Music & Wine

Special guest writer, Jay Whiteley, submitted this piece about music and wine to G&B.

Jay is a sommelier currently based in Toronto, Ontario. Jay’s love of wine started when he moved to Whistler in 2000 and began working at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. He has worked with the Gordon Ramsay group in One and Two Michelin Star Restaurants in London UK. Returning to Whistler, he was the wine buyer for The Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

Jay has worked three harvests and eventually worked for a full year at Orofino, a small, boutique winery located British Columbia’s Similkameen Valley.

In 2011 Jay moved to Vancouver and was part of the opening team at Hawksworth restaurant. There he helped to create an multiple award winning wine program that drew from his years of experience in London and Whistler.

In 2014 he moved to Toronto to be closer to family and take on new challenges in a larger market. Since then he has been instrumental in building wine programs for two different restaurant openings; Colette Grand Cafe and the reestablished Peter Pan Bistro.

He received his diploma through the International Sommelier Guild and a Diploma through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.  Along the way he also earned a Master Napa Valley award through the Napa Valley Vintners Educational Program, was named Whistler’s Best Sommelier by the readers of The Question Newspaper and won the International Culinary School wine professional challenge.

He has written in publications such as Eat Magazine and Good Food Revolution.

Wine & Music

Winemaking is an art. It takes a very special person to have the ability to take a raw material like grapes and transform them into wine. There are hundreds of choices to be made at each step. One person can look at a vineyard of Pinot Noir and make something completely different than the next person. Similarly in music, many people can play guitar, but all of them play it very differently.

So it is not uncommon that many artists enjoy wine. The hidden aromas, the subversion, the practice and patience it takes to produce a bottle. But the big difference is that there is only once chance a year to make that wine. There are no formulas, there is no template, and there is no sheet music. However, like any live performance, each day, the same wine changes.

Many in the music industry have followed their passion for wine and have become involved in a winery. Some musicians own the winery outright, while others lend their name and work with a winery to create a label.

Les Claypool

Les Claypool has the aptly named Claypool Cellars with a wine named, Claypool Cellars’ CHAMPAGNE Pachyderm. I am not sure how the word Champagne can still be used on the label, but the Pachyderm seems fitting. The winery is located in Russian River Valley in California

There is even a wine club called League of Extraordinary Slurpers, or L.E.S. for short!

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Dave Matthews

Dave Matthews bought Blenheim Vineyards in Virginia in 1999. The area Monticello AVA, is one of the oldest grape growing regions in America. It was home to Thomas Jefferson, who has a long history with wine, but I don’t think he ever played an instrument.

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Maynard Jame Keenan

Maynard James Keenan, front man for the band Tool, opened a winery in Jerome, Arizona. The Caduceus Cellars Tasting Room opened on July 4th, 2009 and has had some critical success in the wine trade. There is even a movie made about it, Blood into Wine. It follows the first year of opening and the challenges they faced. What is also of note is the location. There are wineries in all 50 states, Arizona is not the most likely place. Yet.

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Mick Hucknall

Mick Hucknall, front man of Simply Red, owns a winery in Sicily called “Il Cantante” or The Singer in Italian.

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Also in Italy, there is Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, AKA Sting, who owns a winery in Tuscany. With names like “Message In a Bottle” and “When We Dance”, Sting has a large catalogue to pull from. Might I suggest, “Lithium Sunset”?

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Dave Mustaine

And there is Megadeath Front Man Dave Mustaine behind

Smoother Brothers

If you want to include the Smoother Brothers in a list of musicians, you can find their wines grown in Sonoma County.

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Madonna’s Father

There is no proof that the Material girl is a big wine drinker, but for the diehard fans, it is worth noting that Madonna’s father, Silvio “Tony” Ciccone owns a winery in Michigan called Ciccone Vineyards.

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And then the collaborations…

Some better business-minded musicians and bands have formed partnerships with wineries.

John Ledge works in collaboration with Raymond Vineyards in Napa Valley to produce a line of wines called LVE Collection. The web site describes it as “The perfect harmony of passion, eloquence and Napa Valley tradition. A unique series of rich, soulful and complex notes inspired by true love, produced in collaboration with Napa Valley’s renowned Raymond Vineyards.”

Locally, The Tragically Hip have lent their name, and arguably their best album cover Fully Completely, to a red wine made at Stoney Ridge Winery. And to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Trouble at the Henhouse, they released a Chardonnay called “Ahead by a Century”. It should be sold in two packs to honour the anniversary!

Vince Neil of MÖTLEY CRÜE had a winery, and one-time in collaboration with Parducci winery in Sonoma.

Should you want to get physical sometime, you can reach for a bottle of Koala Blue Wines, which located in Australia and is part-owned by Olivia Newton-John.

Often it takes late nights and lots of wine to make a record and sometimes listening to records can make you stay up late drinking more wine. Some wineries are born out of passion, while others are just good business sense and an opportunity for the brand to have a further reach. Whatever the reasons, there is no denying that art and wine have a tight bond.

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