A friend of mine recently challenged me to learn a new song on guitar. It was an instrumental duo that I’ve been familiar with through the years – Slack Key Soquel Rag by the Doobie Brothers to be exact! I  started to listen to the song and break it down into sections and slowly and painstakingly learned it note by note.  It was a very intricate series of finger pickings! Getting the mechanics down did take some time but once I got through the ‘math’ of the song, phrasing, notes, beats,  I started feeling comfortable enough to add the emotion. I tried not to copy the original artist and play it exactly the same but rather to add my own interpretation to the music. This challenge was very gratifying to me and each time my friend and I  played it together it sounded better and better!  A few nights ago I was listening to some Dave Brubeck, I love how he takes the standard ‘math’ of music and puts his own twist on the rules. In particular one of my favorite pieces “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” which was written in 9/8 and swing 4/4 (bending the rules quite a bit, but I’ll explain some other time)  is compelling to me not because of the intricacy of the mathematics of the notes but because of the emotion and feeling that he puts into each note and phrase! It never gets old to me. I know that this same appreciation is one of the reasons I am so passionate about wine. Like music, wine making is a combination of math and personal expression. There is a basic process that the grapes go through once they have been harvested but prior to that is the winemaker’s interpretation of the preparation and the process,  the “tuning” of the vines and fruit during the growing season and through the harvest and then of course the wine making process, which ultimately brings the juice to full expression. I thought about some wines I really enjoy and how year after year they can be consistently great, but never exactly the same! What makes some wines stand out over others is similar to Brubeck’s outside of the box thinking, it’s the emotion and feeling that a winemaker infuses into the math of the process that sets them apart! Winemakers often make decisions based on instinct, when to harvest, when to irrigate, when to trim the canopy, if at all.  But it’s more than just following the rules or doing the math, it’s taking the rules and pushing the envelope…sometimes going against the grain and adding your personal signature to the wine. Making music and making wine are both a very personal expression of passion, ideas, experimentation and instinct which I appreciate over and over again!