The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
The Death Whisperer Series available at

Friday, March 30, 2012

Eddie van Halen & Roederer Brut Sparkling Wine

Well, I’m back from the Netherlands where I have an incredibly successful research collaboration. In fact, I’m so pumped, I need a little pump-it-up music, so in honor of the Dutch, I’m featuring one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time, namely the flying Dutchman himself, Eddie van Halen.

Born in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, Eddie van Halen is the son of a musical father who got him music lessons early in life. Eddie and his brother Alex started playing music together in the 1960s. Eddie played classical piano and later drums, while Alex played the guitar. But Alex wanted be a drummer and it so upset Eddie, that he decided to take up the guitar out of spite.

In 1972 the Van Halen brothers formed a band called "Mammoth" featuring Eddie as lead vocalist/guitarist and Alex on drums. They were joined later by vocalist David Lee Roth . The band later changed its name to Genesis, but discovered the name “Genesis was already being used, so in 1974 they again changed their name this time to "Van Halen". They started out playing backyard parties and on a flatbed truck at Hamilton Park. Van Halen grew the band’s popularity by playing clubs in Pasadena and Hollywood. Gradually they rose to fame on the Los Angeles music scene as Eddie became recognized for his guitar wizardry. They’ve sold over 80 million records and are the 19th best selling artist/group of all time.

So kick out the jams with some brains-against-the-wall rock and roll!

When a research collaboration goes as well as the one from which I just returned, it calls for champagne, or at least, the American version of champagne. I picked up a bottle of Roederer Estate Brut, the first California sparkling wine produced by the champagne house of Louis Roederer. Roederer is also the manufacturer of Cristal, which goes for about $200.00 a bottle. However this American cousin can be had for $20.00, more my style. This is a delicious sparkling wine with elegant pear, apple, and nutty aromas that rise to the surface on tiny fine bubbles. Roederer Brut is really well balanced with a creamy feel and apple citrus flavors followed by a clean, bright finish. It’s made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir and it’s lip-smacking good. You can find it just about anywhere, so if you’ve got something to celebrate, grab a bottle, put on some Van Halen, and turn up the volume. Enjoy!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Steven Laury & Teira Sonoma County Zinfandel

I’m going to be traveling on business in Europe next week, so before I disappear, I thought I’d present one of my favorite jazz guitarists for your consideration. Steven Laury first caught my attention as the lead guitarist in the jazz group Fatburger. What really hooked me was his tone and style. You’ll hear a lot of Wes Montgomery in his flawless octave work.

Laury was born and raised in Vineland, NJ and began to seriously study the guitar and a career in music at the age of 16. His early influences were B.B. King, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, Herbie Handcock, and Chic Corea. But he was also heavily influenced by Brazillian musicians such as Oscar Castro-Neves and Carlos Jobim.

He moved to first to Los Angeles then to San Diego where he became a founding member in Fatburger.  After five successful years with the group, he left to pursue a solo career where he’s found equal acclaim as one of the premier guitarists on the West Coast jazz scene today. He is truly a guitarist’s guitarist.

I’ve got a tremendous wine to pair with Steven, namely the 2009 Teira Sonoma County Zinfandel. It’s not your typical Zin, rather it’s more like a rich Pinot Noir. The color is garnet red with a light bouquet of red fruit and spices, but it’s the palate that sent me over the edge. It’s full of strawberry-cherry goodness, rather than the brambly black raspberry, plums, and mocha that one most often tastes in a California Zin, and the red berry palate persists for a long time. This would be a great summer red and at $19.00 a bottle and the music of Steven Laury, you can’t go wrong.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Colin Hay & Miro Pinot Noir

Colin Hay

You might know Colin Hay better for his work with the group Men At Work. Although he is one of Australia’s best-known musicians, he was born in Kilwinning, Scotland. Growing up, his mom and dad had a music shop, so there were instruments everywhere. He started playing guitar at the age of 12. A self-taught musician, he found himself in the middle of a vibrant musical community when the family moved to Melbourne in 1967. In 1978, Hay met Ron Strykert and was impressed by his musicality and technique. The two began playing acoustic music as a duo, influenced heavily by the music of Ry Cooder, John Martyn, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and the Beatles. In 1979, in quick order, drummer Jerry Speiser, sax and flautist Greg Ham, and bass player John Rees joined them and Men At Work was formed.

The group topped the worldwide charts in the 80s with songs like “Down Under,” “Overkill,” and “Who Can It Be Now?” Eventually the group broke up to pursue individual projects with Colin moving to Los Angeles to start his own record label. He joined with Greg Ham and toured with backing musicians as Men At work from 1996 to 2002 and played to an estimated 2 billion viewers during the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Although Men At Work was a multiplatinum seller, I prefer Colin’s acoustic work. There’s something almost haunting in the way he play his old songs accompanied only by his acoustic guitar. One of my favorite songs is “Waiting for my real life to begin.” I’ve included a video that has the words attached. Hope you enjoy him.

