Balance. It’s a word that’s thrown around an awful lot in the wine world, but I’m going to use it to describe a particular bottle. Truly deserving of the term, and to christen this column, I give you an extraordinary red blend, Uncommon by Kenny Aronoff.
A world-renowned musician, bestselling author and sought-after inspirational speaker, Aronoff has contributed his talents to more than 60 Grammy® nominated recordings. Over 300 million records sold worldwide feature his work, 1,300 of which are certified gold, platinum or diamond. And now he’s making wine, too.
His first vintage came to fruition via a partnership with Ian Devereux White of Smith Devereux in Napa. A vintner who’s built a solid reputation as a musician turned wine journalist turned wine and merriment maker, White’s an affable guy — one you’d like to sit down with for a drink. I did just that, albeit via a virtual tasting, and Mr. Aronoff also graciously tuned in.
While it’s what’s inside the bottle that matters most, Uncommon has a debossed copper tag that hangs from each hand-crafted bottle which reads:
“It’s about connecting, communicating and collaborating with those we love and respect. It’s about innovation and creativity, adapting and achieving a purpose beyond what we believe to be possible. It’s about truth, desire and being unstoppable and authentic.” Right out of the gate, this wine inspires greatness, an extension of Kenny Aronoff’s record of success.
Touted as a brand that’s “as authentically Napa Valley as it is rock and roll,” its first offering is an intense, rich, full-bodied red that shines a light on the beauty and power of Cab and Syrah in equal parts. The sustainably farmed grapes from Napa’s Oak Knoll district merge the depth, structure and ageability of Cabernet Sauvignon with the spice and fruit that Syrah brings to the table.
Uncommon is part of Smith Devereux’s philanthropy series, which features partnerships with musicians and other creatives who’d like to proactively “be the change,” as the saying goes. Their dedication is to doing good, coupled with the tagline, “Every bottle tells a story. We hope that our wines will become a part of yours.” It sets the tone for convivial tasting, dining, pairing and sharing. In keeping with Smith Devereux’s giving back theme, 10% of profits from the sale of Uncommon wine are donated to the Alaina’s Voice Foundation.
How does it taste? This wine has an old-world feel, but it’s also got a certain edge and vibrancy that’s distinctly Californian. After a few sips, I blurted out, “No sharp edges.” That’s the magic of a wine that’s smooth, powerful and, yes, balanced. It knows who it is and drinks beautifully right now, but I can also see how it will age incredibly well.
How to pair it? Offers Aronoff: “I enjoy this bottle alongside red meat, specifically a well-seasoned filet or prime ribeye, prepared medium. I’d suggest a nice arugula salad or pan-roasted root vegetables on the side to round things out.”
“Like all things,” he said, “it’s about harmony and bringing together components that make sense. Just as it goes with music, so it is with the pleasures of pairing food and wine.”
White also weighed in, suggesting a simple pasta with red sauce offering, “The trick is to blend in some red bell peppers with the tomatoes when you’re making it to bring out a light sweetness and accentuate the richness of the wine.” He summed it all up quite nicely by adding, “Keep it simple and earthy and let the wine shine.”
Taking direction from Aronoff, I paired a bottle with a melange of char-grilled meats by AR Catering, a local entity whose fare I sampled at a recent harvest event at the famed Sanford Estate on Santa Rosa Road, tucked away in the Santa Rita Hills. The wine’s tannins and body softened the fat, releasing more flavors bite after bite; it was a harmonious pairing.
Not a carnivore? This wine makes an excellent companion to ratatouille, sautéed mushrooms and lentils. I also whipped up a plate of grilled plant-based sausages topped with strips of slow-roasted eggplant, then sipped another glass — the combo was earthy and extremely satisfying.
Just 50 cases of Uncommon were produced and the 2020 vintage is available exclusively via Smith Devereux. The temperatures are dropping, even here in California, as we inch towards winter, which is, in my opinion, the best time of year for a Cabernet-Syrah blend. Nab a bottle, light a fire, pair it with something delicious and let’s raise a glass to music and wine and the fine art of balance. Ian Devereux White and Kenny Aronoff have pulled it off.
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