Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Memorial Day’s Past – Pull Out Those Summer Whites

It’s that time of year when a bold red wine just doesn’t seem quite right after a long, hot, sultry day.  It appears that our grandmothers had it right – Flaunt your whites after Memorial Day – Here are just a few of the summer white grapes/white wines to cool down with.

Chenin Blanc Grapes
Chenin Blanc is not a grape that’s really raved about, despite its French pedigree, but it's one of the most adaptable and blendable grapes out there, and it relies on the winemaker to make it memorable. A Chenin Blanc wine can be crafted to be sweet and honeyed, minerally and refreshing, or crisp and sparkling. It all depends on what style you like, so find a Chenin that appeals to you, chill it down, and enjoy liquid gold on a hot summer’s evening.

Black Muscato Grapes
White Muscat Grapes
Muscat/Moscato grapes are grown around the world and can range in color from white to almost black. In fact, Muscat is not just one grape variety but a family of grapes, with over 200 varieties. With its sweet, floral aroma, Muscat is an unforgettable wine. 

As of last year, Moscato, the new white wine darling of the industry, became the third most popular white wine in the U.S.  The grape can be crafted into a light, dryer wine, or as a sweet, sparkling like the Italian Asti Spumante.  Grab a bottle – or three, chill well, and put on some Don Ho & Tiny Bubbles....

Riesling Grapes
Riesling grapes are mainly recognized for the sweet German wines they can produce.  This is another grape with a floral nose, wrapped around the flavors of pineapple, honey and citrus. Riesling can also be crafted in an off-dry style and still maintain that fruity flavor, plus a wonderful, crisp finish, which is so welcome during the sultry, summer weekends.

Sauvignon Blanc Grapes
Sauvignon Blanc is French for wild, white grape. (In other words, it is an indigenous grape in Southern France.) And it’s well named because Sauvignon Blanc is not your stuffy, pretentious kind of wine - It was one of the first wines to be bottled with a screw cap.  The flavors range from grass, to melons, to tropical fruit, and the aromas vary from lemons, to herbs, to minerals, and yes, sometimes cat pee.  Sauvignon Blanc is usually crafted as a dry wine, with a light, crisp, finish; or winemakers may aim for more spicy, floral flavors with a smoky, flinty finish – Fume Blanc, anyone?  When blended with Semillon grapes, a sweet, late-harvest Sauternes can be the result, to be enjoyed as a sweet, summer wine.

So, with those hot, muggy days upon us, now’s the time to stock up on some cool wines to banish your thirst, and pair wonderfully with those fresh-from-the-garden meals. Now, pop a cork, chill out, and Enjoy!

~ Joy

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Songs in the Key of Wine (Part 2)

Last week, we listened to wine songs from 1900 through 1959.  Today, we’ll finish out the century with more songs about wine and see if they do get better with age...

1960 – 1969

By the close of the sixties there was a change in the country, and in our music.  Gone were the halocyne days of yore. With the 60's came the "in your face" music with a beat.  Although those over the age of thirty were loath to give up the music they had grown up with, those younger embraced the new music revolution.

It was 1962 when the movie Days of Wine & Roses was released.  That same year, the film’s title track went to number 10 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart. Lyricist Johnny Mercer and composer Henry Mancini were also awarded the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

In 1963, Andy Williams recorded the song, which went to 23 on the Billboard Top 100 chart.  It has become a jazz standard over the years, performed by Lenny Bureau, Ella Fitzgerald, and Perry Como.

The lonely night discloses 
Just a passing breeze filled with memories
Of the golden smile that introduced me to
The days of wine and roses and you
Click below to listen to Days of Wine & Roses.

Don Ho
Tiny Bubbles became the theme song for Hawaiian singer, Don Ho.  Recorded in 1966, it was his most popular song, going to number 8 on the Pop and Easy Listening charts. Ho’s Tiny Bubbles album remained in the Top 20 for almost a year.

Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles)
In the wine (in the wine)
Make me happy (make me happy)
Make me feel fine (make me feel fine)

Click below to listen to Tiny Bubbles.

Hazlewood & Sinatra
Summer Wine was first released in 1966 – but it took song writer Lee Hazlewood and singer Nancy Sinatra performing it together, to make it a hit in 1967.  This was the first of many duets for Sinatra and Hazlewood.

Strawberries cherries and an angel's kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things
Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time
And I will give to you summer wine
Ohhh-oh summer wine

Click below to listen to Summer Wine.

The Fireballs

In 1968, The Fireballs recorded Tom Paxton’s song, Bottle of Wine. It went to number 9 on the Hot 100 chart.  The group took their name after the Jerry Lee Lewis hit, Great Balls of Fire.


Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine
when you gonna let me get sober?
leave me alone, let me go home.
let me go back and start over.

Click below to listen to Bottle of Wine.

1970 – 1979
At the beginning of the decade, Pop music dominated the charts, but by the mid-70’s, Rock music had evolved.  There was Hard Rock, Country Rock, and Light (or Progressive) Rock to choose from.  But wrapping up that rockin’ decade, it was Disco that captured America’s ear, and topped the charts.

Neil Diamond
Writer and singer, Neil Diamond kicked off the decade with a song that’s still a favorite – Cracklin’ Rosie.   Stories abound about what this song means.  Supposedly ‘Crackin’ Rosie’ is a homemade wine that a native Canadian tribe’s single men drink while sitting around a fire, mourning their state of singleness.  Diamond heard this story and wrote the song. Others say ‘cracklin’ refers to a sparkling wine and Rosie is a play on the word Rose’.

