Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Suny Day Real Estate reuniting, touring

I'm not sure exactly when I first got into Sunny Day Real Estate. I remember hearing and liking Diary....and even LP2. I remember liking Rising Tide quite a bit too, but they were always just one of those fringe bands for me.....a band that I liked, but didn't love. When they reunited in 1997 they were a band I'd have liked to have seen, but were certainly nowhere near the top of my list....I was only 16 at the time, and truth be told I think I was just too young to get their music. I'd just started growing out of my metal phase (Pantera/Sepultura) and growing into the drunken indie rock phase (Mudhoney) where I've apparently stalled out all these years later (though I did develop quite a love for rockabilly/psychobilly music as well).

It wasn't until my early to mid 20s that I really started to get into them (somewhere between 2001 and 2005) on account of one night sitting at my computer and Diary began to play....and I listened to it in order in it's entirety. And I realized that there was something new to me about it, something I hadn't heard when I was younger. Most people get into "emo" music when they're teenage hormones are raging and they think the world is out to get them-but I was never one of those people. It wasn't until my 20s that I had the depth of life experiences to appreciate just how powerful and moving the music was. And not just that, but also how musically brilliant it was....how tight it was, how the melodies flow perfectly and how they balance the falsetto and the driving guitar. For me, it was akin to discovering Mudhoney's Superfuzz Bigmuff-something so great that I couldn't stop listening to it. Then I started listening to Rising Tide, and appreciating how similar the music was, and yet how it had grown with age.....Rising Tide was the older, more mature version of Diary. Still just as moving, still just as powerful, but the music had become so much more complex.

Somewhere around 2004 or 05, I started having relationship problems....problems that if you know me you're quite familiar with, and if you don't you really probably don't have any interest in-and I started to fall into a period of self-loathing and guilt-and it wasn't until then that LP2 really hit home, that I really got it. LP2 to, to me, is probably the most beautiful and moving rock record I have ever heard-and between a couple failed relationships and the dying of my Aunt, in many ways Sunny Day Real Estate helped me get through all that. They were able to say for me what I couldn't say myself, they brought out emotions and feelings I didn't know I had and in many ways I believe helped me grow a lot as a person. So as you can imagine, this is a band that means a lot to me.

So a couple days ago when rumors started popping up that they'd be not only reuniting, but touring....and with the original lineup, well let's just say I was ecstatic. Outside of Nirvana (obviously never going to happen) this is the band I most regret having never seen. A few dates started to trickle out....Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta.....if they weren't coming to Dallas, then I was going to fly somewhere else and see them and that was that. Period, nothing was going to stop me from getting a chance to see SDRE live. So then, you can imagine my delight this afternoon when i read at Pitchfork that they were not only reuniting and touring, but that the tour was set and Dallas was going to be a stop. You can see the full schedule at the above link, but October 5 they're playing Dallas (Granada Theater) and the next two nights Houston and Austin. Anyway, tickets go on sale this friday at 11am for Dallas-and if I can swing it, I'm going to try to do Houston and Austin as well.

In short, I'm beyond ecstatic right now.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mighty Arrow Pale Ale by New Belgium Brewing Co.

Me and hops have a very odd relationship. Always have and as far as I can tell, we always will. You see, while I accept and am totally OK with the fact that hops are a part of the brewing process, I am of the belief that the American brewer in many cases has taken the use of hops to such an extreme level as to make their beers close to undrinkable. I am of the (apparently unpopular) belief that a beer should not taste like a bar of soap (see: Sam Adams), nor should it be so bitter as to be undrinkable (see: Hop Devil among others). In much the same way as I (and most other people) enjoy a little tannin in a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon but too much ruins it, I want a little hop in my beer but I don't want to be overwhelmed with piney bitterness. Hops is the "spice of beer," and I don't want it over-hopped anymore than I want a cook to dump an entire jar of black pepper in my soup.

Hops perform two functions in the brewing process. They're used to add flavor (again, the "spice of beer") and they act as a stabilizing agent/preservative. A story I've recounted dozens of times (and oddly enough, seems to impress chicks....which I totally don't understand) is that the foundation of the over-hopped beer is the India Pale Ale (IPA), and that it was over-hopped out of necessity-not because they necessarily liked the flavor. When English beer couldn't survive the trip by boat from England to India (then a British colony) without spoiling, thus depriving the English settlers beer (a problem, I admit), some clever brewer realized if you dump a boatload of hops into the casks of beer during the brewing process, it would preserve the beer long enough to survive the trip by ship to India. Voila, now you've got Indian Pale Ale and a bunch of happy English settlers in India. A practical solution to a real problem.

