The eponymously named podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” may be an ideal panacea against boredom during these pandemic days. The podcast’s host, Joe Rogan – who’s also a stand-up comedian, holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and is a mixed martial arts sports commentator for the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) – can be considered a modern day Renaissance man. His deep curiosity about the world is on full display during episodes of the JRE, during which he’ll interview scientists, psychonauts, politicians, philosophers, artists, writers, and all manner of contemporary thought leaders. Rogan has amassed a staggeringly large audience, the demographic of which remains nebulous. I’m a big JRE fan, and I’m a fifty-five year old lesbian immigrant. Other fans of his include a friend of mine who is a devout Catholic and yet another colleague who’s a firm atheist. Rogan’s fans hold in common an appreciation for his inquisitive nature, unbridled enthusiasm, and natural humility.
During the pandemic, the length of Rogan’s podcasts have become somewhat more tenable. I used to have to listen to his episodes in spurts, as a single episode will often run three hours long. A recent, riveting episode with artist David Choe, during which Choe touched upon everything from his friendship with the late Anthony Bourdain to his search for a dinosaur fabled to be alive in the depths of the Congolese jungle, ran close to four hours. Lengthy JRE episodes are the ideal facilitator for the practice of decanting wine for those with a bit of leisure time on their hands.
Typically, I enjoy decanting a well-made, nuanced wine for at least three to four hours, tasting it along the way. There are just some wines, from young to middle aged, that need some room to stretch. Their complexity alone begs for a bit of room and air in order to reveal the mysteries of texture, aroma, and flavor. I reserve shorter JRE episodes for the decanting of much older wines, which I’ll typically begin imbibing upon decanting, as some of them will begin to tire after only one hour or so exposed to air.
A great way to jump headlong into the JRE is to listen to episodes in which Rogan’s friend Duncan Trussell is featured. The mind behind Netflix’s animation series “The Midnight Gospel” is either a dyed-in-the-wool, true blue, contemporary philosopher or a complete madman. Trussell trades in the currency of vulnerability. In turns of phrase at once tender and bawdy, spiritually provocative and profoundly mundane, Trussell serves up wisdom for the inquisitive listener. His insights can be startlingly provocative, all the more powerful for being delivered through the prism of a wacky, imaginative sense of humor.
There are plenty of episodes featuring Trussell in Rogan’s podcast archives and each one is entertaining and memorable in its own way. Whenever Trussell is on, consider opening a wine that’s all about layers upon layers of nuance – a wine that requires some time in the decanter and in the glass to fully show itself. A wine of discovery like the 2017 La Flor de Jonata. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, this arresting, unpredictable wine will keep you engaged for hours.
Rogan is perhaps at his funniest and most relaxed when he’s chatting with comedian friends like Joey Diaz, a Cuban-American with a storied past, including a prison sentence for kidnapping. Diaz is known as a blue comedian, but he’s often tender and open with Rogan, and the two share an obvious affection for one another. Jessimae Peluso, another regular, isn’t afraid to open up about the death of her father, which she does with rare vulnerability, but listeners can count on Peluso to deliver hearty laughs; Rogan often laughs loudest when Peluso is on. Fans of comedy will relish hours’ worth of podcasts with the brilliantly funny Bill Burr. My favorite, though, is Sebastian Maniscalco, whose Italian immigrant-inspired humor is often suitable for the whole family. Maniscalco, a wiry, tense presence on his Netflix specials, is calm and retiring around Rogan. A comedian’s comedian, like Dave Chapelle, Maiscalco has the respect of his peers, and listeners can hear him relax into his success with an easy and natural modesty. Open up a chilled bottle of 2018 Arbe Garbe from the Russian River Valley, a blend of 55% Malvasia Bianca, 25% Ribolla Gialla, and 20% Tocai Friulano to accompany any Rogan/Maniscalco episode. The aromatics of this wine are so lifted and fragrant that it has a nearly plaintive appeal.
