elton john and leon russellWhile you and I could never hope to score tickets to The Bridge Concert, every year my friend Julian does. For both days. If you are unfamiliar with The Bridge Concert, it’s the annual fundraiser for this school for the developmentally disabled that is Neil Young’s personal charity. (Young has two sons with cerebral palsy and a daughter with epilepsy.) Anyway, the concerts, which have been held annually for two decades, must boast the best line-up ever assembled outside of Woodstock. I guess if you are a musician and Neil Young calls you up and asks you to play, you show up. Generally, the two day concert tends to feature the greats who have stood the test of time, but have not sold out as supergroups. This year’s line up included:

  • Neil Young and Buffalo Springfield
  • Lucinda Williams
  • Billy Idol
  • Jackson Browne and David Lindley
  • Pearl Jam
  • T-Bone Burnett’s Speaking Clock Revue featuring Elton John & Leon Russell, Elvis Costello, Ralph Stanley, Neko Case and Jeff Bridges
  • Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson

Special guests are always promised and usually turn out to be artists like Emmylou Harris and Steven Stills (who showed up yesterday for Day One). I think now you can imagine how hard it would be to get tickets. Again, Julian always manages it. For both days. And good seats, at that.

emmylou harris

When I first saw the line-up, I thought, "Only Emmylou Harris could make this better." Sure enough, she showed up Saturday as a special guest singing with Elvis Costello.

A bit of a digression here to introduce you to Julian. Basically, if he did not exist, fiction would have to create him. First off, he is the actual cousin of Cousin John. And on Julian’s mother’s side and John’s father’s side, they are from an illustrious European circus family. Seriously. I wouldn’t make this up. John and Julian’s great, great grandmother was painted on horseback by Toulouse-Lautrec. But Julian’s mother wanted a different life and ran AWAY from the circus — to a comfortable Brideshead Revisited sort of English country life. Which ended with Julian going to Oxford where he learned how to debate so successfully that he can convince you, with complete logic and plausibility, that you are, in fact, a pink elephant. Julian is now such an important individual that, if I told you who he was, you’d suddenly realize who runs our current Military-Industrial Complex. Suffice it to say, I joined Facebook mostly to keep track of Julian’s travels and his posts read like something Lawrence of Arabia would write (had he the benefit of a Facebook account.) So one week I’ll see that Julian is sharing a water pipe with the President of Turkey, then next he is watching the sunset from the top of the Pyramid of Cheops with the Queen of Jordan. I tell you this by way of illustrating why Julian ALWAYS has front row seats to The Bridge Concert.

toulouse-latrec circus painting

I'm not sure if this is the actual picture of Julian's great-great grandmother, but Toulouse-Lautrec painted one like this of her.

This year, he invited us for the Day Two concert. Then the Pacific storms hit. And hit and hit and hit. We’ve been slammed with wave after wave of monsoon grade driving rain. All with a ton and a half of Mourvedre desperately needing pressing from primary to secondary fermentation. We kept telling ourselves we’d wait for a break in the storms, rush out and get that process going and be done in time for The Bridge Concert. Until it was seven this morning and still  no break. Finally, at 9AM came the call from Julian. He was bailing. Julian, as you might imagine, always goes First Class. So Julian in an open air amphitheater in the driving rain doing a Woodstock thing? Well, it wasn’t going to happen. He kindly offered us the tickets, but by that time, the storm was so severe, we couldn’t imagine driving safely for over two hours from Sonoma, dropping off terriers in San Francisco, then speeding down Highway 101 to Mountain View. Sadly, we had to decline.

I consoled myself with the fact that Merle Haggard — who was the artist I’d most wanted to see — had canceled due to illness. And the rest? Well, I had them on my iPod. Did I listen to them near a roaring fire surrounded by warm terriers?

rainy crush pad

No, we ended up spending hours on a freezing rainy crush pad doing wine work.

Pitching yeast into Cabernet...

pressing mourvedre

Running a ton and a half of Mourvedre through the press.

wine legs

As well as racking Rosé, freezing and getting covered with wine.

That’s because the grapes dictate things around here. When they are ready for the next process, you just have to get in gear. And Mother Nature is no respecter of concert tickets. Even Julian can’t control the weather.

But I bet he’s working on it.


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