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'Zilla Wine and Tunes Pairing

The two essential elements of the CORKZILLA experience – Wine and music – in a pairing. Our signature feature will continue in 2013, but we've decided to take a break from the grind of producing thoughtful pairings on a monthly basis. Please look for an archive page highlighting our pairings from the past coming soon. Cheers!

What We're Listening to

Keith Richards, "Crosseyed Heart," Republic Records

Gary Clark Jr., "The Story of Sonny Boy Slim," Warner Brothers Records

Warren Haynes Featuring Railroad Earth, "Ashes and Dust," Concord Records

Jason Isbell, "Something More Than Free," Southeastern Records

Phish, "Live Bait Vol. 11" (free digital download)

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, "Chasing Yesterday," Sour Mash Records

Neil Young, "On the Beach," Reprise Records

Massive Attack, "Protection," Circa Records

D'Angelo and the Vanguard, "Black Messiah," RCA Records

Brokedown in Bakersfield, "Live!," Little Sur Records

Ryan Adams, "Ryan Adams," Pax-Am Records

Rich Robinson, "The Ceaseless Sight," The End Records

Jack White, "Lazaretto," Third Man Records

The Wayne Shorter Quartet, "Without a Net," Blue Note Records

Reach out to CORKZILLA

Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Low Yields for California: An article in Decanter magazine suggests yields will be low in 2015, but the resulting wine will offer “promising” concentrated wines. A warm spring in the state resulted in the earliest harvest of the new millennium, according to the article.

Twist-Off Research Yields Revelations: An early adopter of twist-off closures in Oregon says there are many benefits to the sometimes maligned screwcap beyond cork taint, according to this interesting article in the Wine Spectator magazine. The findings, including maturation in the wines, came through a tasting of 10 years of screw cap vintages of Chehalem Wines Three Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley (photo above courtesy of Chehalem Wines).

Spotlight on Uruguay: The always interesting Vinography blog by Alder Yarrow recently posted a feature on the country of Uruguay, calling its wines a “hidden gem” little known due to the shadow Argentina and Chile cast over South American wine. The post sights growth in the quality of wine in the last 30 years in particular. You’ve been warned, wine adventurers!

Subjectivity Required: In a somewhat surprising choice, Wine Spectator magazine’s annual Top 100 wine list named an Oakville, CA Cabernet Sauvignon in its second vintage as the No. 1 wine of 2015. The winner, Au Paradis from Peter Michael Winery, drew grapes from a recently acquired vineyard planted in 1988. Congrats to all the winners this year!

Sommelier Sequels?: As part of this year’s Napa Valley Film Festival, a sequel to the widely acclaimed "Somm" recently debuted to much fanfare, according to this article in the Napa Valley Register. The new film, “Somm: Into the Bottle,” directed by Jason Wise, explores what it takes to make a good bottle of wine. A preview of the film can be found here.

Big Moves in Monterey: Hahn Family Wines is making series of moves to take its portfolio up-market, with strong results thus far, according to this blog post by Shanken News Daily. There’s some interesting insights on Hahn’s market positioning in this article, which speak to wider industry trends.

Editor's note: We know you've probably noticed that our news feature has not, in recent months, exactly been "weekly" in the calendar definition of the word. We've been busy, but we're shooting to publish this feature on a more regular basis. As always, appreciate your readership!


'Zilla's Monthly Wines and Tunes Pairing

By Ben Heskett

Summers in California are the best excuse for a road trip. If you’re from Northern California, the variety of climates and temperatures you may be exposed to makes a trip south to the Central Coast and beyond a great diversion. The road, the hot sun, the waves, and – of course – the wine.

Wine Bloggers Conference

The destination? Los Angeles for some celebratory soundscapes, but there was a few stops on the way…and on the way back. Heading south, I stopped at Talley Vineyards outside San Luis Obispo and rolled through a generous portion of their wines. Given the heat, the whites really stood out.

For this pairing I’ll highlight the Talley Vineyards 2013 Rosemary’s Vineyard Chardonnay, a well-balanced, less acidic option in their portfolio, with hints of lemon, peach and interesting minerality. It’s no shrinking violet – they recommend some pan seared scallops as a pairing in their literature – but it also exhibits a strong independence. It’s not an oak bomb, nor does it wander off the reservation, so to speak. I haven’t tasted a lot of Chardonnay from the Arroyo Grande Valley, but this one hit it out of the park.

