Interstellar Rodeo’s wine and music pairings reveal wine’s evolving role in our lives

By / Wine + Drinks / August 15th, 2017 / Like

Wine has played a role in society for eons. The way we appreciate wine, and the situations in which we taste it, have evolved from the ceremonial red wines (often untouched by Pharaohs due to superstitious beliefs that it is the blood of those who battled the gods) to the watered down wines of the Roman era (rumoured to have started true alcoholism); even further, to the Benedictine and Cistercian wines produced by the monks for Catholic Mass in Medieval Europe. Europeans eventually consuming wine on a daily basis, as they would coffee or water.

Enter then, the prestige and haughty airs given by “true” wine connoisseurs who believed wine should be held aloft from the social beverage spheres and treated as something akin to holy. Finally, nowadays, where enjoying a white wine in the evening is something to be encouraged, and enjoyed, just for its nuances and not as a practice in pretension.

The role wine plays in our lives is constantly evolving – and it can be paired with a great many things. One theme that I’ve noticed in working for Quench and reading the articles by the experts like Tony Aspler and Gurvinder Bhatia, is that your surroundings, the atmosphere and the people you’re with can impact how you perceive a wine. Yes, even influences that don’t affect your taste buds can change the experience.

So when I was told that Gurvinder Bhatia does a wine and music pairing every year for the Interstellar Rodeo music festival in Edmonton (held this past July at Hawrelak Park), I wasn’t totally surprised. After all, music has always been able to transport me to another time, resurfacing a long-forgotten memory or placing me in a state of relaxation. Something taste and smell also do very well.

“Interstellar Rodeo is a summer music festival produced by Six Shooter Records, an indie record label,” explains Aimée Hill, Publicist for Interstellar Rodeo and Northern Lands, as well as a columnist at CBC Radio Active’s InCrowd and chair of Alberta Music. “Festival producer and label owner Shauna de Cartier was inspired to create the festival based on her own experience of being a long-time festival goer. She knew Hawrelak Park in Edmonton was the perfect setting for a festival focused on the overall experience – intimate, beautiful and located in a city that loves and appreciates music events.”

The festival, which expanded in 2015 to include a Winnipeg event (this year’s event is August 18 to 20 at the Forks), features a wine and music pairing prepared by Gurvinder Bhatia for the Edmonton event and Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson in Winnipeg. Bhatia developed this concept, drawing on his experience as a recognized wine personality and music lover to match wines to music based on the similarities in characteristics.

“It was a great idea started in Edmonton, based on an article Gurvinder wrote for Quench in 2007 with Gurvinder pairing each wine to the artists,” says Hill. “People didn’t quite understand how it was going to work, but Gurvinder looks at the similarities in philosophies, characteristics in personalities of the songwriters and the winemakers. Their commonalities come out in their art – whether it be wine …or music.”

The pairings have been very popular over the years, drawing people in and helping them appreciate everything from wine to music to food. It’s all part of the festival’s top-to-bottom curated experience. “The producers of the festival (Six Shooter Records) want to ensure that the festival goers to have the best experience possible – from the good food, good wine, the merchants in the market (in Edmonton), to of course, what music is being programmed,” explains Hill. “They want to work with people who embody a similar philosophy – that life is too short to listen to shitty music/drink shitty wine.”

This approach to wine – incorporating it into a very popular form of entertainment (who doesn’t listen to music every day, even if it’s just as background noise?) – helps experienced wine lovers step back from the constant over analysis of what’s in the glass and allows them to just appreciate the wine in the festival atmosphere. It also gives people new to wine – or those who haven’t explored much past the $10 bottles – something else to try and an exciting new experience to unlock next time they listen to *that* song, or taste *that* wine. Finally, it helps small Canadian producers reach a larger market (since crowd size at each festival numbers in the multiple-thousands each day.

“Just like music, there is a grape or wine out there for everyone,” Hill says. “And they don’t have to be expensive – or pretentious. And just like the music, sometimes it’s the small, independent winemakers making the best they have to offer, but don’t have the marketing dollars to reach a mass audience.”

Hill shared her favourite wine and music pairings from the past festivals. Try them out and see just how well music elevates wine… don’t forget to dance like no one is watching.

2012 Pairing: Whitehorse with the Anvers Sauvignon Blanc Semillon ‘Brabo’

The passion, instinctive familiarity, comfort and chemistry behind husband and wife collaborations can either blossom into something wonderful and sensuous or crash and burn in a ery grave. Fortunately both these husband and wife teams are examples of the former. Once you hear them together, it’s hard to imagine Melissa and Luke playing apart despite their ridiculously amazing individual musical talents. Their country-jazzy-rock-rootsy sound with engaging lyrics and captivating melodies are inspirational as are the wines of Anvers Winery’s Wayne and Myriam Keoghan…the perfect balance between bold and elegant. (GB)

2013 Pairing: M. Ward with the Val de Salis Rose of Cabernet, Languedoc France

The beauty of music and wine is that they tell a story of people, places, cultures and history. They represent history in the making, snapshots of moments in time allowing both songwriter and winemaker to share with those in the future the joys, challenges, hardships and victories they experienced in the creation of their art. Understated but powerful, best describe M. Ward and the wine. Elegant and serious, but still approachable, this isn’t your soda-pop pink wine nor bubble gum pop music. Well constructed with a message for the ages, respecting tradition while always being relevant. Quite simply…timeless. (GB)

2015 Pairing Winnipeg: Wilco with La Folle Noire D’Ambat Le Roc, Fronton, France

These Chicago alternative roots-rock icons have never been afraid to push the boundaries, yet manage to retain a signature sound that’s as catchy as it is edgy. The Folle Noire D’Ambat is made from the Negrette grape; it’s a natural wine that plays by its own rules yet is highly drinkable/approachable — that same uncompromising spirit embodied in Wilco’s music. (BMS)


Browse the 2017 Wine & Music Pairings

(when you click on the wine, a description pops up explaining why it was chosen for that artist)


Wine Selection
By Gurvinder Bhatia

Music Playlist


Wine Selection
By Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

Music Playlist


A freelance writer and editor, Lisa Hoekstra loves learning and trying new things. She can be found with her nose in a book or multiple tabs open on her browser as she researches the latest and greatest in the world of food, style and everything in between.

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