“My name is John Medeski. I play music and I drink wine!”
With that introduction, renowned keyboardist John Medeski, in town this past weekend to perform several times during the Big Ears Festival, proceeded to introduce a few fortunate Big Ears supporters to six of his favorite wines.
“I’ve known John for years, and I’ve been a lucky beneficiary of his knowledge and appreciation of wine,” Big Ears founder Ashley Capps said. “So I suggested the idea to add another fun facet to the Big Ears experience. And he readily agreed.”
The wine tasting was in a perfect, intimate location, J.C. Holdway on Union Avenue. Chef Joseph Lenn and his staff provided his four most popular appetizers for pairings. And the mostly out-of-town crowd was wowed.
“Oh my God, that pimento cheese!” raved a woman from Saint Paul, Minnesota, who sat across the table from me.
“Wine is a lot like music,” Medeski shared. “It’s a matter of taste. What do you like?”
Medeski, 52, was born in Kentucky, raised in Florida and attended the New England Conservatory in Boston. For a while after graduation, he lived and performed in Europe. “I started drinking wine when I lived in Europe,” he said. “I did not realize at the time that I was drinking really excellent wine.” That experience led Medeski to a lifelong interest in wine and wine making.
“Like musicians, great winemakers are experimenting,” he said. “They’re not doing what they learned in school.”
Medeski’s taste runs to “natural” wines, he said, “when it’s not filtered and you can see particles in it.
“Wine has a connection to the earth that is very individual. When it’s not overly processed, you can experience that. Vintage to vintage will be very different depending on the weather each year.”
Read on for his samples. Most of these are produced in very small batches. Three are available at Downtown Wine + Spirits. Call your favorite wine store to check availability.
Lauren described it as a “fun” wine.” It is nice as a ‘greeter’ to start an evening,” she said. It is one example of a “natural” wine. From Patton Valley Vineyard, which is committed to sustainability through the entire wine making process, it actually finishes fermenting after it is bottled.
“Be careful with this wine — it is tricky,” said our friends at Downtown Wine + Spirits. “What do you mean?” I asked. They said it is actually “alive” inside the bottle and can be volatile. Its glass bottles are thicker and heavier than most. “Don’t shake it!” they warned. (Yikes!)
Lauren said this wine was “good with summer food.” It certainly was good with spring food! Crisp with high acidity, I can understand why she said that. It really cut through the rich snacks we were enjoying.
Next came the chardonnay pictured at the top of this blog. It also was a good food wine, I thought. Now, on to the reds!
It was full-bodied for a pinot noir. And it was delicious. And we learned an important “rule of thumb” from Lauren. “The rule of thumb is that if you can’t see your thumb through your glass, it’s not pinot noir,” she laughed.
“If you ever see this on a restaurant menu by the glass, buy it!” urged Lauren. One hundred percent Syrah, this wine is said to be great with grilled foods.
“This is one of the Holy Grail wines,” Medeski said. “If I were on a desert island . . .Not that I think there would be wine on a desert island!”
Often called “Baby Barolo,” Nebbiolo is made from the same grape as Barolo. But Barolo, a big red wine, benefits from very long aging. “Unless you have a cellar and an incredible amount of patience, that’s not going to work,” Medeski said. “So get Nebbiolo!”
The folks at Downtown Wine + Spirits called this wine “controversial” when I went there to buy a bottle. “You either love it or you hate it!” they said. My husband loved it. He likes what he calls “strong” red wines.
So, there you have it. The wines of Big Ears. Grab them if you can find them.