Audio Explorations

Give these three wine-focused aural mediums a listen

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By Neal D. Hulkower

With more time in front of screens, people need to give their eyes a rest. Enter the podcast. This aural is more portable than YouTube and often a far safer alternative when occupied with something else– like driving.

According to Wikipedia, podcasts (originally called audio blogs) date back to the 1980s but didn’t gain popularity until 2004. Two technologies advanced the spread: portable audio playback devices and internet access. The word is a combination of iPod and broadcast. Backlinko, a blog focused on search engine optimization states that by the end of January 2024, there were “over 5 million podcasts in the world, boasting over 70 million episodes.”

Despite early failures, including one from this publication, some podcasts are based in Oregon, including two in this story. In addition, audio documentaries, a closely related medium, are the 21st-century direct descendants of the radio documentary, first hitting the airwaves in the 1930s. A recent one, recorded at a winery in Carlton, was released this year.

Broadway Over Wine

When not chauffeuring people to Willamette Valley wineries, Stefan Czarnecki, owner and operator of Black Tie Tours, surrounds himself with Broadway musicals. Both these interests, wine and musicals, resulted in Opening Night, an article pairing local wines with shows on the Great White Way, published in our August 2020 issue.

“Developing the combinations was so fun I started a podcast with fellow Broadway and Oregon wine enthusiast, Reid Arthur, who works at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars. Called Broadway Over Wine, or BOW for short, we’re having a blast making it,” says Czarnecki. Arthur and Czarnecki discovered their common passions in a Newberg coffee shop and “quickly hit it off over short musical geek sessions as they made their way to work.”

These brief encounters have since grown into much longer ones, with 17 BOW episodes. Black Tie also offers a Broadway Sing-Along Tour when Arthur joins Czarnecki and his guests “for a day of wine tasting and Broadway belting.”

The name, Broadway Over Wine, reveals a clue to the disproportionate emphasis on musicals. Given the dominant subject matter, the commentaries– especially Arthur’s– include heavy doses of flamboyance and singing. Wine, on the other hand, seems like an afterthought, definitely playing second fiddle to the main show.

The Four Top

Those seeking a deeper and broader wine discussion for their ear time should consider The Four Top. It began in 2016 as a food and beverage podcast, presented by Oregon Public Broadcast, or OPB. “I have always enjoyed the roundtable discussion format and wanted to recreate the free flow of ideas when colleagues and friends sit down for dinner together—at a table for four– a ‘four top,’ in restaurant jargon,” recalls executive producer, host, and noted wine writer and author, Katherine Cole. In 2017, the podcast earned both a James Beard Broadcast Media Award and the International Association of Culinary Professionals Digital Media Award for Culinary Audio Series.

Episode one briefly mentioned an Austrian rosé sipped by the panelists while discussing food-related topics. Says Cole, “I truly appreciated the ability to record at OPB’s studios, but once the pandemic hit, it became clear technology for recording remotely had improved. I could now produce a high-quality program from home and was ready to own The Four Top independently, to take it in a different direction. I secured the trademark and parted ways amicably with OPB. This allowed me to focus exclusively on wine, my passion.” In addition, Certified Cicerone, Nick Toole, was named producer and Martin Reyes MW joined Cole as a co-host, adding even more vinous credentials to the team.

New episodes are posted weekly and run less than 30 minutes. “About six months ago, we transitioned to a breaking news format covering weekly wine headlines. We like to keep our listeners up-to-date on issues relating to sustainability, human rights, culture and technology. Our guests are knowledgeable about the subject at hand. It’s worth noting the podcast is topic-driven, and we select guests— like authors, scientists, filmmakers— based on their expertise in particular areas,” says Cole.

Over 150 episodes have been posted, each addressing a different, frequently controversial but always intriguing, wine-related topic.

Sounds of Unknowing

Documentarian and lead producer Megan Hattie Stahl asks, “We know what wine tastes like, but what does it sound like?” To find the answer, she and field producer Hana Francis collaborated with Patrick Reuter and his team at Dominio IV Winery in Carlton, to record the process of producing the winery’s third vintage of Sauvignon Blanc from harvest through bottling and release. “Sounds of Unknowing: The Making of an Oregon Sauvignon Blanc” is the first of three projects. Online access to the 47-minute audio documentary is included with the purchase of the 2023 Dominio IV Sauvignon Blanc.

Raised in McMinnville, Stahl now divides her time between New York City and Oregon. She recently earned her MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College CUNY and is contemplating teaching at her alma mater. In 2021, Stahl produced “The Albina Soul Walk” billed as “an award-winning one-mile, self-guided audio tour exploring the musical history of Portland’s historically Black Albina district.”

Her latest project breaks new ground. “They never taught us about wine in school. I saw an opportunity to return to my roots through the lens of audio storytelling, exploring the sounds, personalities and realities of winemaking,” recounts Stahl.

With this project, Stahl “had to find the music in the process” of recording it. She was surprised to discover the musicality at each step, at the same pace of the grapes being picked, the buzz of the fermentation and the “rhythm of the winemakers writing notes as they are tasting to decide on the blend.”

Reuter found Stahl’s presence valuable. He says, “Describing what you’re doing helps you better focus on the process. You need to stop and articulate things you wouldn’t ordinarily be thinking about because you’re just trying to finish what needs to be done.”

The wine is made from a 50-50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc grapes from two disparate sources, Smith Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge, planted in the 1980s, and the Shallow-blue-sea Estate Vineyard on the winery property, planted in 2020.

I experienced the 47-minute audio documentary as recommended, with a glass of the wine, ready to sample when given the cue. There was so much to enjoy, even for a long-time wine consumer. Stahl’s narration is lucid, insightful and entertaining. Her selection of interviewees allows a broad perspective at each phase of production.

The six chapters: Harvest, Fermentation, The Blend, The Label, Bottling, and Release, feature Reuter, along with members of his team. The chapter on labeling includes the explanation of “shape tasting” on the Sauvignon Blanc label, a visual depiction of the wine over time, invented by Reuter. The colors, changing with each chapter, add additional dimension to the multisensory experience.

The wine itself was delightful with juicy fruit and green notes on the nose, a sleek entry and great texture. As it opened, the palate lengthened, and floral notes emerged on the nose. Though the acidity is not unduly overt, there is a stealthy mouthwatering quality to the wine in the finish.

An audio tour of the Dominio IV farm will be released next spring. Stahl explains it will be “kind of like a hike” around the estate’s historic property. The following spring (in 2026), an audio documentary about Pinot Noir debuts. Starting with the pruning of the vines and the bottling process, it will focus on what makes the grape unique.

Three to Stick in Your Ear

Suffering from screen fatigue but still want to keep up with what’s going on in Mondo Vino? Listen to Broadway Over Wine on Spotify for a drop with a musical-obsessed duo. Take a virtual seat at The Four Top ( for coverage of various vinous issues. Vicariously experience the creation of a Sauvignon Blanc at a visionary Willamette Valley winery by taking in the Sounds of Unknowing ( If you are a wine-loving patron, each offers a sound investment of your time and will save your eyes for other diversions.

Neal D. Hulkower is an applied mathematician and freelance writer living in McMinnville. His first contributions to a wine publication appeared in the early 1970s. Since 2009, he has been writing regularly about wine-related topics for academic, trade and popular publications including Journal of Wine Research, Journal of Wine Economics, American Wine Society Wine Journal, Oregon Wine Press, Practical Winery & Vineyard, Wine Press Northwest, Slow Wine Guide USA and The World of Fine Wine as well as,, and Neal is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers. His first book, Grape Explications, will be released by Fall 2024.

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