Much like a chilled glass of California Chardonnay on a hot summer day, a free-flowing dose of reggae music can be, oh, just right this time of year. For some, a feature of this summer has been the celebration of the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary – an important milestone in the history of American music, but also an occasion for more contemporary bands to add their own little twists to the catalog.

Thievery Corporation was part of the Dead’s 50th celebration in Chicago, Ill. In July, playing a warm up show as part of a long Fourth of July weekend of revelry that included many bands in addition to the Dead at various venues around the city. It’s only fitting then that they are playing a cover of a signature tune from the band, a galloping reggae-infused version of “Fire on the Mountain” as they tour across America this summer. I can think of nothing better to pair with a glass of California Chardonnay on a hot summer day, watery beads trickling down the side of the glass.

This version’s from the recent All Good Festival in West Virginia.

The ‘Zilla thought it would be apropos to introduce our latest Wine and Tunes creation while we’re at the Wine Bloggers Conference this weekend in Corning, New York, so that those of you not familiar with our signature feature could get a feel for it. We’re working on our archive of past editions, but it has been slow to come together. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, everyone take care of each other at the conference and enjoy all of the amazing vibes emanating from the Radisson Hotel in Corning. Cheers and turn it up!

Thievery Corporation cover the Grateful Dead's "Fire on the Mountain" d3 from brian liu on Vimeo.


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

B.R. Cohn Latest Industry Acquisition: Vintage Wine Estates, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., announced it has purchased the B.R. Cohn Winery and approximately 70 acres of vineyards, according to this report in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The deal, just the latest in a series within the wine industry, could be the end of a more than 40-year winery odyssey for founder and band manager Bruce Cohn. In the article, Cohn was less-than-optimistic about family-owned wineries surviving in the current climate – “It’s a really tough business,” he said in the report. Separately, E & J Gallo bought two brands from Treasury Wine Estates, according to this report.

Diageo Draws SEC Scrutiny: Global beverage giant Diageo is under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for allegedly inflating sales, according to this report. The investigation centers on alleged efforts by Diageo to send more cases to distributors than they’ve ordered, which would allow the company to report increased sales, according to The Guardian.

Profitability Question in Auz: A new report indicates 90 percent of Australian wineries in many regions will be unprofitable, according to this article in Decanter magazine. The report, authored by the Winemaker’s Federation of Australia, points to cooler climates as a major factor, with those wineries having a better chance to make money.

Wine Harvest 2015 Updates: With news that Mumm Napa has started harvesting its grapes for sparkling wine in Napa Valley, Calif., the 2015 harvest begins in earnest, according to this report. Over on the west side of Highway 101 outside Paso Robles, Calif. on the central coast, the Tablas Creek Vineyard is predicting an “early September” start to the harvest, according to a recent blog post.


'Zilla's Monthly Wine and Tunes Pairing

By Ben Heskett

The dusty roads of Northern California wine country are a ripe metaphor for all sorts of things – our journeys, our curiosity about what’s around the bend, our joys, and the spontaneous moments of our lives. That road also can be inspiration for art…and music. It is in this spirit that we re-start CORKZILLA’s much-celebrated Wine and Tunes Pairing feature with a combination straight from that dusty back road.

As a backdrop to the re-start, I will draw inspiration from the recent Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival weekend in Northern California, my accommodations among the mighty redwood trees of the Hendy Woods State Park, and my journey that weekend along a somewhat treacherous fire road to the Black Kite Cellars Pick-up Party.

It’s easy to picture the soundtrack – Close-to-the-road American roots music blending many different styles but remaining viscerally authentic. That’s what has come to define the Tedeschi Trucks Band and I submit the below clip from backstage with the legend Taj Mahal as a fitting example. The song “Leavin' Trunk” has always been one of my blues favorites, and this acoustic rendition showcases a certain spontaneity and musicianship that is fairly unique in today’s packaged and processed music world.

The band is no stranger to the ‘Zilla’s Wine and Tunes Pairing, having already been featured in a 2011 pairing, as well as a gratuitous "Because We Can Dept." video post in 2013 because, well, we can. For those live music fans among us, Tedeschi Trucks is touring this summer with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, a potent double bill that is worth your concert dollar.

Let's hope Taj Mahal can return to his own dusty road soon.

To pair with such a dusty, organic, from the “root” song, it was important to pick a standout – Black Kite Cellars 2011 Kite’s Rest Pinot Noir, which I recently opened after a period in the cellar. Black Kite has received much acclaim in recent vintages, from national magazines to the discerning palate at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, so it was an easy choice. But it also is a worthy companion because it represents the best of the region – Anderson Valley – and a certain "do it yourself" spirit associated with small Norhern California wineries.

