The Roger Earl Interview
One concert I’ll always remember seeing is Foghat with Ambrosia and Rick Derringer. The year was 1977 and the venue was the Long Beach Arena. My buddy Tim Harper scored fifth row center seats and he had an extra. Was I interested? Hell yes I was interested. I’d never sat this close at a major arena show before, so I spent the $25 and my obsession with Foghat’s live album, which had just come out a few months before, got a swift kick in the ass. Sitting that close, I marveled at Lonesome Dave Peverett stirring up the audience, Rod Price sliding over his fretboard like a butcher sharpening his knives, and the slick, in-the-pocket rhythm section of bassist Craig MacGregor and drummer Roger Earl.
That year would go down as THE year of Foghat in my neighborhood, and arguably, the peak period of the band’s career. Foghat has had a high turnover in personnel over the years, although at least one original member or another has been in the mix to keep it real. In the early 90s, Peverett, Price, Earl and original bassist Tony Stevens reunited for an album and tour. Peverett and Earl kept going until the singer fell ill and passed away in 2000. Price, who had already left after the reunion, died in 2005. With Stevens long gone, Earl and guitarist Bryan Bassett (who’d replaced Price) brought back MacGregor and hired singer Charlie Huhn.
Since 2005, a rejuvenation of sorts has sparked all kinds of activity in the world of Foghat. With Earl and his wife and manager Linda at the helm, new records, touring and even a little wine have all kept the Foghat name in the public eye. Of course, being a fan from the 70s, when I was offered the opportunity to chat with Roger Earl, I immediately flashed back to Long Beach in 1977. But, as anyone who’s ever talked with Roger Earl can tell you, there’s more than just a little history behind Foghat. With the enthusiasm of a man half his age, he regaled me with tales of playing with blues greats, being signed to Bob Dylan’s manager's record label, his relationship with Lonesome Dave Peverett, and his continued dedication to keeping the Foghat flame burning.
After our chat, I mentioned to Earl that I’d be attending Foghat’s show with Blue Oyster Cult at the Pacific Amphitheater and would love to meet him. We agreed to make arrangements as the date neared, and it looked like it was a go until I received a message from his publicist. He told me Roger Earl had minor surgery on his back a few days ago and was told by doctors he couldn't fly or bounce up and down. That meant he wouldn’t be playing at the Pacific Amphitheater show. While I’m torn about going to see them with Bobby Rondinelli on drums, I’m still holding out for tasting some Foghat Chardonnay at some point. No doubt, it will be better than the Boone's Farm I was swigging outside the Long Beach Arena in 1977.
Good morning Roger.
How you doing Shawn?
I’m doing well. How about you?
Well, you know, I’m a rock star. It’s a bit early for me.
Well, I’m in California and it’s 6:30, so it’s really early for me.
(Gasps) Oh…ugly…That’s ugly. You should be having a couple of brews or something.
I’m having a cup of coffee, actually.
Ah…we’re on the same page. That’s what I’m doing. What sort of coffee? Anything special?
Not really. Folgers.
I have to at least have an Italian raspberry espresso. Rocket fuel. I mean, if you’re gonna wake up, you might as well wake up.
Sounds like that would do it.
It does. Some of the other stuff in cans, it tastes all bitter. I’m funny about my coffee.
So you’re in New York?
Out on Long Island. I live about 60, 70 miles outside of Manhattan on the north shore. It’s a piece of heaven on earth. We live by the water. It’s nice here. There’s a lot of work to be done though. I’ve become somewhat of a carpenter. But that’s alright. Some fine people in history have been carpenters.
How’s the weather?
It’s beautiful. The sun’s up, it’s warm. It’s gonna be a hot one. It was a beautiful day yesterday. Any day on the right side of the grass is a good one, I think.
I couldn’t agree more. So, let’s talk about your new record Last Train Home. This was something you and Lonesome Dave talked about making, is that right?
