I've never been one for wine tasting, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a trip to a winery during the warm weather months. For me -- and for thousands of other fans -- it represents the chance to catch some fine live music.
The summer concert series at Bay Area wineries is just beginning to heat up. As usual, the epicenter of activity is Saratoga's beautiful Mountain Winery, which boasts a lineup of some 60 shows, including the Beach Boys on Sunday and Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo plus Cheap Trick on Tuesday.
Other highlights include soul singer Erykah Badu (June 29); an all-'80s bill of the Go-Go's and the B-52s (July 9); Yes performing three classic albums in their entirety (July 7); the tantalizing combination of David Byrne and St. Vincent (July 20); Huey Lewis and the News celebrating the 30th anniversary of their hit "Sports" album (July 27); a tempting triple shot of Los Lobos, Los Lonely Boys and Alejandro Escovedo (Aug. 11); and indie-folk star Conor Oberst with the Felice Brothers (Oct. 3). Tickets for all shows are currently on sale (www.mountainwinery.com).
Here are my picks for the top 10 shows of the 2013 Mountain Winery season:
1. Gordon Lightfoot (Sept. 29; $35-$75): It's been far too long since I've seen the man responsible for "If You Could Read My Mind," "Sundown" and so many other great songs.
2. Carly Rae Jepsen (Sept. 17; $39.50-$59.50): Believe it or not, she has way more to offer than just "Call Me Maybe."
3. The Doobie Brothers (Sept. 13; $49.50-$89.50): The San Jose group remains one of the most dependably great live acts in the business.
4. Ziggy Marley, Steel Pulse (July 5; $49.50-$99.50): Now that's a solid evening of reggae.
5. David Byrne and St. Vincent (July 20; $45-$125): Missed them last time through town, but I don't plan to let it happen again.
6. Gladys Knight and The O'Jays (Aug. 3; $59.50-$145): I'm going to be hoarse from singing along after this one. (P.S. You might not want to get a ticket next to me.)
7. The Go-Go's, The B-52s (July 9; $49.50-$119.50): Looks like it's "Vacation" at the "Love Shack."
8. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (Sept. 7; $45-$85): Put them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
9. The Beach Boys (Sunday; $35-$95): Forget the band politics, and just enjoy some of the greatest songs ever written.
10. Brandi Carlile (Aug. 15; $37.50-$62.50): The folk-rock star always delivers in concert.
OVER AT WENTE: If I could only see one winery concert this year -- which, thankfully, is not the case -- I'd make it Martina McBride on June 26 at Wente Vineyards in Livermore.
I just can't say enough about McBride. She makes my list of the top five female country singers of all time, right up there with Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton. (Others receiving heavy consideration for that list include Reba McEntire, Barbara Mandrell, Tanya Tucker and Emmylou Harris.)
McBride is tremendous on record and even better in concert. She's possesses one of the most powerful voices I've ever heard as well as a catalog with so many timeless tunes.
In other words, it's hard to think of a better way to kick off Wente's 27th concert season.
Beyond McBride, Wente's 2013 offerings consist of Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray and the Gin Blossoms (July 10); Huey Lewis and the News (July 16); the Counting Crows and The Wallflowers (July 17); Chicago (Aug. 5); Chris Botti (Aug. 19); and REO Speedwagon (Sept. 12).
Ticket prices start at $79 for concert-only tickets and at $249 for tickets that include dining. For more information, visit www.wentevineyards.com.
MORE MARTINA: McBride will also appear June 29 at the Robert Mondavi Winery. The Napa Valley winery will also host Lifehouse (July 6), Huey Lewis and the News (July 12), Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers (July 13) and ZZ Ward and Delta Rae (July 20). Go to www.robertmondaviwinery.com for details.
ON THE ROAD: In the mood for a little road trip? Then check out the inaugural concert season at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles. The lineup boasts some 20 shows, including "Weird Al" Yankovic on July 12 and Tony Bennett on Aug. 10 (www.vinaroblesamphitheatre.com). And it's always fun to make a getaway to Murphys, especially when there's a concert at Ironstone Vineyards. Ironstone's 2013 lineup consists of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on July 20, Melissa Etheridge on Aug. 2 and Big & Rich on Aug. 10 (www.ironstoneamphitheatre.net).
Follow Jim Harrington at Twitter.com/jimthecritic, Facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.