Mid-State Fair

Garth Brooks’ music helped a Paso man grieve. Now he’s thanking the singer with custom wine

Joe Barton Jr. is the winemaker at Barton Family Wines and Grey Wolf Cellars in Paso Robles.
Joe Barton Jr. is the winemaker at Barton Family Wines and Grey Wolf Cellars in Paso Robles.

When country star Garth Brooks heads backstage Thursday night at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles, there will be a special gift waiting for him from a local fan.

Paso Robles winemaker Joe Barton is giving Brooks a bottle of wine inspired by Brooks’ song “The Dance” — along with a letter about what the Grammy Award winner’s music has meant to him.

“‘The Dance’ was always my favorite song. Once I lost my dad, it (had) a deeper meaning for me,” explained Barton, who co-founded Barton Family Wines and Grey Wolf Cellars with his mother, Shirlene, and late father, Joe Sr., in 1994.

In his letter, Joe Barton describes how “The Dance,” a bittersweet hit about love and loss, helped him cope with the pain of his dad’s death in a car crash on Highway 46. “It has been 20 years this January since my father left us, and to this day I tear up when I hear your song,” Barton wrote.

That’s why the Cal Poly graduate named a Bordeaux-style red blend — a favorite of his father’s — after Brooks’ 1990 chart-topper.

The Dance, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec that Barton first made in 2008, features notes of “vanilla bean, molasses, toasted seasame seeds, black currants, and boysenberry,” according to the Barton Family Wines website. Just 180 cases of the 2013 vintage were produced; the wine retails for $62 a bottle.

Barton named another wine, a white blend, after Brooks’ song “The River.”

Barton bought tickets for Brooks’ first fair show when they went on sale June 23 — “I was one of those guys at 10 o’clock ... banging on the phone,” he said with a chuckle — then snagged seats less than a week later for the country star’s second fair concert. He planned to attend both shows.

“I gotta be there,” Barton said, calling Brooks “my all-favorite favorite artist.” “This is going to be such a great night. Everybody is going to have so much fun.”

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