Yeah. Way back in the 90s when we were together, we talked about doing a blues album. We never got around to it. This was always something we talked about, especially between Dave and I. Dave was a fountain of knowledge about the blues — all things blues, who played on the records, who didn’t, where it was recorded, the year it was done, sometimes even the month and day. He knew all the drummers that played every great record, which lead me to believe he had a thing in the back of his head about being a drummer. Whenever a song would come on, he would act like a drummer as opposed to a guitar player (laughs).
Dave was also the resident DJ in the band whenever we were on the road in the bus or in a hotel room, having a party. Dave would be the one who’d bring along the big boom box or he would have the CDs or cassettes. On the last tour that we did together, we were on a bus back in 1999. Again, we would finish the show, come back to the bus and dry off. Or go back to the hotel and after that, we’d go on to the next gig. We’d sit up front on the bus, having our wine and whatever, and Dave would say, “What do you want to listen to tonight? I’ve got some blues, I’ve got some rock and roll, I’ve got some jazz.” Or we’d have an evening of the Stones or the Beatles or Howlin’ Wolf. We would sit and talk about what we were doing when we were kids. Dave was two years older than me.
We didn’t know each other, but we went to all the same shows in London to see Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry…Little Richard was there and Sonny Boy Williamson. We were all at the same shows, which I thought was pretty amazing. And it was something we never talked about before. We had talked about going to see these people, but we’d (also) gone to all the same shows.
Dave and I got pretty close on that last tour. We’d always got on well, but we were very different people. Dave was quiet when he was off-stage. He wasn’t anything like his stage persona. Where as I would go out to clubs and go up and jam and stuff like that. Dave preferred to stay at home. (Pause) I miss him.
How were you able to finally bring the blues record you and Dave talked about to fruition?
About two and half years ago, we did a live radio show out here on Long Island called the Mark Klein Blues Show. It was in a studio and it was set up with a stage. It was a real nice sounding room, quite a big room actually. We recorded live, direct to two-track, no mixing or anything. It was our front of house engineer Carl Davino, who’s been with us for…it seems forever, it’s probably only 20 years, but it seems longer than that. He mixed it and it came out really good. We were really excited about it and we came back to the house. The band was all staying out here. We had some wine and tequila out on the back porch and put the CD on and everyone went, “Whoa!” We were kind of surprised by how good it sounded.
We got a chance later on, the following winter or spring, to start, ostensibly, to start working on tracks, working arrangements out, and actually picking the songs we wanted to do. We ended up with six songs that were all takes, as far as we were concerned. It was very comfortable there. Then we got real busy. Two years later, this past winter…we have a band house down in Florida, which is also our studio. Boogie Motel South, we named it. We started writing, we started recording, and picking more tunes. We got it all done in a couple of months and it’s out now. We were really pleased with it.
You have some original tracks and you have some songs by Elmore James, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters. How did you go about picking which songs to put on the record?
Everybody sort of brought something to it. I’ll start with the originals, like “Born For The Road.” I initially wrote that song. I brought it to Charlie (Huhn) and Charlie changed a couple of the words and put some cool lyrics in. I sort of hummed something to Bryan (Bassett) and he basically put the music together. Bryan and Charlie wrote out the dual solos in the middle. Craig (MacGregor) couldn’t play on this record. He was busy with his son’s band, Comic Book Heroes, so he had to take some time off for that. Jeff Howell, who’s a terrific bass player, we’ve been friends for years. He played with Savoy Brown and he played in the Outlaws for about three years, and he also sat in with us for a number years. So he played bass on it and that’s how that one came about.
“Last Train Home” — Charlie wrote that pretty much and the band arranged it. “495 Boogie” was basically (something) my brother wrote. Colin Earl played piano on this record. From time to time, whenever I would go to England, I would go and watch Colin and they were playing local club or bars or wherever they were playing. Anyway, he always did this cool piano thing on his own, and I always thought it would sound better with a band. I talked to him and he started playing something with a regular 4/5 change and we did one take and it’s on there.