Rogan is an ardent psychonaut and devotes serious time to studying altered states of consciousness, often aided by psilocybin, MDMA, DMT, or high doses of edible marijuana, augmented by regular visitations to a flotation tank. Rogan’s penchant for creative thinking flourishes when he hosts guests like Michael Pollan (The Botany of Desire, How to Change Your Mind), an erudite journalist whose description to Rogan of a DMT trip became so popular, the excerpts have been viewed millions of times. Dennis McKenna, the younger brother of perhaps the most widely known psychonaut, Terence McKenna, is a beguiling guest. Though his avuncular demeanor might suggest otherwise, McKenna is a trip himself, and the stories he shares of psychedelic experiences and the insights that may lay therein are riveting listening. Leading mycologist Paul Stamets is a popular repeat guest whose disarmingly honest considerations of multiverses and a multi-dimensional world are engaging and pleasing for their confidence. A brilliant scientific mind, Stamets often plays in realms reserved for shamans, and listening to him do so is like watching someone skip along a high wire suspended across the two impossibly tall structures of spirituality and materialism. There’s no finer wine to accompany these thought-provoking episodes than the 2018 Hubba Mushroomhead Red, a blend of 69% Carignan and 31% Syrah that is as earthy and pleasurable as it is light and bright. Oceanic and forest floor pathways converge, offering up delicate yet persistent notes of petrichor and geraniums growing near the sea.
A guest that continues to surprise is the comedian-turned-philosopher Russell Brand. I’ll admit that for the longest time I thought Brand was an over-the-top Brit with a big personality and not much else, a formulaic person with a fixed life narrative, like an avatar in a video game that suddenly freezes, stuck forever in the same place, unable to proceed to the next level. Brand shattered that paradigm and has blossomed into a thoughtful, self-professed autodidact. Brand’s spiritual explorations are fodder for great conversations with the like-minded Rogan. Out of respect for Brand’s sobriety, I’ll pair any episode he’s in with a warm cup of Ceylan Uva Adawatte, a strong, aromatic black tea from Sri Lanka sold by the Canadian purveyor of fine teas, Camellia Sinesis.
The Di Costanzo 2017 Monticello Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Moon Mountain District Sonoma County) is a gorgeous Cabernet Sauvignon, demonstrating pleasure and restraint – a perfect and elegant accompaniment to Rogan’s recent episode with actor Rob Lowe. Lowe emerges as a man comfortable in his own skin. Polite, funny and intelligent, Lowe’s storytelling prowess is on full display with Rogan, and the two share hearty, comfortable laughter with one another throughout the recent podcast.
Listeners interested in learning about ancient civilizations and lore will enjoy having their imagination sparked by the captivating Graham Hancock, a regular Rogan guest. The British author, whose work is often referred to as pseudoscience by more dogmatic scientists (alas, dogma and science don’t mix well), offers up fascinating archeological research in a manner that is highly engaging and articulate. Rogan’s curiosity is at its peak when he hosts Hancock. A bright and evocative wine is called for during these episodes, and one will do well to uncork a bottle of the Sine Qua Non 2016 Deux Grenouilles. An exceedingly lovely and elegant white wine blend (36% Roussanne, 29% Chardonnay, 23% Viognier, and the balance Petite Manseng and Muscat), this dramatic wine contains all manner of sophisticated aromatics, which lead into a compelling, lovely texture. This wine and Hancock’s excellent storytelling capabilities are the perfect accompaniment for a sublime few hours of armchair travel.
A recent interview with Post Malone was fun but requires some patience, as both Rogan and Malone were admittedly high during the nearly four-hour show. Both partook of cannabis and beer during the interview, and Rogan arrived at the microphone already high on psychedelic mushrooms. Listening to these two bro it up reminded me that high people are always more entertaining when one is also high, which in this case, I was not. But it’s an entertaining ride nonetheless, during which Malone and Rogan address a broad range of topics, including the existence of aliens, mandatory mask-wearing, and Malone’s move to Utah. A light-on-its-feet wine is called for here, and the 2019 Nowadays Nault Rieslin, by Santa Barbara County winemaker Dave Potter, is a great choice. A delicious co-fermented blend of Cinsault and Riesling, this wine is fresh, unpredictable and adventurous. It has an uncommon aromatic and flavor profile, and the label, donning the head of an alien, is a fitting pairing with this out-there episode.
Currently, listeners may enjoy the JRE for free on YouTube. Beginning September 1, the JRE moves to Spotify, where users may still listen for free, but must become Spotify users. While aggressive advertising will be introduced to the platform, Rogan retains complete creative control.