By request, a rantatorial from days of yore:


Crepuscule with Nebbiolo….

How Monk and The Duke help us select Wine

Some of you have noted that Roberto is quoted in the recent biography of Robert Parker, Jr.,The Emperor of Wine, invoking yet more musical influences in our thought processes about wine. So, just what DOES it mean when we say, “Thelonious Monk has more to do with the types of wines we select and the way we select them than Robert Parker does”?!?

Well, many of you have seen Wynton Marsalis talking about Monk in Ken Burns’ PBS opus on Jazz. Wynton notes that Monk was simultaneously “like a 1000 year old Zen master AND a five year old child” and that his melodies, while always surprising and whimsical, were the most logical of any Jazz composer. And, most importantly, his use of space as a real part of the composition let them live and breath and not just overpower you with fast notes and dense harmonies. Sounds like a perfect description of a wine from Giovanni Struzziero, Emidio Pepe, Enzo Mecella, Paolo Balgera or Champagne master Henri Billiot to us!

Further developing this theme, in a recent online discussion of wine styles one poster proposed that one first analyze a wine using quantitative assessments of oak, tannins, toast on the oak, alcohol, extraction, acidity, etc… to which we responded that, when we first encounter a wine, we ask the same question Duke Ellington asked about a soloist: “Is he telling a story? And, is it a story that compels you to listen?”. Then and only then do we get to the list of wine making stuff and only if we have to explain to the person trying to sell it to us why we are NOT going to buy it. If it is singing, bring it on!


WINE EXPO’s Alternate Reality Theater:

If Robert Parker had been a Music Critic

A recent discussion in the store with a self proclaimed “wine headhunter” who only wanted to talk about wines that had been scored 95/100 or above by America’s most influential / misdirected / irrelevant to your everyday wine with dinner and friends wine scribe got us thinking…….Our friend reacted fairly violently when we characterized the Zinfandels that would be Port made by Mr. Parker’s personal “Wine Goddess” as being like “A drag queen in the middle of a great production of Carmen, totally over the top and not really germane to the context (dinner!)” which led us to think about the sort of ratings RPjr might give some of our favorite musicians:


John Lee Hooker “It Serves you Right to Suffer”

(MCAD 12025 re-issue of the classic 1965 LP)

“Strangely rustic, a throwback to another era before the advent of modern studio wizardry which could have given this original version of “Sugar Mama” the power and intensity later achieved by Foghat in their cover version. This listener had figured out by the fourth track (“You’re Wrong”) that Mr. Hooker seems to be in a bad mood, yet he went on for another 20 minutes with titles like ‘Money’ (he doesn’t have any) and ‘Serves you right to suffer’ 68/100.” To which the only possible response is “Boom! Boom!! Boom!!! How! How!! How!!! Boogie Chillin! It’s in ya and it’s GOT to come out!”


James Brown avec les JBs!!! “Love Power Peace”

live in Paris 1971 (Polydor 314-513-389-2)

“While certainly heartfelt, Mr. Brown’s tortured vocal performance could benefit greatly from the modern production techniques that bring such inner consistency and radio-friendly textures to New World Soul Crooners like Michael Bolton and George Michael. The back-up band, while certainly capable, seems bent on endlessly repeating fairly simple rhythmic patterns (called “grooves”) that appear to have stirred up the French audience but lack any real complexity..72/100, not recommended.” To which we reply “Yo Mama! Get on the Good Foot, Hit me Maceo!”


And some not so favorite musicians: The Music Advocate Pick ‘o the Month

Judas Priest Greatest Hits “Breakin the Law, a tribute to Beavis and Butthead”

“Intense, complex, ponderous, with oodles and oodles of layered slabs of hot molten metal guitar and primal scream vocals seamlessly integrated in backward masking that just might drive you to suicide!” 99/100!!!!!!!!!!


The point of this thought experiment? Power and extract are not everything, traditional styles are traditional for a reason and you MUST RESPECT DA FUNK!!! Ok, enough fun and games, let’s go drink some great wines!


PS: Ladies and Gentlemen, Live from Santa Monica, James Brown & the Fabulous Flames!