Either way, Cracklin’ Rose was a hit single and went to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S., number 2 on the Australian Singles chart, and number 3 on the UK Singles chart.

Oh, I love my Rosie child
You got the way to make me happy
You and me we go in style
Cracklin' Rose

Click below to listen to Cracklin’ Rosie.

Tom T. Hall
It was 1972 when Tom T. Hall released what would become his third number 1 song – (Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine.  Hall said he wrote the song after talking with an old janitor while waiting for a plane at the Miami airport. The old man summed up his life saying that the only things that mattered were his old dog, his children, and watermelon wine.

Ain't but three things in this world that's worth a solitary dime
But old dogs and children and watermelon wine

Click below to listen to Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.

Elton John
Although it was released as a B-side record, Elton John’s Elderberry Wine struck a chord with his fans.  Described as Retro Rock, the song was never released as an A side record, but it gained a following when it was played on album-oriented rock stations.  Elton John began performing it at his live performances by the end of 1973.

How can I ever get it together
Without a wife in line
To pick the crop and get me hot
On elderberry wine

Click below to listen to Elderberry Wine.

Silver Connection

Silver Connection, a German female trio, released their disco wine song, Pour the Old Wine in New Bottles in 1976. Although this song was actually a sleeper that went nowhere for them.  Silver Connection made their name with Fly Robin Fly in 1975.  The group was together from 1974 to 1979. (Not surprising, since they simply sang the same 5 or 6 lines, over and over and over….)

Pour the old wine in new bottles
Now is the time for a new beginning
Baby, hear what I say
Buy me old wine in new bottles
Put the old love back into my lonely heart

Click below to listen to Pour the Old Wine in New Bottles.

1980 – 1989
The Eighties brought about Alternative/New Wave music, R&B Dance music, and some Punk Rock.  Pop and Country remained favorite standards, but by the mid-eighties, Disco was dead. By the end of the decade, Rap and Hip-Hop were rising in popularity.

Micky Gilley
In 1980, the movie Urban Cowboy was released.  Set in Gilley’s, the Pasadena, Texas bar owned by Mickey Gilley, the movie centered around a county boy who had moved to the city, and the bar where he hangs with his on again/off again wife.  A number of popular songs came from the movie soundtrack including Mickey Gilley’s Rockabilly version of Honky Tonk Wine.  The song was originally written and performed by Willie Nelson. 

Yeah, yeah, sweet, sweet honky tonk wine
Keeps me out of my mind
All she left behind was some sweet honky tonk wine.

Click below to listen to Honky Tonk Wine.

George Jones & Merle Haggard
And here's another song written and released in 1971 by Willie Nelson, but it didn’t attract attention until it became a country duet over ten years later.  Merle Haggard and George Jones recorded Yesterday’s Wine in 1982 and it went to number 1 on the Billboard Country chart.

Yesterday's wine, yesterday's wine  
Aging with time, like yesterday's wine  
Yesterday's wine, yesterday's wine  
We're aging with time like yesterday's wine

Click below to listen to Yesterday’s Wine.

The British Reggae group UB40 released what became a wine anthem, Red, Red Wine in 1983.  Although it was originally written and recorded by Neil Diamond, the Reggae version appealed to 80’s listeners.  While the song topped out in the U.S. at number 34, it went on to hit number 1 in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.

Red, red wine
Stay close to me
Don't let me be alone
It's tearin' apart
My blue, blue heart

Click below to listen to Red, Red Wine.

1990- 1999
The music of the Nineties saw Hip Hop, Rap, Grunge, and contemporary R&B grow in popularity.  Alternative Rock lost the glam sound of the 80’s and became part of the musical mainstream.  Pop became more urban, and country music seemed to explode during the decade.

Tracey Byrd
Tracey Byrd broke onto the country music scene in 1993. One year later he released Watermelon Crawl, which went to number 4 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles. It was his first song on the Billboard Hot 100, coming in at #81.

He said we got a hundred gallons of sweet red wine
Made from the biggest watermelons on the vine
Help yourself to some, but obey the law if you drink
Don't drive do the watermelon crawl

Click below to listen to Watermelon Crawl.

David Lee Murphy
Country singer and songwriter David Lee Murphy released Dust on the Bottle in 1995. Murphy said took him 15 minutes to write the song that became his only number 1 hit on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles.

"There might be a little dust on the bottle
But don't let it fool ya about what's inside
There might be a little dust on the bottle
It's one of those things that gets sweeter with time"

Click below to listen to Dust on the Bottle.

2000 - 2012

Music for the new century was just....unremarkable.  There was no great sound to kick off the 21st Century.  Pop music remained a favorite, especially with the tweens and teens. Hip Hop, Rock, Post Grunge, and Country maintained their audiences.  It was Adult Contemp that seemed to sum up what listeners felt, tripling in popularity after 9/11.

The Who
There are a few groups that will never lose their popularity, and so it is with English rock band, The Who.  In 2004, the group released Old Red Wine as the final track on the Then and Now album.  The riff at the end of the song was actually played a few years earlier on My Generation during the 2000 tour.

Old red wine
Not worth a dime
Gonna have to drink it with yer
Some other time

Click below to listen to Old Red Wine.
(This is a shorter version – but worth it for Who fans.)

There are so many more great wine songs, it could become the basis of a single blog!  Hopefully, you’ve heard a few old favorites. And I have no doubts that most of you have enjoyed a little fruit of the vine while you listened to some of the most popular songs about wine from the past 100 years - Wine in the Key of Life.

~ Joy