Yeah, “495 Boogie” cooks.
My brother’s a great piano player He plays in sort of that Jerry Lee Lewis kind of mode. He was one of his favorite piano players. And obviously, Pinetop Perkins. Yeah, He’s a Jerry Lee Lewis fan from way back. He can’t help himself.
Didn’t he play on some Foghat albums from the 70s?
Yeah, he played on the first album we did. He played on “Maybelline” and a number of other tracks. That first record was produced by Dave Edmunds. We had a lot of people helping us out. Dave Edmunds actually played guitar and piano on some tracks, Todd Rundgren helped us out on a few tracks and played guitar. My brother Colin played piano on a number of tracks, specifically “Maybelline.” That showcased his rock and roll style. Colin was in Mungo Jerry back then. They had “In the Summertime,” which was a huge hit. Actually in Europe, Mungo Jerry probably had at least ten Top 10 singles, so they were like monsters. Actually, the lead singer in the band was the singer of the first band I was in when I got out of high school. We all went to school together. And we played together until I was about 20, when I joined Savoy Brown, and my brother and Ray Dorset, the singer, formed Mungo Jerry.
It was a lot of fun having Colin play on these tracks. He lives in Weybridge, South London, and we see each other at least once a year. I go over there or he comes over and stays with me. But we don’t always have a chance to play. He has a band over there called the King Earl Boogie Band. He also does a number blues festivals in Europe with a guitar player, Dave Peabody. They have a piano and guitar duo thing they do. It’s pretty good actually, they play great. But I like my brother in a blues rock and roll band. I think he tends to shine.
Any chance of him playing some gigs with you guys?
Yeah. We have three dates coming up this July in Canada. All blues festivals. Yeah, Colin is coming over, so we’re going do three shows. And also Lefty (“Sugar Lips” Lefkowitz), our harp player, is going to be there, so it will be an extended band. And also Jeff will be playing bass. He played on the record, and it seemed like the right way to go about it. We’re going to take four or five days off for these shows, go down to Florida and set up the house again and rehearse in there so we get it right. Charlie’s got a lot of words to learn (laughs). Getting them in the right order is the trick for a singer.
You also have Eddie Kirkland on “In My Dreams” and “Good Good Day.” How did you get him involved?
I met Eddie back in 1977 when Foghat did a tribute to the blues at the New York Palladium. We were basically the house band for Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Paul Butterfield, Otis Blackwell, (David) “Honeyboy” Edwards. That was something that Dave and I, and Rod (Price) as well — that was definitely a highlight of our career. We spent about a week prior to the show in New York. Eddie was rehearsing with his…whatever band he had. Dave and I went to the rehearsal to meet everybody. His band — they were horrible. The Italian word is there was no “simpatico” (laughs).
We asked our manager — because we weren’t going to be the horrible ones to drop the ax to get rid of his band — “Look, we’ll back Eddie. We’ll do a better job.” And that’s when we first met Eddie Kirkland and he was just absolutely incredible. He was probably, I think, the highlight of the show. His energy was incredible. And he had this amazing voice. And he is a truly great guitar player. His guitars are pretty interesting. He has them stapled together, held together with duct tape and glue and nuts and bolts. A true bluesman.
Apparently, he’s very popular in Europe. He’d just got back from Europe. Linda, our manager and my wife, managed Eddie for a couple of years in the early 80s, and she remained friends with him. We were just talking about what we wanted to do, and it came up, “What about Eddie?” — because there was a connection before. So we talked to Eddie and he said he’d love to do it. He got back from Europe. He lives in Macon, Georgia. He drove down to the land, the night before. He called up and said he was there, and what time do we want to pick him up. I said, “About 12:00.” And he said, “Ok, that will be good.”
