Define the musical category rock-and-roll. Can you? You know what it is. You hear it all over the media portals. But, really, what is it? Around here, some winemakers like to fashion themselves as some sort of “rock star,” like they’re all that. Perhaps, it means favoring the hippy, three-note set reminiscent of that ‘70’s sound in Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, AC/DC or even The Raspberries. Or, maybe the next set of winemakers will champion The Black Keys or Switchfoot. There really is no wrong answer as rock-and-roll is whatever sounds good.
I suspect, the real reason winemakers pair well with rock-and-roll is not the celebrity status (and accompanying groupies) but more that both industries relate to the classification of vineyards. While the French finally got something right in categorizing their stud vineyards by “first growth,” “second growth,” etc., the same can be done with rock-and-roll. Hear me out on this.
Rock-and-roll, the term, actually originated out of the black neighborhoods of the Deep South back in the 1920’s as slang for sexual intercourse. So, right then and there, the tap root was established but did not fully blossom until the mid-1960’s. The term remained nascent through The Great Depression and World War II. Classical music ruled the day through the ‘40s but was losing favored status with the post-nuclear teenagers as a “new” form of energetic rhythms was catching the interest, and again, that sound was evolving out of the Deep South, from the heart of rhythm-and-blues.
Albert James Freed was born on December 15, 1921 in a small town in Pennsylvania and his family later moved to Ohio where he formed a Big Band group in high school, influenced by the sounds of bandleaders Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. While studying engineering at Ohio State, he found his passion in radio. He did sportscasting in Youngstown and initially settled as a dj in Akron on WAKR-AM under the professional name of Alan Freed, playing jazz and popular songs. He had a disagreement with management and left to pursue a television opportunity in the afternoons with WXEL-TV (Channel 9) in Cleveland in April, 1950 , but before leaving, he was fortunate enough to have met Leo Mintz, owner of Record Rendezvous record shop, who showed Alan what his customers were going crazy over. That Big Band sound was dying while rhythm-and-blues (R&B) was turning into a storm of popularity. Mr. Freed introduced a few R&B songs on his afternoon show as a novelty through Mr. Mintz’s efforts, whereas other radio stations refused to play the songs because the music was played by black musicians.
Mr. Mintz offered to sponsor a radio show with Mr. Freed as the dj, who had shifted over to WJW-AM to play classical music. In July, 1951, “The Moondog Rock & Roll House Party” debuted in the 11:15pm-2am slot with DJ Alan Freed, aka “The King of The Moondoggers,” spinning a mixture of popular hits and R&B tunes. Mr. Freed was not completely sold on the idea of this new sound so it took Mr. Mintz sitting beside Mr. Freed during the radio shows and handing him records that were popular with the Cleveland inner-city ghettos. While other radio stations were also playing R&B, it was only Mr. Freed who was calling that hypnotic sound “rock-and-roll.”
However, it was not just the music that captured listeners to his show. Those who listened to Mr. Freed became entranced by his brashness, passion, and high energy (not so coincidentally enduring characteristics of rock-and-roll), his howling and screams, his wit, and his kinetic pounding on telephone books that transferred the ferocious power that only rock-and-roll could deliver. His fans became known as “Moondoggers.”
As part of a natural evolution, Mr. Freed began promoting events in smaller cities that featured the R&B bands he played, culminating with a big show at the old Cleveland Arena on March 21, 1952. Sales were initially slow for “the most terrible ball of them all” even though the official title was a conservative sounding “Moondog Coronation Ball.” This is now widely acknowledged as the very first big rock-and-roll concert. Mr. Freed and his promoters had signed up such bands as Paul Williams & The Hucklebuckers, Tiny Grimes & The Rockin’ Highlanders, The Dominoes, Danny Cobb, and Varetta Dilliard. It was the first concert promoted that included both black and white bands. The Arena’s capacity was set at 10,000 and the initial print run of tickets was 8,600. However, typical of rock-and-roll’s attraction of unpredictability, many counterfeit tickets were produced and despite the Arena’s seats being completely filled, another estimated 20,000 were on the outside trying to get in. Police Captain William Zimmerman and Fire Captain Emmett Porter forced the promoters to cancel the show after the first song by the concert’s opening act at 10:30pm while also calling in an extra 30 firemen and 40 policemen after ticket sales were stopped and the crowd broke down the entrance doors. One man was knifed and the floor was littered with broken whiskey bottles. Sounds like this was the “gold standard” for all rock-and-roll concerts hence.
