Up on Paso Creek

A Remembrance Pairing for Levon:
A 2009 Paso Creek Cabernet Sauvignon and The Band – Cahoots

There will never be another like Levon. His vocals were always raw with passion, they were the sound of the lusty wildcat, the stern Southern preacher, the depleted Confederate soldier, the dirt farmer at the end of his day. His vocal delivery of “When I Paint My Masterpiece” on this album is but one of the many masterpieces that Levon left behind. Levon’s music and vibe spoke directly to your soul, you know he meant everything he put down. He embodied the music in a way few ever could. The fact he did it from behind the drum kit is just another proverbial icing on the cake to the level of this mans talent. Drumming is a tough enough to master on its own and there have been very few that could deliver a lead vocal from behind a kit.

“The Weight”, while not on this particular album that I paired this evening, has always been one of my all time favorite songs ever. It embodies everything you strive for as a songwriter. It encapulates an entire world inside those few minutes that transports you immediatley into a story. “The Weight” takes the folk music motif of a traveler, who in the first line arrives in Nazareth in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. (The band Nazareth took its name from this line.) Once there, he encounters various residents of the town, the song being a story of these encounters. Nazareth is the hometown of the guitar manufacturer C. F. Martin & Company.

Robbie may have been the main songwriter in the group but Levon was truly a vessel for its delivery. A vessel that had the touch, the style and the grace that left no room for doubt that he certainly meant every single word he sang and every beat he played. As a southern boy, Levon’s voice and style always resonated with me. It would stop me in my tracks and make me stop what I was doing, capturing my full attention. I just couldn’t help it. The night they drove old dixie down indeed.

I’d be a bushwhacker
Even be your hijacker
Keep your candle burning bright

When we cross that railroad track
There’ll be no turning back
Come tread softly through the night

Don’t leave me sitting here
Up on top of your fence
I’m like an alley cat up here, without a lick of sense

Volcano–I’m about to blow
Volcano–Gonna overflow
Volcano–Look out below


Levon Helm, May 26, 1940 – April 19, 2012
Life is a carnival, believe it or not.

Stay Frosty!!

Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth & A “Frosty” Monks’ Ale

“Made with care and made with prayer” is the writing on this Ale’s packaging and indeed I’ve been praying for this album release since around 1986! Finally, a follow-up to “1984” that rivals any and all of the Diamond Dave era releases. Yep, I said it and I went there! This album has the same spirit and energy as their debut album when it came out in 1978. Containing elements of “Women and Children First” as well as “Fair Warning”, many would say this is because most of these songs were written back then. To that I say, who gives a shit when the songs were written! Did you listen to this album! In my opinion, this album is a breath of fresh air that has reignited my memories of youth and the spirit of rock and roll from days gone by.

Van Halen, you either love them or you hate them. When I heard the first single “Tattoo” I was honestly not expecting much from this release. What I truly discovered was that it was I that had changed and that I just wasn’t relating to the old Van Halen spirit anymore; that is until I had heard the entire album. Once I did, everything was back as it should be. It was as if a chapter of my life, finally had some sort of resolution. Upon the second playing of the album, I actually thought “Tattoo” was a pretty cool song. Still, it is probably the weakest song on the album but the fire that burns throughout the rest of this release, more than makes up for whatever may or may not be lacking from the lead off single. For the record (no pun intended) every time I hear the song “Tattoo” I like it a little bit more than the last time I heard it.

Deciding on the pairing for this album was fairly obvious. It’s not an album you want to sit back with a glass of wine to, it’s instead an album that needs a cold beer in a frosty mug and preferably a beach to go with it.

Van Halen has always been good time California Rock and Roll, nothing more and nothing less. Anyone trying to read anything more into it than that truly doesn’t understand where this band is coming from. So based on this, I went with the “Stay Frosty” theme and paired the album with a Monks’ Ale and a bowl of rice. Anyone that has already heard the song “Stay Frosty” will get this immediately. David Lee Roth is about 85% attitude and about 15% vocal and songwriting talent. Without the attitude he wouldn’t write what he does and it surely wouldn’t have the lighthearted wit about it that Dave’s contribution has always had. I truly missed him, there Dave, I said it and I said it like I meant it! 😉 They are a band that has the jovial off the cuff spirit and vibe of a 1920’s ragtime quartet (think “Big Bad Bill”) wrapped up in a monstrous locomotive called rock and roll. Van Halen music is music that never takes itself too seriously and is always about having a good time and enjoying life.

