Meet the #badass women of Five Senses Tastings' next event!

Since moving to Los Angeles, I've become much more woo-woo, you know, granola. I'm accepting the fact that hard work – alone – isn't the only way to achieve what you want, and am learning to believe that the Universe has your back even when you can't quite see how. Even then you have to trust it. If last week wasn't a confirmation of that, I don't know what is. 

Last week was all about timing and coincidences, and I'd like to take a moment to introduce you to two of them. But first, let's just give this lovely, talented lady a big shout out. Berklee grad and fellow LA newbie Jacquelyn Schreiber has now played in four of our events, is playing again for us on March 9th at the CLIC Conference, and will be with us for our Women's History Month event, "The Playful Palate" on Sunday March 26th at V Wine Room for another two shows. Jacquelyn is one of the most reliable, fun-loving, creative, and lightning-fast learners I have ever met. I love having Jacquelyn with us, and so excited she was available to join us for this event. What's most exciting for her, I'm sure, is the launch of her new EP, "Beautiful Love," now available on iTunes. Congratulations, Jacquelyn!! SO happy for you!

So... you know that area of your messages on Facebook that you never see if you don't officially know the person and maybe seven months later you finally see it and sheepishly respond to make sure the person knows you're not a totally awful human who was ignoring you? Yep, that's what happened with violinist Lacy Rostyak. I got that sheepish message about two weeks ago. What Lacy didn't know was that I had recently seen a video of her playing THE most amazing Celtic fiddle and was desperate to have her on our program. A few hasty messages back and forth about how sorry she was and how happy I was, and there you have it. Done! So excited to have Lacy with us!

Lois is one of the very first people I met in LA. Only a month into my life here, I was asked to sing at CSUN on a concert of music by Hollywood film composer, John Debney. I happened to sit next to Lois and her lovely daughter, Jenny, throughout the rehearsal and performance process and of course, being that it's Los Angeles, we actually talked to one another! She told me about her life session singing (a completely new concept to me at the time) and how she had sung on tracks for Friends and Splash (hands up, those for whom this isn't on their Top 10 list, please!), and I told her how I'd just left a salary-paying job to start working on Five Senses Tastings full-time. We were in touch a bit after the event but never met up, and I supposed I might bump into her again by accident but probably just never see her again. And then, she just called! Like actually picked up the phone (after not having lost my business card) and C-A-L-L-E-D! She was curious to know if I might need someone to perform on my upcoming events. At the time I hadn't picked all the repertoire yet but as I chatted with her and told her my thoughts on including songs by Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, etc, it became clear that this was the program for Lois. And again, DONE! Can't wait to have Lois on our program March 26th at V Wine Room!

And our fourth artist? Blablabla, it's me. Y'all know me, and if you don't, go here to learn a bit more about me. That's enough!

It's Women's History Month!

One of Five Senses Tastings' first events was in March 2013 at Barnard College, by alma mater in celebration of Women's History Month. I remember being so excited about this event and having such a blast researching the amazing composers' lives, learning their music, and hearing what they had to say through their own particular medium

I get the chance to do it all over again at the end of this month when we team up again with our dear friends Mikey and Alon over at V Wine Room in West Hollywood. Tickets are on sale now, and we do expect this event to sell out to get 'em early! Back also by extremely popular demand, we'll be working with Catherine von Ruden of EOS Chocolates whose "Pots of Sin" may – let's be honest – the real reason that people come to our events. To tempt your tongue just a touch, I wanted to introduce to you the five winemakers we'll be featuring at our event.

Zinke Wines

First up is Erin Scherer of Zinke Wines whose 2016 Sauvignon Blanc will be our first offering of the evening. We don't currently have a picture of Erin, but we'll update as soon as we do. While influenced by tradition, Zinke is paving their own path in the vineyard and the cellar in pursuit of the unattainable—perfection. With fruit sourced from the grand crus of the central coast, their wine practically makes itself. Optimal ripeness, hand sorted fruit, small lot fermentations, stem inclusion, co-ferments, and the proper formula of oak and time embody their winemaking philosophy. Although influenced by those before us, their wines never imitate, and always inspire. Their wines harmonize with all genres of food, but the ideal pairing is with friends, family, music, and laughter. 