That was because he had to put a new alternator on his car and he had to put new brakes shoes on the back of his car. Linda said, “Do you want someone to come over and help you? We’ve got five guys here.” We can all handle a wrench and know something about cars. In fact, most of us are gearheads. He said, “No, no, that’s alright.” He gets up at 4:00 in the morning, after driving the six or seven hours, plus he’d gotten back from Europe. Puts the new alternator on, waits for the Auto Zone to open up, around six-thirty or seven AM, gets his parts for the rear brake shoes, puts those on. Then we go over at 12:00 to pick him up, and he’s sitting outside ready. He’s on his stool, he’s got his guitar and amp and his pedal board. It was great to see him again. He’s a beautiful man and he tells great, great stories.
So we get to the house. I think at first, maybe Eddie was a little tentative. He’d met my brother Colin in England at a blues festival. Colin was playing and Eddie was there. This was 10 or 11 years ago, just after Dave died actually. Colin met Eddie and knew who he was and the talked about Dave and the blues show. So we set up. Basically, everything is set up in the living room. We have a PA. In the dining area is where Bryan has his Pro Tools and all the recording equipment. When we needed separation, we put the amps in the bedrooms. We just set up, started tuning up and playing. I was talking to Eddie about the songs he wanted to do.
Three or four days beforehand we were given Eddie’s previous album. I was listening to it and picked a couple of songs and called Eddie and said, “These are the songs we’d like to try. Is that alright with you?” and he said, “Yeah.” So we were learning all the songs. Now, I’d already worked with Eddie and was familiar with real blues singers. So everybody had the tunes down, and the arrangements and the keys. And then Eddie started playing one of them…and it was a different key (laughs). I wasn’t surprised at all, but some of the other folks in the room were going, “Is that right?” “Yeah, that’s how it goes.” We do two or three songs and I got the feeling that Eddie was just feeling us out, as it were. I mean, he knew me and he’s met Colin, but he hadn’t really played with everybody else. Dave and Rod were alive when he played with us. Craig was with us, but he’s not playing with us on this album.
By the time the third song was over and some of them were fairly extended jams, he got like this smile on his face and realized that everybody was there for him, We were Eddie Kirkland’s band for the day. Everybody was like heads up, ears open and eyes on Eddie. And he’s got this smile on his face and you saw him physically relax. He says, “I got this tune.” And we started again and played for eight or nine hours. We only put two tracks on because we were kind of running out of space, and some of the playing was very extended, so there was some editing to do, which is one of Bryan’s fortes. We had an absolute blast, it was terrific. Around 11:00, we took Eddie out to eat, then back to his hotel, and said good-bye. He’s very special. In fact, I’d love to do an album with him. I talked to Bryan and Charlie about doing that. Eddie’s a great force to be reckon with — he’s 87 now, I think. I really enjoyed working with him. It was an honor as much as a pleasure.
I wanted to ask you a few questions about the early days of the band. After forming in 1971, you got signed by Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman to Bearsville Records.
Yeah, Albert Grossman saved our lives. After we left Savoy Brown, the manager Harry Simmons told us we’d never work again in England. Any time, we tried to get work through our agency or other agencies, he stopped it. He was managing Savoy Brown and Chicken Shack, which were two hot items at the time. We were just three guys who used to be in a blues band, we couldn’t really fight that. So it was difficult for us to get work.
We had about seven of the songs finished that went on the first album and we couldn’t get arrested. All the majors, Warner Brothers and whoever was out the time, all turned us down. They wanted somebody like James Taylor and Carole King. I love Carole King — I think she’s one of the greatest songwriters ever. Foghat was not Carole King (laughs).
Our manager at the time knew Albert and had apparently applied for a job as the president of the upcoming Bearsville record label. He didn’t get the job, but Albert must have liked something about it because Albert was coming to Europe with the band, and also Todd Rundgren came over with him. We booked a small club in North London and we set up and it was a pretty funky little joint. Albert came down and we played five, six or seven songs. There was poor Albert sitting back three or four rows back at a table, and we were howling away with our Hiwatts and Marshalls. He seemed to take it quite well (laughs).
