Nashville Musicians Get Their Wine Questions Answered

Guitar and wine

What does seeing an intimate acoustic showcase at Nashville’s legendary, beer-soaked The Bluebird Café have to do with wine? It turns out the local musicians have a thirst for wine knowledge.

During a recent visit to Nashville, my guide was Susan Ruth. A performing songwriter, she not only put live music on the menu, but also offered a wine-centric tour of the city. Particularly memorable was a bottle of COS’s 2013 Pithos Rosso during dinner at City House.

Upon returning home, I thought it would be great to have Ruth and five Nashville musicians (and one group) send me their burning questions about wine. I picked one query from each act to answer.

Susan Ruth
Susan Ruth

Susan Ruth

Ruth has released three albums, most recently 2014’s “All I Ever Wanted Was Everything.” A track on the album, “Promise Me Something,” caught the attention of Reba McEntire, who retitled it “Promise Me Love” and covered it on her “Love Somebody” album.

My mom always told me to keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge “just in case” there was something to celebrate. What’s the best everyday celebration Champagne, and the best “REALLY celebrate special occasion” Champagne?

That’s great advice. And even if there isn’t something to celebrate, opening a bottle of bubbles can turn anything into a celebration, whether it’s a night of Netflix, pizza with friends, or a mundane Monday.

Real Champagne comes from one place: Champagne, France. I’d like to think of Champagne as an everyday wine, and I encourage everyone to drink it with more regularity. But for a lower-priced “just in case” celebration, turn to high-quality sparkling wines.

Look for wines labeled “Crémant.” These sparkling wines from France are made in the same method as Champagne, and they really deliver when it comes to flavor. The label will say “Crémant,” and the region from which it hails. Crémant d’Alsace is a personal favorite. Also look for Crémant de Loire and de Bourgogne (Burgundy).

For a special occasion Champagne, get the real thing and go big. Nothing says celebration like a magnum. A big 1.5L dwarfs a standard, puny 750ml and announces, “I came to party.”

Listen to and download “Promise Me Something” by Susan Ruth.

Brennin Hunt
Brennin Hunt

Brennin Hunt

Hunt received national attend as a contestant on The X Factor on FOX in 2011 and last year made a guest appearance on ABC’s Nashville. His self-titled EP is available now.

How long should wine breathe before drinking? Does white [wine] have to breathe?

Many cellar-worthy red wines can benefit from hours of breathing, especially more recent vintages. Like people, a wine can be shy at first but open up with time. But who has time for that when you’re thirsty?

Most everyday red wines drink well right out of the gate. But that doesn’t mean they won’t evolve flavor-wise or mellow out. Try this, Brennin: Pour yourself a glass from a freshly opened bottle, have a sip and set the glass aside. Then pick up your guitar and play a couple of songs. Go back and taste that wine. See if you can detect a difference.

The Wine + Music Issue

There’s no hard-and-fast rule about time, but with exposure to air, the wine will start to change and, possibly, improve. Give it a minimum of 15 minutes, and note over the course of time how it develops. Your wine glass makes for a good decanter, or you can invest in a nice glass decanter, or even use an old (clean) glass vase or pitcher.

Some white wines, like top Chardonnays from Burgundy, will also benefit from air.

Listen to and download “Lose My Cool” by Brennin.

Sam Brooker
Sam Brooker / Photo by Anna Haas

Sam Brooker

Brooker was taught piano and guitar by his dad in Wisconsin, before heading out to Nashville after high school. Besides performing, he’s founded both a music publishing and software development company. His self-titled EP was released this fall and includes the debut single “Stay.”

I love the dessert wine vin de glaciere (ice wine). What are some other fun dessert wines that aren’t like a raisiny Port?

If you’re looking for something without the heft of Port but still sweet, here’s a duo that are a fizzy delight. They won’t be as nectar-like as ice wine, where the grapes are picked frozen so the tiny amount of juice obtained is liquid ambrosia. However, these are a great way to end a meal or start a brunch: Moscato d’Asti and Brachetto d’Acqui.

These slightly sparkling, fresh and sweet Italian wines are white and red, respectively, and also low in alcohol. Moscato d’Asti is like drinking a bowlful of peaches and pears, while Brachetto d’Acqui transports you to a summertime ripe red-berry patch.

Listen to and download “Stay” by Sam Brooker.

Runaway June
Runaway June

Runaway June

Featuring the three-part harmonies of Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne, Runaway June’s debut single, “Lipstick,” was released earlier this year.

Best wine to get you through a breakup?

Breakups bring up a set of complicated emotions. If you’re in the doldrums, I’d wallow for a bit in a glass of Amarone. It’s a dark, brooding Italian red made from partially dried grapes. The resulting wine is very rich and concentrated. It’s easy to get lost in the glass.

Once you turn that emotional corner, try something that pairs with your newly brightened mood: rosé. You can’t help but feel better when looking at a glass of vibrant pink wine. Classic bottles from Provence in the South of France provide textbook pleasure and are dry and crisp.

Oh, and if it’s a good riddance-type of breakup, go straight to Champagne.

Megan Linville
Megan Linville

Megan Linville

Following in the footsteps of her songwriter grandfather, Linville recorded her first album at age 19. She recently participated in the Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) Island Hopper Songwriter Fest for the third consecutive year.

What’s the best wine to pair with salmon?

As a 10-year resident of Seattle, I have extensive experience with salmon and wine. Since it’s a rich fish, you can definitely go red wine. I prefer lighter-style reds like Gamay from Beaujolais or a Pinot Noir from Oregon. Salmon is also great with a dry rosé. And for whites, I like a Chardonnay with a little oak, but plenty of unoaked whites fit the bill, too, like a Sauvignon Blanc or Albariño.

A couple of things to keep in mind though, Megan: How is the salmon being prepared? If it’s grilled, you can venture into heartier red wine territory. If it’s cooked more gently, like poaching, ease back on the wine’s richness. You should also take any sauce into account. Something cream-based vs. a simple squeeze of lemon can steer your wine choices in different directions.

Listen to and download “This Old Town” by Megan Linville.

Brandon Kinney

Brandon Kinney

“Seriousness is not in my personality,” says Kinney. No wonder his music skews toward the irreverent. Working as a songwriter for numerous performers, the West Texas native has also released his own solo album entitled “Smells Like Texas.”

What is the best wine for smoked brisket?

There’s a tendency to go for a big, bold red to match with fatty, smoky, rich barbecue. The school of thought is to choose a rich red with the oomph to stand up to a hearty brisket. For instance, a spicy, inky Zinfandel from California.

I tend to take the opposite tack.

Whether you’re a salt-and-pepper purist or have your own secret rub, I like a wine that will cut through the richness and refresh. Go for a dry Lambrusco. It’s got a nice amount of fizz to refresh, enough structure to stand up to smoked meat and offers a nice grapey finish. And it’s a wine that’s meant to be enjoyed informally, like out of a short tumbler. (It’s also excellent with cured meats, like salami.)

Listen to and download “One For The Road” by Brandon Kinney.

Published on November 7, 2016
Topics: Wine Basics