Casa Dumetz Wines

Sonja Magdevski of Casa Dumetz Wines

Following Erin's wine, we'll showcase a Roussane by Sonja Magdevski of Casa Dumetz Wines. Casa Dumetz Wines started in 2004 with a patch of raw earth, a bucket of grapevines and a sincere commitment to produce authentic, elegant and pleasurable wines. Their focus is small production Rhone varietals crafted on the foundation of premiere Santa Barbara County fruit. Vineyard tours/barrel sampling sessions available by appointment for wine club members. Wines are sold almost exclusively through our tasting room in historic Los Alamos and via our wine club.

Tessa Marie Wines

Tessa Parker of Tessa Marie Wines

We get a bit coquettish next with Tessa Marie's 2009 Coquette. Tessa, whose first harvest was in 2005, sources most of her fruit from Camp 4 Vineyard and Rodney's Vineyard, some of the most esteemed vineyards in Santa Barbara County. "I like to make New World-style wines with bold, stand-out flavors that still demonstrate balance." Tessa Marie makes her wines in a small, unassuming industrial warehouse space nearby. "For me, making wine is really about making art. I rely more upon my intuition and sense of taste. I guess my approach is intuitive, more than anything else."

We couldn't agree more with Tessa Marie that wine is so much more than liquid in a glass. It's art!


Nagy Wines

Clarissa Nagy of CNagy Wines

Next up is Clarissa Nagy's 2013 Syrah. Clarissa's story is one we hear a lot from winemakers: I didn't start out wanting to make wine but it found me, and it stuck!

In her own words, "people often ask how I started in the winey industry. It was never my plan to make wine. Actually, my original intention was to work with food. Thankfully, food and wine are often paired together. Through that means, wine found me. I met my husband while we were working together in the wine industry. We made a barrel of 2002 Viognier as a wedding favor. It seemed a fitting gift for our family and friends. My quest for another source of Viognier was encouraged by those who had tasted the “wedding wine.” It would be a longer quest than I expected. 

I purchased one ton of Pinot Noir in 2004. I wanted to continue making Pinot Noir and work with an amazing vineyard. One thing led to another. In 2005, I began working with 3 different vineyards and my brand was born. Pinot Noir and Syrah were my main focus for the next 6 years. I made a Viognier in 2010, but frost would prevent me from doing so in 2011. The loss of Viognier opened the door to work with Pinot Blanc as well, and my journey continued to unfold. The newest chapter of my story is the addition of the tasting room.

Winemaking has become my passion. Sharing that joy with others is a priority. I‘d love to be able to bring everyone into the vineyard and cellar to experience winemaking firsthand. Since that isn’t realistic, I offer you a taste of my labor. Here is that experience captured in bottle. I hope to share this passion with you in person. Until then, enjoy!"

Kalawashaq' Wine Cellars

Tara Gomez of Kalawashaq' Wine Cellars

Our final wine is by a winemaker whose product we've featured before, and we're so excited to be serving it again. Tara Gomez is the owner of Kalawashaq' Wine Cellars, and for this event we'll be presenting her 2001 "Unity" blend. Can't really think of a more appropriate name for anything at this time! 

In Samala, the language of the Santa Ynez Chumash, Kalawashaq' translates to "shell of the turtle" and represents a village once occupied by our ancestors. In the tradition of our ancestors to honor the land, we have taken the grapes grown from Mother Earth and respectfully handcrafted them into fine wines designed for your enjoyment. Kalawashaq' Wines symbolizes the beauty of tradition and honor of the Chumash people. It is with this in mind that we bring you our wines in honor of our ancestors.

gusto k’umeyé

In our next blog post we'll introduce you to our musicians for this event. We're so excited to welcome back – yet again – Jacquelyn Schreiber on piano and vocals. When you find someone that good and that reliable, you just keep bringing them back. Thrilled to introduce to you a new violinist on our roster, Lacy Rostyak, and Lois Blaisch, a guitarist and singer-songwriter will be joining us as well for some Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, and other rock legends!

Falling in love with all your senses

Photo by Thea Juliette Photography

I've never been a huge fan of Valentine's Day.

Like many of you, I've always felt it was a holiday hyped up by Hallmark and people in the flower business to try and get a person to feel that this was the one day of the year when s/he should really – no, really – express their love to their partner.