Afterwards, he asked if there was any place we could get some tea and biscuits. There was a hotel across the road and we sat in the lounge and had some tea and biscuits. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen pictures of Albert, but he was a very imposing man. He was about 6’2”, maybe 6’4”. He had long silver hair tied back in a ponytail. He was a very cool and astute customer. He was sitting there with his hands together, with his fingers touching each other. I’ll do my best version of Albert. He said, “Well hey — let’s do it.” Whenever I say that, I get chills because all of sudden I realized. We had been struggling for two years, out of work. Money was almost non-existent now. I’d taken a few odd jobs to feed the family. Albert was the sort of person who does something. He managed Dylan, the Band, Todd, Janis Joplin, Peter, Paul and Mary. This was somebody who knew what was going on. And he wanted us.
After this had been said, I can’t speak because I realized the enormity of what was going on here. But Albert was super cool, and I remember everybody went back and started packing up the equipment. Albert said he needed a ride back to his hotel and I said, “I can give you a ride.” So I gave him a ride in my 1956 Jensen. Albert was into cars. On the way there, he took to me to a Roll Royce dealership. He had a 1952 Bentley, basically a baby Bentley and he had it completely refurbished. We hung out there and talked about stuff. I went back to his hotel and we hung out for awhile and talked about music and had some more tea and biscuits. He liked his tea and biscuits.
Albert Gross…yeah he saved us. Everyone else in the world turned us down, but Albert Grossman picked us up and gave us free rein in the studio. Never said you can’t do this, you can’t do that. Never interfered with any of the tunes or anything. And we made him millions and millions of dollars (laughs). Albert was great. This band owes him a great debt. Though he passed some time ago, I still think about Albert fondly. He was much larger than life. He was special.
In those days, you worked with a lot of hot producers. You mentioned Todd Rundgren and Dave Edmunds. You also worked with Eddie Kramer, Nick Jameson and Dan Hartman. Who, out those or maybe someone else, had the best sense of what Foghat was all about?
Hands down, there’s two of them. It would be Dave Edmunds on the first record, who in my humble opinion, made the record. He took us from an average sounding rock/blues band into something special. Dave Edmunds definitely turned the first record around. His mixing and his whole attitude with how he recorded — he made it happen for us. I really enjoyed my time working with Dave.
Dave actually started working with us on our second album. The first album was recorded in Rockfield in Wales, and he lived just down the road and it was a studio he was very familiar with. By the time of the second album, we were working virtually nonstop over here, so the only way we were going to do it was to record over here in the States, up in Bearsville. Dave came over. I don’t think he was entirely comfortable with the studio, wasn’t familiar with it, and he struggled with it.
Nick Jameson took over, and that was my first introduction to Nick. I would say Dave Edmunds and Nick Jameson — they were the ones. Nick especially because of his uncanny musical ability. Nick is one of those horrible people who picks up an instrument and five minutes later, they’re playing it. When we were doing the Fool For The City album, which, other than the first album, was the first record we actually took some time off the road to do. All the other records were done at various studios on the road, on days off, evenings even after we’d finished playing.
We took time off to do the Fool For The City album. Nick had just joined the band. Tony Stevens had been asked to leave once again (laughs). I used to live up in Woodstock, so I would hang out with Nick. He was the house engineer for Bearsville Records. We became good friends. I’d go out and jam with him out at the bar. After Tony was asked to leave again, I asked him, “Do you want to play bass in the band.” We’d already auditioned a bunch of bass players. He said, “Yeah.” Apparently, the first instrument he ever played in a band — he grew up in Philadelphia — was bass. He was familiar with the instrument.
We went to the local store, rented a bass, a Fender Precision, I think. We drove down in my car. I had a ‘67 427 Corvette with the guitar sticking out in between the seats. You had to put the top down. That started it. Rod and I had a house out here on Long Island, so Nick and I drove down from Woodstock and we had a basement, which was soundproof somewhat. And the first song to come out of there was “Slow Ride.” It was from a jam. We were just jamming. Nick had a cassette player and he would record whatever we played there. As I recall it, the whole song was written— the middle part and the bass part and the ending were all Nick’s ideas. Basically, Nick wrote the song, but we just jammed on it, and Nick cut the stuff up so it made sense as far as the song goes. And then Dave said, “I’ve got some words.” That’s how that came about (laughs).
