A winemaker can only do so much with what he or she is given. Great wine starts in the vineyard, in the soil, climate, and vigor of the vines. The winemaker’s job is to take those amazing grapes and showcase their unique properties in the glass. Being a winemaker is a labor of love, combining both extensive knowledge and passion to producing the very best representation of the grapes. Like composing a melody, it takes insight, knowledge of the quality of instruments, and an expert hand to create something that sings.
Fred Scherrer, in addition to being the owner and head winemaker of Scherrer Winery, also happens to be a musician. Before trying his hand at making alcohol as a teenager, he started music lessons, “I had compulsory piano lessons for a few years from grade 3-7. Switched to trombone and picked up guitar in college for fun.”
On Saturday, January 21 2017, Fred Scherrer shared two of his passions with guests of Third Street Wine Shop: wine and music. Scherrer was introduced to Third Street Wine Shop through close friend and fellow guitar enthusiast Michael Jordan, Master Sommelier. During Jordan’s last visit to Third Street Wine Shop, he mentioned playing guitar with a good friend and fellow winemaker, Fred Scherrer, which set the ball in motion for Grapes & Guitars.
Sharing Wine and Sharing Music
When asked how Scherrer and Jordan met, Scherrer responded:
“[We met] at the Napa Rose restaurant. My sister-in-law suggested he taste my wines while he was working the floor that night. I resisted because I did not want to turn this into a sales call out of respect for him. [Michael Jordan] was open and asked me to send samples; [my] sister-in-law replied, saying that I had brought a bunch of bottles down for us to share while on vacation and that I could bring some down any time. [Michael] asked that I come in later after dinner service, which I did.”
It was during that tasting later that night they discovered their shared passion for music, and specifically guitar:
“That first evening we met, we found that we shared a passion for music and both played guitar. He had a couple of acoustic [guitars] downstairs in his office. We realized that we understood what the other person was going to do at the same time that person had a notion. We call it ‘the wi-fi thing.’”
Guests were treated to the fine wines of Scherrer Winery, a Mediterranean styled cheese and charcuterie plate, and the sounds and stylings of Fred Scherrer and Michael Jordan. Throughout the evening, the duo would feed off each other while taking turns playing lead guitar. The duo are both talented musicians and winemakers, as seen in both winemaking and approach to music, respectively.
When asked about which musician’s works he likes to play, Scherrer responded that there were too many to simply choose from, but notable ones include Kristofferson and Richard Thompson. “I enjoy deconstructing a song down to its fundamental elements, then re-building it substituting with different elements that are very different than the original version, as opposed to parroting what someone else has created.”
Fred Scherrer and Michael Jordan, or MJ as Scherrer calls him, developed an easy friendship that started in wine but was enriched by their shared passion for music, “MJ has taught me some cool things I didn’t know, [and] I’ve done the same for him. It’s a great collaboration of passion and good old fashioned fun.” Jordan and Scherrer have even collaborated on different versions of songs, “MJ and I have a really interesting version of ‘Message in a Bottle’ that I suspect even Sting would enjoy hearing.” We certainly enjoyed it.
The process of deconstructing a song to its basic elements only to rebuild it and take it in a completely different direction is an example at how meticulous Scherrer is to his craft, whether it’s music or winemaking, he’s a true artisan, as many guests during the first (hopefully annual) Grapes and Guitars experienced.
The evening had a great beat to it all night, the wine was flowing, the conversations animated, and the music lively.
While we anxiously await a repeat performance (with maybe a couple CDs in tow?), Scherrer admits, “We love playing for people, but are content just playing for each other as well. We are lucky to be living in opposite parts of the state, or we would probably be unmarried, homeless, living under a bridge, busking for tips…”