I also will never forget the time my British (sorry, British guys) boyfriend told me in no uncertain terms that he "would not buy me flowers on Valentine's Day" and then proceeded to take me to see Hotel Rwanda... with another guy friend of his. So, combine that with the time I got dog food in a chocolate box when I was a young teen, and you pretty much have some of the worst Valentine's Day memories you could ever have. Thanks to my current beau – who showed up unexpected on my doorstep – I have now had the best Valentine's Day ever and am still enjoying my beautiful bouquet of roses and lilies he brought me.

Photo by Clifton Photography

All this to say that you can perhaps imagine that I was not too upset when I was able to make sure I'd be doing EXACTLY what I wanted to not only on Valentine's Day itself but also on the Saturday before (we can only be so lucky as to have a year when you get two days to celebrate the day!)

Four events in three days? YES PLEASE! Saturday was a beautiful day in Temecula, and we were so thrilled to be hosting two music tastings at the incomparably gorgeous Europa Village Winery. It was one of the first wineries I visited in Southern California when I moved here 10 months ago, and they are building what will soon be one of the most ambitious – and in my opinion, coolest – projects ever! They are creating a "village" of three Europes: Italy, France, and Spain! Luckily for us, we got to sample a bit of this through our wine, food, and music choices in our program "The International Languages of Love." Our favorite pairing? Had to be the Libido Blanco from Bolero Cellars paired to "Malagueña" by Ernesto Lecuona and the Fugue from Bach's Sonata no. 2 in a minor.

Our violinist Victoria Bietz, guitarist Jeff Pekarek, and pianist Dan Bailey did an astounding job, and we are so excited to work with them again soon! Yours truly belted out a couple of numbers, as well!!

Photo by Thea Juliette Photography

Tuesday was Valentine's Day, and we found ourselves at D'Vine Lounge Bar in Downtown Los Angeles where we presented a co-hosted event with Los Angeles Wine Tasting entitled "Love Stories: Told and Untold." We paired wines from New Zealand, Italy, Argentina, and France with music selections spanning eight different genres including tango, Neopolitan song, jazz, classical, opera, folk, and more!

Photo by Thea Juliette Photography

We're in full swing with planning for the spring and summer, and can't wait to see you at our next public event on March 23rd at one of our favorite haunts: V Wine Room in West Hollywood. We're teaming up with Mikey and his team again for "The Playful Palate: A Music, Wine & Chocolate Tasting to celebrate Women's History Month." Tickets are on sale and can be purchased here.

Music: humankind's first communication tool

One of my favorite authors on the topic of sound both as it relates to business and to our experience as humans in daily life is Julian Treasure, whose TED talks on conscious listening and how sound affects us have been watched many millions of times.

In his monumental book "Sound Business," written a decade ago, Treasure notes that "of all the types of sounds, music is the one we find most fascinating" (p. 84). He goes even further in this line of thinking by bringing up the research of archeologist Stephen Mithen, who asserts in The Singing Neanderthals that "music came before language." For Mithen, Treasure writes, "the advent of language sidelined music from its original role as our core communication vehicle. Language is processed by different areas of the brain, and these have become dominant as we have concentrated exclusively on lingual communication, leaving music as a powerful tool that we now use without really understanding" (p. 85 - emphasis mine).

How totally and completely fascinating is this? If we take this at face value, prior to being something to entertain us, music was our fundamental tool of communication! How – or why – then do we then accept that it can and/or should be pushed to the background of our sensory experience, most especially in those moments of life on which we spend many thousands of dollars and many hours of planning? Doesn't doing so go against our natural sensory tendencies, tendencies that are as old as our very species?

This is certainly not to say that at every moment in life should we have music available or even that when there is music in a room or for an occasion that it must be our central focus. It is to say, however, that we must regift to music the power of our attention and award it the possibility of truly moving us and communicating to, with, and through us.

We at Five Senses Tastings hope that this comes through in our work and that our events over this Valentine's Day weekend were more meaningful as a result. We hope that those who heard and experienced our music tastings left with an expanded appreciation of the power of music – of sound – to influence our perception of our other senses, and generally to heighten our sensory experiences of a given moment in time.

The major 6th versus the minor 6th: why intervals really matter

We don't often spend time discussing something quite as specific as an interval, but perhaps we should be doing more of that! After all, intervals are the building blocks of melody and so, practically by definition, they are as important to our understanding of a piece of music as the lyrics, the composer him/herself,  or any other musical identifier present in the piece. 

