Austin Soul

Independence Brewing Company’s Austin Amber
and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Soul to Soul

A pairing for National Drink Beer Day. Although it’s the first year I’ve heard about it, I did indeed indulge in some local craft beer to celebrate this year along with another local love, some Stevie Ray Vaughan. The Austin Amber is made right here in Austin, right off of Todd Lane close to where I used to live in town by Amy and Rob Cartwright at Independence Brewing Company.

The Amber is a yummy brew top to bottom. The brewers quote, “A beer as laid back as Austin, our American Amber is smooth and refreshing.  The specialty malts lend caramel sweetness while American hops add balance and a crisp finish that will have you tipping that glass up for more.”

Austin Amber Stats

Style: American Amber
Alcohol by volume: 4.8%
Original Gravity: 12°
Bitterness units: 32
Yeast: American Ale/Chico
Hops: Nugget, Cascade
Malts: American Two-Row, Belgian Special B, Caramel 20, Chocolate
Availability: Year Round, Draft & 6-packs
Food Pairing: BBQ pork, grilled salmon, roasted chicken, burgers

Soul to Soul is one of those albums that I first only ever heard on CD and quite frankly, I never really thought the album sounded that great. Turns out it was just the digital rendering that didn’t do this particular album justice. When I finally heard this album on vinyl my opinion of it changed drastically.

Truly the CD sounds terrible compared to the quality of the analog mastering done when this puppy went to vinyl. It’s a night and day difference and another great case for vinyl’s superiority.

Bringing these two Austin classics together made for a pleasurable Texas evening of sounds and suds to wash back the week with. Signing off from Austin! Cheers!

Too Fast For Love

A Tres Rios Añejo Tequilla & 1981’s “Too Fast For Love” by Mötley Crüe

Tonight’s pairing comes to you, in big part, thanks to Mr Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe. Vince has taken upon himself to go into the tequilla business! (as many rockers do these days) We decided it was time to give his Tres Rios a try while we blow the doors down with Mötley Crüe’s debut album Too Fast For Love. Crank! It! Up!

In November of 1981 when Too Fast For Love began to circulate in Los Angeles, no one had ever heard anything quite like it. Like em or not, the Crüe did define a generation and played a major part in birthing the LA metal seen that followed in the 1980’s. This is the album that started it all.

Too Fast For Love took the punk rock attitude of bands like the New York Dolls and gave it a glam metal sheen that was pure LA. They really could have easily called the band the “LA Dolls” at this point in my opinion.

It’s another one of those band debuts that just screams hunger. It’s a no holds barred, take no prisoners, leave no man standing, album of angst and aggression. Put it into a blender with the attitude of punk, add some big 80’s hair, a touch of leather, some lipstick and makeup, mix it all up and what you’ve got is pure Motley.

My opinion of this album when it first came out was that of “what tha?!”, it was like being blind sided with something so new that you weren’t even really sure how to categorize it. It was as much a punch in the face as Nirvana’s Nevermind was some ten years later. “Too Fast For Love” signaled the rise in popularity of the metal scene in LA just as Nirvana skyrocketed the Seattle scene onto everyone’s radar a decade later.

As for the Tequilla, this is a special limited run numbered bottle and I was lucky enough to find bottle number 094604-C from batch 2001. 100% Pure Agave Añejo Tequilla produced in Mexico. Let me just start by saying, it would be a sin to shoot this tequilla and an even bigger sin to mix it into any kind of mixed drink. This is a tequilla worthy of a slow sip and savor. Keep a little lime and salt on hand to compliment it, but to just throw it into the back of your mouth and swallow it without savoring it, well in my opinion you’d be missing out on the divine decadence that is the Tres Rios Añejo.

