Let’s face it, a large percentage of us are not trained sommeliers and have no idea how to properly taste wine, or what a lot of the jargon associated with it means—despite the great information available in our wine column. With that in mind, we decided to round up a few bottles named after, or made by, musicians and see what we thought. We’ve provided our simple, laypersons’ opinions as well as some recommendations as to what music to pair with each wine.
The Dark Side of the Moon
2010 Cabarnet Sauvignon
By Wines that Rock
They say: “Aromas of black currant and cherry are followed by rich flavors of cassis, toasted vanilla bean, and hints of chocolate. Enjoy this rich dry red wine with hearty chicken dishes, beef and lamb, and red sauced pasta.”
Musical pairing: Dark Side of the Moon. Duuuh. To see if its flavours sync up a la Wizard of Oz.
Aroma: Like red wine: sharp and purple-smelling. So far, so good. It isn’t offering the complexities of the great void of space, but also, it hasn’t gone off. Then again, David Gilmour just sang “run, rabbit, run.” Does he mean towards or away from the bottle?
Initial taste: We aren’t in Kansas anymore. Tart, nosy, purple-tasting flavours drift across the upper reaches of your mouth, sharp and shallow. The fruit flavour congregates at the top of the palette, giving it all a somewhat airy, effervescent feel, while flavour quickly fades from the lower regions of my facecave. I suppose that makes sense: it is trying to represent one of the headiest, drifting-through-outer-space-while-probably-high albums of all time. But that sharp upper-tartness makes the more jarring aural sounds and shifts of the album even harsher on your wine-buzz. Clare Torry’s vocal riffage on “Great Gig in the Sky” pairs well with pretty much anything, though, so if nothing else, you can just loop that track and drift into your wine-buzz quite merrily that way.
Later: Once “Money” arrives on Dark Side, I kind of realize this is a $10 bottle of wine trying to pass itself closer to the $20 range thanks to the Floyd branding. Sing it with me, folks: “Money! It’s a crime … “
Other possible music pairings: The earlier, murkier Pink Floyd would probably match here. Try Atom Heart Mother. You can stare at the cows on the album cover, and drink, and really, like, wonder what they would think of this music. Who? The cows, maaaan. Do cows even, like, get music? Does listening to music like, change how a cow’s milk turns out? Someone’s done that research, right? Like, duuuuude. Who do we call about that?
Forty Licks Merlot
(50th Anniversary bottle)
By Wines That Rock
They say: “Please allow us to introduce the 50th Anniversary edition of our custom crafted Merlot. It’s Rock ‘n’ Roll in a bottle. Fill your glass, turn up the volume and enjoy the taste of the Rolling Stones.”
Musical pairing: The Rolling Stones—Forty Licks to be exact.
Aroma: The aroma was so vague that even after trying for several minutes, all I could smell was a hint of oak—maybe.
Initial taste: When the wine first hit my tongue, there was not much flavour to speak of and was definitely not as aggressive as you would expect from something that claims to be rock ‘n’ roll in a bottle. It also did not taste like the Rolling Stones, for that matter. I let it linger for a moment and began to pick out flavours that seemed to resemble oak and spice, but it all seemed a little muddled and diluted. The chocolate mini eggs I had on hand paired well enough, with their aftertaste providing a little more flavour to a fairly lacklustre wine.
Later: It took me more than one go to get this wine finished, and day two provided a more pungent aroma, but just barely. The acidic character of the wine came through stronger than it had during my first couple of glasses, but the flavour was still too muddled to make any element of the wine stand out.
Other possible music pairings: This Merlot lends itself more to mild folk than anything by the Stones. Listening to the band’s music with Forty Licks Merlot felt off, as the wine is much too passive and mild for rock music. I suppose if it were to pair with any Rolling Stones song, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” would fit the bill, if for nothing else than the fact this Merlot is not satisfying in the least.
Erik Turner Rocker Red
By Erik Turner
They say: “As a young rocker I was seduced by the big beat, the bombastic guitars and jamming endlessly into the starry night. I have dedicated my life to all of this, and more. The essence of the music I love is reflected in Rocker Red—this Merlot is hot, sexy and perhaps a little dangerous.
