Music + Wine with Matt: Volume 5

In a dramatic shift from Carly Rae Jepsen, I’ve decided to dive into the newly released composition from Pulitzer Prize winning composer John Luther Adams.  While I don’t have the technical speak to break down the piece as intelligently as a music student, I was immediately drawn to the long piece for it’s cinematic and evocative style, transporting you to a beautiful, but desolate place.  It’s a contemplative piece and one that does call for your attention so I’d suggest grabbing a bottle of Laura Lorenzo’s “Camina de la Frontera” and diving in.  If you have a friend you can sit in silence with for long stretches then discuss both the wine and the music with, even better!


I’m not known for my love of classical compositions. That was always more of Georgann’s vibe, being trained in the art of classical music and occasionally sharing pieces that she was fond of.  While I grew up playing instruments, I was never fluent in the language of music and therefore couldn’t dissect it in a way that many can, but I can feel it. Like wine, without some training or personal research into the specifics of how and where things grow, you may not be able to speak to the intricacies of a certain wine, but when you find something you like, you know it. You can feel it.

Years ago I saw Baltimore natives Wye Oak play with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as part of their Pulse series. The Orchestra opened with a section of John Luther Adams “Become Ocean.”  This undulating, ebbing and flowing of horns, strings, and drums conveyed both the serene beauty of watching a stream trickle along its narrow path, to the terrifying, unbridled power of the planet’s oceans. The piece won that year’s Pulitzer Prize for music, and I found myself returning to the piece often in the years since.

To my surprise, last week Adams released Become Desert – about as far from the subject of Oceans as one could possibly get. The music builds much slower, more shimmering bells and drawn out string sections. There is still a glimpse of the danger inherent in such arid landscape, but nowhere near as dark and foreboding as what one sees in oceans. The piece acts as a mirage, with instruments so gently and subtly overlapping – horn becoming string becoming bell becoming piano. There are even segments where it feels like you’re hearing breathy voices in the distance calling out to you in between the rumble of drums. It’s a potent piece of music that draws you in close and makes you a part of it. It is for the patient listener because on the surface, it may not sound like a lot is happening. But like the many deserts of the world, there is always more than meets the eye than an endless landscape of dust.

Laura Lorenzo’s Camina de la Frontera is made from indigenous Spanish grapes Juan Garcia and Tempranillo, with minimal additions of Bobal, Rufete, Mencia, and Bastardo. She enrolled in Oenology school at the age of 16 and in a few short years has turned out some incredibly singular wines that have the power, like Adams music, to take you to a place and tell you a story so compelling that you’re swept away in it.

Please enjoy the pairing and let me know what you think!