“Aged to perfection after eighteen months in charred wooden barrels, this Tequila displays a deep, intense caramel color that embodies its complexity. The unmistakable taste of sweet vanilla and smoke imparted by the ageing enhances the original fruit. The result of this exclusive technique is a complex taste, balance, and character that form a symphony for the taste buds.” – http://www.tequila.net/tequila-reviews/anejos/tres-rios-tequila-anejo.html

The 180 gram reissue pressing that I garnered for this pairing is much like many of the 180’s that are coming out these days, it may not have the same depth of some of the original pressings, but it’s far superior to my older thrashed copy from the 1980’s. Pretty much with any 180 gram reissue you get these days, while well worth having if you’re a serious fan of the album, they do typically lack something that the original pressings had. Maybe it’s generational, maybe it’s digital remastering, maybe both; nonetheless, any fan of this album that doesn’t have a copy on vinyl will do quite well with this reissue. The Crüe reissued all of their early catalog on 180 gram a few years ago and they’re not too hard to find but they are becoming a bit more and more scarce as the days go by. Such is one of the groovy things about vinyl. It is a finite resource.

Bringing together the music of Mötley Crüe and the tequilla creation Vince has imparted to us was a great time. Sipping tequilla and jamming to some Crüe is a fine way to get a party going indeed. Here’s to the Agave plant, here’s to the Crüe and here’s to you!
Salute!

Santana Especial

Santana (1969) and a chilled Cerveza Modelo Especial (1925)

Tonight we break away from the wine for some tasty suds from Mexico. Modelo Especial is truly a wonderful cerveza to accompany with a meal or just to sip on and hang out listening to vinyl with. This evenings vinyl is one of the all time greats and still my go-to Santana album of choice.

The 1969 debut album from Santana is classic jam from start to finish. Every track has “legacy of rock” written all over it. “Evil Ways”, the second single taken from the album, was a U.S. Top 10 hit and the album peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 pop album chart.

At a rather surprising event I attended last year here in Austin, at the Four Seasons Hotel, I was treated to an acoustic piano performance by Gregg Rolie (keyboards and vocals on this album) who performed the song “Treat” from this album among other wonderful songs in the hotel lobby. Talk about blown away! Gregg is a phenomenal musician and even though his name may not be a household name, everyone that knows “Evil Ways” or “Black Magic Woman”, certainly knows his voice. I can’t imagine this album without Gregg on the keys and vocals, his contribution along with Carlos’s guitar work, made for one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time.

While Carlos has made many great albums since this one, it’s my opinion that this album truly represents the initial spark, the breath of life if you will, that set the Santana train in motion that continues to this day. This album embodies the hunger of a young and eager rock band just as many debut albums do.

It is primal soul music with a rocking latin groove that gets your body moving and truly makes you yearn for a cold beer and a warm summer night.

Break open a Modelo and let’s have a toast!
As we break into fall, here’s to the summer’s end and to another fall season that is upon us. As the nights get colder and the winter approaches, I have no doubt there will be many a hot toddy pairing on the horizon. Keep your needle in the groove and the spirits responsibly indulged and appreciated my friends!

For Those About To Rock!


A 2009 Bodega Norton Malbec & 1981’s For Those About To Rock by AC/DC

A wine that starts with a little smack of graphite deserves a vinyl that also careens with a smack of metal and ends with the thunderous rock and roll of cannons, Angus Young’s guitar and the rest of the boys from down under that are AC/DC.

This Norton Malbec is a stout and hearty malbec grape with deep red color and hints of purple. Expressive on the nose with notes of ripe black fruits, violets, and tobacco. This wine has round and sweet tannins, ripe red fruit and figs followed by a long finish. “With a serious, generous opening of graphite, cassis and wild berry aromas, this Malbec is in good shape. It feels full, round and just right, with dark berry, spice and licorice flavors playing off one another. It’s sweet, ripe, dense and a touch woody on the finish.” 90 Points – Wine Enthusiast

As for the AC/DC, well we are all indeed about to rock. The vinyl pictured in this pairing is showing its age and certainly the amount of time it spent getting handled is apparent on the sleeve. A little worse for wear but the ragged shape of the cover only helps to compliment the blazing hard rock that was melted into these grooves. I can still remember the day this album came out. I rode my bicycle down the road to the Fred’s dollar store and bought it. I couldn’t wait to get back home in eager anticipation of the rock and roll that was within and once I did, the air guitar sessions began in earnest.

