For wine-loving Pearl Jam fans, this scenario sounds perfect: a chance to purchase a box of four officially-sanctioned Pearl Jam wines produced by a couple of top-notch, Pearl Jam-obsessed Washington winemakers with all of the profits going to the band’s charity, the Vitalogy Foundation. Just one problem: Only the most hardcore of fans got the chance to score this vino. It reportedly sold out within 12 minutes of being announced via Pearl Jam’s email newsletter.
The specially designed box set “Home X Away” was created, with Pearl Jam’s blessing, by the Underground Wine Project – which itself is a collaboration between Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery and Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand Cellars. Finding two more suitable winemakers for this project would be nearly impossible: McNeilly has named a number of his wines after Pearl Jam songs (The Dissident, for instance), while Busch named his entire winery after a lesser known Pearl Jam song (Binaural’s 11th track). Each of the 450 limited edition sets contained four bottles of the Underground Wine Project’s already touted Idle Hands wine, with each bottle featuring a different label, designed by Pearl Jam’s art crew, showing an interpretation of the skylines of the four cities the band will be playing on its upcoming “Home X Away” tour. That tour, which is also already sold out, kicks off next month with a couple of “home” Seattle shows before heading to Missoula, Chicago, and Boston.
The boxes were sold for $150—which at a reasonable $37.50 per bottle explains why they went so quickly—meaning, in total, the promotion raised $67,500 for the Vitalogy Foundation, described as supporting “the efforts of non-profit organizations doing commendable work in the fields of community health, the environment, arts & education and social change.”
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“Trey and I have met [Pearl Jam] band members over the years at different things, and we have worked with them a little bit with some of their charities, but it’s just fun to be pulled in a little bit closer for a great cause,” McNeilly told Wine Spectator. “I think that if we can work with Pearl Jam and find some new arenas to talk about philanthropy and talk about people’s responsibilities toward charity, you can kind of open people’s eyes and let them know everybody has a responsibility to help everybody else.”
But back to the wine itself—which the winemakers say “offers up layers of ripe cherries and black plums, some tobacco, toasty mocha notes, and graphite characters” and pairs well with the song “Corduroy”—if you want to give it a try, all is apparently not lost. According to the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, an additional 50 cases of the 2015 Washington red blend—which is 90 percent Syrah and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and was grown in the state’s highly-regarded Red Mountain region—have been stocked in Seattle’s Ethan Stowell Restaurants to be sold on August 8, when Pearl Jam's shows begin. Some large-format bottles and five extra boxes will also end up as part of a charity auction.
Of course, you can always seek out other wines from Mark Ryan and Sleight of Hand. During a 2016 tour of Washington, I found Sleight of Hand’s winery to be a definite standout, and its dark and edgy Psychedelic Syrah is one of my favorite wines in the state. Meanwhile, Mark Ryan Winery landed on our list of “Where to Drink in Seattle.”