When you think Led Zeppelin, you think rock and roll, amazing guitar solos and wine, right? Well, maybe not the wine part.
But if you think about how you would describe Led Zeppelin’s music, it’s not far from how you would describe wine. In talking about songs like “The Ocean” and “Heartbreaker” you can use words like tone, texture and harmony – the same words you can use for wine. Jimmy Page’s raw riffs are rich and jammy like a full-bodied red; Robert Plant’s screaming vocals are more like a white that’s tingling with acidity.
Just as you would enjoy a nice bottle of wine, the songs of Led Zeppelin are meant to be savored. Could you really pair beer with such legendary songs as “Stairway to Heaven?” I think not.
This concept (plus a few bottles of wine) led a trio of wine enthusiasts to come up with the idea for a Led Zeppelin wine pairing, complete with a Led Zeppelin tribute band. The place: City Winery in Manhattan, a newly opened winery, restaurant and live music venue created and owned by The Knitting Factory founder Michael Dorf.
As someone who was a Led Zeppelin fan before becoming a wine fan, I thought this sounded like a really cool idea for a wine pairing event. Great music and great wines, what could be better?
The tasting was led by its entertaining creators: restaurateur Joe Bastianich, wine writer David Lynch and writer and musician Mike Edison. Mike was especially engaging throughout the evening, sharing his own experiences with Led Zeppelin’s music (some that involved not so legal pairings). But it was tribute band 6 Foot Nurse who really made the experience. The three-man band stayed true to Led Zeppelin’s sound. Lead singer and drummer Scot Coogan was amazing to watch and nailed Plant’s singing style.
We kicked off the evening appropriately with a glass of champagne. The dry and toasty Henriot Brut Blanc de Blancs NV was paired with “The Immigrant Song.” The jolting acidity and minerality were a nice match for Plant’s primal screams.
The next song, “Misty Mountain Hop,” was paired with a 2006 William Fèvre Chablis. Besides the song’s title evoking images of the cool hills of Chablis, the opening riff has a sharp tingle of acidity that demands a white wine. I really enjoyed drinking the Chablis, which had great flavors of honeysuckle and white peach and of course, good acidity.
The mood mellowed a bit for the third song, “What is and What Should Never Be.” We were invited to taste the soft fruity extract of the bass line with a 2005 Truchard Carneros Pinot Noir. The voluptuous texture of the California Pinot, with flavors of blueberry and herbs, was nice to sip while singing along.
Next came “Black Dog,” paired with the 2007 Padrillos Mendoza Malbec. The wine was selected both for its ink-dark color and its personality, in sync with the thumping and hard-edged tune.
“Black Dog” was followed by an epic song that was paired with an epic wine: “Kashmir” and a 2001 Fontanafredda Barolo Serralunga. Our wine guides described it best — like the song, the wine unfolds over time to reveal new nuances and is almost orchestral in its complexity.
The tasting ended on an exciting note for both the music and the wine. Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian joined 6 Foot Nurse for “Whole Lotta Love,” which was paired with a 2004 Château de Sales Pomerol, my favorite wine of the evening. The song starts out hard and tannic but takes on other dimensions with time, just like a delicious Bordeaux.
What impressed me about the wine pairing (besides the fact that it was by far the coolest wine pairing I had ever been to), was the high quality of the wines. I really enjoyed each wine and would definitely drink them again.
Fortunately for us in the audience, the music didn’t stop when the wine was gone. While 6 Foot Nurse played on, I ordered a glass of a spicy Côtes du Rhône which I enjoyed with a crispy mozzarella and fresh basil flatbread. It’s one of several flatbreads, which along with an assortment of cheese, salumi, light bites and shareable plates make up City Winery’s Mediterranean-inspired menu. If I wasn’t already on my seventh wine I would have picked out a bottle from the 500 or so wines that make up City Winery’s list.
Appetite sated, I decided to explore the winery. Besides the extensive list of boutique wines, the live performances and the unique wine pairings, this is what makes City Winery stand out from all other wine bars in New York City (and most other cities). Here, in the middle of SoHo, you can make your own wine. You or a group of friends purchase a barrel (each starts around $7,500 and yields about 250 bottles), and City Winery supplies the varietal of your choice, sourced from internationally renowned vineyards in the United States and South America. From crushing to bottling, you can work as closely as you’d like with the wine specialists. The barrels are stored in a climate-controlled area inside City Winery. During the six to twelve month aging process you can sample your wine at barrel tastings.
Peering in at all the barrels and singing along with the band’s final song, I couldn’t help but think about what it would be like to make my own wine. For now I’ll have to leave the winemaking to the experts. But hey, we all dream about becoming a rock star in some way.
City Winery is located at 155 Varick Street in New York City. To see the upcoming events visit citywinery.com.