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The peach skin dusk of an L.A. sunset reflects off the windows of the Kun House, Richard Neutra’s 1936 Modernist masterwork, a graceful box of white wall and glass clutching at the rock walls of Nichols Canyon. Inside, people stand in lines to sample wines the colors of the darkening sky.
Holding court among them, talking both grapes and architecture, is Gerald Casale. He’s the current owner of the Kun House, who is at the moment painstakingly renovating it to period-correct glory. He’s also the creator of the evening’s wine offerings from his new 50 by 50 winery: a wonderfully complex 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and a crisp, delicious 2013 Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir. He’s best known as the co-founder of the defiantly odd post-punk/new wave musical experiment: DEVO.
PHOTOS: What Wines to Give and Drink Now
Casale may seem like an unlikely vintner, but talk to him for moment and you’ll see why a man who sang “Whip It”, with a red plastic flower pot thing atop of his head, would, 34 years later, know exactly what it takes to create a delightful, delicate rosé. “There is a definitely a connection, in the creative process, between wine-making and music,” he explains, “there is only so much science, the rest is timing, passion and luck. ”
Casale credits his fascination with both wine and local Modernist architecture to Devo’s early move from Akron, Ohio, to California in the late 1970s. This was a moment when the West Coast upstarts were producing bottles to rival the long established European wineries. Casale was hooked. He became a consumer, a convert and finally, a wine-maker himself.
Working with the design firm MDMA, Casale’s 50 by 50 winery is being built on a 23-acre property in Napa. The centerpiece of the estate will be both eight acres of the Bordeaux grapes, and MDMA’s meticulous resurrection of Mies Van Der Rohe’s 50 by 50 House. Designed over 60 years ago but never constructed, Casale hopes to have the home completed in time for his fruit to reach maturity.
He plans on producing fine table wine within five years, but in the meantime, he’s gathered grapes from some of the State’s top grower’s to create his first two 50 by 50 wines, the Pinot and Rose being sipped by the gallons at the Kun House evening. “Another way that wine is like music,” he continues, gesturing to the crowded deck of his home, “Eating, drinking or seeing a band, those are all shared rituals. We experience those pleasures — together.”
Available at Wally’s Wine and Spirits in L.A. ($29.99 Rose; $19.99 Pinot Noir). Also available online at thefiftybyfifty.com.
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