The AC/DC catalog is truly a testament to doing one thing and doing it really well. You will never hear a ballad from AC/DC, nor would you ever expect it. They are primal rock and roll, nothing less and nothing more.This album was the follow-up to the highly successful Back in Black (which we are sure to get around to pairing at some point, if not Dirty Deeds as well) but FTATR stands on its own as yet another masterpiece. The album became AC/DC’s first US No. 1 album and after its release the band embarked on its first arena tour of North America (late 1981 through early 1982). For the title track, large cannons were placed on stage, set to go off in accordance with the song on the album. Fire!

Well there you have it. A lovely hearty wine and a lovely heavy vinyl to get the weekend started off right. Here’s hoping you are indeed all about to rock!!
If so, we Salute You!!

Wish You Were Here

A 2010 Vino de Eyzaguirre Merlot from Chile
and the 2011 reissue of Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd

When I first started getting back into collecting vinyl records a few years ago, the thought crossed my mind soon after, that I sure would love a 180 gram version of some Pink Floyd to replace all of my thrashed copies from back when I was younger. Well it wasn’t much longer that Pink Floyd announced the reissue vinyls to coincide with their immersion box sets and the remastered digital releases of the albums for the first time to add into the iTunes black hole.

Naturally I was more excited about the vinyl editions. Even more so than the immersion Compact Disc box sets with all the extra material. For me it’s not about the extra stuff, the demos, the alternate takes, the leftover tracks, whatever; all of that was left off for a reason. The final product is a masterpiece and obviously the band, producers and engineers thought so enough to leave all the other hyperbola where it belongs. In the draft bin. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big of a Floyd fan as you can get but as a vinyl purist; I’m still really only interested in the final version, the full release on 180 gram pristine virgin vinyl. That’s all I need. Well, that and the cool poster that came with it as well as the groovy post card, all rekindling the memories of the original release.

At first glance you’ll notice that the wine bottle is wrapped in a burlap sack. A truly easily identifiable marking for remembering this wine but it does have more significance and history behind it than just being a nifty marketing ploy. Evidently the tradition stem from monks living near the village that would transport the wine for the bumpy horse carriage ride back to the monastery, by placing the jugs of wine in burlap sacks to prevent them from breaking. The tradition caught on and still continues to this day.

As for the wine in the bottle, the Merlot is an extremely smooth and super palatable wine that is well-defined and well bodied with an elegant subtle finish that is perfect for sipping on its own or for pairing with a dish of your choosing. I would recommend it for a nice evening chilling at home or for a picnic in the park.

This particular pressing of Wish You Were Here is truly high quality, as is the packaging, simply top notch. The biggest difference for me here lies in the mastering of the audio. It’s a bit flatter than the original 1975 release, but we are in the digital era so this is not too surprising. I have no doubt that this particular print was pulled from a digital environment at some point and then went to vinyl. Luckily the deep rich 180 gram pressing allows for you to get some pleasing quality but it still remains a bit flat when compared to the earlier pressings. While I’m thrilled to have this reissue amongst the stacks; I won’t be getting rid of my older more thrashed copy anytime soon.

Until next time folks!
¡Salud!

Castle of Destiny

A 2009 Pinot Noir from Castle Rock and “Sad Wings of Destiny” by Judas Priest

We’re breaking out the classic metal tonight to pair with this super fine Pinot Noir from Castle Rock wineries. This particular Pinot is from Monterey County and it’s my understanding, now that I’ve done a bit of research, that there is another Pinot that they have released from Mendocino County that gets even higher marks than this one. That said, the Monterey County Pinot is in no way anything to turn your nose up at, although it does have a very sweet nose. Much sweeter than the flavor and palate of the wine. I could truly imagine this wine going quite well with an Italian family style feast or a hearty beef fillet.

Sad Wings of Destiny is the second album release by Judas Priest released in 1976. It’s a surprisingly blues infused album that has a crossover vibe with the operatic vocal stylings of Rob Halford and blues rock musical themes. There’s even a few songs that feature the piano predominantly. Not exactly what most people think of when you say Judas Priest.