It isn't that people like IPAs that bothers me, everyone is obviously entitled to their own taste in beer, its how the thought process behind the IPA has spilled over into other American beers. Sure an American Pale Ale should be hoppy, it just shouldn't be overly hoppy. It's a Pale Ale, not an IPA. And I think that's my beef with New Belgium's Mighty Arrow Pale...it follows this new trend of making Pale Ales into IPAs.

Which isn't to say it's terrible, it's just not my taste. It's got nice head and a nice body, pours a clear orangish color...from the appearance it looks excellent. But after you take that first sniff, you are just overpowered by bitterness. Sure there's a little orange, but it's mostly just floral bitterness. The taste? Well it's just more of the same. Bitter on the front, bitter on the end....a little caramel and a little citrus mixed in, but at it's heart it tastes like hops. I wouldn't recommend it, but if you're an IPA person, you may very well like it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Va de Vi Sparkling Wine

In my line of work, we get to taste a lot of wines. I know-you feel bad for me, right? But its one of those things that comes with the territory, and one of the things I not only relish but also find to be necessary for the performance of my job. The portfolio I represent is vast to say the least, and while I can't be intimately familiar with every potential vintage of every wine I do sell, I do my best to have atleast an honest opinion of most everything I do sell. And while I sometimes am required to sell something that-as a person that appreciates good wine-isn't something I particularly care for, sometimes I also get the oppurtunity to sell something which I'm not only impressed with, but fervently enjoy and want to share with other people. Yesterday we kicked off a brand that I can honestly say that I feel that way about, as we kicked off Gloria Ferrer's (who's parent company is Spain's Freixenet, the largest sparkling wine producer in the world)new Va de Vi sparkling wine.

Now I must admit off the bat, I'm a sucker for good bubbly-it seems to be a bit of a family curse, as at family gatherings Champagne doesn't tend to last long. But this was one of those rare wines that I tasted and immediately thought, "Damn, thats a nice bottle of wine" and then took out to my customers and had every last one of them remark something similar and then order cases-not a case, but cases. So what is it?

Va de Vi is Gloria Ferrer's version of an "extra dry" similar to how White Star is Moet & Chandon's. But you see, in confusing Champagne and sparkling wine nomenclature, extra dry is actually sweeter than brut (the driest of the sparkling wines)-a fact that most people don't know. Brut has the smallest dosage (sweetness added to the wine during production) at 15g or less per a liter followed by Extra Dry(25g or less), Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux in order. Want a little more wine nerdiness? In the US the regulations are lax to say the least for sparkling wines and products such as Andre Brut have over a 20g/L dosage and Cooks Brut and Extra-Dry have virtually the same dosage (25g and 26g/L respectively). The end result is American sparkling wines can label themselves as pretty much anything and while the French and Spanish have tight regulations on labeling, Americans in general don't understand them.

Fun, right?

Which brings us back to Va de Vi. As what would be characterized as an "extra dry" in Europe (it's made in Carneros, CA from Carneros grapes), it does have a bit of sweetness to it-but nothing like a spumante. It's not a sugary sweetness, but instead a very natural and fruit forward one-peaches would be the way I'd describe it. And unlike most Champagnes which are made with something like 33% Pinot Noir, 33% Pinot Meunier, and 33% Chardonnay Va de Vi is 89% Pinot Noir, 8% Chardonnay, and 3% Muscat (hence the peaches and tropical fruit). It's got the body of a great sparkling wine, as well as the structure....there's enough acid to complement the sweetness but not too much of either. In short, it's fantastic...and this is coming from someone that generally shuns sweeter wines. And what's more, it's got a retail bottle price of under $20.....which, with most Champagnes retailing at $40 or more, makes it quite the bargain-especially considering it's competitive quality-wise with most Champagnes.

It's a new product so far launched in only three US markets (Dallas, Seattle, Denver) and not found in grocery distribution, but if you happen upon it I can't recommend it enough. I'm doing a wine tasting for some friends in a couple weeks and this bottle of wine just made the list. If you're in Dallas, you can find it at Kindred Spirits, Mike's, Cork n' Bottle, Parkit Market, and Payless Discount among others. Give it a try, and please....let me know what you think. Cheers!