Kermit Lynch is coming to Austin and he’s bringing some damn good music with him…

August 31, 2009

Above: Tracie B and me met Kermit Lynch in real life for the first time in May in San Francisco. In case you don’t know, Tracie B would be the good-looking one on the right.

Like so many good things that have happened to me over the last year and a half thanks to the blog, I met Kermit Lynch back in April when he commented on my post Idol and Bandol. Who knew that Kermit read my blog?

We’ve stayed in touch since then and a few months ago he asked me if I’d give him a hand organizing a listening party for his new release on Dualtone, Man’s Temptation. Needless to say, I was thrilled to get to work with him, in part because I love his palate and have always been a fan, in part because I’ve been digging his new disk and have become a new fan, and dulcis in fundo it’s just so cool to get to work with a luminary in the biz who loves country music as much as Tracie B and me.

In our trans-Atlantic conversations (he in Provence, me in Austin), he told me about how he grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, the son of an itinerant evangelist. The Grapes of Wrath was the backdrop: the souls his father saved were the same southern farmers who came to California in search of Merle Haggard’s “California Cotton Fields,” one of my favorite Merle tunes and one that Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris both covered:

    My drifting memory goes back to the Spring of ’43
    When I was just a child in Mama’s arms
    My daddy ploughed the ground
    And prayed that someday he might leave
    This run down mortgaged Oklahoma farm

That’s some pretty serious country cred that Kermit’s got.

Here’s the info and the press release I composed to launch the event. I hope to see you there: if you’ve been planning a trip to Austin, this might be a fun time to make it out.

kermit_cover2Man’s Temptation: An Evening with Kermit Lynch

Monday, November 9 @ Vino Vino, Austin, Texas

listening party and wine tasting

singer, song-writer, and wine industry legend Kermit Lynch plays cuts from his new album Man’s Temptation (Dualtone) and talks about his music, his life, and his wines

Monday, November 9, 2009, 7 p.m.
$20 (ticket price includes 1 glass of wine)

Vino Vino
4119 Guadalupe St
Austin, TX 78751-4222
(512) 465-9282

with a menu inspired by the wines and travels of Kermit Lynch

All currently stocked Kermit Lynch wines will be available by the glass and available for sale retail.

Reservations required, space limited.

To reserve, please call (512) 465-9282 or email jeff@vinovinotx.com.

Rocker Interrupted: Kermit Lynch finally yields to temptation

Singer-Songwriter Kermit Lynch releases Man’s Temptation (Dualtone), a collection of ballads, rockers, and ditties, spanning forty years of faith, temptation, and musical salvation (produced by Ricky Fataar).

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
—Oscar Wilde

From the opening lines of Man’s Temptation, singer-songwriter Kermit Lynch cinematically sets the backdrop for the multi-layers of his life as a singer, writer, and wine Svengali:

    Paris and my mind is breaking
    Paris, I’m in a railway station
    Gare de Lyon…

But just when you think that the gravelly, smoky voice behind the old tube-driven microphone is about to head out to Lyon to taste wines with a Beaujolais producer, the melody of the track rises and steers the listener in another and entirely unexpected direction. The singer is in a railway station,

    Gare de Lyon, on my way to the next concert stage.

Man’s Temptation was recorded just last year in Nashville, Tennessee with some of the great country music players in the business today but the album represents a journey that began more than forty years ago in Berkeley, California.

Lynch was born in Bakersfield and grew up of the son of a teetotalling itinerant preacher who traveled the upper reaches of the San Joaquin Valley in search of souls to save. The setting was straight out of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, as Lynch puts it, and the souls were southerners who had fled their native land and sought out the same “California Cotton Fields” that Merle Haggard’s father dreamed of as he tilled his rundown, mortgaged Oklahoma farm. It was there that Lynch discovered his first love of music (and grape juice, since no wine was to be had): Jimmy Rogers, Hank Williams, and the country recordings of Jerry Lee Lewis were the first cuts he would hear, the same music his father’s congregants listened to when not singing at church.

By 1966, Lynch had landed in Berkeley, at the height of the music scene. He began writing songs, started a band, and gigged around. But a first trip to Europe and a drummer’s cocaine habit interrupted and deferred the rockstar dream. Disillusioned by the flower power scene, Lynch decided to focus on making a living and turned to a second passion: wine.