When all these genre’s merge, what you have is a very diverse album compared to their later releases. I for one really appreciate the blues and classical influences of their early material. Long before the leather and studs, yes friends, Judas Priest, much like Black Sabbath, started as a blues band and for a period of time, these influences still had a strong presence in their music.

These lingering influences of the blues make for what is in my opinion some truly powerful music. Now, that’s not to say that their later music isn’t powerful. Quite the contrary, Judas Priest remains relevant even to this day as a powerhouse metal band still evolving and adapting with the times.

This particular edition of Sad Wings of Destiny is a brand new limited edition 180 gram gate fold reissue by Koch Records. It is an excellent pressing and has such a low noise floor that it truly allows you to crank this puppy up super loud and enjoy all of the stellar vinyl quality. One of the things that I love most about 180 gram reissues is the super low noise floor. When you break open one of these releases and place it on your turntable for the first time, in super clean form, the noise floor is superior to that of a compact disc. Truly not even in the same universe as an mp3 or streaming internet media. In short, it will spoil you fast!

Together these two products of stellar craftmanship provide for a premium rock and roll evening. So until next time, bottoms up everyone!

 

Aguaribay Graffiti

A 2010 Aguaribay Malbec from Argentina
& 1975’s Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin

It’s about time we got the Led out, don’t you think? How could we celebrate vinyl without eventually getting to the Zep monsters. In a bit of fitting timing, to coincide with the news today regarding a certain new feature film hitting theaters soon, we present the evenings pairing. Led Zeppelin returns! Maybe not for the live tour we all hoped for but a tour of a single filmed show none the less.

Physical Graffiti has always been one of my favorite Zeppelins but then again, ya know, every album they ever made has a place amongst my favorite albums. Side three of this album especially holds some serious memories for me. I rank it amongst one of my most influential sides of vinyl of all time. I first discovered this particular album during my high school days (many moons ago) and it seriously struck a chord with me. It’s an album that has such universal depth that it floors me every time I hear it.

On to the wine! The Aguaribay Malbec is truly a pleasant wine and well worth the price, It’s not an expensive wine (we typically stay in the affordable price range for our wines) and certainly won’t break the bank at around $10 a bottle. It’s also not one of the heaviest Malbec’s I’ve tasted and I consider that a good thing. Many Malbecs for me these days can be a bit too heavy on their own. Lately I’ve grown to prefer them in a blend, that tends to mellow them out a bit and keep them under control. This particular Malbec is fairly mellow though. Maybe it’s the vintage or maybe it’s the particular vineyard; either way it’s the kind of Malbec that I truly prefer these days. It’s not one that will have you calling for the antacids in the middle of the night.

Together the senses of the two bring together a cacophony of universal bliss. The sounds of Zeppelin merge quite well with the flavors of Argentina in the grapes and earth of this particular Malbec. I can’t imagine much not agreeing with the soulful rock and roll sounds of a band such as Zeppelin but at this moment this particular bottle of wine is providing exactly what is needed.

Until the next pairing, we bid you a great weekend!
Cheers, Salud and Good evening!

Yoshimi and the Yamazaki

The Yamazaki 12 year old Single Malt Whisky
& 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips

Do you realize that everyone you know someday will  die?
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes
Let them know you  realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun don’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning ’round

So I’ve had a run on pairings the past few days but today was my birthday and I got this awesome bottle as part of the celebration so what better way to finish out the evening than to do a little work? Right? Well, it is a Monday night birthday, so we decided not to paint the town. Who am I kidding? This isn’t about work, this is all about the things I love, so on with the pairing!

Tonight, I’ve paired another Japanese whisky. This is the second in my sampling of fine whisky from the land of the rising sun. The Yamazaki is a single malt barley based whisky that I must say, even though it’s price is a bit less than the Hibiki I paired a few months back, it has a more buttery, peppered flavor that seems to be resonating with me much more than the Hibiki did. It’s sultry and it’s silky, much as the Hibiki was but with this rich and buttery under current; well it has me wishing I could fairly sample the two side by side. Since I can’t do that, I think if I had to pick between the two 12-year-old versions of these whiskys from memory, I’d probably have to go with the Yamazaki right now. Of course, it is the one that’s sitting in my glass in front of me at the moment, so I think that may be swaying the favor in its direction for sure.

