Excerpt from the never-coming book “A Northern Wine Odyssey”

(Composed originally for the Terroir Wine Bar wine list.)  

A few years back, journalist Evan Dawson published a well-received collection of winemaker profiles called Summer In A Glass, documenting the stories of some of the fine producers in the Finger Lakes. I’d like to take this moment now to point out one factual error of catastrophic proportion in his book – which has been bothering me for almost a decade –and that is the reference to the brown M&M’s. 

Dawson writes on the difficulty that is growing the Vitis vinifera gewürztraminer grape by comparing it to a “rock band that will perform only if the concert organizers can deliver on a long list of silly demands. Remember the rock group that demanded all brown M&M candies in their hotel room? That’s Gewürztraminer.” Only that rock group didn’t demand there be ALL brown M&M’s, they demanded there be NO brown M&M’s. And that rock group was Van Halen, and more specifically that maverick of mischief, lead vocalist David Lee Roth. 

Van Halen with Diamond Dave was the first band to take huge productions into what Roth has referred to as “tertiary, third-level markets.” The band would pull up to the venue with upwards of nine 18-wheeler trucks, full of Eddie and the band’s gear when apparently the standard was usually only three trucks worth. And there would often be an unsafe amount of technical errors regarding their stage setup, to the fault of the promoter.

Since the band’s contract rider was so long and complex, and it took an extraordinarily large team of technicians to assemble a Van Halen concert stage, the band decided to include a ridiculous clause as a test in their otherwise very serious technical rider. It read: “Article number 126: ‘There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.’”

What would happen if Diamond Dave walked backstage to brown M&M’s in a candy bowl? The whole backline production would have to be checked, and mistakes would almost always be found, some potentially life-threatening. Apparently once at a show in Pueblo, Colorado, the promoter didn’t bother to even look at the weight requirements of the band’s production then, sure enough, brown M&M’s were found. And Diamond Dave does not tolerate gladly careless boobs that dare ignore the most simple of requests. He then trashed the dressing room and caused thousands of dollars worth of damage. But the stage sank through the new rubber basketball floor of the arena and caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage. 

But otherwise, Summer In A Glass is an enjoyable book.

Cork Report contributor Paul Brady: “I will forever be grateful to Eddie Van Halen—attempting the discipline to learn even some of his most modest riffs and solos helped me and countless others build confidence through music, which we’ll have forever. Rest in power, Maestro.”


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