Elitism & Wine: Keep It Coming!!

The wine industry takes a lot of heat for being elitist. It’s the way we talk about wine, the way we seem to revere it and it’s the trappings of the industry that cause this impression.

One of trappings of the wine industry that can’t be disputed is that we all tend to surround ourselves with what many would call “high culture”. The kind of music that tends to find its way to wine industry events and into wine country in general is what I’m thinking of here.

Take Jazz for example.

This is not a popular form of music in America. Relatively few folks listen to Jazz. And yet, the music seems to ooze out of wine country helping to cement the impression that wine, wineries, the wine industry and wine country is filled with a bunch of elitists.

My thoughts on this relationship?


If being happy to associate Jazz music with wine and wine country is “elitist” then give me a walking stick and top hat. I’ll wear the top hat with pride and keep my pinky extended as I grip my cane of arrogance.

Best of all, it turns out that my very own Sonoma County is turning into a hotbed of Jazz. Consider this:

-A couple weeks ago Chuchita Valdes played a free concert in the Sonoma Plaza sponsored by the Sonoma Jazz Society

-Dave Brubeck is playing a benefit concert for the Sonoma Country Day School

-Sonoma’s Ledson Hotel has started a Jazz series that is bringing Taylor Eigsti and Jamie Davis to town.

-The Annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival has in the past two years put McCoy Tyner, Delfeayo Marsalis, Dave Holland and Roy Hargrove within my reach.

Until some great Jazz Diva comes along who chooses to sing about her tits and ass, to sing half naked and to makes videos that feature ripped gents and scantily clad female associates, Jazz is going to stay well off the mainstream radar and be perceived as elitist.

But as long as there is a wine industry and a wine loving set that feel there is an affinity between the art of wine making and high art, I’ll be sitting pretty here in Sonoma.


12 Responses

  1. Anneliese - August 23, 2007

    Last November I did an All-Month California Wine Tour. First three regions gave me a chuckle in regards to music played overhead in tasting rooms:
    Napa – classical music at the majority of tasting rooms – mainly piano and strings.
    Sonoma – mostly jazz.
    Bonny Doon – Grateful Dead.

  2. el jefe - August 24, 2007

    “Wine Country…” hmmm… Over in Calaveras, we seem to drift more towards the blues – or reggae or ska – or hip hop – or good old rock and roll a la Chuck Berry – or something. Not much Genesis or Bee Gees. But ask us to change the station, we’ll find something!

  3. winebroad - August 24, 2007

    I actually like jazz (the old-school kind, not that watered-down “jacuzzi jazz” crap), but I think it’s way overdone in the winery scene. I say it IS possible to have other kinds of music at winery events (as suggested by El Jefe) without attracting a bunch of uncouth hooligans who’ll guzzle all your Chardonnay, trash your tasting room and hurl all over your manicured lawn. There’s a hell of a lot of music out there that’s neither jazz nor mindless Britney-esque pop.

  4. VinoDuo - August 24, 2007

    We are jazz lovers and wine lovers. I’m sure there are plenty of metaphors wine makers could use about interpretation, improvisation, riffing on a theme, maybe even scatting…but it comes down to taste. Jazz is an art form that requires a little bit of knowledge and a willingness to open up to new things; the same can be said for wine. You don’t need to be snobs to love both, but having good taste doesn’t hurt.

  5. Kathleen - August 24, 2007

    Beautiful things tend to pair well together – jazz, art, great food and wine.
    Albany, NY

  6. Jake - August 24, 2007

    no Pink Floyd?….lol

  7. Randy - August 24, 2007

    In our Sonoma County tasting room, we’ve been known to play a lot of west coast punk in fact the winemaker has named his tanks after favorite bands… Pennywise, Lagwgon, NOFX, Sublime;) People find it kinda resfreshinly chick.

  8. el jefe - August 24, 2007

    Jake – you thinking “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” or “Be Careful With That Axe Eugene”? – either works for me!
    Randy – I like the punk tie-in! (being an old punker myself) my current tasting note themes have run more towards classic heavy metal – Purple and Zep. A friend challenged me to write a tasting note based on ELP’s “Tarkus” but that may be too hip for the room…

  9. Scott S - August 25, 2007

    It is like sailing it gets a bad rap as an elitist sport. The best memories I have about sailing is sailing on a lake in France with a fine bottle local wine, some nice cheese, bread for lunch, a beautiful young lady (who I married) and listing to a guy play the saxophone on the dock. The music, wind and wine where entoxicating. Let the masses have their NASCAR and Beer

  10. buntmarker - August 27, 2007

    Anyone who compares wine to art or, even worse, calls wine art, needs to do some serious thinking about the two. That’s the type who consider winemakers artists- how laughable! They probably also believe PR is some sort of customer service. Wake up and smell the money. Most art ain’t what you think it is either: cha ching! The best argument against accusations of elitism in the wine world is the fact that wine is almost entirely about the most banal and common thing on the planet-MONEY. It’s all for sale, baby, and that’s as American and egalitarian as McDonalds deep fried apple pie, the Grateful (rich) Dead, and Li’l Kim’s booty. We WANT it elite, so we can charge more for it, and you know it. Jazz (music) IS art. Wine IS NOT art. It’s just fermented fruit juice. OK, sometimes it’s really really good fermented fruit juice that is a complex, satisfying, sensory experience, makes you happy and might even get you laid. happy blogging

  11. Trevor B - September 2, 2007

    This article is entirely off-base, as it projects an unverified assumption onto the uninitiated who happen to lack a qualified representative. I have never and would never associate wine or wine drinking with Jazz music or any other genre. Without getting into the erroneous assertion that few people listen to this highly overrated style of music, please explain where such an observation would be made? Prior to diving head first into the world of wine, I too considered wine drinkers elitists as I watched from afar, but that was never because of any peripheral association. It was because of the absurd self-entitlement they exhibited when trying to intellectualize and mystify a glass of liquid. Granted, there are many wonderful facets to wine culture and consumption, but lets not get away from ourselves here; its just artisan grape juice. As a designer who is an accomplished musician as well as an experienced oenophile, I must say this article sounds like the fabrication of a closeted individual with an overactive imagination. Spare me the masturbatory ranting of a delusional Jazz fan that fancies his place in the world. Elitism does not connote superiority, but rather exclusivity. Not something an agricultural industry can afford to propagate! This is a business, not a country club! And no business can maximize its growth potential by flaunting a supremely arrogant demeanor. Wine is a drink of the people. And jazz… well jazz is simply the modicum of what could have been the most relevant form of music since classical, but that lofty goal was undermined by its very practitioners. It seems fitting though, since most jazz musicians I meet have an equally repulsive stench of arrogance coming off them.

  12. Jazz Music - September 21, 2007

    Jazz Music


Leave a Reply