Raising a Glass of Garnacha to B.B. King and the Blues

guitar and Wine on a wooden tableI like to think I know a thing or two about music, but I really didn’t have much knowledge about — or an ear for — blues until I spent 13 years in Chicago beginning in 2000.

There, a friend introduced me to a club called Buddy Guy’s Legends, and that began a monthly ritual of walking several blocks after work — even in the dead of winter — to hear nationally touring artists and local mainstays perform. And a few times each year, Buddy Guy himself would be on stage — often during the early evening hours, before the “headliner” would take the stage.

It was through those performances that I learned about the blues, and came to respect a true giant of the genre: B.B. King. As you no doubt know by now, the music world lost King on May 14. He was still performing as recently as a few weeks ago even as the complications of life with diabetes took their toll.

They say that more than any other musicians, blues players can “feel” their music, and in his final performances, there was no doubt King was feeling his — lending even more soul to his playing, if that’s possible.

I had already left Chicago when a line of wines bearing B.B. King’s name began appearing in his blues clubs around the country. (Like Guy, King was an entrepreneur in addition to a musician.) King collaborated with Bodega Santa Cruz in southeastern Spain to produce two wines under the B.B. King Signature Collection label — one red and one white.

The red is a blend of Garnacha, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, made in the Crianza style (meaning it spent at least a year in oak casks prior to bottling). The white is made entirely from Verdejo grapes.

I had an opportunity to taste the 2010 Red when it was released, and it was quite good. In fact, it seemed like the perfect wine for one to sip while listening to the blues — dark, brooding and seductive, yet quite accessible… just like the music.

Selfishly, I now wish I’d had an opportunity to have Mr. King sign my bottle of B.B. King Signature Collection Red. As one who loves music — including the blues — and wine almost equally, that would have been a real keepsake.

A memorial service is planned for this coming Saturday in Las Vegas, and you can get more information here. Saturday evening, I plan to load “B.B. King Live” in my CD player, open a bottle of red wine from Spain, and pay silent homage to a true legend of the blues.

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