You do not want to hear me sing.
On good days — and those are rare — I sound like squeaking brakes sliding down the Siskiyou Pass. And on bad days, my voice can be really irritating.
So you can imagine my admiration for anyone who can carry a tune, and lately I am finding a lot of talent at tasting rooms.
Think about this: For about the price of a movie ticket, you can sit in a dreamy location, listen to live music and taste wine. You're happy. The winery is happy. And the musicians are happy.
It's a sip-local, sing-local, laugh-local kind of movement. And when food trucks roll in to serve meals made from locally grown ingredients, it's a chamber-of-commerce-locavore lovefest.
On a recent Friday, I drove to RoxyAnn Winery in Medford to hear Robbie DaCosta, a rockabilly romantic who flirts and growls until the women wander his way. He and his band were to perform on a concrete pad next to an outdoor tent. Admission: $4 for wine-club members, $6 for everyone else.
Although I arrived before the two-hour set started, the tables were full of people who packed snacks or bought something off the food vendors parked in front of the tasting room.
I must have looked in need of a seat — or a friend — because Krista Johnson, a sweet, petite woman, waved me over and, acting on faith, invited me to join her group. She had become a wine-club member just hours before and, when told she could reserve a table, jumped on the chance, invited friends and had a spare seat for a stranger: me.
Turns out, she's not only friendly but a reiki teacher and a reverend. I'll remember that the next time I need a life-energy reading or to get married.
While Robbie sang "stuck in Folsom Prison, and time keeps dragging on," I ate tamales and watched moms on the dance floor, their hips swaying with abandon, their arms whirling like windmills, their hair — made to look sun-kissed — flipping to the beat. It's Roscoe's BBQ's dance crowd, only outdoors. Let's call it Roscoe's alfresco.
As their kids sat with crackers, crayons and mesmerized dads, moms danced as they did in high school. One woman kicked off her Skechers and never looked back.
Trolling the scene were Oregon's version of bad boys: James Dean wannabes in ball caps, leather jackets, long-sleeved T-shirts and oh-so-sexy Keens. One guy in sunglasses pointed to every feminine face in the crowd during "Pretty Women." There were swoons and smiles and applause for men carting arms full of 2010 Pinot Gris ($16.50).
This kind of theater may surprise you. But it doesn't surprise Greg Frederick, who has played bass with The Rogue Suspects band for 14 years.
"Little by little, wineries have become far more important than nightclubs," says Frederick, who also produces shows and books acts. "The competition to play wineries is strong because people don't want to sit in bars, and I don't blame them. Wineries are a far different feel than the clubs."
In one June weekend, The Suspects played at three wineries and drew a collective crowd of more than 1,000 people. Frederick and the band perform more than 120 shows a year now, with just a smidgen of those away from vineyards.
"With all of the wineries we are playing, we joke that we have tasted enough wine to be pretty good judges," says Frederick. (Organizers of September's Jackson County Harvest Fair wine competition take note.) One of the band members, Don Harriss, even has a hobby vineyard in Ashland.
In Southern Oregon, concerts are held on crush pads and custom-built stages. Bands play under stainless-steel tanks and on grassy lawns and riverfronts.
There are as many types of musical genres as there are types of wine. MarshAnne Landing winery in Oakland is staging a comic opera Sunday, June 23. Ed Dunsavage books national acts at Paschal-Tenuta Winery's tasting room in Talent. And there is talk that EdenVale Winery, which started the wine show biz in the Rogue Valley decades ago, may build an amphitheater to host music, theater, dance and performing-arts events, such as "Art for SART: A Night of Bohemian Paris" fundraiser July 29.
Musicians are compensated by tips and CD sales, or by the wine producer, who also pays royalties to have registered songs performed. The annual royalty fee is about $400 for small venues and can escalate to a few thousand for frequent, large concerts.
If my voice ever changes or if I met a young performer looking for a winery gig, I would look into South Stage Cellars' Rising Stars competition. At the end of the first contest, more than $7,000 was raised for CASA of Jackson County and the winner, solo guitarist Jeff Kloetzel, got a spot on the Britt stage and recording time at Blackstone Audio.
I attended the Rising Stars semifinals in May, when chanteuse Adey Bell's fans sat in a half-moon around her, and people in the back of the tasting room stood on chairs to see her. A week later, Bell was part of the Ashland First Friday art walk. Same singer. Same songs. Same keyboard.
And yet it didn't feel the same, perhaps because she performed in Ashland's amorous adult shop Love Revolution and I was distracted by books on the shelves. Or maybe it was the viewless, subterranean space. Or maybe it was something else.
Why, I wondered, does wine taste better with music and music feel better with wine? To answer that grape mystery, I turned to Mark Adams, a musician and winemaker at Ledge Vineyards in California: "In the same way that a fingerprint or a signature can be verified, so too can a bottle of wine or a piece of music," he says. "Music and wine work well together not only because they are social lubricants — independently or especially in unison — but also because they tell a story through multiple senses and from a profound place of origin." I'll sing to that.
EVENT: You can tell the inviting weather is here because there are too many outdoor activities for me to write about. Briefly, there are grilled meats, flying objects and plenty of wine.
Harry & David Country Village in Medford rekindles its popular Wine, Swine, Beer & BBQ Friday, June 22, when a whole, smoked hog will be served with wine from Crater Lake Cellars, Quady North, Kriselle Cellars and other local producers. "One of the most exciting moments is when the hog is pulled from the smoker "… after you have been waiting, smelling the smoke "… you are literally drooling as it exits," pants Jason R. Gregg, the store's exuberant wine buyer.
Now through Saturday, June 23, Dave Palmer, pilot and Fiasco Winery winemaker, has the 2012 U.S. National Paragliding Championships in his backyard. You can follow the 200 pilots through live video streaming via "head cams," from mountain launches up to 10,000 feet, or just by looking into the scenic skies above Palmer's Applegate Valley tasting room or his neighbors: Fly High & LongSword Vineyards, Red Lily Vineyards or Valley View Winery.
TASTED: I like the annual Battle of the Bones cook-offs and concerts at Twin Creeks Park in Central Point (Friday, June 22, through Sunday, June 24) because I am smacked with the scent of greasy beef, sudsy beer and the people who consume both on a hot, summer day. I always wander over to the quieter wine tent and whisper hello to Bob Denman of Slagle Creek Vineyards, which grows chardonnay and merlot in the Applegate Valley. Bob doesn't have a tasting room, so catching him at events gives me the chance to try his wine when I'm not ordering it at C St. Bistro in Jacksonville.
At this year's Battle, Bob will pour 2008 Estate Red, a blend of cabernet, merlot, syrah and tempranillo made by Steve Anderson at Eola Hills Winery ($15 a bottle) and the 2010 Clover Vineyard blend of chardonnay and gewurztraminer made by Wooldridge Creek Winery's respected Greg Paneitz ($15). Bob says the full-bodied red can best any barbecued beast. A $10 wine-tasting ticket includes a souvenir glass and 10 1-ounce tastes from Del Rio Vineyards, Shasta View Vineyards and others.
Reach columnist Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or email@example.com.