Local temperature for Eau Claire, Wisconsin: 97 degrees Fahrenheit.
Local heat index: 105.
Tonight, we considered drinking our wine on the porch while listening to our music through the window.
Needless to say, we find ourselves inside our cool, air-conditioned loft sipping on some chilled Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc and listening to The Civil Wars' musky, sweaty album, "Barton Hollow."
Our wine and music combo tonight was not only refreshing, but also intensely reflective of the hot and still summer sky.
Fume Blanc (a title coined by Robert Mondavi), is a savignon blanc which has been aged in oak barrels. This particular one was brothy and slightly vegetal to the nose, and wonderfully balanced. The wine was incredibly double-planed with significant highs and lows (we'll explain later).
As for the tunage, we can't stop listening to The Civil Wars. Seriously. Maggie would never want to side with Taylor Swift on the topic of music (she tweeted about the bands' music in 2010), but this album was fantastic.
The first song, "20 Years", was a perfect example of the duo's marriage of dark folk and sweet melody. With musical techniques ranging from pentatonic arpeggios to Eastern-inspired guitar, and from Romantic Period Polonaise style to inverted melodies, the musicality of this album is difficult to find in today's musical artists (particularly the high-reaching yet uninspired indie folk scene). The second track, "I've Got this Friend" showcased the potential sweetness of the band's music, with childlike melodies overlaying syncopation and dark musical effects. "C'est La Mort," a dark examination of death and love, was made light and listenable by the sweet effervescence of musical clocks and light melody. Many dark, folk-laden melodies ensued, but were happily broken up by the title track, "Barton Hollow," a kick-ass spiritual rock melody inspired by both salvation and the devil himself.
The music was Western, complex, gritty and spiritual, but refreshed us with its light vocals, pleasant melodies and superb vocal harmonies. The wine was savory and sweaty, but had an overlay of well-balanced acidity. On this sultry day we definitely appreciated its touch of effervescence. We think our internal temperatures finally cooled down to 99 degrees. At least, we hope so.
Maybe it's a sign of music culture today, but for some reason we keep pulling albums of indie folk bands; not that this is a bad thing (we loved "Hayes Carl" and were early followers of "Mumford and Sons") but repetition is dull for the mind and the soul. Fortunately for us (and hopefully for you) this was a new type of indie folk. At times it was bright and childish like an old Raffi album (most likely listened to on tape cassett), and other times it was dark and ghostly, with haunting lyrics that left you feeling as melancholy as Ebenezer Schrooge.
The album starts out with "20 Years," a very meditative song featuring pentatonic scales and eastern harmonies. This leads into a second track "I've Got This Friend" which is bright and syncopated. A style of music I would love to play for a young child. The third song "C'est La Mort" features male vocals reminiscent of Harry Connick Jr. and makes me wonder if the male singer, John Paul White, got his chops in the music scene of The French Quarter.
One of the great things about this music was it's ability to flow from bright to dark, choppy to fluid. I especially liked how the album was broken up with track eight "The Violet Hour", which was an all-instrumental track featuring beautiful yet haunting cello.
I would put the musical exploration of this group far above the currently popular "Mumford and Sons". Even if they don't see the success that M and S has had in recent months, I will really look forward to another drop from this band.
Ferrari-Carano, just say the name and you feel like a more "established" person. This wine comes in a beautiful silver, gold and white bottle and just screams summer time sipping. As we mentioned earlier, it's hot outside and we needed something crisp, white and acidic to cool us off. This Fume Blanc didn't let us down.
Pour it in the glass and you see the inviting bubbles of effervescence. The wine is very pale and has an almost watered-down appearance. The nose has hints of oak but what really stands out are the savory notes. Flavors of cooked carrots and chicken broth emanate from the glass. The great thing is that despite it's savory bold beginning this wine finishes with a full mouth feel that covers the back of your lips and tongue. This fullness is slowly burned away, like a sulfur match, by bright acidity back with candied apple flavor. Think of those green apple suckers with a slab of caramel on top!
With her slick screw-top, this wine just begs to be popped and poured, which we did and certainly will do again.
90 pts (little thin on the mid pallet, otherwise extremely pleasing)
I am a fan of truely good, creative, and appealing alternative pop. While this music wasn't bubbly by any stretch of the imagination, it was certainly melodic, musically interesting, easy to listen to, and all-together delightful.
My favorite track was "C'est La Mort." Not only the parallel of "C'est La Vie" ('that's life', for those who haven't heard the phrase), "that's death" was not only beautifully lyrical and musically interesting, it was almost comically lighthearted in its musical attributes, considering the incredibly serious subject matter. The guitar intervals, reminiscent of clocks, investigate the passage of time on the planes of love and death, and the historic music tropes extend far beyond this particular track.
In the dark tune "Falling," describing the stagnancy of a long-overdue breakup, the melody which accompanies the lyrics "I can't help falling out of love with you" are reminiscent of the melody to the classic "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You." Little innuendos like this are popular in both Broadway and classical music genres.
The Polonaise in "Girl with the Red Ballon" was masterful and indicative of the subject matter (balloons, parties, carnivals . . . you get it), and the western musical cliches show up in most of the hauntingly beautiful tracks of the album, such as "My Father's Father." Just try listening to that one without feeling the presence of a ghost.
This album is a thinkers' album. Musical ideas are utilized (rare in today's music industry) and carried out beautifully. Real harmonies are created. Interesting instrumentals provide the bones of the album, while real, creative basics provide the flesh.
I'm finally feeling cool.
Seriously, this wine was the perfect wine for a hot and steamy summer day. It's savory and tart affixes provide the perfect means for refreshment, like a savory pork with a tart pear.
The savory layers and the crisp acidity provide savory lows and acidic highs, and the separation of the two flavors is extremely clear in this particular vino. With the top and bottom palates being so pronounced, my only complaint is that the two layers are so separated. I wish there were a middle ground, with which to unite the two planes and create a unified product like a savory and sweet pork-and-apple stew.