Submitted by Jeff Meier, president/coo and director of winemaking
This year’s Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park saw another three days of sun, fog, cold, lots of people and loads of good music! This was J. Lohr’s third year of participation, and in many ways, it was the most rewarding. While working the curated fine wine experience Wine Lands early Saturday morning, I was approached by one of the organizers of the festival wine kiosks with concern that they would soon run out of our wines, and wondered if I might be able to arrange a pick-up of 130 cases that afternoon. After an hour of phone calls, return calls and negotiations, we were able to arrange a pick-up from our warehouse in San Jose to ensure that our J. Lohr Flume Crossing Sauvignon Blanc and Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir would remain in stock throughout the park! We were swamped in waves at our Wine Lands station, pouring Arroyo Vista Chardonnay, Highlands Bench Pinot Noir and our 40th Anniversary Red Wine, and were amazed at how quickly we went through both the Chardonnay as well as our 40th Anniversary Red. At times, consumers were 10-deep in line waiting to taste!
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on Saturday Night.
Musically, the highlight of the weekend for me was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers show Saturday night. I first heard Tom Petty in college in 1979. Or at least the first time I really remember Tom Petty was when one of my U.C. Davis dorm floor friends, Dean Russell, who has been one of my best friends since college, introduced us Northern Californians to the music of Tom Petty. What made the evening - and the day, quite frankly - even more special, was that I had given Dean a call to ask if he would be interested in joining us to see Tom Petty. Dean, who now works for Agilent up in Santa Rosa, jumped at the chance, and came down as he always does, early, to meet me at the J. Lohr booth in Wine Lands. When my shift ended, we explored many of the facets of the festival. We tried some wines, had some great Korean BBQ and explored Beer Lands (a few times) over the course of the afternoon, while gradually moving toward the Lands End Stage, the main stage at the Polo Grounds, to have a front and center view of Tom when his set began. He started out with a great remake of The Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n Roll Star,” and followed that with Mary Jane’s “Last Dance.” He had the crowd worked up into a frenzy within the first couple of songs, and continued to amaze the crowd throughout his entire set. But I must say that one of the most special songs of the night was when Tom performed an acoustic version of “Learning to Fly.” I didn’t have time to reflect until later that evening, that during Dean’s and my time at U.C. Davis on the fifth floor of Bixby Hall in 1979, that that was just what we were doing - “learning to fly, but we ain’t got wings,” - trying to become adults, grow up and go out in the world, and make a way for ourselves. We looked at each other after that song and said ‘wow, that really was a great version of that song.’ The rest of the evening was fun, and the walk to our cars with my wife Kathi and daughters Erica and Emily was a great opportunity to reminisce about college and those early Tom Petty records that Dean introduced us to.
Courtney Barnett on the Panhandle Stage.
Other memorable bands we heard over the course of the weekend were a band that my daughters enjoyed on the Hellmann’s Hollow stage called Group Love Friday afternoon, and Disclosure, Saturday afternoon, during the weekend’s few rays of sunshine. These two English brothers play a pretty energetic electronica house-style and had the mobs dancing up a storm. Sunday was a busy day for me, as I had the mid-afternoon stint in Wine Lands and was swamped for most of the time. I was able to sneak away, however, when my shift was done to see Courtney Barnett, an Australian female guitarist. She was very inspiring, with some great music on the smallest stage of all, the Panhandle. We finished the afternoon listening to Death Cab for Cuties, The Flaming Lips and The Killers, and went home exhausted but satisfied. The weekend was no small undertaking, given all the excitement. But perhaps the most fun was just seeing the reception for our wines not only in Wine Lands, but at all the beverage kiosks across the entire 500 acres of Outside Lands. In short, 2014 Outside Lands was a festival that I will not soon forget.