Waiting for my real life to begin:

It’s a beautiful spring evening here in Lincoln and the first night I’ve been able to enjoy sitting under the stars. And what better wine to welcome spring than a 2009 Miro Pinot Noir ($23.00). I love Pinot Noir and this is an excellent one. The wine is ruby red with garnet highlights and an aroma filled with cherries, strawberries, baking spices, vanilla and a touch of caramel. Its taste conjures up a cherry rhubarb pie accompanied by nice acidity and minerality. Just the thing to enjoy a spring night with a sky full of stars and the music of Colin Hay. Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fourplay & Domaine Corsin Puoilly-Fuisse Vielles

Fourplay is one of my favorite contemporary jazz quartets. Founded in 1991, the original members of the group were Bob James (keyboards), Lee Ritenour (guitars), Nathan East (bass), and Harvey Mason (drums). Ritenour left the group in 1997 and was replaced by Larry Carlton. Carlton played with the group for the next thirteen years and left in 2010. He was replaced by Chuck Loeb, and occasionally Abe Laboriel sits in in place of Nathan East.

Their music, a mix of jazz, pop, and R&B, has appealed to millions and has received several Grammy nominations. Ritenour and Carlton are two of my favorite jazz guitarists, although Carlton plays a mean blues too. Chuck Loeb has a slightly different style from Carlton, more similar to Ritenour, but excellent in every way. Their music is just plain great listening. Hope you enjoy it.

Wish you were here (Ritenour):

Wine-wise, I’m taking a different tact tonight. If you look back at the history of this blog, you’ll find I never review Chardonnays. I’ve just never been fond of the “buttery” taste that’s often characteristic of these wines. But keeping an open mind, I bought a couple of bottles of a 2009 Domaine Corsin Pouilly-Fuisse Vielles Vignes, thinking I’d give it a shot. Steven Tanzer, the Burgundy afficianado, rated this a 92, so I thought it would be a good example of the type. Its bouquet and flavors have notes of honey and apples tinged with citrus…but it also has a touch of butter. I can’t really comment on whether this is a good example of Pouilly-Fuisse because, as I said, I don’t care for Chardonnay-based wines, but this one isn’t bad. Would I buy it again? No, I’d much rather have a Sancerre, Albarino, or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but then, I’m biased. If you’re a lover of Chardonnay, try this one. You may agree with Tanzer, however this is a prime example of drinking what you like, not what the experts recommend. Enjoy the music.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Johnny Winter and Bushmill's 21-Year-Old Single Malt

Johnny Winter (born February 23, 1944) is an American Blues giant. I first became acquainted with his music when, as a blues loving sixteen-year-old, I purchased an album entitled, “Progressive Blues Experiment” by this little known blues guitarist. There wasn’t a single cut on the album that didn’t blow me away, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Winter toiled in relative obscurity until December, 1968 when Mike Bloomfield invited him to sing and play a song during a Bloomfield/Al Kooper concert at the Filmore East in New York. Apparently representatives of Columbia Records, which released the smash Bloomfield/Kooper Super Session album, were at the concert. Winter performed B.B. King's "It's My Own Fault" and, within a few days, was signed to a contract.

He gradually rose through the ranks hitting a pinnacle around 1970, but his career took a downturn while he recovered from a heroin addiction. By 1973, he was back on the music scene going strong. Beginning in the late 70’s he fulfilled a dream playing with Muddy Waters and actually produced three Grammy-award winning albums for him.

Both he and his brother Edgar were born with albinism, which, as causes progressive vision problems, even blindness. You can see he has problems walking on stage in the number with Butch Trucks and he remains seated during his current performances. He remains one of the greatest bluesmen to ever pick up the guitar.

A hard driving blues playing guitarist like Johnny Winters doesn’t really go with any wine that I know. So I’m going to step out of character and pair him with a very special Irish Whiskey, one that I’ve only sipped in bars as it’s about $120.00 a bottle and I don’t normally drink whiskey. However, Bushmills 21 Year-Old Single Malt (yes, I too, was surprised to see Irish whiskey’s come in single malts) is quite exceptional. As the name implies, it’s aged for 21 years through a complex process moving from bourbon barrels to sherry casks and finally Madeira drums for the finishing touches. I’m not a connoisseur of the nuances of whiskeys, but to me, this one is exceptionally smooth with a nose and palate of pecans, butterscotch, and a touch of honey. As I said, I’m no expert, but I could be convinced to pop for a bottle of this. And trust me, it’ll mate perfectly with the music of Johnny Winter.