Hit pause and fast forward: forty years later, Kermit Lynch is one of the most successful and respected names in the business and he is considered one of the world’s greatest wine writers, a pioneer in reshaping the American wine palate with wines that speak of place and the people who make them.

Hit play: forty years later, Lynch has delivered the album he lived and wrote all those years ago and in the lifetime that followed, a collection of ballads, rockers, and ditties that speak to the weaknesses and the strengths of man and his temptations.

From the original tracks like ballad “Gare de Lyon,” the Beggars Banquet-inspired country waltz “Backstreets of Moscow,” and the rocker “Buckle-Up Boogie” to covers of classic Dylan like “Girl from the North Country” and classic country like “Take These Chains from My Heart,” the verve, pathos, and fun of Lynch’s voice play counterpoint to some of the most bad-assed, finger-lickin’ pickin’ you’ve heard since the last time legendary session man George Marinelli (Bruce Hornsby, Bonnie Raitt) tuned up his git fiddle. The fresh analog-driven tones of the band provide an earthy palate of colors for the tableaux vivants painted by Lynch, whose face is probably slightly less wrinkled than his heart and whose voice is as gravelly and dusty as the vineyard roads of southern France that led this voice astray some forty years ago.

Kermit Lynch, rocker interrupted, is now waiting at the Gare de Lyon, getting ready to board a train on his way to the next concert stage.

Btw, I’ve taken a train from the Gare de Lyon to go play a gig in Lyon!


Folks in Sacramento know how to live well

August 27, 2009

On my way back to ATX today following my annual pilgrimage to Sacramento, in the heart of California farmland and wine country. Folks out there sure know how to live well. Here are some quick highlights…

Darrell Corti graciously treated me to a quick lunch today at One Speed after our morning meeting and before I headed out to the airport. Seafood risotto and 14-year-old Australian Sémillion from his cellar. I had never had an Australian wine that I liked until Darrell first shared some of his gems with me. This wine had gorgeous fruit and a rich mouthfeel, 11% alcohol, and acidity that Darrell aptly described as “sprightly” (Tracie B would have called it “tongue-splitting”).

Produce in Sacramento is unbelievably good: marinated artichokes, braised fennel, and roast peppers at One Speed.

The night before, I was the dinner guest of Darrel’s delightful neighbors, Joe and Deb. Deb’s tomato bisque with panzanella salsa paired superbly with Darrel’s Bert Simon 2005 single-vineyard Riesling. Deb and Joe are both superb cooks. I guess you have to be if you live next to Darrell Corti! Joe and Deb were so gracious to have me over and they throw a fantastic dinner party… Joe, a lobbyist, told a great story about meeting Ted Kennedy and how he loved to talk baseball.

2007 Nebbiolo Martinenga by Marchesi di Gresy. 2007 is going to be such a killer vintage for traditional-style Nebbiolo. Like the 07 Produttori del Barbaresco, this wine shows some serious, brawny tannin. It went great with whole chickens that Joe stuffed with cheese (I believe goat’s milk) and then grilled whole. The breast was as moist as the thigh.

This morning I gave Darrell a hand organizing wines for a tasting at his legendary store Corti Brothers. Darrell is the reason why I come back to Sacramento every year… to peruse his wondrous cabinets

It’s only been three days since I said goodbye to my lovely Tracie B. Feels like a lifetime but that ol’ Southwest Jetliner is carrying me back home where I belong tonight, not a minute too soon for this aching heart…


Scenes from California summer 09

August 26, 2009

Posting hastily from LAX today…

Last night Jayne and Jon surprised me with this killer bottle of 1970 Château Grand Pontet last night at Jaynes to thank me for all the work I put into the San Diego Natural Wine Summit. I am no fan of tasting notes but I swear it tasted like Salt Lick bbq sauce! It was all tar and minerality, delicious.

Night before last David Schachter opened some fantastic 2000 Chablis Les Clos by René et Vincent Dauvvisat. It paired stunningly with mozzarella di bufala from Campania and tomatoes plucked from his tomato garden. Damn, I LOVE that wine.

On my way to San Diego yesterday, I stopped by the Squirrel Colony at the Las Flores View Point at Camp Pendleton and snapped this picture of another gorgeous day in squirrel paradise.

