The winning wines of Big Ears

Keyboardist John Medeski and a bottle of 2015 Albert Bichot Macon Lugny Les Charmes from Burgundy, France. This is a chardonnay I actually like!

“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.

Here’s the pimento cheese that wowed ’em! It was served with benne seed crackers.

“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.

From left, Chef Joseph Lenn, Ashley Capps and John Medeski.

An intimate setting.

Lauren McKim of Triple C Distributing helped Medeski describe the wines.

Each place setting had six alluring glasses of wine waiting to be tasted.

The first one was a very interesting 2017 Patton Valley rosé pet-nat from Willamette Valley, Oregon.

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!)

The wine is not disgorged (a process of removing the sediment), so it contains fine particles, which give it a cloudy look. I think it’s pretty. And delicious. It is lightly fizzy.

My favorite appetizer at J.C. Holdway: smoked catfish and onion dip with homemade barbecue potato chips.

John shows off 2015 Hermann Moser “Per Due” grüner veltliner, from Kremstal DAC in Austria.

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!

This is a 2016 Peter Zemmer “Rolhut” pinot noir from Alto Adige DOC in Italy.

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.

Another big hit: pork belly biscuits.

John really likes this 2016 Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone Rouge from Rhone, France!

“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.

We thought it was great with scallion hush puppies and barbecued onion aioli!

Finally, the 2015 Voerzio Martini “Ciabot della Luna” Langhe Nebbiolo from Piedmont, Italy.

“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.

My red wine-loving husband, Alan Carmichael, with Lauren McKim of Triple C Distributing. She was knowledgeable — and fun!

Here’s to a great festival! Ashley Capps is its founder.



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7 Responses to The winning wines of Big Ears

  1. Monique Anderson, on March 28th, 2018 at 11:28 am said:

    Always fun to taste wine.

  2. Alan Carmichael, on March 28th, 2018 at 11:36 am said:

    This was a nice little sidelight to the festival that maybe should be repeated every now and then. John Medeski was very charming. His knowledge of wine was nearly as impressive as his keyboard magic! The wines were all good.

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on March 28th, 2018 at 4:39 pm said:

    Monique: Absolutely!

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on March 28th, 2018 at 4:44 pm said:

    Alan: I sure hope they do repeat it. Every time I saw John Medeski later during the festival, I felt as if he were a personal friend of mine! I’m glad we were able to get three of the wines at Downtown Wine + Spirits.

  5. Thomas Tedford, on March 29th, 2018 at 2:39 pm said:

    I’m thirsty now! The Patton Valley Rose sounds delicious.

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on March 29th, 2018 at 2:44 pm said:

    Thomas: It was! In fact, we are serving it as a “greeter” tonight when neighbors come over. Just FYI, Downtown Wine + Spirits got in two cases of it last week. I’d get by there as soon as possible, if you want to score some of those bottles.

  7. Pingback:Knox chefs shine at Big Ears | Blue Streak

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