This edition of Yoshimi and the Pink Robots has been issued on a beautiful red colored vinyl and sounds absolutely fantastic. It’s truly yet another one of those vinyls that I can’t imagine not having in my collection. I’m super thrilled every time I pull this album out and place it upon the platter. The Lips have a way of stretching the dynamic range of a composition to the point that you think your system is bound to start distorting and the speakers smoking at any moment. It truly rocks! The synth sounds on this album alone are worth the audiophile experience of playing it through a decent system on vinyl. Not to mention the freaking great songs that are on this release. Always one of my favorites from the Lips, Yoshimi certainly seems to coincide beautifully with the Yamazaki SIngle Malt.

All in all, it’s been a wonderful birthday and I have much to be thankful for. As I head into another year, I’m reminded of all of the experiences, joys and journeys this life has to offer us all. I truly hope you are all savoring it up like a whisky refined and aged for a decade or so to be sipped and enjoyed on a special occasion as each day is.

Many would say this blog is a fluff piece that has nothing to do with nothing but I suppose it’s all in how you look at the leisures of life. Are they fluff or are they inspiration? Are they necessary or are they distraction? For me personally, the pleasures such as wine, spirits, vinyl records, art, music and love are the things that inspire daily and remind us all of what we are here for. Believe me people, it isn’t politics and self-imposed borders that matter.

Matters of the heart get us through the day. It’s not bank accounts, jobs or family lineage that define us; it’s about how we choose to live our lives day by day and how we choose to treat each other. This is what defines us. It is what becomes us and it is what we reflect into the rest of the world about who we are, what we want and where we come from.

To me, it’s all just the stuff of life, which I truly hope we all have a chance to taste and enjoy, each and every day of our lives. The time is now because… do you realize…?

Until next time my friends! Cheers!

Noble Vines

2009 Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon & Radiohead’s The King of Limbs

Epic on a grand scale. The music on the vinyl, the taste and palate of the wine as well as the story of how they both came to be. Generational depth on so many levels making this a pairing fruitful enough for the nobility of kings.

Noble Vines winery who’s slogan is “Not all Vines Are Created Equal” have brought selected vines from France and transplanted them in California. Quoting from their website “Over centuries, vintners have carefully singled out the most admired vines, naming each vine with a unique number to identify its exceptional attributes. Here in California, we’ve planted a selection of these vines exactly where they will flourish best: in select locations on the red soils and cobblestones of our family-owned vineyard in Lodi and on the gentle slopes of our cool-climate estate in Monterey.”

So the pairing for the night takes vine 337, the Cab Sav, and pairs it with one truly epic release from Radiohead. The King of Limbs is a vinyl that once I purchased it; it did not leave the turntable for weeks. Still to this day when I put it on, I end up listening to it four or five time in entirety before I’m ready to swap it out for anything else. What may appear simple on the surface has so much depth. Depth which is truly only noticeable if you take the time to listen for it. One can dig as deep as they like into the layers of this masterpiece wall of sound that is The King of Limbs. I highly recommend headphones or to play it REALLY LOUD.

In much the same fashion as the vines for the wine were transplanted from France and then the grapes grown in California, Radiohead took their previous recordings, the vinyl releases of course, placed them on a turntable DJ style and sampled their own music to create the layers of musical bliss that are on The King of Limbs. In no way is this a technique you’d expect from a band known for Progressive Art Rock but the end result is a beautiful example of how deconstructing and reinventing that which has already existed can yield some very interesting new fruit.

The 337 is an amazing wine and I would have to say a real success. I may still be learning about the exquisite complexities that are present in French wines but to my meager nose and palate, I would have to say that many of the same qualities are present in this grape grown in California as the French grown sibling. It’s elegantly smooth and robust. It’s so well-rounded and seductive that the experience of flavor lingers lightly and long enough to make you think you can truly taste the south of France in the grape. A-maz-ing.

