(scroll over photos for info)
As a teenager through adulthood, I’ve enjoyed concerts. As early as 16 in 1970, I attended my first three-day Rock Festival in Poynette, Wisconsin. Camping under the stars, this was Wisconsin's first-ever Sound Storm. We were serenaded to the tunes of Cheap Trick (then Fuse), Rotary Connection, and a five-hour performance by the Grateful Dead.
As I’ve aged and recorded music became better, the experience held less appeal. Waiting in long lines, jockeying for position, enduring distant views of the performers, suffering bad food from vendors, bad wine (other than that smuggled in;), and incessant car traffic made concerts more work than fun.
Two events have turned me around, reinvigorating my LOVE for live music. The first, which I'll cover in a post this summer, is the Kate Wolf Music Festival in Laytonville, CA, just a couple hours north of Sebastopol. This is music pure and simple. It's held in the woods, under the stars, complete with river, warm showers, great food, four music venues, yoga, Tai Chi, a crafts village, loving community and stunning performers from morning till morning for four days. It's a throwback to Woodstock, but tightly organized, clean and small.
The second is a five day Rock & Roll cruise in the Caribbean called 70s Rock & Romance. I got back yesterday. This was one of the most exciting music experiences of my life. And guess what: I was working!
I had the privilege as the only guest vintner on a luxury cruise ship for 5 days. I hosted tastings and a private vintner dinner for the VIP guests. I worked with three Sommeliers, all of which completing their Master Sommelier program, in hosting and serving Halleck Vineyard wines.
Accompanied by my favorite people from our Halleck Vineyard Inner Circle, Asher Milgrom, his wife Alice Pien, and their dear friend, Pam McMillan, we were treated like rock stars from the very start.
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale independently, but surprisingly in synch. I had been traveling days prior, hosting an event in Charlotte, NC to benefit a children’s charity. Asher and Alice flew in on a red-eye from LA. Amazingly, we all arrived at the ship within 30 seconds of each other.
We were personally escorted by the organizers, Time-Life, through immigration to a private waiting area where we were joined by the musicians and support staff from America, Little River Band and Player (Horse with No Name; Cool Change; Baby Come Back). All other cruisers were lined outside. We chatted with our compatriots, drinking iced fruit water and eating fresh baked cookies. To be honest, we didn’t recognize a soul. They look different now;)
When the ship was ready, we were escorted on-board to staterooms fully prepared, each with a private balcony over the water below. All other guest rooms were unavailable till late in the afternoon.
This was only the beginning. In every regard, we were honored. We enjoyed reserved front row seats to every concert. Never waiting in line, we entered through a lower entrance reserved for the talent to our spots. We enjoyed our meals in several private restaurants, with full service, and ambled to each show just prior to start. We had access to a private club reserved for luxury suites and penthouses on board. Halleck Vineyard wine was served throughout.
During my tasting in the main dining room, I was thrilled to have the entire group from Player join me. This served as a meaningful introduction to a new friend, Buster Akrey, lead singer and keyboardist. We both have three adult kids who are our best friends. We share similar views on love and life.
The staff did a stunning job the whole trip. I created a special bond with the Sommelier team. There were a total of 18 somms on the ship. Truly amazing wine service and knowledge. And the food service team was as good as any in the finest restaurants in NYC or SF. The vintner dinner prepared with Halleck Vineyard wines was as good as it gets.
The general dining was delicious and well prepared, open from dawn till 3:00 am. So we found ourselves in the wee hours on the back deck with the musicians, smoking cigars, sipping cognac, and eating astounding pizza right out of the oven. There was gelato, fruit and a range of cuisines, all fresh throughout the day into the night at our beck.
With all this comfort and perfect weather, I never spent time around the pools. I was either preparing for one of my wine events, enjoying the company of my friends, napping, or bathing in the unforgettable, timeless and brilliantly performed music.
Mid-cruise, we stopped for a day in Cozumel, Mexico. Pam and I went SCUBA diving, while Alice and Asher took motorbikes around the island. After diving, we enjoyed the most memorable meal of the trip in a small local fish joint we stumbled upon. It was rough around the edges, but the fresh snapper we watched being loaded off the truck was on our plates impeccably grilled and utterly delicious in 15 minutes.In Cozumel, our friends from Player, America and Little River Band got off and Peter Frampton, Christopher Cross and ELO (Show Me the Way; Sailing; Don’t Bring Me Down) got on. We were in for more treats.We saw each, again from the best seats in the house. We screamed, danced, jumped up and down and took pictures in random order thoughtlessly.
The days sped by. There was too much food, too much drink, too little exercise, too little sleep. It was perfect!
We left the ship the last morning separately by 9:00 am. Asher, Alice and I enjoyed an early breakfast onboard to say goodbye. I had a full day to while away, as my flight left in the evening. Pam was staying an extra day to visit with a friend, so we headed to the beach for a walk till my flight time.
As soon as I boarded, I missed my posse. But I had the warmth one has from a trip well traveled. Please join me next year.