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rhythm in blue Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

kevin-barbara-piano-1

[A consummate virtuoso of a jazz pianist, singer and songwriter, Kevin frequently performs with his wife as crooning chanteuse. Barbara's own musical talent is manifold, as well, being that she played flute professionally for many years, in addition to performing in (and teaching for) numerous choral groups. Music continues to be a salient part of life not only for the couple, but also for their two sons, Ivan and Ryan.]

NM: Apropos, to what extent do you feel a parallel between your musical creativity and your winemaking, and can you talk about the broader strokes of that winemaking style?

KB: As a jazz pianist, whenever I approach a piece… it's always different. Because improvisation is definitely a part of it, or whatever mood I might be in. There's a melody line and there's chord symbols, and I never play it the same way twice. It's always some new harmonic choice or something else going on, playing with the melody in different ways. I think the same thing is true with the wine; each year you're given something a little different. You're given a 'lead sheet' — which is what you work with in jazz; you're given the fruit for the year. It's the lead sheet, that's all it is. So now you've got this fruit and you've got to decide what you're going to do with it. And you may approach it initially with some similar things, like you have a particular protocol. You say, "Well, okay, I know I'm going to go at it this way… I know there's going to be a certain feel to this." There are very few departures from that part of it, so there are some basic protocols. Same thing with this, with the fruit; you have this basic protocol. But then what you do, going forward, you have to let things take their course; you have to be patient; you have to let things develop and evolve. You can't force them to, and you can't manipulate them to. You just have to deal with what you've been given with nature, and make the best piece out of it you can.

NM: What challenges do you face in making your wines?

KB: Well, you're always trying to pick fruit at the right time. There's a lot of wineries that approach the right time to harvest as a function of numbers — What's the sugar level?… What's the total acidity?… What's the pH? — if it's in these parameters, {snap} pick it! But there's a lot more to it, in terms of the physiology of the fruit, where you're talking about how the fruit pulls away from the stem, how much pulp is left on the pedicel, what color are the seeds, how bitter are the seeds, what's the tannin structure, how much raisining or dehydration there is, what are the flavors of just the skins, the pulp of the fruit, how quickly does it dissolve on your tongue, in the mouth. I mean, all of these things… this is what makes it right.

[Our attention naturally went to the wines patiently standing along a neat row on the glass coffee table between us. Barbara proceeded to open the first few of these, as I turned the focus of the discussion on particulars of the R&B wines themselves. The portfolio consists of a Sauvignon Blanc, a Zinfandel, and a Syrah (all in the $11-$12 range); a Cabernet Franc ($24); and a Reserve Cabernet ($65).]

"You have to let things take their course; you have to be patient; you have to let things develop and evolve. You can't force them to, and you can't manipulate them to."

NM: So, why did you settle on using these specific varietals?

KB: Well, the Reserve Cab, because that's what we first started at, and that's what we wanted to do. I mean, for me, there's nothing like a really great Cabernet. People ask me all the time, "Well, which is your favorite," and it really depends on the day and the kind of mood that I'm in. Normally, I'll joke with them by saying, "You're asking me to tell you — in front of my children — which of my kids I like best." Now if one of my kids wasn't here — then I might say something! {laughter} But really what it comes down to is that it totally depends on the mood that you're in, or what you're feeling like on a particular day, and you may decide, "Hey, I'm just in the mood for Syrah today." Or "I don't care, I've had it; I just need crisp and clean, and I want Sauvignon Blanc. What are we having for dinner? — Well, we're having steak — Don't care, wanna drink Sauvignon Blanc; that's what I want." It really should be about what you like, because wine is a very personal, very subjective thing.

BB: But these really are some of our favorite varietals. And Kevin makes them in the fashion that we like.

KB: And it would almost be sacrilegious to spend all that time at Rosenblum and not make Zinfandel. You have to pay tribute to your heritage. But all of these varietals are actually things that we just really wanted to make. I mean, why do we choose Sauvignon Blanc? Everybody says, "Well, don't you make a Chardonnay?" No… don't want to make a Chardonnay…



 

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