Matching Music & Wine – What Music Makes Your Wine Taste Better?

You’ve heard of food and wine pairing, but have you heard of music and wine matching?  According to an informal focus group of 42 Women for Wine Sense members and guests at Nicholson Ranch Winery, the right type of music really can impact what you taste in the wine.  We experimented with two wines – a chardonnay and pinot noir, and matched them to different music genres.  Focus group members were asked to vote on their favorite.  The results were amazing! Graph 1

The 2007 Estate Chardonnay on its own has a lovely nose of orange blossom with peach and butter on the palate, full body, and a long finish.  When paired with Ella Fitzgerald singing St. Louis Blues (10 votes) guest said the wine had more pineapple flavors and became more lush and relaxed in their mouths.  The jazz tied with Beach Boy’s California Girls (10 votes) which brought out the coconut and tropical flavors in the wine and put people into an easy going, but upbeat mood.  Coming in at 3 points, some participants said they enjoyed the wine paired with Jimmy Sturr’s Beer Barrel Polka which brought out minerality and a sense of fun.  Only receiving 1 vote, Billy Idol’s White Wedding was referred to as “jarring” with the wine, but it did bring out some spices. 

The 2007 Estate Pinot Noir is a fruity rich wine with berries, spice and a creamy smooth finish.  Interestingly the music it paired best with was The Cars, You Might Think – scoring 16 points.  Participants said the music brought out the spice in the wine and made it taste lively and energetic in your mouth.  Second place went to Mozart with Eine Kleine Nachtmusik at 9 points.  Fans said it made the acid stand out in the wine and enhanced the sophistication.  Tina Turner’s Steel Claw received 2 votes with admirers admitting they enjoyed how it make the various components stand out in the wine and created a more striking presence in your mouth.  Coming in last with 1 vote was Peter Doyle’s Strike Up the Pipes which is slow funeral dirge type music.  Most participants said it made the wine go flat and lose its fruit. 

This was a fun experiment, which should be easy to duplicate at a party or even in a classroom setting.  I encourage you to give it a try.  Select both a red and white wine you enjoy and try it out with some of your favorite music.Graph 2

You should also know that some experts provide advice on Wine-Music pairings.  Clark Smith of Vinovation suggests that chardonnay needs something sultry, white zinfandel years for polka, pinot noir loves romantic music, and cabernet does well with rage.  See:

For more information on Women for WineSense events and the luscious wines of Nicholson Ranch, see:  and

Millennials Add Salt to Their Wine – Experimenting With the 5 Flavors and Chateau St. Jean Wines

CSJ(By guest author, Matt Lapides) The last wine club of the 2008-2009 school year celebrated by tasting a flight of reserve wine from Chateau St. Jean and enjoying the dynamic of a food and wine pairing hosted by the wonderful Tammy K. Wight.  Tammy opened the meeting with a taste of the 2005 Sonoma County Reserve Chardonnay.  It took four different private vineyards of chardonnay grapes from the best parts of Sonoma County to create the multi layered complexity of this glass.  It had a finish that tasted like crème brulee.  The 2005 Sonoma County Reserve Malbec was next. This wine tasted like blueberries and had the lushes’ deep shades of purple to its color.  The finish was clean and smooth, nothing too intense. This made it really food friendly and approachable to the younger crowd.  Finally, we tasted Chateau St. Jean’s trademark, the 2005 Cinq Cepage.  The Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux Blend, had an extensive background of awards to live up to in its new 2005 vintage.  But the multi layers of bing cherries, ripe blackberries, and blackcurrant, with a finish like mocha and chocolate didn’t disappoint. The Cinq showed that it could use some age and in a few years will really appreciate.

            For the dynamics of food and wine, Tammy walked us through five major flavor sensations that alter the taste of wine. These five sensations were salty, sweet, sour, savory, and umami.  Everyone started with a plate of salt, brie cheese rolled in black pepper, raw steamed asparagus, a wedge of lemon, a wedge of red delicious apple, sliced very ripe cherry tomatoes, some triple cream cambozola cheese, and a little mystery water.  The group was presented with three glasses consisting of 2006 CSJ Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Sonoma County Chardonnay, and 2007 Sonoma County Riesling. With a dry red and white wine, and an off dry Riesling, each of the pairings had a unique effect on the wine.

Flavors that showed to be salty and sour, like the salt and the lemon, made the wine taste sweeter and less tannic.  The ripe tomato and the apple had sweet flavors that really made the wine stand out, with more intense flavors.  When combining the salty and sweet sensations, you were able to balance the taste of the wine with the combination of the food. Just putting different amounts of salt on the tomato wedge was my favorite.  All you need to do is vary the amount of salt used until the wine tastes beautiful. It would be even better with a leaf of basil and some fresh sliced mozzarella cheese. The flavor of savory was shown with the cooked raw asparagus and cambozola cheese. Tammy explained how this is also the flavor in raw red meat, which explained why the Cabernet tasted so good to me with these pairings. Umami was the most interesting of all of the sensations. It is believed to be our inherent sixth sense of taste and something we might not even know we like when we taste it. The brie cheese rolled in ground black pepper tasted very ordinary and like something I had tried before but couldn’t remember. The mystery water also showed the flavor of Umami. Tammy warned us that we would want to spit it out and she wasn’t lying. It was not very pleasant at first but as the flavor dissipated it started to taste like chicken broth…this might explain why so many things taste like chicken, possibly…

            It was a wonderful final night of the year and we were able to fill the room to our 50+ person capacity. It was Sarah Wineroth’s last acting meeting as Vice President and a student at SSU, and Jim Weaver’s last meeting as event coordinator for the club. Both of them made great contributions throughout the year and really helped out. Thank you and you will be missed. Chelsea Cartwright and I, Matthew Lapides, will be returning next semester as the newly appointed vice president and the returning president, with a new group of board members, new wineries to try, and new trips to be taken.  Have a great summer and we look forward to meeting again in the beginning of Fall 2009.