Thursday, June 14, 2012

Blood Of The Vines: The Last Waltz

Wine Goes to the Movies with 

“This article should be read (a)loud”

It probably won’t be long before there will be sommeliers at rock concerts, if there aren’t already.  I don’t go to many concerts, so there may well be someone behind the concession stands these days curating the rock and roll wines - someone to help guide you to just the right crappy Chardonnay to hold in the hand that doesn’t have your Bic lighter in it.  Or the iPhone Bic lighter app, anyway.

TFH guru Allan Arkush tells the story about how he worked at the Fillmore East in his college days at NYU.  He made it possible for one of his professors - one Martin Scorsese - to see The Band at the Fillmore.  The rest, as they say, is rock and roll cinema history.

The Last Waltz” isn’t just a concert movie, of course. Martin Scorsese would need more up his sleeve than that. It’s a document, a testimony, a farewell.  It completes a circle that started at the Fillmore, watching perhaps the greatest American rock band, with free tickets, in 1970.  It's no Freixenet commercial, but it's close enough for rock and roll.

The 1976 concert at Winterland was staged as a big sendoff to The Band, who were breaking up, with Robbie Robertson’s departure.  Robertson’s value as a songwriter I won’t question, but I understand that it was not uncommon for his microphone to be turned off during performances.  If only they could have managed that for Neil Diamond.

Robertson’s curious fascination with Neil Diamond surfaced in 1976, and Diamond appeared at The Last Waltz concert.  Levon Helm, for one, was critical of Diamond’s presence on the stage.  I have read that Helm and Bob Dylan had an amusing backstage conversation as Diamond was finishing his song.  Diamond was apparently the butt of a Dylan joke in which he explained to Helm that in order to properly follow Diamond, he’d have to fall asleep onstage.  I'd have given a magnum of anything Coppola makes to have been privy to that.

Much has been made of the cocaine booger on Neil Young’s nose.  It got bigger each time the story was told.  It has since been removed from the film, but now, instead of looking for the booger, people look for where the booger used to be.

Check the credits the next time you watch “The Last Waltz.”  Aside from Scorsese directing, you have cinematographers who worked on films like “Raging Bull”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” “Five Easy Pieces” and “Easy Rider” working the cameras.  The production designer who worked on “The Sound of Music” and “West Side Story” did the lighting.  The San Francisco Opera contributed the set from “La traviata.”  There may have been more high-level talent behind the cameras than there was in front of them.

Oh, yeah.  There were a few famous guest musicians present, too.  As your sommelier for this concert, my wine selections for “The Last Waltz” are done like a setlist, according to those who took part in the show.

Check out the trailer - and the commentary by Arkush - then do as he recommends.  Pop the DVD in the machine and turn it up.  And try not to look too hard at Neil Young’s nostrils.

The Wine setlist for “The Last Waltz”

The Band - “Hard-workin’ wines to rock your tastebuds,” proclaims House Band Wine's mission statement.  Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino wines often do that.

Ronnie Hawkins - Hidden away in California’s Suisun Valley, Winterhawk Winery does a Late Harvest Zinfandel that sings sweeter than Hawkins.

Dr. John and Bobby Charles - Uncork some Blanc du Bois and some Norton from Pontchartrain Vineyards for these two sons of Louisiana.

Paul Butterfield - Sometimes a big, buttery Chardonnay gives me the blues.  Sometimes it’s just what I needed.  Newton Vineyard does it like that.

Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton - Muddy Water Winery in New Zealand’s Waipara Valley used to make a wine called Mojo.  Now they make one called Slowhand.

Neil Young and Joni Mitchell - Canada’s Harvest Winery should fit nicely for these north-of-the-border legends.

Neil Diamond - In honor of Dylan’s comment, let’s choose something from Sleepy Creek Vineyards.

Van Morrison - Bunratty Castle is the site of the first vineyards in Ireland.  The Celts have always been crazy about their mead.

Bob Dylan - So Dylan’s Wine Cellar is named for the owner’s kid, but he may well have been named after Bob.  Stop in the next time you’re in Peekskill, NY.

Ringo Starr - Ringo’s playing a winery this summer.  Enjoy a Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling.

Ronnie Wood - From the Wines That Rock series, 40 Licks Merlot.

The Staple Singers - They hit it big with Stax records, so dip into Memphis with a Blush from Old Millington WInery.

Emmylou Harris - Vin de pays means “country wine” in French, so why not grab a nice back porch blend of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat d’Alexandrie from Château Saint-Cosme.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti - Not a wine for this poet, who performed Loud Prayer at the conclusion of The Band’s farewell concert, but a book.  We should all go out like that.  Have some Bukowski.

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