Jul 26, 2013
02:41 PMArts & Entertainment
Joan Osborne to Perform at Connecticut Winery, Jonathan Edwards
For winemakers, the difference between producing an ordinary wine and a sublime one that can pull in ratings in the 90s is ultimately a matter of selecting and blending the best grapes—which, to blend a mixed metaphor—explains why the popular concert series at the Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington will feature multi-platinum recording artist and seven-time Grammy nominee Joan Osborne on Aug. 11.
If ‘God was one of us,’ he would not only turn out to see this soulful-voiced performer dig into her noted repertoire and some Blues classics but he would also bring a picnic and pair some fine fare with one of the winery’s Napa Valley offerings that begin life as grapes growing in California—such as the 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Grigio —or with one of the estate wines, such as the chardonnay that thrives in the microclimate of an estate roughly 10 miles from Long Island Sound.
The proprietor of the eponymous winery, Jonathan Edwards, justifiably takes pride in his hybridized approach—not only as a Connecticut vintner but also as the winery and estate owner. Hence the palate-pleasing dualities of both the wines and the place from which they emerge.
On the wine side, that means a roster of Connecticut wines from locally grown estate grapes paired with a roster of wines from prime Napa parcels that Edwards has under contract. “During harvest season our grapes are hand-picked under our direct supervision, and then immediately begin their transition into wine in California,” the winery’s website explains. “Jonathan does this to maintain optimal freshness and stability of our premium wines. The young wine is then brought to Connecticut in refrigerated trucks to begin 12-18 months of barrel aging.”
On the estate winery side of the equation, the duality translates into a business built on the foundation of wine but enhanced by a weddings and special events component—and by the series of signature summer concerts. Edwards has been at the helm of the winery for a dozen years—buying the site of the former Crosswoods Vineyard and starting from scratch—and has been presenting the concerts for approximately five years.
This summer’s concerts are underway—tickets are $40—and one notable performer so far has been Ben Taylor. The son of James Taylor and Carly Simon performed his folk music with a “kick” July 7. He was followed July 21 by the gospel, R&B, country and blues of Martin Sexton—and, as of Friday afternoon, 25 tickets remained for the show this Sunday (July 28) by Jonathan Edwards (not the preacher, the psychic the politician … or the winery owner.) This Jonathan Edwards is known for such songs as “Shanty” and “Sunshine.”
Looming on the near horizon at this venue with a big stage, lighting and professional sound, which Edwards calls a “mini Tanglewood setup,” is the big show of the summer—Joan Osborne.
“She’s a first for us,” Edwards said Friday afternoon. “We just signed her up, so there’s lot of tickets available.” Those who know her understand what a great show this will be; those who don’t should head to her website or YouTube to connect.
The bio on her website says, in part, “Her debut album, Relish, wove together strands of American roots music, poetic lyrics and impassioned vocals, and produced the international hit “(What if God Was) One of Us.”
Since then she has released several albums, toured extensively with her own band and as a member of The Grateful Dead, appeared in the Grammy Award-winning documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” and shared the stage with Bob Dylan, Luciano Pavarotti, Stevie Wonder, Emmylou Harris and Patti Smith to name just a few.
Joan has produced two albums for Americana stalwarts the Holmes Brothers, and co-produced her most recent critically acclaimed release, Bring it on Home, which was nominated in the category of Best Blues Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards.
I knew when the time was right and my voice was ready, I wanted to make a recording like this one,” Osborne says of the critically acclaimed release.
That recording is Bring It on Home, a collection of vintage blues, R&B and soul songs that make up the seventh album from the multi-platinum artist. It’s an apt title—for Osborne, Home marks a return to her musical roots. “I cut my teeth in New York blues clubs singing songs like this,” Joan remembers. “I’d do three or four one-hour sets per night. That’s where I really learned to sing. … .”
Edwards is clearly excited about landing Osborne for a concert. The self-described “big music buff” keeps adding to the mix of the series each summer, and is looking forward to closing out the current series in real style.
And that includes the Aug. 4 Lobster Bake with Sugar. “It’s the real deal,” Edwards says of the lobster bake aspect, which is put on by “experts” from Newport, and Sugar is the best and best known regional band in southeastern Connecticut.
The lobster bake and concert go from 6:30 to 9 p.m., featuring, the website says, a “Full Lobster Dinner (Steamers & Mussels with drawn butter, Corn on the cob, Red Bliss potatoes, BBQ Chicken, 1 1/4 lb Lobster and Watermelon for dessert) and dancing after with SUGAR!” It will sell out—about 450 tickets are sold for each concert—so anyone interested in going should act fast. Tickets for this event are $80.
The Aug. 18 concert, meanwhile, features Donavon Frankenreiter, with Will Evans formally of Barefoot Truth opening. Frankenreiter, the winery’s website says, is “well known for his soothing, earthy vocals as his iconic mustache and quick witted humor,” adding, “The laidback sounds and soulful crooning of this Hawaiian native are likened to his longtime friend and collaborator Jack Johnson. With the soft–bluesy tunes like “Swing on Down,” “Life, Love and Laughter,” and “Free,” surfer–turned–musician Frankenreiter puts on an engaging but ‘chill’ show not to be missed.” Just 100 tickets are left for this show.
In addition to the Sunday concerts, Jonathan Edwards winery also offers a Summer Nights Music Series, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. every Thursday in July and August. The cost of these family-friendly concerts featuring local bands is $12 for adults and includes a logo glass. Children younger than 12 are admitted free with an adult.
One beauty of all of this, of course, is that the fine food guests bring is paired with Edwards’ wines, the full range of which is best described on the winery’s website. Suffice to say that whether you like lighter whites or hearty reds, or even port, there’s a wine on the roster for you.
And then there’s the glorious setting to cap off the experience. “We are located in a lovingly renovated, New England dairy barn in the quaint village of North Stonington. Nestled on a hill top among 48 acres of magnificent vineyards, we offer you scenery, serenity and premium wines,” the website offers, pretty much saying it all.
Go online for the full Jonathan Edwards experience, and for tickets to the concerts—and here’s hoping Joan Osborne is reading this and taking requests. “St. Teresa” maybe? Sure it caused a bit of controversy, but what a song.
A couple of notes for those planning to attend the Sunday concerts, from the website: You are welcome to bring any food and non-alcoholic beverages, but no alcohol other than Jonathan Edwards wines is allowed on the winery property. Larger blanket or table set ups are allowed only outside of the tent on the grounds. The grounds and tent open at 5:30, and these shows are “rain or shine,” 21-and-older events. Tickets are limited and only available in advance.
Joan Osborne to Perform at Connecticut Winery, Jonathan Edwards