It is rare to get a chance to see one of your favorite musicians play at a tiny little venue, in a tiny little town.
There are even fewer times in life that you get a chance to walk right up to them and congratulate them on their newest achievement.
At the Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol, last Friday night, a couple hundred fans of Bay Area bass guitar legend Les Claypool of Primus were just that lucky, having scored tickets to the kick off party for Claypool Cellars.
Taking a page from Napa County resident Francis Ford Coppola’s book, Sonoma County resident Les Claypool has jumped into the wine business.
"We’ve been living in Sebastopol for 15 years and [when we got here] it was all apple orchards that disappeared and turned into Pinot Noir grapes. Seemed like a logical step," Claypool said.
On the Claypool Cellars website, he explains, "What started as an attempt to fill our own personal wine cache has turned into a ‘boutique’ wine venture which I’m sure will eventually cause friction between me and my two good friends/partners, as all businesses tend to do.”
The three partners, Claypool, Jay Meyer and Slawek Michalak, have put together a terrific Russian River Valley Pinot called Purple Pachyderm. The name is credited to sommelier friend Jai Wilson at Jardiniere, who helped coin with ties to the Primus song “Southbound Pachyderm.”
The catchphrase for the wine is that “It’s big, bold and well-balanced with a magnificent nose!” Check out the logo, it totally sums that up.
“[The wine thing] started off as being fun and we want to do things like this [party] to keep it fun,” Claypool said while surveying the crowd of happy partygoers.
I was surprised to find out that the 150 year-old Hopmonk Tavern building was opened about a year-and-a-half ago by Dean Biersch, from Gordon Biersch. It looks like a great restaurant and bar with an intimate stone walled building just outside from the restaurant with a topnotch sound system.
The event was billed as a wine party, and “musical extravaganza featuring the musical mischief of Les Claypool and friends.”
Partner Slawek Michalak seemed pleased with the results and the customer appreciation saying in his thick Polish accent, “I think this came out really nice, not too strange, we’re really proud. The juice speaks for itself. People love it!”
A steady stream of people approached the bass-playing superstar who was very cordial posing for photos and doing a fist bump greeting he called “The Potato” instead of handshakes, a smart choice this flu season.
When Claypool took the stage he had a rotating group of local eclectic musicians join him, the most surprising being Primus guitarist Larry LaLonde.
The wine, concert and venue were all top shelf. The next time Les Claypool will be playing in the Bay Area will be New Year’s Eve at the Fillmore, not sure if he’ll be bringing any of the "fancy booze for the semi-fancy folks."