The Monks’ Ale is a smooth and creamy ale a bit on the pale side but not so pale that it avoids a rich body and silky follow-up. It’s more of a flavorful and full-bodied red ale that’s not so heavy as to weigh you down like you’ve eaten a loaf of bread. lol Actually made by Benedictine monks in New Mexico, all proceeds truly benefit the monastery!

I pre-ordered this vinyl the day the album was released and one of the coolest things about this pre-order was that you were able to also download the digital album immediately upon purchasing the pre-order! I downloaded the high-resolution mp3’s and straight away burned a couple of CD’s of the album, one for the car and one for the house. Having the digital version for a few months before the vinyl was released allowed me some time to get used to the material and know what was coming down the pipe once the vinyl arrived at the door.

I think this is a stellar way for the music industry to operate. Pre-ordering of the physical product in advance and upon ordering you get the portable digital version. The record label then knows how many to print, they have the money in advance to print it and the consumer gets to hear the music immediately, which is evidently what we all love about our digital music; immediate gratification. Even if it is a vague representation of the final product. 😉

Yet again, as I’ve been preaching allot lately, the mp3 version is nothing compared to the wealth of sonic information that is contained on the 180 gram double red vinyl. The intelligibility of what is going on is 1000% improved on the vinyl edition of this album. As with any and every album, vinyl is truly the preferred way to actually hear 100% of the music that the musicians are playing and the words that the singer is singing. Vinyl brings a natural clarity to the audio that allows the material to be represented without digital artifacts. Essentially, the vinyl absorbs sound waves much as our ears do, depending on pressure and amplitude, not one’s and zero’s.

Vinyl itself is a different kind of truth that I truly hope more and more people remember and return to or even discover for the first time. The younger generation is truly finding it out for themselves and I think this is a big reason for the resurgence in vinyl sales. It’s not just the older generations longing to reminisce; it’s the 15 to 20 year olds that have always driven music sales and they still do. Vinyl is no exception to this.

This blog is but one way I hope to remind and teach that truly wonderful recordings are still being produced today. There are tons of awesome albums coming out every year, it’s just that the end user’s playback format has degraded to the point that everything sounds somewhat lifeless. Still people say that the talent pool has degraded over the years and that this is what is wrong with the industry today. Baloney. I believe it is the extremely low quality of internet media that has degraded todays musical experience. There’s much more going on in your brain than one may realize when you’re listening to music. Digital media tens to fatigue the ears way more quickily than live or analog sources.

There is still an immense talent pool of musicians out there producing great music but the problem is that it’s rarely truly heard the way music “back in the day” was heard. CD was and is certainly light years better but it was made to create a compact format that now, the mp3 has blown out of the water.

Streaming media over the internet will never compare to an analog groove that was made by sound waves melting into vinyl. Period. I’m not saying streaming media doesn’t still have its place for marketing purposes but If you truly want to enjoy a bit of quality music listening from time to time, I highly recommend you reinvest (or invest for the first time) in a turntable that you can plug into your existing home entertainment system. You will not regret it!

Until next time, “Stay Frosty” everyone!! – John

Toasted but Not Wasting

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
a Toasted Head 2009 Barrel Aged North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

A celebratory 2012 Grammy pairing of sorts for National Drink Wine Day 2012, as the Foo Fighters scored five honors, for Best Rock Album (Wasting Light), Best Rock Song (“Walk”), Best Rock Performance (“Walk”) and Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance (“White Limo”), and Best Long Form Music Video (“Foo Fighters: Back and Forth”).

Wasting Light was recorded in Dave’s garage (although a snazzy studio it is) all on old school analogue tape. The result is one of the best sounding vinyl albums (45 rpm 180 gram double album gate fold) that has been released in a long time. It remained in the analogue realm up until post mastering and the end product is warm and shimmering! It truly gleams with full body and attitude.This album is not for the faint of heart audiophile that mostly listens to laid back chill out music; this album rocks your face off!

