Jazz and Wine, Perfect Harmony

We talk to Grammy-nominated saxophonist/composer Ted Nash and singer/sommelier Kristen Lee Sergeant about music, wine and the fruits of a romantic pairing.
Photo by Meg Baggott

The New York City romance between Grammy-nominated saxophonist and composer Ted Nash (of the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra) and singer/sommelier Kristen Lee Sergeant (Gotham Bar and Grill) began with a mutual love of music and vino, and it culminated in a project all their own. But these two didn’t decide to make music together: They made wine.

What inspired you to go for a blend [Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc] instead of using one recognizable red grape?

Kristen Lee Sergeant: Sommelier projects can get really esoteric and skew toward the extreme, but not necessarily the delicious. We fell in love with the Happy Canyon [AVA] expression—that herby, sage quality. We wanted to have the final result steered by the strength of the wine, not varietal labeling. That powerful Bordeaux style was our guiding light.

The Wine + Music Issue

Two Notes’ fermentation uses wild yeast. And jazz can seem like a wild, unstructured musical form. Were you attracted to that parallel?

Ted Nash: In wine, natural yeast adds surprise, but without structure and other technical aspects, you’d have a disaster situation. You have to have a lot of craft to add the element of surprise. It’s like that with jazz: In music, we have to know chords, scale theory and harmony—and I was moved by the similarity to making wine. We understand all that technique and what goes into it, but the result should not be technical.

“You have to have a lot of craft to add the element of surprise. It’s like that with jazz, and I was moved by the similarity to making wine.” —Ted Nash

If you describe Two Notes using music instead of words, what would that sound like?

TN: It would be an interval. Intervals are extremely important. It’s how two notes relate to each other. Some create conflict, some are very harmonious. A very typical interval has both minor and major chords, so it’s sad versus happy.

KLS: Maybe it’s a major sixth?

TN: I think it’s a 13th, which is an extension of a sixth. It creates more interest, but it’s still unresolved, because we still have places to go.

Jazz clubs are notorious for not-great wine. Maybe you’ll start a revolution?

KLS: We spend so much time in jazz clubs. They don’t have good wine! I don’t know what it is.

TN: It’s a great American art form. Why not have great American wine to go with it?

Published on January 31, 2017
Topics: Wine and Music


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