For part one of my music and wine pairing series, we’ll head to Greece for the Georgos Agiorgitiko (pronounced Ag-ee-oh-Gee-tee-koh) from the white sandy beaches of Mykonos island. The varietal is popularly known as “the blood of Hercules.” After Hercules slayed the Nemean lion, it was Agiorgitiko, from Nemea, that he guzzled in victory. Greece has been making wine for 6500 years, and, from this vast experience, they know a lot about it. They were the first to age wine and crush grapes before fermentation. Hippocrates prescribed it for medicinal purposes. During the spread of Greek civilization, large cults of people worshiped Dionysus, the god of wine (now that’s a god I can get behind!).
Pair this wine, or any Agiorgitiko for that matter, with music from the Toids’ “Unblocked Ears”, released in 2006. The cats in the band, Ryan Francesconi, Danny Cantrell, Lila Sklar, and Tobias Roberson are my homies, and world class musicians. The music is steeped in the vibe of Eastern European zestiness. Soulful, celebratory, exotic, and sorrowful, with rhythms that are hard to count, even if you’re a musician. The Toids blend their own originality with traditional Balkan folk music, and skillful songwriting to create a music that’s completely unique.
Pay particular attention to track three, “Seek”, with yours truly playing baritone saxophone. It’s as if Hercules himself is embodied in the composition, taking on the lion during the bari solo. The battle commences, each feeling each other out, while the heat of the day simmers off of the turf. The solo builds and the battle ensues, tense, yet sexy, and riveting. It all climaxes when the battle of two giants gets lethal, and Hercules drinks the blood of his fallen enemy. Or was it Agiorgitiko?
Notes of black plum, wild strawberry, blackberry liqueur, clay pot, graham cracker, Ouzo (watch our RF!), and tomato vine pop out of the glass, whilst Francesconi kills it soulfully on various lutes and flutes, in songs, like “Groping and Hoping” (having help from Cantrell with his technically gifted fingers), and “Slinker” (laying it down while Sklar and Cantrell play cat and mouse). I love the vocal interplay of Cantrell and Sklar in “Magnolia”. The chorus is as beautiful as the velvety fruit that Agiorgitiko generously provides. It’s no fruit bomb, though. Very much tempered by the tannic structure, subtle bitterness of the oak, and notes of iron earth, specific to Greece, this wine is sophisticated and balanced.
As I’m taking this all in, I love contemplating the rich history of Greek winemaking, and losing myself in that gorgeous “Magnolia” melody. I feel as if I’m back there somewhere in 1600 B.C.; getting down with Dionysus, and appreciating these musicians in a time where they were as important as the gods.