A lot of Foghat songs came about with just us sitting around jamming and recording it. And we would take parts we liked and glue them together. A song would be formed. Actually, a song like “Slow Ride” is a John Lee Hooker riff, just played in a 4/4, as opposed to a shuffle. Thank-you John Lee. There’d be no boogie without John Lee Hooker.
I always loved the way the drums sound on “Slow Ride.” Did you do anything special to track your drums on that record?
This is in late 74, early 75. And we realized we had to do a record. Nick was the producer at Bearsville Records. He was a great engineer and producer. And he started to search for a place we could afford and rent for two or three months, get serious about. So he found this place up in Sharon, Vermont. It’s called Suntreader Studios. Nick and I loaded up the station wagon with the amps and the drums and guitars and stuff. And we drove up there.
We set up some drums and some amps and Nick went into the control room. I started banging around and playing some stuff, and we really liked what was happening with the drums in there. You could use the room — it’s a big, huge wooden room. High ceilings, drums sounded great. You close mic them or use room mics. Then Nick would come down and he would plug in the bass or guitar or play the piano, And the other engineer would take over upstairs. Or Nick would be running up and down the stairs, turning things on and then running back down and playing again. He was pretty energetic back then.
We then drove back after being up there for a few days and told everybody that they were recording at Suntreader. We rented a house for the band, about five or six miles from the studio. It was a lot of fun making that record. It was work, but the songs were crafted more than what we’d done before. We hadn’t really taken that much time, other than the first record. We actually crafted the songs and took stuff out and really spent a lot of time making the record. So that when it became this huge hit with ”Slow Ride” and “Fool For The City,” it was very gratifying. You put in a lot of work and it worked for us.
Nick was, and is, a musical genius. Prior to this, Dave had been carrying a sax around on the road and he was learning to play. So, you knew what room Dave was staying in the hotel because you could hear this honking going on. Dave also loved the sax, and like I said, he was a bit of a closet drummer. Anyway, Dave had his sax in the studio, and he would play it during the downtime when we were taking a break. Nick comes down and says, “Huh? What’s that?” Nick goes down to the local pawn shop in Sharon and finds an alto sax. He comes back and spends, I don’t know, maybe 15 minutes. Now he’s playing sax and he decides we’re going to have a horn section (laughs).
We actually did one song, it got lost. It was called “Going To The Mardi Gras” that had Dave and Nick playing horns on it. I don’t know what ever happened to that. Maybe it’s around somewhere. Nick was always fun in the studio. There was one song called “Drive Me Home” where we bought this beat-up old car for about $115 and I had to drive down this mountainside, hitting trees and garbage cans, and we had microphones recording it. After the second run, it caught on fire (laughs). I had to get out in a hurry. Yeah, we had a good time.
“Slow Ride” is still huge. They’ve used it in films like Dazed & Confused. And more recently, they played it on American Idol.
Yeah, actually, my wife and I try once a week to have a night with just us. Turn the phones off, shut down the computers, I make dinner, we have dinner in bed, we watch a movie — you know, we’re friends as well as husband and wife. You know, just to hang out, chill, because it can get pretty hectic. So we’re upstairs, having some dinner, having some wine. All of a sudden, every phone — we got seven in the house — started going off. Now, we thought something horrible has happened. We put the movie on pause, put the food down, put the wine down. Apparently, “Slow Ride” is being played on American Idol, which, I have to be honest, I don’t watch. We turn it on. I have to admit, I think they did a good job. I think the band, especially, played really well. So we watched the last minute of that. Yeah, that was pretty cool. Adam Lambert did a good job, I thought. He can obviously sing. When stuff like that happens, when somebody plays your song, it’s the highest form of flattery, isn’t it?
