When photog Flash Lely and I were dispatched to Wente Vineyards to cover the winery’s “Legacy Awards” Tuesday evening, we had little conception we’d be up ’til dawn in the midst of a classic rock medley. But then, that’s how we earn our hazard pay, or at least our hangovers, which, in this economy could count as a bonus.
Our publisher at LA-based Tasting Panel Magazine has done their best to remind us that wine country extends beyond the borders of our fair valley. I admit, a certain Sonoma-myopia can occur when, from every vantage, all one sees are vineyards. It reminds me of the Borges story, The House of Asterion, in which the labyrinth-locked Minotaur believes that 17 must be an incredibly high number because that’s the most of anything he has ever counted. Correspondingly, in Sonoma County we have nearly as many appellations, which of late, has seemed a near infinity to me.
This accounts for my glaring lack of experience with Livermore’s decades-(nay, century)-old wine culture. I was soon to become acquainted: After evangelizing our man J.M. Berry’s wine and classic rock pairings at Winotone.com during a brilliant dinner at The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, young winemaker Karl Wente invited us to join him and a couple dozen of the winery’s reps at an all-night jam session. It was there, of course, that I realized the fifth generation Wente has been pairing wine and music for at least as long as he’s been making it.
A consummate gentleman, Wente declined mentioning my ignorance of his CV and instead revealed his well-hewn acoustic guitar chops, accompanied by the restaurant’s chef on piano and the violinist pal who had earlier played a wine reception. I was soon equipped with a bass and tumbled through a classic rock set fueled by frequent trips to the basement kegerator (accessible by literally walking a plank off the back deck, where Wente assures a stairway will eventually be built).
Lely shot the shit out of the proceedings, including the inevitable pool games and bouts of Galaga on the vintage tabletop arcade console. Film reference: The Pleasure Island scene in Disney’s animated Adventures of Pinocchio. Of course, the only one of us wayward boys transforming into a jackass was me. And the dude singing falsetto “harmonies” into the mic during an extended performance of “She Came in Through the Velvet Window.” Didn’t anybody tell him? Didn’t anybody see? Regardless, a marvelous evening/morning was had by all.
Mercifully, Lely got us home in time to see my wife off to work. She’s nearly forgiven me by now.