“When minds are dripping color, And there’s liquid on the brain
They laugh to one another, And politely go insane”
– Primus, The Dream
Last month, I had the pleasure of (once again) checking out the funky, entertaining, and technically dazzling band Primus, as they rolled through Philly on their Ambushing the Storm tour. Primus are currently playing with fellow prog-influenced band Mastodon in support of The Desaturating Seven, an at turns raucous, pretty, trippy, and virtuosic concept album based on Ul de Rico’s also trippy, gorgeous, and all-too-allegorically-topical-and-relevant-today (hey, one of the goblins is Orange… just sayin’…) children’s book The Rainbow Goblins. The album is played in its entirety during the show, with vibrant and also trippily-fantastic visual accompaniment that, I can tell you from personal experience, goes down even better with a wine-altered state of consciousness.
As was the case last year, I got to tag along with the VIP Package ticket-holders as a guest of Chaney Claypool, wife of Primus front-man Les Claypool and (along with Les), proprietor of Sonoma-based Claypool Cellars, who have been mentioned on these virtual pages for over eight years (holy crap!) at this point. The current tour VIP package offers a Q&A session with the band, and a tasting of some of the more recent Claypool Cellars releases; given my penchant for awesome prog-y type tunes, and my pinch-me wine-thing day job, and my music-thing side-gig, you can probably guess that I was pretty pumped to spend an early-summer-ish evening watching my various worlds collide…
2016 Claypool Cellars ‘CC Pachyderm’ Pinot Noir Rose (Sonoma Coast, $28)
Only 200 cases of this delightfully zesty little beauty were produced, with fruit sourced from the Russian River Valley’s Moore Vineyard, which in my experience has produced varietal Pinots on the cranberry/pomegranate/lithe side. That profile is all played to excellent effect here, with a red-berry-and-stone-fruit-infused flavor emphasis that retains a buoyant mouthfeel and should have rock music fans and rose lovers wantonly flocking to chilled bottles of this well-balanced stuff. That it’s holding up so well after getting a year+ in under its belt is, I suspect, a testament to the Claypools’ now relatively long-standing penchant for finding excellent vineyard source material in their hometown Sonoma vicinity.
2013 Claypool Cellars ‘CC Pachyderm’ Thorn Ridge Pinot Noir (Sonoma County, $68)
It’s rare that I get to taste the same wine on three separate occasions, as I have with the Claypool Thorn Ridge vineyard Pinot. You’d think that I’d be sick of it by now, and you’d be very, very wrong. Planted in the 1990s, Thorn Ridge sits on relatively steep hills outside of Sebastopol, and sees little water. What you end up with (and what’s also the case here) are Pinot wines that kind of dance between acidic structure and floral notes on the one hand, and a bit of tannic grip and depth of red fruit on the other. When I tasted this vintage last year, here’s what I wrote: “Despite its lithe profile, there’s good structure here, and I’d recommend waiting for a couple of years (or at least through the listening of an entire Primus album) before yanking the cork out of it.” That’s even more the case now, as the density of fruit and oak aging notes are still roiling around together like young, inexperienced lovers gettin’ busy, and haven’t yet really come together to make refined, tender, sweet-sweet luuuuuv. But make tender, sweet-sweet luuuuuv they eventually will.