Heading to Sacramento today to catch up with Darrell Corti… Stay tuned…


Nothing like a little Nazi ass kickin’

August 24, 2009

tarantino

If you grew up like I did, going to Hebrew school three times a week in La Jolla (twice during the week after school and then on Saturday for synagogue services) and the mandatory two hours of Holocaust studies per week (along with Hebrew language and bar mitzvah prep) and the countless field trips to the Holocaust museum in Los Angeles, then you have probably suffered from the same Holocaust anxiety that I did as a young kid.

So when Tracie B and I were deciding how to celebrate the one-year anniversary of our first date, she took the reins and said, “after the week my man’s had, I think he could use him a little Nazi ass-kickin’” and treated me to a screening of Tarantino’s new film Inglourious Basterds, about a group of Jew commandos sent behind enemy lines to kill Nazis toward the end of the second world war.

I’ve read a lot of disappointed reviewers who say the movie is not “violent enough” and lacks the thriller elements of his other films. And they might be right.

But a closer look at the film reveals that it is not a roman d’aventure (story of adventures) but rather an aventure de romans (adventure of stories): the film is a seamlessly woven fabric of allusions to nearly all the great war movie genres and beyond, with the Spaghetti Western as the frame that holds all the elements together. The conceit of the “cinema that kills” was entirely brilliant.

Tracie B pointed that in my endorsement of the film I am contradicting my credo that there can be no good Holocaust movie with a happy ending. But I counter saying the story is a fantasy and is exaggerated caricatures underline its basis as an oneiric and purely filmic tale. But I don’t want to ruin the dénounement

I do wonder if the e in Tarantino’s basterds is akin to Derrida’s a in differance. Does anyone know the derivation?

Ironically, on this day, one year from our first date, when I boarded a plane and came to visit her for the first time in Austin, I said goodbye to Tracie B today: I’m at the airport headed to California for business and to catch up with a few friends.

I promise: more wine tomorrow (and probably some good stuff, considering where I’m heading) but thank you for indulging me today in a little Nazi ass kickin’… It’ll do a body good every once in a while.


ZinFANdel is the new Beaujolais? Julia is the new Julia

August 23, 2009

julia

Tracie B and I went on a date last night to the movies, to see Julia and Julia. Our favorite movie house is Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse, where you can have dinner (bar food and pizza) and drink during the movie. But the coolest thing about Alamo is that as people are filing into the theater, before the previews, they show all these really cool vintage clips that are somehow related to or inspired by the film — often with great comic effect.

Yesterday’s pre-show reel included a number of 1960s commercials for instant foods (like Quaker instant grits, useful for “southerners traveling in the north,” or Cool Whip, “instantly frozen to preserve freshness”) and vintage Julia Child.

In one of the vintage Julia clips, she discusses how to throw a wine tasting party and talks about a flight of roughly ten wines. She calls Beaujolais a “hardy” wine and it seems to be her go-to wine. And when she gets to Zinfandel she pronounces it zin-FAN-del, with the penultimate syllable as the tonic syllable. Zinfandel, she says, is the American equivalent of Beaujolais. She also discusses Burgundian and Californian “Pinot Chardonnay” and she tells the viewer that Cabernet Sauvignon is the most noble of wines.

pinot

We’ve come an awful long way since the late 1960s, haven’t we? The labels of the wines are covered but on a number of them, you can see a strip label that looks like that old Oakie Bob Chadderdon. Is that possible?

I wouldn’t exactly call Julia and Julia a bildungsroman but I won’t conceal that we enjoyed it immensely. Meryl Streep is great, as always. And the tableaux from Paris and the discussion and descriptions of food were super fun.

But the funniest part — at least to me and Tracie B — was the discussion of blogging and its novelty in post-9/11 New York. After all, we both know the difference that blogging can make and the wondrous new paths it can take you on.

It was a year ago tomorrow that I first got on a plane in San Diego and came to Austin to meet the wonderful, intriguing, and gorgeous lady whom I met through a comment on my blog.


Savary Chablis and Tracie B’s enchilada casserole. Who knew? (also, Gramsci, Gaja, Israel Merlot in Italy, and natty wine in SF)

August 22, 2009

Above: Tracie B’s enchilada casserole may not be pretty but it’s shot to the top of my list of favorite things she cooks with meteoric celerity. And what better with the spicy and rich flavors of tomatillo sauce, cotija cheese, fresh peppers, corn, and cilantro, roast chicken, and corn tortilla than steely, mineral-driven (and affordable) Chablis? Who knew?

