Not Your Average Wine Pairings

If you spend any time at all on wine blogs, wine websites, or reading wine books you’ll find endless recommendations about wine pairing. Hell, #winepairing has been used in over 30,000 instagram posts, and countless more tweets. I’ve used it myself.

Most of these recommendations are fairly straightforward. Use unoaked whites, like Sauvignon Blanc and Albraiño, with things like lemon, smoked fish, and capers. Try spicy foods, like Thai food, with off-dry Rieslings. Pinot Noir pairs perfectly with earthy flavors, like mushrooms and truffles. And of course, choose a nice big California Cabernet Sauvignon with juicy red meats.

Sadly, typically wine pairing recommendations end right there. And if you’re anything like me, it leaves so much of your life unaccounted for. I mean sure, I enjoy a good meal and a perfectly paired wine. But what about all of the times in my life when I want to enjoy a glass (or a bottle) of wine that I’m not eating?!? There seems to be almost no advice about how to pair wines in those situations. No website or book that recommends something sparkling, like a nice Prosecco, with brushing your teeth. Or, recommends a Pinot Grigio while doing laundry (least likely to stain??).

So, I thought I’d take my best shot at rectifying this frustrating gap in information and provide a few recommendations for wine pairing with one of the things I enjoy doing most while drinking wine – listening to music.

PAIR #1: Pair full bodied, peppery Syrah with Stevie Ray Vaughan

A full-bodied Syrah, especially from the New World, can reach up and punch you right in the face. Lots of alcohol, lots of spice, and lots of pepper – it can start to feel very quickly like a Texas Flood is happening in your mouth. Not only that, but when it comes to fruit, Syrah often has hints of blueberry that match up nicely with this blues hall of famer.

Recommended Pairing2009 Torbreck RunRig from the Barossa Valley with 1983’s Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.

PAIR #2: Pair earthy, smooth Pinot Noir with James Taylor

PictureFor me, great Pinot Noir can take on a funky, earthy quality. It’s cranberry and soft vanilla notes, mixed with mushrooms, and sometimes almost like wet leaves or grass take me instantly to fall. James Taylor fits perfectly in that same space. As summer slowly fades away and you slip into those last few warm autumn afternoons, Pinot Noir is what you should have in your glass, and James Taylor is what you should be listening to. Sure, there are dozens of puns here… September GrassOctober RoadRainy Day Man …you get the point. But for me, the pairing really comes down to soft, smooth, elegance and immense versatility, and both James Taylor and Pinot Noir have that in spades.

Recommended Pairing: 2010 Domaine Trapet Pere & Fils Gevrey-Chambertin and 1971’s Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon by James Taylor.

PAIR #3: Pair Finger Lakes Dry Riesling with the Tedeschi Trucks Band & Allman Brothers

PictureIf James Taylor and Pinot Noir are autumn, then Finger Lakes Riesling and jam bands like Tedeschi Trucks and the Allman Brothers are quite clearly summertime.

Finger Lakes Riesling holds a special place in my heart – aside from being the place I grew up – I truly believe the wine is a perfect expression of the people, the communities, and the entire atmosphere in the region. When Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Bettswrote Blue Sky he was singing about his girlfriend and later wife, Sandy Wabegijig. But for me, the song could also have been written about Riesling.

               You’re my blue sky, you’re my sunny day. 

If you haven’t yet discovered Finger Lakes Riesling you’re not alone. Plenty of seasoned wine drinkers think only about sweet Rieslings, and the Mosel. Perhaps the lack of expirence with Finger Lakes Riesling mirrors your lack of experience with the other band in this pairing – the Tedeschi Trucks Band. But if you don’t know either the band or the wine, you should change that at soon as possible.


Tedeschi Trucks are hidden gem, just like Finger Lakes wines. The band was formed when an exceptional guitarist by the name of Derek Trucks (nephew of Butch Trucks, the Allman Brother’s drummer) married an equally talented vocalist Susan Tedeschi. Tucks guitar chops were well known, he was a child prodigy, who by the time he was 20 had played with Bob Dylan, Joe Walsh, and the Allman Brothers. Tedeschi, who found inspiration in the church choir’s that she sang in as a young girl, took longer to gain fame and notoriety, but when her star finally took off she quickly exploded. She is now a multiple Grammy nominee and won the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Blues Album. When Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi got married, and then merged their two bands to form the Tedeschi Trucks Band exceptional blues music poured out like water (or wine).

If you don’t see the connection yet, just look closer. Finger Lakes Wine is also the product of a perfect marriage. For decades wine growers in the region were convinced that European Vitis vinifera varietals could not grow in the region. But in 1951, with the arrival of Ukrainian immigrant Dr. Konstantin Frank, that all changed. Frank proved that if you grafted European grapes onto native rootstock that you could produce exceptional wine. He took well known and accomplished varietals like Riesling, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer (Derek Trucks) and married them to the perfect, but not as widely known, terroir of sloping hillsides, deep lakes that moderate the climate, and excellent soil composition (Susan Tedeschi). The marriage produces perfect wines… Rieslings that are crisp, aromatic, with a lingering mineral finish.

Recommended Pairing2012 Ravines Dry Riesling with 2012’s Tedeschi Truck’s Band Live Album Everybody’s Talkin’.

PAIR #4: Pair complex Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, and Barolo with Stan Getz, Bill Evans, and Joao Gilberto

PictureThe classic descriptors for wines produced from nebbiolo are tar and roses, but anyone who has enjoyed a great bottle of Barolo knows they far more complicated than that. Similarly, Getz and Gilberto are more than just The Girl from Ipanema and elevator music. Both well aged nebbiolo and the Bossa Nova and Jazz from artists like the mentioned above are smooth, complex, elegant, and lingering. Dive into a bottle of Conterno, Rinaldi, or Mascarello and you can easily find that hours and hours have gone by. The same can be said for the charm and flair of Bossa nova, or the Brazilian fusion of samba and jazz. Stan Getz’s saxophone seems to carry some of the exact same lingering richness that comes through in these great wines from Piedmont.

Recommended Pairing2001 Paolo Scavino “Bric dël Fiasc” Barolo with 1964’s Getz/Gilberto by Stan Getz, João Gilberto, and Antônio Carlos Jobim.

PAIR #5: Pair crisp Champagne and Sparkling Wine with Steve Winwood and Huey Lewis & the News. PictureI know, on its surface this one seems like a stretch. Steve Winwood’s had a music career as varied as there are wines in the world, Huey Lewis & the News are a straightforward Rock n’ Roll Band from the ‘80’s with a 9-5 working man sound, and bubbles in wine are associated with black tie galas and New Year’s Eve. So, you ask, how do these all fit together?

Well, here’s what I get – Steve Winwood, especially some of his ‘80’s solo stuff like Higher Love, and Back in the High Life Again has a light, fresh, pop sound. That same sound comes through in Huey Lewis’s I want a New DrugHeart of Rock n’ Roll, and Hip to be Square. All of that light, straight forward pop reminds me of a Champagne and other Sparking Wines. You can’t listen to Huey Lewis all night, it’d start to drive you nuts, and you can’t drink Champagne all night either – but if you are looking for something airy and fresh to get the evening started, you’ve found both your tunes and your wine.

Recommended PairingGerard Loriot Brut Champagne Tradition N.V. with 1986’s Fore! by Huey Lewis & the News.

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