The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

New Crossroads

Posted on | August 26, 2010 | Written by Perry Porricelli | No Comments

The main stage at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival.

For me, enjoying great music and quality wine is as good as it gets, so to continue my journey to find the best tunes—and wines—I trekked to Chicago in June for Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival. The festival, started by Eric Clapton in 2007 to help fund his Crossroads rehab facility in Antiqua, is a chance for some of the greatest guitarist to get to together, collaborate and jam out on stage. This year, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, Steve Winwood, Vince Gill and ZZ Top were part of the lineup.

I was there ostensibly, because I wanted to meet my longtime client and friend, Robert Carone, owner of Upstaging, a lighting, transport stage company. Carone, along with Fender’s Paul Jernigan, put together this year’s festival and invited me out. He’s been a client for the past four or five years and knows what Italian wine he likes. Give him your Soldera and your Conternos, and he’s a happy man. He often says, “Perry, just pick out what I should have,” and I do just that. From the top Super-Tuscans to the finest Barolos, Carone wants the best. He purchases wine for his cellar and also to give to his clients, often gifting promoters and management (Eric Clapton’s crew included) with some of IWM’s finest bottles. At this year’s Crossroads fest, IWM wines were not part of the main bar—the festival’s guitar sponsor, Fender, took over all the food and bar posts—but we still managed to enjoy some great Italian wines together before the show.

Son James (l) with Upstaging's Robert Carone.

Chicago was a blast. I saw an old friend, listened to some great live music and had a chance to spend some quality time with my son James who came along for the ride, though mostly to check out the guitars. A budding guitarist, James marveled at the vintage Fenders on display at the festival. He even got to meet the legend himself, Eric Clapton, as well as Steve Jordan, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes and others. The real highlight was when James got to play a Billy Gibbons model Fender and jam with Los Lobos backstage. Watching him, I wish I played guitar too.

James with guitarist Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos.

Those vintage Fenders really left an impression on me. The long rows of them, gleaming and gently curving, each with its own personality and history, was a beautiful sight, and it, perhaps strangely, made me think of wine. People who really appreciate music, really get into it and understand it also seem to know the joy that comes from a classic guitar. It’s the same with wine. Those who really understand wine and have held a special bottle in their hands know its potential. What Crossroads reiterated to me was that some of the best guitars—and wines—will always grow in beauty and value over time.


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