The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stevie Ray Vaughn & Domaine Saint-Amant Grangeneuve

I’ve been out of commission due to business travel and a death in my wife’s family. While in Chicago for the funeral, I saw a sign advertising skiing at Alpine Valley Wisconsin and at the same time a Stevie Ray Vaughn came on the radio. Since he died in a helicopter crash after a concert at Alpine Valley, I thought it only appropriate to do a tribute to him.

Vaughn was a driving musical force for the blues between 1980 and 1990, melding it with rock as no one else had ever done, nor has anyone approached his accomplishments since his death. He drew equally from bluesmen like Albert King, Buddy Guy, and Albert Collins, rock & roll players like Jimi Hendrix, and jazz guitarists like Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery, developing a uniquely eclectic and fiery style that sounded like no other guitarist, regardless of genre.

In 1977, Stevie formed the band Triple Threat Revue, featuring bassist W.C. Clark, and vocalist Lou Ann Barton. Barton left the band suddenly in 1979, leaving Stevie to take over the vocals and the group became Double Trouble, the name inspired by the Otis Rush song. Double Trouble initially featured Jack Newhouse on bass and Chris Layton on drums. Then in 1981 Tommy Shannon joined on bass and one of the greatest power trios ever was set.

The pressures of his soaring professional career took its toll and Vaughan and he sank deep into alcoholism and drug addiction to the point that he collapsed and cancelled three weeks of European concert dates in 1986.  He returned to the States and a successful recovery, becoming drug and alcohol free until he died. The band’s last recording, In Step, appeared in June of 1989, peaking at number 33 on the charts, earning a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Recording, and went gold just over six months after its release.

On August 26, 1990, their Alpine Valley gig concluded with an encore jam featuring guitarists Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Stevie, his brother Jimmie Vaughan, and Robert Cray (Sweet Home Chicago). After the concert, Stevie Ray boarded a helicopter bound for Chicago. Minutes after its 12:50 a.m. takeoff, the helicopter crashed, killing Vaughan and four other passengers. He was only 35 years old.

Sweet Home Chicago, Alpine Valley, 26th August 1990:

Stevie’s music calls for a simple, yet elegant wine, so I suggest a 2009 Domaine Saint-Amant Grangeneuve  (~$15.00) from the southern Rhone. If I had to pick only one extraordinary bottle of wine that really impressed me in the last year, it would be this one. This is a beautifully crafted blend of 60% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 5% Viognier.  It’s suitable for everyday drinking, yet could grace a white linen-covered table. 
The wine is a gorgeous purple with aromas of red raspberries and a touch of pepper. It’s rich and mouth-filling, yet smooth and not overly sweet. This one of the best wines I’ve tasted. So glad I have five more bottles to enjoy with the sophisticated blues of Stevie Ray Vaughn. Enjoy!

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