Gordon Russell: Vines and Vibes

Gordon Russell: Vines and Vibes

Anyone who has known me for any length of time will know that my love and curiosity for music matches my love of wine. For many years I had tried imagining an event that combined the two, but how and in what format? I’d tried once before on YouTube, celebrating International Chardonnay Day by presenting a collection of albums that each had elements I thought matched our Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Chardonnay.  It was a laugh and I almost pulled it off, but most importantly it sowed a seed that would finally sprout to fruition at an event we called Vines and Vibes at Cahn’s Wines and Spirits in Auckland’s O’Connell Street. The premise was simple.  For each of our wines to be tasted I would match a song from my vinyl collection.

Martin the owner of Cahn’s had set up the room with white table clothes, fine glassware and most importantly a turntable and speakers. An intimate space and perfect for the event.

First up our Esk Valley Estate Rosé Rose matched with a Wilco song, not so much for the music but for the fact the album was pressed to pink vinyl.  In preparation for the event I had quickly realised that there many avenues to take when selecting my songs.

Next came our Estate Pinot Gris, long an Esk Valley favourite.  Once again a lateral approach to the music choice. In this instance I played on the fact that our first Esk Valley Pinot Gris had been produced in 2001, the same year that one of my favourite records of all time had been released. Ryan Adams Gold.  I could have chosen nearly every song on the album but chose the beautiful mournful “La Cienega Just Smiled”

Chenin Blanc next.  Our Winemakers Reserve 2019, our first Chenin Blanc since the amazing 2013 harvest. A wine from the shadows and one that flies under most wine drinker’s radar.  Reb Fountain an artist for whom I have utmost respect and appreciation for had the perfect song. “Don’t you know who I am”.  The answer to which regarding Chenin Blanc and the casual wine drinker is a definitive NO.

The last of the whites was our Winemakers Reserve Chardonnay, a single vineyard wine from Bay View, grown in the saline soils of the former Ahuriri Estuary. Salty, briny, rich and powerful wine. “The Rip Tide’ from Beirut seemed an appropriate choice. Love the band and having ‘tide’ in the title seemed appropriate.

Now time for reds, and as always I showcase our Syrah’s before our Bordeaux inspired reds. Our 2016 Winemakers Reserve Syrah tells a story not only of the Syrah grape but also the stony soils of the Gimblett Gravels.  What better choice than “Car wheels on a Gravel Road” from Lucinda Williams. God knows how many kilometres I drive each harvest over that desolate plain, inspecting vineyards and eating grapes. Lucinda Williams is one of the artists best represented in my record collection, each album full off poetic verse and beautiful guitar playing.

Tyler Childers next. US rebel country music, complete with fiddles and banjos. The opening lyric’s on “All Your’n” from the Country Squire album which I played constantly on my last trip to the USA, are  ‘drivin through the road work, oh the work they took forever on’ How appropriate matched with our 2018 Gimblett Gravels Winemakers Reserve red. The first made at our new winery on the Gimblett Gravels, that half hour journey from home, that was once two minutes, made even less tolerable by the road works between me and my new place of work.  Day after day, that wait for the traffic control light to go green. 18 months it took to complete the work and a lasting memory of the 2018 harvest.

The Terracesthe pinnacle of the tasting. The greatest wine of our portfolio and the one with the  highest expectations. This was going to have to be a triumphant song, in fact it should have been a hymn but I don’t have any in the collection. I do however have loads of reggae records and hidden on a 1982 Mikey Dread album S.W.A.L.K is a song called Heavy-Weight Sound. A big rollicking reggae tune, horns and all.  A song of triumph to match the heavy weight wine.

One last wine.  Our sweet Chenin BlancSyrupy but not overbearing, honied and intense.  We could well have had this wine first as I love the French concept of starting sweet and then progressing to drier wine styles, but tonight our final wine was to be matched with arguably the most influential musician of my life, David Bowie. Golden Years to my mind one of Bowies great songs from the best period of his career, seemed appropriate when matched with a golden wine from a golden autumn.

That was it. Martin had been the perfect host and along with the wine and the songs, he had provided an amazing selection of tapas food.  One for every wine, now there’s another story.

Music Selection

Full playlist available on Spotify here. Or full list with wine pairing below:

  • Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Rosé: Wilco – Bright Leaves
  • Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Pinot Gris: Ryan Adams - La Cienega Just Smiled
  • Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Chenin Blanc: Reb Fountain – Don’t you know who I am
  • Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Chardonnay: Beirut – The Rip Tide
  • Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Gimblett Gravels Syrah: Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
  • Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Gimblett Gravels: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec – Tyler Childers – All Your’n
  • Esk Valley Heipipi The Terraces: Mikey Dread – Heavy Weight Sound
  • Esk Valley Late Harvest Chenin Blanc: David Bowie – Golden Years
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