2015 has been a very special year for music and for wine. While there are many classical works worthy of being mentioned, and many wines to celebrate, I feel obliged to make a personal choice based not only on the wine quality, and its locale, but also because it has a special connection to why 2015 has been particularly important to me.
I am honored to be the Artistic and Musical Director of the Real Orquesta Sinfonica de Sevilla. With this wonderful orchestra in this most famous of opera cities, we began our 2015 season in September with music by a living Spanish composer, Nuria Nuñez Hierro, played by a Spanish orchestra (alive and well) and a living American composer, Aaron Jay Kernis, conducted by an American conductor (doing his best to stay alive and well). Both works utilize the instrument of the orchestra in new and unusual ways. Nuria Nuñez Hierro’s “Donde se forjan las quimeras" (2010) and Aaron Jay Kernis’ “New Era Dance,” (1992), also ask the musicians to speak and not only play, making the entire body the instrument. The words “Libertad,” meaning freedom and from a whisper to the shouting of “New Era” make for a compelling statement: The freedom to make music is a new era in the history of the orchestra.
Freedom is also the word most closely associated to the new world. Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” is actually a reflection of Czech melodies and a longing for his homeland from the shores of the new world, but the music captures the spirit of America. The “Goin’ Home” melody, based on the famous English Horn solo in the Largo 2nd movement, (and actually composed as a song by William Arms Fisher, one of Dvorak’s pupils, after the symphony), can be a reference to the spirituals that may have caught Dvorak’s ear; but, in fact, it is mainly the optimistic spirit of the music in the entire symphony that gives the work its “American” character. To bring this closer to home, let us remember that Cristobal Colon, (known to the rest of us as Christopher Columbus) came from the Old World, from the port of Seville, to discover America. His tomb is, of course, also in Seville. From the old world to the new and back again.
The winemakers of America are also a reflection of that free spirit, first as immigrants who came to the shores of the USA to live in a free land, but also to express that freedom in the way they make their wines. There are no rules, as one might find in the “Old World.” One winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon is another winery’s Pinot Noir to another winery’s Syrah. Since Seville is the theme of this article, the most famous wine grape of Spain is the Tempranillo, found in the hearty Ribera del Duero and in the every popular Rioja. Of course, I could highlight many Spanish wines, but since we are coming “From the New World,” there is an award-winning Tempranillo from Oregon, which is my 2015 wine of the year.
Tempranillo in Oregon? Where the climate is cool and the pinot noir usually reigns supreme? Yes.
When husband-and-wife team Earl and Hilda Jones planted Oregon’s first Tempranillo in the Umpqua Valley over 20 years ago, it was a huge discovery, an innovation that has now made the Tempranillo the go to grape in Southern Oregon. Their winery, Abacela, has produced wines that can usurp the old world’s supremacy. This very affordable Tempranillo, for less than 20€, is called “Fiesta,” a name not so different from the famous Feria of Sevilla. It has won gold and silver medals, and has been described as having a seamless texture palate around a tannic structure. It is rich, full of life and fruit, fresh yet deep bodied. Aged over 17 months in oak barrels, it packs a punch with over 14% alcohol.
Dvorak’s symphony also packs a punch: At rehearsal number 13 in the 1st movement, during that climactic moment in fortissisimo, with all strings playing in tremolo, the timpani pounding away and the brass in full force, it sounds like cannon fire over the bow of the Santa Maria. The 3rd movement echoes Beethoven (let us not forget that Fidelio is set in, naturally, Seville). And the finale reminds us of the Largo melody in motivic progressions until the very end. The Tempranillo Fiesta is fun, just as the Dvorak remains one of the most joyous pieces of music to hear and play. There is a Spanish expression that says everything: Mi casa es su casa. My home is your home. And with Dvorak’s New World Symphony and a bottle of the Abacela Fiesta Tempranillo, going home again has never been so much fun.