The last Vine + Vinyl accidentally disinterred a few albums I hadn’t played in awhile, which started the sequence of events that brought about this one. Hopefully, that sort of thing continues. This tale begins one summer, 1987, working the overnight shift at a campus radio station when a fellow announcer handed me a cassette tape as she was leaving the studio.

“This is really good. Put it in my box after you’ve listened to it—I want it back.” Which I did. Eventually. After I kept it about a week. It was called Helleborine, Shelleyan Orphan’s debut.

Fast forward to the present and after finishing an article about This Mortal Coil, I took a look on eBay to see if I could fill the gaps in my record collection. (Jai is often surprised to hear that there are things I don’t have.) Ebay. Helleborine. LP. Ten bucks. Sold! Caroline Crawley’s voice is as lilting and euphonic as any of her peers—Tanya Donelly and Harriet Wheeler, to name two—but the music has a lighter touch. Overlooked for a time, perhaps, but I’ve never tired of it.

Later that week on the way home from a tasting trek, I ran across a lost, forlorn and liquidated California Zinfandel at Grocery Outlet. Ebay can sometimes yield trash—I’ve had records so poorly packed as to be decimated on arrival. And “Groce Out” is always a crapshoot, but once in awhile you find something like that infamous $2 Italian that can change lives. 2003 Giuseppe Zinfandel is one of those: Five dollars for a bottle full of jammy blackberry, raspberry and strawberry flavors. The stars seemed aligned in favor of both, together. 

In fact, as the jam flavors unfolded, a little minerality showed, and the evening kept getting better. The search for Shelleyan Orphan LPs yielded another unexpected thrill: they’d put out an album called, Everything We Need. (Despite a yummy, aged Zinfandel and finding a pristine record almost at random, for a total of fifteen bucks, clearly I don’t have everything I need.) Further curiosity took me to a rudimentary website about the winery, to discover their vines are 52 years old. Well, that explains the minerality. This wine was a gem, indeed.

I listened to all my Shelleyan Orphan albums that night—and ordered the one I didn’t have. Unfortunately, it looks like that’s the end of Giuseppe Zinfandel in this market. But maybe if I call around, I’ll find a cache of bottles somewhere around town. Then I’ll have everything—at least for now.

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