Presidential Pairings: Obama is Pinot, McCain is Merlot

“Sommelier to the Stars” Christopher Sawyer has made a successful sideline pairing wine with – not cheese – but film (as seen on MSN, NBC, ABC and CNN and in USA Today, Redbook, Maxim, National Geographic Traveler and – breath – Esquire). Some might dismiss this skill as merely a parlor trick, and in part it is, but those who humor the notion understand how astute and amusing such “pairings” can be. For example, in Neil Strauss’ Esquire article, Sawyer paired “Thank You For Smoking” with the Ravenswood 2003 Icon syrah. “A bold wine was needed to match the bold statements of Aaron Eckhart’s lobbyist character,” the sommelier averred. “The Ravenswood features an aroma of fresh leather, a mixture of meaty and wild fruit flavors, and, of course, a hint of smoke.”

Winotone.com, J.M. Berry’s upcoming video podcast project, grants the pairing concept an all-access-pass by pairing wines with classic rock. What’s fascinating to me is the confluence of different, even disparate, kinds of connoisseurship. Living in wine country, it’s understandable that wine would be a common denominator by which one might juxtapose contrasting interests. I suppose in Perigord, France, J.M.’s counterpart is discussing the finer points of Jimmy Page’s guitar/cello bowing on Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” as it relates to the region’s signature black truffles.

Ultimately, such exercises are healthy for the mind – one assesses the properties of each component and then finds relationships between the two. Sure, it’s a stretch, but it’s the stretching of dendrites in the brain. Neurologists encourage engaging the brain’s natural plasticity by learning new tricks, and if these tricks include a modicum of wine, then all the better (admittedly, I added that last part – I’m not a doctor, but I play one on SVTV).

Besides, it’s not wine that makes one stupid, it’s apparently Google, at least according to The Atlantic’s Nicholas Carr. In his essay “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Carr attributes his eroded capacity for long-form reading to the “power-skimming” that Google and the Internet as a whole seem to encourage. It’s not my reading ability, however, but my memory that is most affected by the Web.

Until this writing, I had no reason to store the 80s-era “Freedom Rock” classic rock compilation TV commercial in my mind – until catching J.M. from the corner of my eye brought it back in a sort of Proustian rush. One Google search later, and I was watching the 25-year-old commercial on YouTube, that blessed and vast repository of cultural ephemera. In the spot, a pair of burnouts lounge in the back of a van while the opening lick of Eric Clapton’s “Layla” wafts from a cassette player. A Tommy Chong-esque character puts down his coffee and utters the immortal lines, “Hey, man, is that”Freedom Rock? Well, turn it up, man!” (It pleases me to no end that the clip has been viewed nearly 150,000 times.)

I couldn’t remember the actual lines, nor is it necessary, thanks to the Web. Leave it to the machines, I say. I think it’s germane to note that I tracked down, then power-skimmed Carr’s essay online. Perhaps my mind has been lured by Google’s siren call and I’m now too stupid to realize it. To that I say, “Well, turn it up, man!” And pour me another glass before I forget to mention (with whispers of schadenfreude worthy of “Sideways” that a pairing of the tasting room and the voting booth would result in something akin to “Obama is pinot noir and McCain is merlot. Biden is cabernet and Palin is chardonnay.” Yes, I expect to have a hangover on Wednesday. And not from merlot.

Any thoughts?

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