Not only are there vines and limbs present with this pairing but there are some serious roots involved as well to make both of these selections. What was before is new again and I have to say, to my ears and taste, both are masterpieces that blend together seamlessly and sound as solid as the ground beneath our feet. I’ll certainly pick up another bottle of Noble Vines creations next time I come across them and I’m sure to keep branching ever deeper into the King of Limbs.

Until next time! Keep the limbs and vines growing my friends! 😉 Salud!

Bohemian Highway

A Bohemian Highway 2008 Merlot and the 1967 Cream Classic “Disraeli Gears”

Tonight’s pairing takes us for a ride, reminiscing down the Bohemian Highway with an album in true bohemian form. The second album released from the British supergroup featuring Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce & Ginger Bruce. They deliver what has always been one of my favorite vinyls. Featuring such pivotal tracks as Strange Brew, Tales of Brave Ulysses & Sunshine of Your Love; this album still stands up amongst the best of classic rock albums. In 2003 the album was ranked number 112 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.VH1 also named it their 87th greatest album of all time in 2001.

The Bohemian Highway Merlot is an inexpensive bright ruby-red merlot that truly pleases the palate. As with any wine it’s better to let it breathe in your glass for a period to allow the wine to truly aerate and present itself. By allowing wine to mix and mingle with air, the wine will typically warm up and the wine’s aromas will open up, the flavor profile will soften and mellow out a bit and the overall flavor characteristics should improve. Once the Bohemian Highway catches some air, the resulting wine is quite fine indeed.

Paired with classic Cream the two make for a Friday night combo that hits the spot. After a long week at work, many of us are ready to dream about a weekend journey down the Bohemian Highway to sites unseen and destinations unknown. Happy weekend everyone! Cheers!

 

Burnin’ & Lootin’ with Campo Viejo Rioja

1973’s Burnin’ by The Wailers and a 2010 Campo Viejo Rioja Tempranillo

 It happens from time to time. I go deep into reggae and it’s all I want to listen to for a while. Now is one of those times. I’ve been on a reggae tear for about a week and a half now and Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Easy Star All Stars, Peter Tosh, Culture & many many more have been spinning in the air lately. Reggae music is music that you can’t be sad and listen to. It’s music that puts a smile on your face and a boogie in your bones. It just truly makes you feel good, it’s heart and soul fire music for sure.

The Wailer’s album Burnin’ is one of the finest testaments to definitive reggae there is. In 2003, the album was ranked number 319 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Containing the hits “Get Up Stand Up”, “I Shot the Sheriff”, “Burnin’ & Lootin’ ” as well as the classic “Duppy Conqueror”; it’s an album filled with pure reggae bliss. Marley’s music has always touched my soul, so much so that I went out-of-the-way while in Jamaica to visit his birthplace and mausoleum in the town  of Nine Mile in St. Ann’s Parrish to pay homage to this gentle soul of a song smith. It was an afternoon that will stay with be the rest of my days. A gentle soul for a gentle wine.

The Campo Viejo Rioja Tempranillo has a classic soft palate that is truly gentle and swaying. Smooth is not even the best word to describe this caress of light vanilla ripples that linger in this wines finish. It retains a ripe and zesty spice that stays somewhat in the background allowing the wines mellow nature to stand out as the main presence of body. I’d recommend this wine with truly high regard and I’m eager to try other vintages and grapes from their vineyard to learn more about them. Check them out on Facebook, they have a great following and add truly great content to their page, although I’ll warn you, all their posts are in Spanish, as it should be. :)

So there it is, tonights winesday pairing  to start us out in September. Until next time, I reccomend you add some reggae to each and every day and keep the grapes in moderation while truly loving this life and taking inspiration from everywhere, everyone and everything. I leave you with some lyrics from Bob:

“Be not selfish in your doings
Pass It On
help your brothers in their needs
Pass It On

Live for yourself and you will live in vain
Live for others and you will live again”