I was given the opportunity to go to a Pebble Beach Food and Wine event last weekend and while there popped in on the Ridge guys. We chat on twitter sometimes but had never formally met. I met the man behind the tweets, Christopher Watkins, and he invited me to the event he was hosting to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the Ridge Vineyards blog that he writes. I really don’t get invited to stuff very often, I just go to things like a regular Joe and pay then write about it anyway. I don’t turn down free stuff. The tasting was on the day I was picking my husband up from his trip to Sydney. He would be getting off a 13 hour flight and I was dragging him straight up the crazy twisty Montebello Road to taste wine, jet-lagged and exhausted. Sounds like a great plan!
We arrived a bit early but I love just sitting and staring out over the Ridge Vineyards view. Silicon Valley actually looks pretty from that vantage point. Before long the tasting was set up and people were arriving so we migrated to the wonderfully air conditioned room where Christopher had a projector set up scrolling through quotes from Paul Draper (the Ridge winemaker) as well as quotes from Jazz musicians. There was also a jazz tune playing. I didn’t think much of it, Christopher seems like a Jazzy kind of guy. This becomes relevant later.
Once everyone arrives and is seated, we all introduce ourselves, plug our blogs and our twitter handles. Everyone is comfortable and chatty and we’re having a grand time. Christopher then explains what sounds like a complete crack-pot idea. He has four wines, hidden in brown paper bags–reminiscent of Thunderbird, but we know they’re all fabulous Ridge wines, the distinctive silver foil is just showing at the top. He has four jazz tunes cued up. We will be listening, drinking and pairing the wines with the tunes. But that’s not all, oh no, that’s not all. We will then be put in front of a camera to explain our choices! I am becoming less fond of Christopher all of a sudden.
Christopher’s background is in jazz and creative writing. He toured Europe playing jazz but came back and got a creative writing degree where his thesis was on jazz, abstract expressionism and haiku. Not too long after, wine joined those three to form a conceptual quartet. The whole idea behind the joining is that in order to create mojo-juju-funk sounds and make it seem completely effortless, you need structure, craft and discipline. The same goes with wine. Ridge doesn’t make blending decisions in the lab reading Brix levels, it’s by flavor and instinct but behind all that is years of discipline and study. You need experience as well as spontaneity.
Wine makes you chill out, be mellow and chatty. You crave quality. You don’t get drunk on wine and start a fight. It’s cerebral but funky and a little dirty. It’s the drink for the times you’re with people whose opinions you respect and want to talk to but also can relax with. These are all ideas from Christopher and they all make sense to me.
As all this discussion is happening, we’re sipping our blind tasting and listening to the jazz. This started getting fun. Quotes like, “There’s no way this wine goes with this bass line.” start popping up. And “There’s only one wine absurd enough to pair with Theolonius Monk.”
Oh, I haven’t told you the songs:
- So What by Miles Davis
- Bemsha Swing by Theolonius Monk
- Paul’s Pal by Sonny Rollins
- Mister P.C. by John Coltrane
Once we started explaining the choices, people were coming up with things like:
Let me be alone with my wine and Miles Davis in the background.
Get into a groove and disappear with it
As much as we all moaned and groaned about the concept, we totally got into it. And none of us paired the wines with the same songs. We all had our reasons. Mine were purely instinctual and hard to pinpoint. I just felt like I wanted to drink certain wines with certain songs.
Here are what my pairings turned out to be:
- So What: 1997 Geyserville
- Bemsha Swing: 1999 Lytton Springs
- Paul’s Pal: 2000 Montebello
- Mister P.C.: 2001 Montebello
Everyone else was all over the map and swore by their choices and reasoning, it was beautiful. I’d say you should try this at home and you should! But good luck finding those exact wines to do this with. Instead, pick your favorite genre, some interesting grape juice and some open minded friends and see what happens! If you do this, post the results here in the comments!