Seems we weren’t the only ones drinking Savary Chablis last night: a series of backs-and-forth on Facebook with Anthony on whether or not my silverface Princeton is a 69 or 71 was interrupted around dinner time because Savary 07 Chablis and Tracie B’s enchilada casserole were calling in my case, Savary Chablis Vieilles Vignes (I believe the 06) after his show last night (wherever he is!).

It’s Saturday and I’m working today (because I have a tight deadline on a hefty translation: a folio edition of twentieth-century Italian photography, pretty cool stuff actually). But before getting to work this morning, I did indulge in some Antonio Gramsci and his notion of cultural hegemony. I’d been thinking about Gramsci over the last week and how wine, in his era, was considered a luxury product in the eyes of the agrarian class (Italy was still in the early phases of its industrialization) and an important trading commodity by the landlords. How far the western world has come in such a short period of time! With the rise of globalization (unthinkable in Gramsci’s time when protectionism reigned) and the seemingly boundless exchange of wine today, Tracie B and I can enjoy an excellent and affordable (at our price point) Chablis that has traveled seemingly effortlessly across that misunderstanding otherwise known as the Atlantic Ocean. And we enjoyed it — no less! — with Mexican cooking spiced up by peppers grown in the farmland that stretches between Dallas and Austin in Texas (we still had some peppers left over from my stopped at the sorghum syrup and stuffed armadillo store).

My hankering for Gramsci was whetted in part by the soul searching that followed the wild exchanges this week but it was garnished by the news — which I read at Franco’s blog — that Angelo Gaja is importing Israeli Cabernet and Merlot to Italy. It seems that like the historic stockfish vendors of the Roman ghetto, Gaja saw an opportunity in bringing modern-style international grape varieties from the promised land and selling them to the “Israelite” communities (as they are called there) in Italy. Does Italy really need another international-style Merlot? From Israel?

Gramsci, where art thou?

In other news…

Above: I bet this guy knows his Gramsci. Guilhaume Gerard, one of the owners of Terroir in SF, pours great wine and writes a great blog with an emphasis on you know what.

I read at McDuff’s excellent blog that there is a now a site with information about the natural wine week event going on in San Francisco next week, hosted by different venues, including one of my favorite natural wine destinations, Terroir, with a symposium led by the inimitable Guilhaume (whose natural wine credentials, by all accounts, are impeccable and who has an amazing palate and writing style).


Just a guy in a band who likes wine…

August 21, 2009

From the “ain’t this living?” department…

It’s been a helluva week but it’s coming to an end.

I wish that everyone could feel what it’s like to play a solo on my Carruthers custom Johnny Rivers Tele (sunburst finish with mint green pick guard and Seymour Duncan ’52 reissues) through my Fender 1971 Silverface Princeton at the Broken Spoke and see Tracie B sitting in the audience and smiling.

It’ll wash all the troubles of the world away like a Texas rainstorm.

Played my first Austin gig last night and it was a blast. Took Tracie B for ceviche, tacos al pastor, and cold Bohemias after.

At the end of the day, I’m just a guy who plays in a rock country band and likes wine.

Have a good weekend ya’ll and thanks for reading.


The N word

August 20, 2009

From the “so to speak department” otherwise known as the “department of semiotics and semantics”…

It’s not a bad word.

Nor is it a racially charged or in any way nocive or noxious word.

It’s a nice, normal nomination that we use nomenclaturally.

It’s no nomen novum, nomen nudum, nomen dubitum, nor a nomen oblitum. No, it’s a word that most folks use nearly every day in one way or another.

It has become the subject of gnostically nuclear debate in the notoriety of Saignée’s recent series 31 Days of N… OOPS! SAWWY! I almost said it.

This morning, two of my blogging colleagues, both of whom I respect immensely, posted on its meaning and its contextualization with regard to enological epistemology here and here. In diametrically opposed stance (however unaware of each other’s posts), they contemporaneously espoused two radically different points of view. I won’t dare SAY the WORD but I do recommend both posts to you.

