June 20, 2018
To celebrate tomorrow’s Make Music Day we caught up with a few of Paso Wine’s musical talents who are passionate about music and wine, and in some cases making wine-inspired music.
You probably know of Gary Kramer Guitars (and now Gary Kramer Guitar Cellars in Paso), but did you know Cynthia Lohr was once in an Afro-Funk band? The people of Paso Wine have many hidden talents. Read on!
TRADE AND BRAND ADVOCATE, CO-OWNER, J. LOHR VINEYARDS & WINERY
What instrument do you play and how long have you been playing? I started piano and violin in 2nd and 4th grades respectively, but always knew I loved to sing. So I scrapped both instruments in favor of vocal ensembles in high school and college, and have been singing semi-professionally since the late 80s. I’ve also dabbled in Middle Eastern percussion and am now teaching myself guitar to accompany vocals. My performance tenure has included everything from being a backup vocalist and dancer in an Afro-Funk band in the late 80s called Wazobia, to singing with several notable ensembles specializing in Eastern European Women’s Folk Music. One group I was with, Kitka (which means “bouquet” in Macedonian) recorded in Hollywood for the 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder, so I enjoyed Screen Actors Guild rights and received royalties for a period of time. I’ve contributed to about six different indie recordings that unfortunately are hard to find!
Which famous musicians do you admire? My musical influences run the gamut, but I love singer/songwriters who channel their own memorable sound with a pure, unmistakable tonality. Two of my major influences were the late Ofra Haza, and Jeff Buckley. I’m a huge fan of Brenden Urie of Panic! at the Disco, Peter Gabriel and Ben Harper. But I’m really blown away by composers of all flavors. How they do that, I have no idea! At the end of the day, I’m most passionate about Turkish and Arabic vocals, for the incredible ornamentation.
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous? Take the time to get to know what drives your musical passion, and then channel that in your explorations. Music is a fluid endeavor, and I find that the minute I let go of nerves and just sing, I offer my best musical self.
What are your fondest musical memories? I used to be unable to sleep before orchestral performances in elementary school, I was so excited. My most fulfilling experiences also include performing at weddings, either vocal blessings or incantations and performing at large music festivals, even Burning Man. Nowadays, nothing parallels my 15-year-old daughter taking the stage as a guest vocalist with one of our friend’s rock bands!
Are there any similarities in playing music and making wine? Always! Music and making wine are the manifestations of art, science, and mellifluous intent.
What places in Paso Wine Country would you recommend for those wanting to play music or listen to music? Pack up your guitar, accordion, ukulele or banjo and head to a friend’s house, a vineyard, or the park downtown. We can never have enough music in our lives, and like a wine from Paso Robles, it’s meant to be shared with family and friends.
At the end of the night, you put on your favorite music. What wine pairs best with what you are listening to? My wine preferences are influenced by the seasons, but as I’m winding down, nothing soothes me like a sumptuous Paso Robles Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, or Mourvedre.
OWNER/WINEMAKER, HUNT CELLARS
What instruments do you play and how long have you been playing? I play piano and guitar. For more than 40 years, I have played guitar since I was 17 and learned piano in my early 20’s.
Which famous musicians do you admire? The Beatles were my motivation to learn guitar. Elton John and Billy Joel inspired me to play piano because their musical progressions were so amazing and catchy. Now I focus on piano and less on guitar.
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous? Beginners who are nervous should take lessons, gain confidence and study music theory, listen to new music and learn the song by sound. I also recommend that when they start piano or other instruments have that instructor teach them their favorite song on that instrument, perfect it and move on to the next song and they will find that perfecting the first song will make every other song seem much easier and they will build a repertoire.
What are your fondest musical memories? My fondest musical memories are when I give a concert and get a standing ovation or people tell me how inspired they were and moved by certain songs I have performed. I love it when they tell me “They close their eyes and feel like they are at an Elton John Concert”.
Are there any similarities in playing music and making wine? There are lots of similarities to making music and wine. First, there is the art of winemaking and the art of writing music as both require your heart and soul, giving it your best. Making wine is like perfecting a musical score; you practice everything until it is as good as you can perfect the wine or perform the music, all in good taste.
My philosophy is “Wine inspires music and music inspires wine” My current album on iTunes, Amazon and other downloads is called “Rhapsody in Red” which is the name of our Meritage blend. Several tracks on this album were songs I had written which became names for wines such as “Unforgettable” Merlot, “Bon Vivant” Cabernet, “Cloud 9” a reserve Cabernet, “Oldie But Goodie” one of our ports and “Hilltop Serenade”, our Syrah which is about the Angels Share in the wine industry.
What places in Paso Wine Country would you recommend for those wanting to play music or listen to music? For those who play music, I would recommend demonstrating their talents at wineries.
At the end of the night, you put on your favorite music. What wine pairs best with what you are listening to? Wine and Music Pairing: Music should be uplifting to inspire the mood and the moment, some music can be a downer so always play positive music with good vibrations which makes you smile and happy. We have tested the effect music has on patrons and want to keep it upbeat. The customer stays longer and has a great wine experience.
When it is bright and sunny I recommend starting with a great white wine, Chardonnay, Viognier or Sauvignon Blanc. If I have had a rough or stressful day, I lean towards a Super Tuscan Blend, Sangiovese or Pinot Noir. I enjoy the bolder reds with hard cheeses at dinner and of course the Ports with chocolate desserts.
OWNER/WINEMAKER, DUNNING VINEYARDS ESTATE WINERY
What instrument do you play and how long have you been playing? Drums with my first paid gig at 16 years old in LA. I spent the next 15 years recording and backing up artists at live venues until I found the wine business.
Which famous musicians do you admire? Why? Steve Smith of Journey. Jeff Porcaro of Toto, the groove master, who worked on 100’s of top records. And of course, his dad Joe Porcaro who I had the privilege to have as my teacher for a time. A very cool family of drummers.
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous? Nothing wrong with nerves, it shows you care, however, if you change the feeling into excitement then that can drive you forward.
What are your fondest musical memories? The best advice I received from a successful music producer was, “less is more” when it comes to letting an artist shine. I put that in play when I got into winemaking, let the source, your fruit shine through by a more hands-off approach in the cellar letting the vineyard shine in the wine. I also liked playing the small clubs like the Troubadour in LA.
Are there any similarities in playing music and making wine? Musicians just have to do it. Winemaking is kind of the same, it gets in your blood.
What places in Paso Wine Country would you recommend for those wanting to play music or listen to music? Local wineries are a nice place to hear music. They also are open to looking at new talent so might be a good place to start for a new artist.
At the end of the night, you put on your favorite music. What wine pairs best with what you are listening to? Classical is sparkling wine and blues is Petite Sirah, Zin or a nice GSM. There are just so many great choices. That is a good thing. Cheers!