Toasted Head is named for the age-old process of toasting barrel heads with fire, which is what helps to create the distinct tasty flavor in all of the wines. One certainly tastes the smoky hints that run through the body of this wine. I think this process also relates quite well to “Wasting Light”, which overall has an urgent plea for us all to quit waiting for our lives to begin and start living our dreams. Like a toasted charred barrel we all still have to rise from the ashes from time to time and savor the smoky perfumes that crashing and burning leaves behind. Life goes on. There will always be a before and after, all we can really do is just enjoy now.

Yours in a Simple Rhone!


2009 le Clos du Caillou Vieilles Vignes – Cotes du Rhone

Red Rhone Wine from the French Rhone Valley and “Women and Children First” by Van Halen!

Rock and Roll Royalty meet a Royal Rhone Valley Wine. Yes Indeed! Celebrating the triumphant return of a band that the universe has been missing for many years! Welcome back Diamond Dave and welcome back Van Halen! “A Different Kind of Truth” will be getting a pairing from us as soon as the vinyl copies are delivered! 😉

“Women and Children First” This is the first Van Halen album to feature all original band compositions. The opening track, “And the Cradle Will Rock…”, begins with what sounds like a guitar, but is, in fact, a phase shifter-effected Wurlitzer electric piano played through Van Halen’s 1960’s model 100-watt Marshall Plexi amplifier.

In a Simple Rhyme we set sail for the Rhone Valley!

Cover photo: Norman Seeff

Late for the Sky

“Late For the Sky”

A 2011 Yellow & Blue Malbec Tetra Pak paired with the Jackson Browne masterpiece “Late For the Sky”

Late for the Sky is the third album by American singer/songwriter Jackson Browne, released in 1974 (see 1974 in music). It was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1975. It peaked at #14 on Billboard‘s Pop Albums chart. It is considered by many fans, critics and musicians to be his best and most influential album

Double Fantasy pairing for John’s Birthday

A double pairing for John Lennon’s Birthday
“Double Fantasy” paired with a Taza Chocolate Mexicano (yerba matte) & a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Chiarderi

“People say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I’m o.k. they look at me kind of strange,
Surely you’re not happy now you no longer play the game”

Dos Fincas Fez – Let Me in the Sound

 U2 – No Line on the Horizon &

The use of two separate vineyards in Argentina is a traditional practice to
safeguard against the threat of hail. For the Basso family, it also allows them
to make a more interesting blend by combining the attributes of two distinct
microclimates. The dark, powerful fruit from their vineyard in San Carlos,
matched with the softer, more nuanced fruit from their vineyard in Tunuyan makes
for a memorable wine.

No Line on the Horizon is the twelfth studio album by rock band U2. Released on 27 February 2009.
Fez (Being Born) Possibly one of the coolest U2 songs ever!

“Let me in the sound
Let me in the sound
Let me in the sound, sound
Let me in the sound, sound
Let me in the sound”

Journey into Rose’

Journey Infinity and a 2009 Rose’ from the Chinon region of France

Journey‘s fourth album, Infinity, was released in January 1978
The first song Steve Perry and Neal Schon penned together, “Patiently”, a moving tribute to the band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, appeared on this album.

Get it On!


T-Rex Electric Warrior and Blue Moon in a can! Life’s a Gas!
Another Hipgnosis work of art.

Electric Warrior released September 24, 1971, is the sixth album by British rock group T. Rex, and is widely considered to be one of the quintessential glam rock releases. Electric Warrior reached number thirty-two in the US; it went to number one for several weeks in the UK, becoming the biggest album of 1971

Maiden flight!

Pink FloydDark Side of the Moon and
an Argentinian Bonarda from Durigutti Vineyards

Mmmmmmm Romance!

The Dark Side of the Moon is the eighth studio album by English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, released in March 1973.
The Dark Side of the Moon was an immediate success, topping the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart for one week. It subsequently remained in the charts for 741 weeks from 1973 to 1988, longer than any other album in history.