past vintage or an unknown grape.
When Flood and Nigel Godrich think highly enough of a band to work on their album in between the likes of Depeche Mode, Radiohead, U2, PJ Harvey, Beck, Etc. it’s kinda’ all the endorsement mortals like you and I should require to take notice. Warpaint’s sound is like some venn diagram where none of the circles overlap. There’s no logical relationship between minimalism, hippie jam, indie pop, and punk, yet standing in the eye of this storm is Warpaint.
Red Car Rose of Pinot Noir 2013 -This is honestly one of my favorite domestic Roses of 2013 and it’s ability to amaze is what makes it the perfect pair for Warpaint. It is pale and light Salmon colored in the glass. Super lifted and bright red fruit mixed with melon, nice spike of acidity, keeps you going back for more. It comes from the newly named Fort Ross Seaview AVA, which was recently named for its cooler climate and coastal influence.
How does Mikal Cronin pack all that power in his lean frame? How does a guy young enough to still get carded wherever he goes have such a tight grasp on so many different styles of music? A few years back Cronin broke off on his own and released two albums so tight you would swear he sprays his tracks in aquanet. Even before that he played for every band that now defines the garage/psych/fuzz revival taking place out here in California. So what is he doing now? Just writing and combining every genre under the sun. You want to see a guy get fragile and then two minutes later come out with a song that will snap you at the hip? Go see Mikal Cronin.
2012 Hexamer Riesling “Quarzit” Meddersheier Rheingrafenberg – Harald has been on my radar for about 6 years now. Letting his wines speak for the work that he has done in the vineyard and cellar. Similar to the music of Cronin wines are all about balance of sweet and acid. Although they do have a healthy amount of sugar in the wine they are balanced by the beautiful screaming acidity. This wine is clean and pure.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Before every band takes the stage at Outside Lands this year they should be required to explain that they wouldn’t be there without Tom Petty. Back when MTV was still bleeping out the word joint (or playing more than 30 seconds of music videos for that matter) Petty was cutting edge. Want to know what’s crazy? He’s still sharp, like Japanese steel sushi knife sharp. Petty is the Levis 501s of music, in every country and every city in the world there are scores of people making cheap knockoffs of his style, but he’s still the original, he still fits every occasion, and he still looks damn good.
Broc Cellars Vine Starr Zinfandel 2013 – Tom Petty is as classic American as they come. We need a classic American grape varietal to pair with him. Zinfandel has been referred to as “Americas Grape”. Chris Brocway’s Vine Star Zin will fit the bill. His no nonsense approach to wine making shows the classic juicy strawberry red fruit profile, medium bodied and downright tasty.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Macklemore is a living breathing paradox, the likes of which the music world hasn’t seen in ages. Yes he’s a white rapper from the whitest corner of our country (Pacific Northwest), but that’s so surface level. How about the absurdity of becoming an international star while almost every major music publication conspicuously omits coverage of your new release. What about the balls it takes to sweep the hip hop categories at the Grammys and then declare how you robbed Kendrick Lamar because he had the best album. Maybe you’d like a course on how you can engender the good will of millions by having a historic public same sex union ceremony be part of your defining Grammy performance, and then get tangled up in anti-Semitic drama shortly afterwards. Yeah this guy can’t be put under anyone’s thumb. At least when he shows up to play San Francisco this month everyone knows they’re in for a surprise.
(No apologies given for the lack of words about Ryan Lewis. When you poke fun of yourself on national TV for no one knowing who you are you can’t expect much out of me.)
2012 Menage A Trois Chardonnay This is flamboyant, tropical, rich and creamy expression of Cali Chard, It even has slight hints of cheese rind…
Death Cab For Cutie
I’m genuinely interested in which Death Cab for Cutie shows up at Outside Lands. It’s been 3+ years since they’ve put out a full length, and that last album sounded nothing like we’ve come to expect from a band that (like it or not) is synonymous with Emo. The wrist cutting, can’t get all my lyrics out because I’m too choked up act is kind of making a comeback. Does that mean we’ll get some classic Death Cab tracks off of “We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes”? Possibly we’re in for a bunch of new music that Ben Gibbard and co has been hammering away on. Either way San Francisco is the right type of crowd for whatever Death Cab decides to deliver.
2012 Schmitges Riesling Trocken “Grauschiefer” -This is a completely dry expression of Riesling that is grown on Grey Slate. Notes of tart Apricot, White peach with a huge mineral presence. The acid is kicking with a ton of complexity. Death Cab For Cutie seems just the band. Cold, slightly austere and complex. Put it in your mouth.
Born in LA, raised in LA, and loved all over. Sister’s Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim were basically born into a world of rock. Their parents jammed with them from the time they were tykes and then started up a family band while they were still young kids. By the time they were teens Este and Danielle had already been signed to a major label as part of another all girl group. Once Alana joined forces with her sisters circa 2011 they basically were on a crash course to international festivals, talk show sets, and SNL musical guest gigs. Maybe they’re least overnight, overnight sensations ever. Haim have all the chops of seasoned vets all while they’re still living up their 20s.
Special shoutout to Hiam drummer, and friend of the site Dash Hutton who holds down the sisters with some of the tightest beats around.
2013 Banshee Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County -Sauvignon Blanc reminds me a bit of youth as does Haim. They have a young modern sound, mixed with the 80s. The Bnashee Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and fresh with tons of citrus and a dash of underipe tropical fruit, with the classic slight Sauvignon green notes. A crisp and fresh quafer.
