Music and wine can pair as well together as wine and food. I sort of found this out by mistake when I was listening to Laura Marling and drinking Pillsbury. I wrote about it and Brynna Baldauf posted it on her blog, Gluten Free Grapes. I figured I’d get back to wine and music pairings with a focus on Arizona wines but this time Brynna will be helping out and picking her own music pairing for the wine. So let’s get to it! Today, we’re pairing music with Arizona Stronghold’s Mandala.
Mandalas have existed for many centuries to symbolize and promote balance, sacred space and meditation. They are a beautiful reminder to look inward for a translation of the outside world or at least a beautiful creation to gaze at for awhile. The wine bearing the same name under Arizona Stronghold is traditionally no different. It is deep, plush and powerful in the nose with that subtle reminder of nature that an earthy red wine evokes. The dancing cherry tones are uplifting while the plum aroma is grounding. The flavor is balanced, the acidity and the tannins playing a delightful dance with each other but sharing the palette equally with the alcohol level. It is a wine you could get lost in, each new smell and the lingering taste are tempting and interesting without being overly complicated. They weave a story you want to to listen to and but could easily be passed over if you aren’t in the mood. Personally, I was all ears.
A meaty wine with an old soul deserves a bold musical companion with the same mentality. This wine will not let you slip into something comfortable until you’ve drank the whole bottle and the soulful Tracy Chapman becomes the perfect companion for the journey. Her self titled album from 1988 is a journey that reflects the same thought as the traditional mandala: a view point of the world from inside which pushes you to think about what you are consuming spiritually. Heartache, hypocrisy and pain are the deep facts which blanket the album, with a trace of hope sprinkled in and wrapped up in her unique, practiced voice. She’s sung these hard-life tales before and she does not waver in the face of the danger she sees. Tracy’s voice is deep but cuts through the percussion on “Mountain O’ Things” in the same way the Mandala wine forces its fruity aromas through the plummy, deep smokey nose. In “Fast Car” Tracy sings of a decision to be made with a heavy heart and a full mind, just the same way the Mandala pushes its heavy tannins gently into the salivary glands after the first sip. For Tracy the song is all about hope and in the wine, there is a promise of another equally as interesting second sip.
Both are a good friend you can fall back on in times of need, if it’s for a cry or a path altering decision,you can feel their presence supporting your every thought. Tracy is serious about the life she sings about and this wine is excellent for introspection whether it pertains to the wine or for more serious matters of the heart outside of the glass.
I have to admit, this was a tough one for me. Brynna found her pairing really quickly but it took me a little longer. After awhile I was reaching for anything and everything that might work and I had to stop and give the wine another smell. When I smelled the Mandala again, I really got into the berries and smokiness on the nose. I got a little nostalgic from the scents. It was like mid summer back east at my home in upstate New York. When the black berries are ripe and the bonfires are burning. Then it hit me. The new Johnny Cash album, Out Among The Stars was the perfect pairing with the Mandala.
Johnny Cash was a master of telling stories in the songs he sang. The songs on Out Among the Stars remind us again how effective Cash was at capturing our attention with stories. The combination of his voice and storytelling style pulls the listener in and holds them until the end of the song. Then the effect is repeated on the next song. There’s nothing quite like losing yourself in the story being told. The Mandala also has a story to tell in its rich smokiness, and like Brynna mentioned above, its easy to get lost in the taste and all that it has to offer. It was just just like getting lost in the stories Johnny Cash has to tell. Plus the timbre of Cash’s vocals compliments the smokiness in the Mandala and makes it feel a little like you’re sitting around a bonfire enjoying live performances of the songs and stories.
I’m so happy that Johnny Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, released these songs. The legend lives on (and apparently there’s plenty more to come). The smooth smokiness of the Mandala pairs perfectly with Cash’s vocals and stories. With every taste I could imagine myself sitting around a bonfire back home. These two pair awesomely. Try it for yourself.