Before both Lonesome Dave and Rod Price passed away, you reunited for Return Of The Boogie Men. Before that and since then, Foghat has experienced numerous personnel changes over the years, but you’ve kept it going. What motivates you to keep Foghat alive?
Ever since I can remember, this first time I saw Jerry Lee Lewis, he brought his own drummer over. And this guy could play. So I took up drums. I’ve always had a passion for music. I love music. I had it in the car. I had it at home. I had it on the headphones. It’s my life. It’s given me almost everything I’ve ever had, and it’s also taken a few things away. But it’s part of my life and in my blood.
It’s obvious the band is now completely self-sufficient in terms of touring, selling music and merchandise, and keeping the name alive. You’ve even expanded the Foghat name into winemaking.
Dave would have appreciated that. I know I would have gotten the nod from him on that (laughs).
Can you tell me a little about Foghat Cellars?
What happen was we played the California Mid State Fair. We did two shows — one in the afternoon, one in the evening. And apparently, there was a winemaker called Steve Rasmussen and his partner. They came to see us. Steve was a huge Foghat fan. But Jose was the one who picked up and said, “Hey, Foghat! That’s a great name for a wine.” After we played there, we got back home and Steve e-mailed Linda, our manager, and said, “Probably somebody is already doing this, but would you be interested in forming a wine company and making some wine?” With that, I started giggling.
Prior to that, about a month before, we were all talking about how cool it would be to maybe get involved in making wine and/or tequila, maybe bourbon or something, and lend our name to it. So this happened. We went out to California and met Steve, a terrific guy and brilliant winemaker. He’s been doing it for like close to 30 years, and is well respected in the business. I had to go around with him and start tasting all these wines.
Not a bad thing.
Oh, it’s horrible, horrible (laughs). The one thing they do is they spit it out. Now, I think that’s a sin spitting it out. We’d start out at 11:00, right after we’d had breakfast. By the time, 2:00 or 3:00 rolls around, I’m three sheets to the wind. So I understand now that one has to spit the wine out. We probably went to half a dozen wineries. It was terrific. Winemakers and winegrowers — they’re farmers. The winemakers are artists. These people are just the best. Talking with the farmers, these people have a gleam in their eye. These are their babies, these beautiful grapes on the vine. And the way they’re so neatly laid out and the whole farming thing, which was something completely new to me, really thrilling.
So we said, “Yeah, we want to be involved with this.” So Linda and Steve worked out the business details. Steve then went about deciding on a wine. Not a lot because it can be expensive. We had a 2005 cabernet sauvignon from Paso Robles, central coast, which is basically where we are centered. That was absolutely delicious. We only made 90 cases though. I think I’ve got two or three left and Linda wants to sell them, but I want to hang on to them. For some reason, they’re getting better and better. I have them in my drum shed, which is cooled to 65 degrees.
We have a new wine coming out at the end of this year, a 2009 chardonnay. We made 290 cases of that. We sold all the other wine. We don’t make any money at it, but it’s a lot of fun. The people I’ve met in the wine business are just the best. They take you around. There’s always good wine and there’s always great food on the table. Everybody comes in when they’re working in the fields, and then they eat, have some wine, take a long lunch, and they’re off again. They work very hard.
You mention wine and food, and I understand you’re an avid fisherman. So what’s the best wine to drink with fish?
It depends on the fish.
I live on the water here, I occasionally keep stripped bass. I keep some of the blue fish. Blue fish isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I like them when they’re fresh. I put most of my fish back, but I’ll keep some if we’re hungry and we’re going to be home for a day or so. Fluke are a delicious fish, as is black fish. Wines to drink — chardonnays, pinot grigios, but I have a particular taste for reds. I’m a cabernet fan and a merlot fan. That’s what I prefer. There’s no real rules.
So you can drink cab with fish and it’s OK?
Of course you can and I do. Some may consider me somewhat of a barbarian, but I know what I like (laughs).
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