Last night, Tracie B made us a dinner of rotisserie chicken (from Central Market) and iron-skillet roasted potatoes and peppers that we enjoyed with one of our favorite wines of the summer of 2009, our current house white: Luneau-Papin’s 2005 Muscadet Sevre & Maine Clos des Allées, which retails for under $20 in Texas and is imported by one of the prime movers of N wines in this country, Louis-Dressner. We love this wine and I don’t know, nor will I venture to guess whether or not it is a N wine. All I know is that it is great, we can afford it, and we LOVE it. (Love is a great four-letter word, isn’t it?)

The minerality and acidity of the wine was FANTASTIC and was a great match for the spiciness of the peppers that I bought at a road-side rustic gastronomy on my way back to Austin the other day from Dallas, where stuffed armadillos guard over bottles of sorghum syrup. We love the wine so much that we cleaned out our local retailer’s stock and it has become our “go-to” white for the summer of 2009.

Yesterday, as I headed to Tracie B’s after a long day’s work, I snapped this photo of the sunset over Austin. One of the things that has impressed me the most about living in Texas is the beauty of the sky here. The sunsets and dawns are among the most stunning and truly inspirational that I’ve ever seen. When you gaze up at its beauty and its awesome expanse, you can understand why the Texans are such a G-d-fearing nation (and I mean nation in the etymological sense of the word). Like the N word, the word of G-d is not for me but for higher authorities to discuss.

Sometimes when a word is repeated over and over again, it begins to lose its meaning. Children often indulge in what scholars of linguistics call “nonsense-word repetition.” I will not dare repeat the N word but I will leave you today with the epistemological conundrum: could the bird be the word?


A bratty sparkling Barbera for the summer of 09

August 19, 2009

Above: The inimitable Michael Housewright (right) with his Italian business partner Antonello Losito. Michael’s new wine bar and shop Block 7 in Houston is on the cutting edge of wine sales and marketing and has already proved a success in highly competitive market.

This dude knows what he’s doing. Michael Housewright’s aggressive pricing at the newly opened Block 7 in Houston is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Every bottle on his list can be ordered by the glass (at market price), by the bottle (at a competitive retail price), or by the case (with case discount) in which case you can open a bottle and drink it in the restaurant/wine bar.

Above: 07 Barbera Vivace (i.e., slightly sparkling) by Roagna Igino (not the other Roagna, producer of old-school Nebbiolo) is competing with Bisson Ciliegiolo as my official favorite wine of the summer of 09.

When Tracie B, her childhood friend Talina, and I dined there the other night, Michael turned me on to a vivace (i.e., slightly sparkling) Barbera by Clò di Roagna Igino. The proprietary name birichina means brat in Italian, in other words, someone who is excessively vivace. Served slightly chilled, the acidity and fruit in this wine was awesome with my burger and fries. We also shared a bottle of Produttori del Barbaresco 2005 Barbaresco with another party: the price was too alluring to resist.

In other news…

Budweiser (well actually Shiner Bock) instead of Barbera tomorrow night: I’m playing my first Austin gig tomorrow at the Broken Spoke with this guy. Not exactly the summer of 1969 (more like the summer of 2009) but I’m stoked to break out my Tele at the Spoke.


RN74′s house-made Pimm’s at TexSom

August 18, 2009

Above: Dallas native D’Lynn Proctor is one of the top sommeliers in the state of Texas.

Yesterday found me and Italian Wine Guy attending seminars at the excellent TexSom conference (held this year in Dallas). In its fifth year, the conference draws some of the country’s best and brightest wine personalities and features seminars and guided tastings with leading celebrity Master Sommeliers. MS Brian Conin led a lively aperitif tasting that included a sip of the house-made Pimm’s produced by RN74 in San Francisco.

Above: Brian served the RN74 Pimm’s mixed with ginger beer yesterday but explained that Prosecco is mixed, together with the ginger beer, in the RN74 “Pimm’s Cup” in San Francisco.

During the spirited (pun intended) exchange from the floor during the question-and-answer period, the ever-affable Bartholomew Broadbent chimed in with an ad hoc lecture on the traditional Pimm’s Cup and its significance in British culture.

A taste of genuine collegiality among wine professionals, some downright fun, and a Pimm’s cup (however experimental) sure can do a body good!


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