Guitarist Jimmy Stafford and his Grammy-winning band Train are behind the Save Me, San Francisco Wine Co. brand named after their fifth album. They make chardonnay, petit sirah and merlot under the guidance of winemaker James Foster at Concannon Vineyards in Livermore.
We caught up with Stafford shortly after the band's Drops of Jupiter California Red 2011 won a gold medal in the San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition to find out what he drinks on tour and where he goes tasting in Napa Valley. Learn more about Train's wines at www.savemesanfranciscowineco.com.
Q: What's your relationship to wine?
A: I like to drink it. I always ask for two bottles of wine in my dressing room every night. It started out with local wines, so I could taste and learn new things depending on the region I was in. It worked great when we were in Italy or Argentina. But somewhere like Mississippi, I'd end up drinking grape juice.
Now I always drink red before a show and make sure one of the bottles is from California. I drink a chilled white after a show because it's refreshing.
Q: What's your relationship with winemaker James Foster at Concannon?
A: James is great. He's a big Train fan and brought his kid to meet us that first day we blended wines at Concannon in Livermore. He'll come up with three to six different samples that he likes, and then he'll send them to me in tiny bottles if I'm on tour. Then I'll taste and choose the blend for that particular wine.
For instance, I just received samples of a pinot noir we're going to make from the Central Coast. We also have a sparkling moscato coming out, from Italy. That's our first non-California wine, so we'll call it our touring blend.
Q: A lot of celebrities, particularly musicians, are getting into the wine business. What is the appeal?
A: My experience is that music, alcohol and drugs go together. When you were young, you'd always get to the concert early and party in the parking lot. As you grow up and get older, sharing a bottle of wine with a friend seems like the more adult thing to do.
Personally, we had no intention of this thing taking off. We wanted the wine to reflect the music. We didn't want the wine to be a gimmicky thing that fans would buy and put on their shelf. We wanted it to taste good and donate $2 from each bottle to Family House, a San Francisco nonprofit. Our fans really like the wines, and we've gotten good feedback on them.
Q: Where do you like to go tasting when you're home in Northern California?
A: I love Jordan Winery in Sonoma and Cakebread Cellars in Napa. We did our "Drive By" video at Shafer Vineyards in Napa. Their wines are really great over there.
Q: Do you consider yourself a wine expert? Think you'll go for the Master Sommelier exam?
A: I don't consider myself a wine-know-it-all or claim to be a wine expert. I'm very honest. I play guitar in a rock band. And I happen to be the only one in the band who likes wine. I know what I like.