One time when interviewing the founder of Frenchkiss Records, Syd Butler , he told me a story of how he basically followed a band on tour and stalked them from show to show until they agreed to sign with him. That band is Local Natives. Southern California bred indie style embracing the mentality of rock not having to be overly serious. It turns out creating foamy waves of sound and being instantly gratifying is more than enough. Not everything Local Natives does is fast but it’s always beautiful. Seems like the best band in the park to share a San Francisco sunset with.
2013 Wind Gap Trousseau Gris “Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard” Russian River Valley -This fun expression of Trousseau is a wave of flavor, Pineapple, melons and great minerality, it has a great balance of richness and freshness.
Photo by Adam Kissick
Dum Dum Girls
As much fashion movement as jangle pop gone black and blue, Dum Dum Girls have evolved swiftly and with scintillating power pop elegance from the bedroom fuzz of an errant librarian to the high watermark of lace eyeliner cool.
2012 Navarro Gewurztraminer Anderson Valley– Dum Dum Girls are notorious for their dry wit and humor. Gewurztraminer is heady and flowery as it features a super floral grape as a dry expression. There are also notes of pear, dried red flowers, and a touch of citrus, building an oily palate.
John Butler Trio
Red rust roots rock from down under who’ve been playing hope jams for the sandman for near on twenty years now. Where the hell have I been? Somehow they keep reinventing themselves while still sticking close to the center.
2010 Robert Sinskey POV Los Carneros– Robert Sinskey’s POV keeps reinventing itself as well as it takes on a new character every year with a different blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet franc. It is a bold red with notes of Cassis and Blackberry jam, ceder and forest floor. The 2010 vintage comes through with a nice balance of acidity and earth.
The ex Girls soft rip rocker with the dirty blonde locks is coming back from the fringes of his creative process with an album called A New Testament due this September. All signs point to a country-tinged endeavor though be not afraid, children as Mr. Owens lets his voice lay as easy and breathy as ever.
2012 Qupe-Verdad Central Coast Syrah – Bob Linquest is one of the pioneers of California Syrah. He in my opinion is a classic, his Syrahs are classic black fruit driven with savory black pepper corn and charcuterie. Syrah’s mix of savory and sweet will pait nicely with the rockabilly sound of Christopher Owens.
Big Freedia works hard for a Queen, far harder than any diva I’ve ever seen with hips that wiggle and an ass that defies social order like a black flag atop the USS BOOTAY! Seriously, though, if the work of this NOLA legend and her merry band of wiled out acrobats doesn’t get you shaking what your momma gave ya, then your momma didn’t give you shit.
NV Scharffenberger Brut– I suppose if you are going to shake your ass you need some bubbles so grab a glass of this crisp sparkler and shake it.
Photo by Paige K. Parsons
The Flaming Lips
Megalomaniacal retrofuturist warlords from a time beyond fear, sex and death, The Flaming Lips have crafted a world where we all can get naked and weird as the good drugs will take us through the looking glass, shatters and out the mouth of a rising sun.
2011 Sean Thackrey “Lyra” Viognier California– The Flaming Lips are colorful and flamboyant. I would choose this Viognier form Sean Thackery. It has a heady nose of peaches and honeysuckle with an oily waxy mouth feel.
Big, big tunes, FM radio salvation, Spoon has been a pillar of the rock scene for the last 20 years. They’re one of those bands that keeps turning out hits while making the familiar sound strange. In a part of their career that’s starting to look like a renaissance it will be interesting to see how these tastemakers are received by fans that were born after Spoon was a band, and are now old enough to drink.
2011 Claypool Cellars Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – I have been a fan of Spoon for some time, they have a lively upbeat sound that keeps you going back for more. Les Claypool’s Pinot Noir project is a great match. Red fruit driven with classic Russian River Valley Black cherry profile. The 11 vintage speaks up with an elevated acidity and lower alcohol. It is a pretty and delicate Pinot that keeps you coming back for more.
A beautiful weirdo with a rich tapestry or darkness and diamonds wrapped around her sweet soul, echoing out from parts unknown with love and bombast until the clock cracks at the hour of our death. Amen.
2012 Preston of Dry Creek Petite Sirah – Petite Sirah’s tiny black berries produce and uber dark and powerful red wine. Deep and inky with black berry and brable patch. With a serious punch of tannin and acidity. A wine not for the faint of heart.
I can’t hear this dudes name without thinking of Jake LaMotta whose inspiring American tragedy couldn’t be further from the winsome honeydew tunes of this beard and denim Americana dude. My bad. He’s all good. Ray’s personality is as infamously serious as his words are brilliant, earnest, and vulnerable; I guess that’s what you call balance.
2011 Strub Riesling Spatlese Nierstein Rheinhessen – I love this Spatlese form Strub, shows a bit more citrus and herbal character has some sweetness but balance. It is a feel good wine that goes down easy and can keep the mood light during an emotionally dense Ray LaMontagne set.
Photo by Charles Nickles
Where hyperbole ends, the music begins and the music made by this quintet is so singularly fetching, heartfelt and infectious it’s a wonder they aren’t the biggest band on the planet. Guess some folks just don’t know how to dosey doe-eyed and heartbroke.
2013 Verdad Grenache Rose –Modishly in vogue as a summertime treat. Aromas are of rose petal strawberry with a subtle herbal character. The palate has crushed strawberry and melon flavors. Super vibrant and juicy.
Gardens & Villa
Someone took a chill pill and let the creeps out of the van again to eat up the shag carpeting and kick it with the cousins. High as hell on keytars and Orange amps cranked up just enough to get the blood flowing…but not too much, man. We don’t want a synth roll freakout on our hands.
2012 Scribe Estate Pinot Noir Carneros– Hmmm Synth and hipstery. I have just the winery….