The piece that made me reflect on the importance of the interval, indeed of one half note, is "Les chemins d'amour" by one of my all-time favorite composers, Francis Poulenc (1899-1963). I've known this piece for many years but haven't pulled it out in a while. As we will be presenting it in two of our upcoming music tastings, I have spent significant time with it over the last few weeks and am reminded not only of its singular melodic beauty but of the complexity and meaning of its melodic structure.

There are many intervals that feature prominently in this valse chantée ("sung waltz") but the dominant interval, at least in terms of the evocation of emotion in my opinion, is the sixth. The sixth – whether major or minor – appears often but never once repeated twice in a row. The one time you might think you are hearing two sixths in a row, Poulenc instead writes the interval as an augmented 5th. Why? In my opinion, it is because the minor and major 6th offer two completely opposing sides of the emotional spectrum: the minor gives the listener a sense of lamentation, reaching, and longing while the major 6th counters with a feeling of greater stability, hopefulness, and brightness. 

I am forever fascinated at how our music and wine pairings come together, and this is certainly no less the case than while I was writing the program notes for our February 14th event at D'Vine Wine Lounge in Downtown Los Angeles. We are pairing Poulenc's song – the only excerpt from the larger piece, Léocadia – with a 2011 Château Peyros Madiran from France (if you are wondering what a French Malbec tastes like, this is the glass for  you!). This big, full-bodied wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat, full of structure and exhibiting notes of chocolate, mocha, and dark berries.

What is most remarkable is how this wine so perfectly works to describe and bring to life the interval we've just been discussing. The Tannat grape, as its name would suggest, is often very tannic, dark, and chewy, and can even be a bit hard or edgy. Here is our major 6th: a stable, strong, and commanding melodic presence. Cabernet Sauvignon (or Cabernet Franc) is used to soften and round the edges of the Tannat and to provide more complexity to the wine (our minor sixth). 

I think we could all stand to spend a bit more time thinking about what really draws us to a piece of music. Certainly the message in a song's lyrics are the most easily approachable element but our intervals and the melodic structure of the piece is something we can and should spend more time exploring, particularly with a glass of delicious red wine in hand!

The power of experience over stuff

Carefully selected wines, food, and music have the power to create unique experiences. These sparkling wines – one white and one rosé – are from the Boisset Collection.

I am consistently unamazed at how much more people talk about experiences than things. According to David Adler, CEO of BizBash, the market leader in event news, ideas, and resources, research shows that "today's buyers believe that experiences are the new bling," and I have found this to be exceptionally true, across generations and across the country and even the world. 

People are always looking for that "new" twist to their special events and in Los Angeles, which is an events town through and through, I find this to be even more pronounced. From real estate agents to financial planners, health coaches to those in the hospitality industry, people crave something memorable... something more than just a party with a Costco cheese plate (don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Costco cheese plates) and some cheap wine from Trader Joe's (those who know me know what a complete and utter devotee I am of TJ's!).

A guest at Héritage Fine Wines in Beverly Hills listens carefully to the musical selections, each one hand-picked to pair with the wine, cheese, and chocolate served.

Most people – me included – do not consciously consider their senses on a daily basis, except perhaps to notice if they have a stuffy nose or their ears are popping after a long flight. We accept what the world throws at our senses without question and without much consideration of the fact that we do actually have the power to customize what we sense, at least to some degree.

As Julian Treasure often remarks in his speeches on conscious listening, we do not have earlids, and so entirely turning off the sounds of the world just isn't possible (even the best earplugs can't filter out the jackhammer noise from next door's rebuilding project completely – trust me, I know!). However, we do have the option of focusing on our senses and purposefully triggering and engaging them. 

Guests listen intently at a recent Five Senses Tastings event in Essex Fells, New Jersey. 

At Five Senses Tastings, we take this idea very seriously. We have all come to accept sound – or perhaps more appropriately, noise – as something that by its very nature is unspecific (and sometimes even annoying) in our lives. We have become inured to the idea that our senses, when carefully addressed one by one or in concerted unity, can center us in the moment and help to create and solidify memories.

Specifically triggering all our five senses – sound, smell, taste, touch, and sight – is our primary goal in our music tastings. We have shared it with hundreds already, and we can't wait to continue sharing this unique experience with our friends in Los Angeles. Whether you're planning an anniversary or birthday party, product launch, or client appreciation event, we can help create a special experience that your guests will not only enjoy but remember with all their senses.