When I heard Animal Collective for the first time I didn't like them. I can sometimes be a bit of a musical fuddy-duddy, ordering Derek to "turn that down!" more than I'd like to admit. I like my music soothing and mellow for the most part and listened to at a middle-aged volume. So when he played me an earlier album of theirs (Strawberry Jam), I promptly asked him to turn it down. "You don't like this?" he exclaimed, shocked by my apparent uncoolness. He went on to explain to me how wonderful the band was, how original and fascinating their music was, how they had a huge following. I had no means to argue, it didn't matter to me how awesome they were. To me it sounded like music for people who don't like music.
When Derek and I found ourselves driving through New Mexico earlier this year, he tried again with Animal Collective, but this time he played their new album, Merriweather Post Pavilion. He had been saving it for this drive through the majestic highlands of New Mexico. When he turned it on, I was skeptical. I readied myself to be embarrassed by my own overwhelming desire to make him turn it down. But then, surprisingly enough, I didn't. I liked it. Even more so, I found it infectious. Amazing, stupendous even. I loved it. How could these guys make all of these different sounds and noises become a beautiful, harmonic song? What talent to turn all of these chaotic beats, strange samples and ethereal voices into one melodic, cohesive whole?
We were adamant about getting this album on vinyl and reviewing it. Whatever would we pair with such a stunning album? I shared the dilemma with one of the wine folks in my local wine shop. When he asked what I was looking for I told him I needed a crazy blend. A blend of grapes so strange you would never think it would work, but when tasted together it just all makes sense. A wine that is far better than the sum of its parts. He immediately recommended the 2005 School House "Recess Red" from Paso Robles winery Adelaida, coming in at around $15. I bought it and brought it home, excited about the evening ahead.
As I sit here a few hours later, full from dinner, relaxed from a busy day and drinking the School House Red while listening to the Animal Collective, I couldn't be happier. This wine is perfect for this album. It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cinsault, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Grenache, Mourvedre, Zinfandel and Touriga. Grapes from several different countries that you would never imagine would end up in the same bottle. One might think that the winemaker just adopted the "kitchen sink" policy and threw everything into these bottles hoping that it would come out okay. But, it isn't that easy. There had to be a thought process behind this taste. And indeed the folks at Adelaida sourced most of the fruit from their own vineyards, vinified all the grapes separately and aged them for almost 2 years before creating this blend.
The nose of this wine is deceptive, it smells like a whole wine, a single varietal even. A lot of Cabernet notes of plummy, dark fruit, graphite with underlying notes of vanilla and softer fruit. On the palate, it's a smörgåsbord of fruit with dark berries and red berries and all other berries and cherries and grapey fruit melting into each other. Then, the real kicker, an explosive and truly awesome black peppery spiciness with an undertone of espresso that lasts through the finish. Really a great wine, but maybe its the album thats making me like this crazy wine, or maybe its the wine that's making me like this crazy album. Who knows? But when someone manages to take all of these different tastes and sounds and form them into a more amazing cohesive whole that is so much better than the sum of all its parts, one can only sit back, relax and enjoy the equation.