Editor's note: As previously disclosed, this past month's Wine and Tunes Pairing was delayed due to circumstances well within our control - namely our attendance at this year's Jazzfest in New Orleans. This month's Wine and Tunes Pairing will come at you the week after the Memorial Day weekend, and we'll resume our normal schedule for our monthly ritual on the last Friday in June. Thanks again for your patience and readership!
By Joe Colgan
Now that the 42nd annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival has come to a close, The 'Zilla would like focus this month's pairing on one of The Crescent City's most revered music ambassadors. In a previous pairing, we paid homage to one of Nola's greats, Anders Osborne, but this time we're shining a light on the elder statesman. Dr. John, aka "Mac" Rebennack, aka the Night Tripper, has been one of Nola's distinctive voices since the late 1960's. His unique appearance - blending Creole/African/Native American influences - combined with a gritty vocal style that mashes jazz/blues/zydeco/rock/pop together, Dr. John is the living embodiment of the essence of Nola. By cooking all these styles together in a sort of sonic gumbo stew, he conjures up a type of 'voodoo' music that sometimes takes you deep into a funky dark bayou, and leaves you wondering if you're going to get out.
The Good Doctor's first record, 'Gris Gris', was released in 1968 and it introduced the world to his unique style of swampy psychedelic funkiness. Thirty records later, we celebrate the release of his latest efforts, 'Locked Down'. Celebrate is an understatement. Since my first listen, I've been singing praises from the mountain top. This album exudes a kind of dirty-swampy funk that proves Dr. John can still bring the goods at the young age of 71. For this one, he's teamed up with The Black Keys' guitarist and singer Dan Auerbach to take the helm as producer for the project. Auerbach assembled a team of top-notch young guns to bring a vibe to the recordings that delivers the familiar Dr. John sound into a slightly new direction. Within seconds of the opening track, 'Locked Down', we're brought back into the land of hoodoo-voodoo and transported to a very funky place. From there we experience deep pockets of groove delivered from pumping baritones and bass, some African highlife, and every other style that makes the Dr. John soundscape. The album feels very organic and basic in it's instrumentation, but it is intricately assembled and produces a good amount of depth.
To pair with this refreshingly cool album, I'm going with a winery I'm newly and equally excited about. A friend recently reminded me of the greatness that is the Scholium Project - wow, I'm sorry I'm so late to this party. Winemaker, philosopher, artist, Abe Schoener's approach to making wine is one of non-intervention. Without manipulation, he lets nature do a lot of the legwork in the winemaking process. With this approach, it can certainly be a roll of the dice with mother nature involved. But after years of a lot of trial an error and experimentation, the end results from the Scholium Project are nothing but stellar and interesting. Go here for more on Abe's technique and background…a very interesting read.
When I hear a new band or album that I like, I tend listen to it into the ground - case in point, 'Locked Down'. I gobble up as much info I can about the new find and then hit the loop button. Same goes for a newly discovered wine. I've sampled just a few of Abe's wines so far, but I intend to go the distance. One recently opened bottle that I thoroughly enjoyed is the 2008 Gardens of Babylon. It's a Petite Sirah beast - 55% Petite Sirah, 17% Merlot, 11% Mourvedre, 11% Cinsault, 3% Syrah, 3% Sangiovese. Intense fruit flavors, dark, dark purple, and nice tobacco/earth nose - retails for around $34. Like Dr. John's latest, the wine feels very organic and produces a good amount of depth.
Enjoy with this vid of Dr. J and freinds in the studio. That's some Funk!!
By Ben Heskett
NEW ORLEANS, La. – That this place is an amazing potpourri of music, culture, food and good times isn’t a news flash. That the Big Easy is also a daunting place to pair wine with such a wide array of music is a bit of a conundrum.
The inspiration for this month’s entry is my attendance at the unparalleled music festival known as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (commonly known as “Jazzfest”), a wonderful annual undertaking that sprawls across two weekends from the end of April until early May and also includes countless late night shows, jam sessions and other random musical moments. In many respects, it embodies a certain kind of heaven for CORKZILLA, but in others, it’s a sensory overload…in a good way, as well as a daunting pairing task.
Rather than offer a definitive tune for this Wine and Tunes Pairing, I thought I’d offer a few selections from my time at the fairgrounds, where the Jazzfest magic happens. I’ve culled videos from three artists that may be less well known to some of you, but offered terrific sets to the Jazzfest hoards and will likely only grow in stature in the coming years – Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Gary Clark Jr. This cross-section of zydeco, bluegrass, and straight-up whiskey-soaked blues is a worthy representation of the diversity of music jazzfest offers.
I’ll have to choose a wine that goes with the region and, perhaps, a fair cross-section of its famous seafood creations. So let's go with a Sauvignon Blanc from Niner Wine Estates – The 2009 Bootjack Ranch vintage tasted during a recent site visit to the Paso Robles winery (more on that on the ‘Zilla soon). It has a lot of the elemental Sauvignon Blanc characteristics – lemon/lime, melon and a touch of apple – as well as a certain strength that serves New Orleans well.
It’s a crisp, full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc, able to stand up to a good portion of the fried seafood that New Orleans – and the stalls at Jazzfest – has to offer. It’s also refreshing, and for those who have attended the festival know, that’s an important characteristic given the often sweltering temperatures, whether you’re in the middle of the fairgrounds where the fun takes place or relaxing on the porch recounting all of the good music from your Jazzfest day.
On a tangential note, I also wanted to highlight a restaurant with an interesting story. Boucherie in the Uptown section of New Orleans started as a post-Hurricane Katrina food truck and grew into a phenomenal restaurant with a combination of great cuisine, an inventive wine and drink list, and a casual vibe befitting the Crescent City. If you are travelling to New Orleans, definitely give this place a shot if you can get in – From talking to the locals it is one of the current hot spots in town so plan ahead. I had an amazing meal there.
It's almost a cliche to say that Jazzfest is a true celebration of a place, its people and its culture, while also bringing in more and more people every year to join the party. In a world where more and more music events cater to such a wide audience demographic that they render themselves homogenous, Jazzfest remains a unique American experience that should not be missed. Laissez les bon temps rouler! Tip one back, turn it up, and enjoy – Cheers! And for more Jazzfest color, check out this photo gallery.