Bar Fiori is not a bar. For that matter, it's not a flower either, but it does offer a bouquet of colorful, natural wines. It's a business project started by Bendite Kelsey Kuther, who got turned onto the vibrant world of natural wines in, of all places, Los Angeles. For the moment, Bar Fiori is a pandemic-inspired service specializing in pop-ups, private tastings and delivery (until the right retail space surfaces).
Kuther is also an insatiable record collector. Ask him what pairs best with a Pinot Noir, or his favorite Chenin Blanc, and he won't respond with artisanal cheeses or any sort of Spanish tapas, but with music.
"I'm not gonna say how a wine tastes like blueberries or minerals. That's the last thing I'll do," says Kuther. Instead, Kuther takes a sip and in lieu of poaching tasting notes, pursues the humanity in each bottle or glass. When it comes to natural wines—wines made with the least amount of interference and the maximum amount of admiration and protection of Mother Nature, "People are expressing their personality and also respecting the earth. That's the foundation of natural wine."
Bar Fiori's website projects pairings such as a Beaujolais with The Beastie Boys and, when you wanna love someone tender, a rosè with sentimental Elvis tunes. But when put on the spot, Kuther, who picked up guitar at age 11, often turns to jazz.
He popped a bottle of an orange wine called Müller? That's not a question: it's a skin-contact wine made with white Germanic Muller Thurgau grapes grown in Yamhill for the Portland winery Golden Cluster. Besides referencing if Ferris Bueller is in attendance, to me the wine tastes like a velvety smooth, almost chalky wine redolent of unripe guava or papaya. But to Kuther, who sells the last remaining bottles of this 2020 vintage for $32, it's "exciting, alive, less inhibited."
I ask what his musical accompaniment is. "I feel like it's expanding into a more experimental jazz world. It has a steady groove. More nuanced. What comes to mind right now is 'Red Barron' by Billy Cobham." I ask Kuther to queue up the composition. Just as you hear new chords introduced, new flavors emerge on sip four that weren't perceptible at first.
"It's got these flourishes of weird synthesizers and it's a bit challenging," notes Kuther. "I'm still learning Oregon wines." Kuther cut his vinous teeth at a restaurant called All Time in L.A.'s Boho hood of Los Feliz. "
“I’m not gonna say how a wine tastes like blueberries or minerals. That’s the last thing I’ll do, It’s a very one-eighty approach.”—Kelsey Kuther
We uncorked another bottle, Clos du Tue-Bœuf, a Gamay from Kuther's favorite, France's Loire Valley. Yeah, he referred to the wine in old-school wine terms like "structured" and "balanced," but once back to the realm of music, he personified it as Ry Cooder. Specifically, he pointed to Cooder's Grammy-winning, post-Buena Vista Social Club collaboration with Manual Galbán, Mambo Sinuendo. The music is Cuban, the wine is French, but the compositions are what Kuther called "percussive, loungy, 60's surf-vibe."
Asking Kuther to find his selected wine's musical accompaniments was a fun parlor trick so I set my iTunes to random and asked him to vinify the tracks.
First up, the title track to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Into the Great Wide Open." Kuther picked Chilean winemaker Pedro Parra, as both display "easy character but kinda dry. What I call front porch wine." Next was legendary poet Shel Silverstein's spoken word piece, "Good Night Little House Plant" that evoked orange wines from Sicilian winemaker Elios due to its "jovial levity but also sincerity." Then came Solomon Burke's "Get Out of My Life Woman" which was likened to a Chasselas Blanc by Vin de Pardee for its "viscous, shimmery, pithy refreshing elements." Finally, because those musicians have all passed, I cherry-picked a new band, Måneskin, the glam-rock band from Italy. Kutcher married them with the above Vin Rouge, Clos du Tue-Bœuf, instead of a more obvious Italian vino because that would've been "so linear and boring."