I’m a big fan of the band Fountains of Wayne. So big a fan, in fact, that I’ve made the pilgrimage to Wayne, New Jersey to see the original Fountains of Wayne — a store that displays a bizarre collection of lawn ornaments beside U.S. Highway 46. Of course, the band is nothing like the store, except in a certain flexible frame of reference, and in a similar tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. These characteristics help the band construct lyrics that are like elegant and humorous short stories, representing the moral parables of our age.
Their most famous song is “Stacy’s Mom” on Welcome Interstate Managers, in which an adolescent boy tries to convince his girlfriend that her mother is madly in love with him. His evidence is partly based on the way the mom says, “You missed a spot over there” as he mows the lawn. She’s wrapped in a towel and showing some skin as she says this,
which is not really that strange, since they’re standing by a swimming pool. Hey, maybe mom really is hot for him.
Fountains of Wayne. Photo courtesy Roadsideamerica.com
The same spirit of glib ambiguity prevails in “Mexican Wine,” the lead-off song on the same album. First off, it’s a song about causality, probably inspired by a news item suggesting that defective batteries can cause your mobile phone to explode:
He was killed by a cellular phone explosion
They scattered his ashes across the ocean
The water was used to make baby lotion
The wheels of promotion, were set into motion…
Eventually, this chain of causality leads to tragic consequences for the narrator, who turns out to be a pilot:
I used to fly for United Airlines
Then I got fired for reading High Times
But floating in the midst of the verses is this ambiguous refrain:
I tried to change, but I changed my mind
Think I’ll have another glass of Mexican wine.
Why Mexican wine specifically? I set out to see if I could discover the reason, but first I had to find some actual Mexican wine. I’d been hearing for years that the wines of Baja, California were getting better and better, but when I scoured local liquor stores to find examples, I came up empty. Chalk it up to New York’s liquor stores being so small, or maybe Baja wines are still too obscure.
Eventually, I stumbled on a bottle at LaNell’s in Red Hook, Brooklyn, a place that specializes in organic wines, female-made wines, and New York State bourbons. The wine was a Jubileo 2005, made in Guadalupe, Baja, Mexico, a desiccated valley with 20 wineries, 40 miles southeast of Tijuana. The wine is a Meritage, which means that it’s a Bordeaux-style red made with a combination of grapes (usually including cabernet sauvignon and merlot, among others) permitted by California, U.S.A.’s Meritage Association. The winemaker is Laura Zamora, who qualifies as something of a Mexican winemaking superstar, and some of her vines – which require no irrigation, a big plus in Baja’s arid climate – are 60 years old, making them Mexico’s oldest.
The flavor of the wine is rich, dark, and crisp, with saturated fruit flavors that jump down your throat. Though Jubileo knocks you out with its boldness, it lacks a certain balance and subtlety that one finds in the best Meritages.
So what does the song mean? I’m assuming that drinking Mexican wine on the part of the bemused narrator is either a sign of his wine-swilling sophistication, or, more likely, his hang-dog willingness to accept everything that happens to him without protest — including drinking wines that nobody’s heard of. But if the song discourages you from trying Mexican wines, a sip of munchy, cheerful Jubileo should dispel that feeling.
Gee, I think I’ll have another glass of Mexican wine.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 20, 2008