Less Rock, More Cork: Wine Rocks Was Fun, No Thanks To The Tunes

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Gordy Rawson of Chatter Creek Winery (second in from the right) and The Turbo Grape Mashers.
From Chop Suey to The Tractor, head to any rock show in Seattle and you'll have your pick of quality libations, from microbrews to craft cocktails. A good glass of wine, on the other hand, is hard--nearly impossible--to find at such haunts.

Bringing the two together is tricky: scenesters are tuned into beer--it's cheaper--and once opened, a bottle of wine will begin to oxidize; if not served within a few days, it goes bad. A longer shelf life and more rapid consumption have kept distilled spirits, bottled drinks, and kegs well-stocked at live music venues.

So when Wine Rocks, a fundraiser that pairs wine tasting with music-making vintners, set up shop on Pier 66 last night, the cuvee, so to speak, didn't exactly strike the right chord. The day was gorgeous, the wines were great, but I wouldn't call cover bands and timid songwriters rock n' roll. Perhaps my snooty 'tude is a bit unfair--it was a fundraiser after all--but let's face it: Eastern Washington has its renowned vineyards, and they're a long ways from any hotbed of rock music.

With a guesstimated attendee age of 45--ticket prices at the door precisely that figure as well--Wine Rocks was a distinctively un-rock scene: a pricy affair aimed at Seattle's older, wine-drinking elite. There were a few highlights, but the tunes tanked overall. Seattle Times wine writer Paul Gregutt grunted out a few Willie Nelson and Van Morrison covers that were halfway decent, but the tepid set from folk-rock group The Fox and The Raven, fronted by a shy, young vocalist, was forgettable. Gordon Rawson's '60s pop covers of The Kinks and Elvis followed, but were so cliched they breezed along with the goofy clip of a wedding band. As with most drinking music, the tunes improved as more wine was consumed, but when the buzzing throngs started in with the sloppy dance moves, the vibe was more 30 year high school reunion than rock show.

Thing is, it's not like wine is without ambassadors in the music world: rockers like Dave Matthews and Maynard James Keenan have been making wine for years. Hell, even Carrie Brownstein-approved Kyle MacLaughlin, along with winemaker Eric Dunham, makes wine right here in our state.

What's more, regional wineries like Piccola Wine Co. and Proletariat (both unrepresented last night) are pioneering the bulk wine delivery system with steel kegs that minimize oxygen exposure, allowing proprietors to draw individual glasses right from the tap (wine bars like The Cask and Locol have made good use of them). But until hipsters start clamoring for Cab with their indie rock, it's unlikely good wine will find a permanent home at any Seattle live music club, and events like Wine Rocks, well-intentioned they may be, are a good reminder why some tunes sound better with PBR.

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