The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
The Death Whisperer Series available at

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Shredders & Gnarley Head Zinfandel

I’m sick and tired of cold weather and feeling rather rambunctious tonight, so I’ve put together music to match my mood. I can’t even begin to describe each guitarist, but all of them are icons of the business. Rather than write a lot of commentary, I suggest you crank up the volume and psyche up for the coming week.

The power of tonight’s music calls for a powerhouse wine. Last week I reviewed Brazin zinfandel, one of my favorites. Tonight, I suggest trying its little brother, the 2011 Gnarley Head Zinfandel ($10.00). While Brazin is considered a super premium Zin (although I bought it for $14.00), its little brother Gnarley Head is the largest selling Zin in the United States. It even has its own Facebook page in Sweden. They’re made by the same vinter so it’s not surprising that there’s a strong family resemblance.

Gnarley Head has wonderful aromas of dark berries and spice. It’s a mouthful of blackberry jam accented with vanilla and a peppery finish. It’s also 14.5% alcohol so don’t plan of leaving home after you try it. Instead, sit back, blast the music, and hope it scares the snot out of this linger winter enough to finally let spring arrive.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

John McLaughlin & Chateau La Tour De Bessan Margaux

Today I’m going back to one of my all time favorite guitarist, John McLaughlin. I discovered his music at the tender age of 18 and really fell head over heels for it when I heard the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a group that featured Chicago rock violinist Jerry Goodman, Billy Cobham on drums, and Rick Laird on bass. McLaughlin writes and plays some of the most complex music I’ve ever tried to play. His blistering arpeggios are jawdropping. In fact, I saw them in concert with Frank Zappa, and I was close enough to the stage that I could see McLaughlin put some kind of oil on his fingers, probably to keep them from burning up with the friction off the strings.

Although his electric work is amazing, I am most attracted to his acoustic pieces. His duets with Paco de Lucia and Al DiMeola are legendary. McLaughlin also has a knack for discovering budding young bass guitar virtuoso’s like Dominic Di Piazza, Kai Eckhardt, and Jonas Hellborg as well as the most brilliant percussionist in the world, Trilok Gurtu. He gets his “bass kids” when their barely out of the teens, lets them hone their skills with him for a year or two then turns them loose. You’ll see the proof in the videos below. Enjoy!

Goodbye Pork Pie Hat with Jonas Hellborg:
Pacific Express with Jonas Hellborg:
With Kai Eckhard & Trilok Gurtu:

John McLaughlin calls for elegance, and I’ve got just the wine. The 2010 Chateau La Tour De Bessan Margaux ($22.00) is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. The wine has a nose full of dark berries and cassis. If you've never had French Bordeaux, you'll find the taste is quite distinct from the big bold Cabernet’s from California. It’s rather subtle, very dry, and, for lack of a better word, classy. The wine evolves in the glass exhibiting complex flavors of blackberries, currents, and spices. It’s a smooth finisher and an excellent wine for sipping as I lament the fact that it’s mid-April and snowing…again.  I guess I’ll turn on the fireplace, listen to some blistering guitar and bass and work on a National Cancer Institute grant that I’m writing. Hope it’s warm wherever you are.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Harry Manx & 2010 Domaine Vincent Ricard Cuvee Les Trois Chenes Touraine

First of all, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston tonight. My son was going to watch the Marathon from Copley Square, so you can imagine what went through my head when I heard the news about the bombs. Fortunately, he decided to stay near his apartment up by Fenway.

Harry Manx is known as the “Mysticssippi Blues Man” whose music is a link between east and west. He was born on the Isle of Man in the UK, but migrated to Ontario with his parents as a child. At the age of 15, he started working as a roadie and worked his way up to become the sound man at the Mocambo Club, a blues establishment in Toronto where he worked with a slew of blues legends. At the age of 20, he went to Europe and made money busking on street corners. From there he moved to Japan where he worked and played for the next ten years. He did a stint in India under the tutelage of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the inventor of the ten stringed Mohan Veena.

He returned to Canada and now lives on Saltspring Island, British Columbia. His music, although heavily steeped in the blues, contains elements of Indian ragas, creating a unique style and sound that has a mystical spiritual quality to it. He is a prolific recording artist having released 12 albums in 12 years. He has received 7 Maple Blues Awards, 6 Juno nominations, the 2005 Canadian Folk Music Award for best solo artist, and the 2007 CBC Radio’s Great Canadian Blues Award.

Oh, and did I mention his voice? It’s a perfect match for his blues guitar style. Enjoy!

Don’t stand at my grave and weep:
Don’t forget to miss me:

If you’ve never had an Asian pear, you need to try one. When I was overseas, they were my favorite fruit. They look like an oversized funky apple with a greenish yellow skin, but the texture is crisp and like the juiciest pear you’ve ever tasted. The 2010 Domaine Vincent Ricard Cuvee Les Trois Chenes Touraine brings back memories of my days in Kuwait with its aromas of a freshly cut Asian pear. The flavors follow the nose with the addition of a bit of citrus and honey. It’s a fresh, crisp wine with great acidity, perfect for sipping. Vincent Ricard is one of my favorite winemakers and at $18.00 a bottle, this is a Sauvignon Blanc like no other.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Walter Lupi & Brazin Zinfandel

While stumbling around YouTube looking at different versions of Bob Dylan’s Watchtower, I tripped over an Italian guitarist named Walter Lupi. When I researched him a bit further, I discovered he not only has one of the best versions of the song I’ve ever heard, he has videos galore demonstrating an incredible ability and style of guitar. The frustrating thing, however, is that there is very little I could find on him through the internet. I did find one interview, which gave me hope, until I realized it was in Italian. The only things I know in Italian are words like lasagna, spaghetti Bolonesi, etc. Not much help.

I did learn he was born in 1960 and began playing at the age of ten, completely self-taught. However, later he enrolled in the Conservatorio di Alessandria and received a diploma with a concentration on music theory, harmony, and classical guitar. That’s it. So, rather than agonize over the details, I suggest we just listen to and enjoy a remarkable guitarist.

I’m pairing Walter with one of my favorite zinfandels. Brazin Old Vine Zin ($14.00) has a powerful nose full of dark berries, coffee, and chocolate. The flavors follow the palate adding a touch of vanilla. This is a very versatile wine. It goes great with a steak off the grill or even a pizza. But it’s also a great stand-alone sipper. And at this price, it’s one of the best values on the market. So grab a bottle and listen to a fantastic guitarist who, unless you understand Italian, will have to stand on his ability alone. Not a bad thing either, since he’s quite good.