The following day, Batallion Chief Bernard Mulcahy announced he would seek the arrests of those involved with the organizing of the concert, but guys like Leo Mintz had the foresight to catch a plane to Florida the day after the concert. Now, that’s what I call…rock-and-roll!
So, to answer the question, here’s my definition of rock-and-roll by a few examples: “First Growth” Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly & The Crickets, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, Hank Ballard & The Midnighters, Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Johnny Burnette, Ritchie Valens, Duane Eddy, Bill Haley & His Comets, Roy Orbison, and on and on. “Second Growth” The Beatles, The Monkees, The Rolling Stones, Ike & Tina Turner, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Lonnie Mack, The Ventures. “Third Growth” Alice Cooper, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Ramones, Aerosmith, Queen, Wings, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Al Green, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pink Floyd. “Fourth Growth” Genesis, Run D.M.C., Van Halen, ZZ Top, The Police, Bonnie Raitt, The Beastie Boys. You get the gist.
The Northwest Wine Academy is the fledgling wine school nested within the confines of South Seattle Community College. While not quite up to spiff with more established wine colleges, they have some notable alumni in Scott Greenberg of Covergence Zone Cellars, John Patterson of Patterson Cellars, Jeff and Sheila Jirka of Davenport Cellars, Tom Stangeland of Cloudlift Cellars, Alphonse de Klerk of Rolling Bay Winery, Tony Dollar of Lobo Hills Wine Company, and Ed Wicklein of Vortex Cellars.
Why am I the only wine blogger to review a wine that’s been out over a year and made by the aspiring winemakers of the Puget Sound’s only real winemaking school? You know why? Because all the other wine bloggers are only interested in kissing the asses of “chic” wineries with “rockstar” winemakers in order to score free bottles. Plain and simple. Aspiring winemakers know this: do not kowtow to wine bloggers. They have no proven influence on a winery’s bottom line. Protect every bottle of wine you make because they reflect your ability to make money. Every. Single. Bottle. Then again, for some experienced winemakers who need their egos stroked, have stagnant personalities, and are not moving excess inventory wines through traditional marketing channels, by all means, feed the vultures. Just beware that you initiate a vicious cycle and will only attract more vultures. Taken from a didactic course of the wineman’s Marketing 101.
I will do all of those who made this wine a favor: I will treat this wine as like any other. If you are thin-skinned, then let a classmate edit this for you. Here we go…
Food pairing was homemade winter beef stew and Whole Foods’ ‘Spanish Cocktail’ nuts. Good.
Tasted at 59-67 degrees on the IR temp gun. Color: magenta. Nose: high notes of cherry, blackberry, new-growth cedar, and raspberry. Mouthfeel: medium-bodied. Tail trail: 5 seconds. Flavors: cranberries, near-ripe cherries, red licorice, black pepper, raspberries, rosy perfume. Safe and tame, almost sterile, but lacking personality. Actually, this is the bare minimum of what a Washington ‘Super Columbian’ should be profiled as. Bright fruit at every corner. Sizzling spine of acidity. Considering the grapes were generously donated, meaning they didn’t get exactly the primo rows but it was free, the winemakers did a good job sculpting a fine weeknight red. And, considering I have enjoyed the fruits of around 200 Washington wineries thus far, this entry surpasses more than a few of the local establishments. A good foundation is being taught at the Academy and that makes me very happy.
Alcohol: 13.9%. Vineyards: Den Hoed, Portteus, KBW. Columbia Valley AVA. 45% merlot, 30% cabernet franc, 25% cabernet sauvignon. Produced and bottled by South Seattle Community College Winery. Stelvin cap. Power: 2/5. Balance: 2/5. Depth: 2/5. Finesse: 2/5. Rated: 88. Value: $12. Paid: $13. Music pairing: “(I’m Gonna) Party Like A Rockstar” by JTX. This is WAwineman… thank you, God bless you, and good night.