Maybe a Red from the wrong side of the tracks, but definitely a Rocker that will make you laugh, love and stay out too late. Certainly the best excuse to open a bottle! So make some unforgettable memories with friends and lovers … and don’t forget to rock out to your favourite music with Rocker Red!
This Merlot is rich in berries, spice earthy botanicals and a tannic backbone with a wonderful dense colour structure to match its aromatic character. The intensity of the fruit and oak are harmonious in the glass!”
Musical pairing: Warrant, obviously, or some equally raucous hair metal from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Aroma: The first whiff evokes a slightly acidic aroma mixed with the oaky quality the wine’s lengthy description claims it has.
Initial taste: Lush and full-bodied, just like Erik Turner’s hair—or at least how his hair was back in Warrant’s heyday. The quality that came forward first is a rich, oaky flavour followed by a sweet tartness that imparts essences of raspberries and blackberries. “It tastes like dirt, but in a good way—like it’s been aged a bit,” mused my co-drinker, who works in the hospitality industry and does know her way around her reds.
I wish I could have detected a hint of cherry somewhere in the mix, because that would have lent itself perfectly to some “Cherry Pie” song references, but, alas, there was none. After allowing the wine to linger in my mouth for a moment, a sharp, acidic bite punched its way forward and made my cheeks pucker a little. However, it’s a bite that was still palatable and did not overwhelm the wine’s other qualities.
Later: Rocker Red is less dry than what I always assume I’ll get from a Merlot, and as my co-drinker and I made our way through the bottle, the bite of the wine’s acidity became more subtle and the oaky berry flavours came to the forefront. Overall, it’s a flavourful concoction that makes for decent table wine, but we both agreed it isn’t something we’d be willing to fork over $30 for.
Other possible music pairings: Rocker Red Merlot is a wine that claims to be sexy and badass, but those terms seem like a cry for attention in a wine that asserts itself as a rebel when it just really isn’t one. After a few minutes of Warrant, our soundtrack switched to a mix of indie pop that including Broods, MØ, Grizfolk and Electric Suns, which seemed better suited for a bottle of wine. Save the hair metal for cheap beer and wine coolers.
The Dreaming Tree
By Dave Matthews and winemaker Steve Reeder
They say: “An exciting collaboration between Dave Matthews and acclaimed winemaker Steve Reeder, The Dreaming Tree captures the spirit of California’s wine country. United by their shared passion to make quality wine accessible to everyone, the two friends set out on a journey to the unique characters and rich flavours that give the region its rare charms.”
When Dave and I first met we talked about making a Chardonnay that captured the flavour of the Central Cost. With its big fruit, loads of spice and distinct citrus notes, we think this wine lives up to that promise. We hope you agree. —Steve Reeder.”
Musical pairing: “Crash into Me” if you’re feeling nostalgic and want the full band. If you want Matthews solo try “I’m Alive.” Kenny Chesney sings on it, but it’s still from his solo days.
Aroma: There was a distinct dusty and aged quality to this one with a hint of fruit, but nothing was prominent. My co-drinkers concurred.
Initial taste: The Dreaming Tree is dry and tangy, as well as slightly bitter if it sits around in your mouth too long. There were subtle notes of spice, but the aforementioned citrus was difficult to pinpoint. “It’s bland and uninspired, like his music,” quipped one of my co-drinkers—I wouldn’t go quite that far, but he’s a tough one.
Later: This wasn’t a wine that grew on any of us as we worked our way through the bottle. The flavours remained too mild and the dusty, aged characteristic that was detected in the first sniff began to creep into the flavour. Wine gets better with age, but it shouldn’t taste like the cellar it’s been in.
On the plus side, the philosophy behind the wine is commendable. The bottles are manufactured using clean-burning natural gas and the labels are recycled. You can also recycle the cork.
Other possible musical pairings: Unlike the others, The Dreaming Tree does pair well with its namesake musician.