Posts Filed Under interviews
To put it mildly, today’s interviewee guest is a bona fide bad-ass rock star. Oh, yeah – he happens to know his wine, as well.
Geoff Tate is best known as the voice behind uber-rockers Queensryche, who garnered critical acclaim after releasing the brilliant hard rock concept album Operation: Mindcrime in 1988 – followed shortly afterwards by a chronicle of their ambitious live rendition of the entire album (Operation: Livecrime, which on a bad-ass scale of 1 to 10 comes in somewhere around a 37). Their 1990 studio release, Empire, went triple-platinum and catapulted Queensryche into cross-over super-stardom, launching about a thousand copy-cat hard rock acts who tried – but never quite matched – the uniqueness of Empire’s best-known track, the power-ballad Silent Lucidity.
In other words, Queensryche ruled hard-rock in the early `90s.
They’ve been rocking ever since, maintaining a hard-edged musical integrity, exploring social themes, and continuing to push their own boundaries even when those directions meant less fame. A core group of fans have followed them throughout, and Queensryche is currently touring in support of their latest release, American Soldier, a chronicle of wartime experiences based on conversations with American military personnel, and consequently one of their boldest artistic statements to date.
Tate, a Washington native, has been making wine with Walla Walla producer Three Rivers Winery for the last few years, starting off with a Bordeaux-style red blend called Insania and recently adding a Bordeaux-style white blend to the Insania lineup.
I tasted samples of the 2009 Insania White and 2008 Insania Red, and found both quite good and clearly made with food pairing in mind. the wines might not be to everyone’s tastes (the Insania red being relatively big at 14.5% abv) but it will take only one sniff to dispel any doubts that the wines aren’t serious, or that they’re simply another celebrity vanity project.
The 2009 white (mostly Sauvignon Blanc) is the simpler of the two, with tasty melon and citrus moving into a “fleshy” mouthfeel (thanks to a healthy dose of barrel-fermented Semillon). It’s not svelte, but clearly the fruit from Red Mountain’s Klipsun vineyard (which makes up over half the Insania white blend) has great potential; here it delivers a wine that totally rocks with shrimp and avocado burritos.
The 2008 Insania Red (primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, with dollops of Merlot, Malbec and a tiny portion of Cab Franc) offers complexity on the nose that one wouldn’t expect from a wine sourced from six different vineyards. The almost sweet and very dark fruit is complimented by cedar and black olive notes, and there’s enough acidity in Insania to tame its brooding tannins with a beef filet; it might be big, but it’s anything but dumb.
Geoff was kind enough to take some time out of the Queensryche touring schedule to answer a few questions about Insania and offer his take on several wine topics. What follows is an insight into a wine-knowledgeable hard-rocking brain, and fans of Queensryche’s music will not be surprised to find that Geoff has strong opinions – specifically, on where to go for wine recommendations, pairing wine with fine cuisine, and wine’s role in American society.
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What do you get when you gather five young, “next-generation” Napa vintners around a table and talk shop? Besides “buzzed on some really good juice,” I mean?
Essentially, that’s the question I was hoping to answer when I worked with the Napa Valley Vintner’s Association to set-up a round-table discussion with some of Napa’s best next-generation family winemakers, hosted at the stunning Viader Vineyards property on Howell Mountain. I’ve had the opportunity to interview some of the next-gen Napa set before (see previous one-on-one’s with Hailey Trefethen and Helen Buehler), but until last week I’d never taken a deep dive into the unique spin that the next-generation has been putting on Napa’s family-run wineries and their wines.
As it turns out, I visited only family-run Napa wine operations during my latest Napa jaunt, and the most obvious common thread tying them together were wines of high-quality and often stunning vitality. Acid is back in fashion, and so is balance – and for the most part, Napa’s next-gen set are making wines that they themselves enjoy drinking.
Included in our roundtable were Florencia Palmaz (Palmaz Vineyards), Alan Viader (Viader Vineyards & Winery), Judd Finkelstein (Judd’s Hill), Andy Schweiger (Schweiger Vineyards) and Elizabeth Marston (Marston Family Vineyard). We tasted through several of the recent white and red releases, and talked wine scores, winemaking styles, savvy wine consumers, music, social media, and which wine critics they’d most like kick in the crotch.
Two-parter video (1WineDude TV Episode 16 and Episode 17) recapping the roundtable is after the jump. Enjoy!…
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In which Joe conducts a brief interview with Paris Sigalas, winemaker at Santorini’s Domaine Sigalas, and with the help of their eonologist attempts to translate the term “kick-ass” into Greek.
For more Greece in images, check out the photos – non-lazy (i.e., for me, written) coverage is in the works:
I have, quite clearly, met my match when it comes to quirky wine interviews.
His name is Les Claypool, and he’s probably most famous for fronting the talented and popular hard rock band Primus (who are on tour this Summer).
As a (wannabe) bassist (going on 20 years) myself, I’ve often found Les’ music and technical proficiency inspiring. I recall being an undergrad in university and hearing Primus’ live album Suck On This! for the first time; “this kicks ass,” I thought, “but I doubt anybody but bass geeks like me would get into this stuff.” Thankfully for millions of music fans everywhere, my prediction was very, very wrong. Primus went on to release two Platinum and one Gold album, achieving impressive chart success with their singles and wildly eccentric videos.
What many people might not know about Les is that he’s also been a filmmaker, as well as the driving force behind multiple successful and stylistically diverse rock bands such as Oysterhead and Flying Flog Brigade. He has, somehow, also managed to find time to create a wine brand – Claypool Cellars, which produces a promising and very enjoyable Russian River Pinot Noir (“Purple Pachyderm”) with help from Shad Chappell at Vinify Wine Services. Les’ description of the `07 Pinot:
“We’ve ended up with a California Pinot with a fairly low alcohol content (13.9%), strong color, and good extraction that gives complexity without being overly “jammy.” Coupled with a moderate amount of French oak and some whole cluster fermentation, we have a vino that sits silky in the mouth with a finish that glides away with elegant authority.”
`08 was a bit of a different story, as heat in the RRV made trying to render a low alcohol Pinot much more challenging. I tried samples of two bottlings of the 2008 Claypool Cellars Purple Pachyderm: one a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (307 cases, about $42), the other an RRV Pinot from Hurst Vineyard (110 cases). Both are big and expressive, just like Les’ music; while some might shy away from the boozy palate on both of these wines (each is around 14.4% abv), few would deny that the red berry fruit on the nose packs a substantial amount of depth and intensity while deftly avoiding the dreaded “jar of red jam” territory, despite the heat.
I managed to catch up with Les via email during a break in Primus’ current tour, to talk shop on the wine front. I still count Suck On This! and Tales From The Punchbowl among my favorite albums – and after 20 years of bass playing, still have trouble copping Les’ intricate, driving and chord-driven bass lines (though I’m making good progress on “Southbound Pachyderm”…) – so this interview was a particularly fun and inspiring one for me. I think you’ll find it fun as well, especially after witnessing how effortlessly and eloquently Les one-ups me in the quirkiness department.
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