Back in the days of Punk, New Wave and 80’s synth pop I was a huge fan of DEVO and their driving synthesized beats carrying tunes of social de-evolution and political angst. So when I was invited to meet Gerald (Jerry) Casale, one of the founding fathers of DEVO, I jumped at the chance to chat with him and taste his wines at the McLoughlin Gallery in San Francsiso. Gerald Casale is not only a member of that iconic band but he now owns a Napa Valley winery and is resurrecting a design from the prominent 20th century German architect Mies Vander Rohe to be his tasting room in Napa Valley.
Are we not men? We are Pinot. Casale with his current releases.
How does a boy from Akron, OH, a former Kent State student and rock icon, grow up to be the proprietor of a winery in Napa Valley? As DEVO became popular they decided to move to Los Angeles in the 80s for better opportunities and the Mediterranean climate. It was during that time that Jerry began his education in food and wine. He got to know the celebrity chefs of Santa Monica at that time including Bruce Marder, Jeramiah Tower, Michael McCarty and Wolfgang Puck, all innovators of “California Cuisine.” Jerry called them the “New Wave Chefs” and Devo has certainly been labelled as a “New Wave” band. He began as a lover of big Cabs but throughout his career Jerry had been exposed to some of the great wines of the world, Pinot Noir in particular (DRC anyone?)and Jerry is a self-professed “Pinot Junkie” who took a special liking to that fickle grape. And his love of wine kept growing until it became a reality for him in the form of his own winery.
The 50 by 50 Estate tasting room
Casale’s winery is called The 50 by 50 which is taken from a Mies Vander Rohe design. It is unique in that you get an uninterrupted 360 degree panoramic view of the gorgeous estate as you survey it from the tasting room. The property is located in Napa in a small valley called Wooden Valley which is southeast of the Atlas Peak AVA. Although the tasting room is still being built the vines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot have all been planted and we will be able to experience the fruits of his labor in about 5 years.
In the meantime Jerry has released two wines under The 50 by 50 label. He has contracted Kenn Vigoda, winemaker at Napa winery Judd’s Hill custom crushpad facility, to make his wines. As we wait for the Bordeaux varietals to grow Casale has released two Pinot Noirs. The fruit for both Pinots is sourced from the Rodger’s Creek Vineyard, a cool-climate site located between Petaluma and Sonoma in the Sonoma Coast AVA. They are each a 50/50 blend of the Pommard clone and the Dijon 667 clone.
The 50 by 50 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2012 has aromas of dark red fruits and spices, is medium-bodied and has silky palate bursting with strawberry and tart cherry notes.
Song to pair: “Girl U Want” (but replace “Girl” with “Pinot”)
The 50 by 50 Sonoma Coast Rose of Pinot Noir 2013 is a crisp and dry Rose with notes of red berries and melon with a smooth texture and mouthwatering acidity.
Song to pair: That’s Good” (This Rose really is a good thing)
Also, check out the very cool 50 by 50 website www.thefiftybyfifty.com where you can learn more and order wine. The wines can also be ordered through www.wallywine.com
**On a different note: DEVO is still touring. Jerry’s brother and fellow bandmate Bob Casale, died suddenly this past February. To raise money for his family’s medical bills, the original members of DEVO have been touring. I missed their Bay Area appearance at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland on June 28th but here is a link to their upcoming tours: http://clubdevo.com/index.php/tour