It also has an earthy note in addition to more traditional Anderson Valley flavors such as cherry and other dark fruits. I frankly could have kept this for a few more years – by which time it would be even better – but I could not resist the opportunity to pair it for this feature.

So let’s raise a glass to the return of the Wines and Tunes Pairing feature to the ‘Zilla and to all the roads we’ve travelled or plan to. Cheers!


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Benziger Sold to The Wine Group: Sonoma Valley stalwart Benziger Family Winery has been purchased by The Wine Group, according to an article in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. Benziger produces nearly 140,000 cases of wine annually, according to the report, but will now join the third largest wine conglomerate. Price estimates for the acquisition range from less than $90 million to more than $100 million, according to the article. Interestingly, The Wine Group is best known for its value wines while Benziger specializes in premium and super-premium wines, along with a commitment to bio-dynamic farming in its vineyards. We’ll see how this works out.

3G Eyeing Diageo Takeover Bid?: Rumors continue to swirl that 3G Capital is intending to make a bid for beverage giant Diageo, according to this report. News of a possible deal evidently originated from a magazine in Brazil, prompting a jump in Diageo’s stock price. The man behind 3G, Jorge Paulo Lemann, has made several bets on food and beverage companies in recent years.

Wait…How Much Did you Pay for that Wine?: The annual Auction Napa Valley to benefit local charities raised $15.8 million recently, down from 2014’s $18.3 million. One bid, however, was a record – the $2.4 million paid for a single live auction lot from Opus One that includes wine as well as travel, according to this report in Wines and Vines magazine.

Small Harvest to Blame for Prosecco Shortage?: There’s concern among producers of that lovely bubbly alternative Prosecco that there could be a shortage due to a smaller than expected harvest in 2014, according to this report. Consumption has evidently skyrocketed in export markets such as the U.S., the Shanken News Daily blog reported. You’ve been warned!


Because We Can Dept. - Celebrating the Dead 50th Anniversary

The year 2015 represents the 50th anniversary of that most American of bands, the Grateful Dead. In celebration of this, there's some high-profile reunion concerts in Santa Clara, CA and Chicago, IL in late June and early July, as well as some less high-profile celebrations happening all over the place throughout the year, including on the Internet, where JamBase is organizing a covers project of the band called "Songs of Their Own." Here's the first session featuring Anders Osborne and Luther Dickinson doing a particularly wonderful version of one of Jerry Garcia's late era classics, "Black Muddy River":




Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Bordeaux 2014 Future Sales Not Up to Par in U.S.: Sales of the “en primeur,” or futures, of the 2014 vintage from Bordeaux chateau owners are “lukewarm” thus far, according to this report in the Shanken News Daily blog. This comes even as prices at retailers have dropped on the 2014 vintage as compared to prior en primeur offerings, the report said.

Duckhorn Buys Three Palms Vineyard in Napa: Duckhorn Wine Company has purchased the Three Palms Vineyard along the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, adding to its stable of assets, according to this report in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. Terms were not disclosed, according to the report. Duckhorn (logo at left courtesy of Duckhorn Wine Company) has sourced fruit from the vineyard for the past 37 years and purchased all of the grapes since 2011, the report said.

Canadian Contraband Wine Ring Thwarted: A Montreal-area contraband wine ring responsible for selling 1.8 million bottles of fraudulent wine over four years have been arrested, according to this report. Police arrested 11 people, included a presumed ring leader who is a wine specialist, for passing off cheap bulk Italian wine as premium. Two suspects remain at large, the report said.

And Now We Move to Recent Shenanigans in France…: In a similar tale of alleged chicanery, the chief executive of a chateau in France is accused of passing off “inferior wine” as high-end Chablis, according to this article on The six-month investigation resulted in the arrest of Jean-Claude Fromont, CEO of Maison Fromont, located in Ligny-le-Chatel, Yonne, the report said.

What Will Cyrus Do with her Vines? Pop starlet Miley Cyrus has purchased an estate in the San Fernando Valley in California that includes more than 50 grape vines, according to this report. CORKZILLA at this point could add some witty comment alluding to one of Cyrus’s songs, but we frankly don’t know any of her music. Keep rocking, people!

Casual Chinese Wine Drinker Demographic Grows, According to Study: The imported Chinese wine market has seen a shift from high-end wine connoisseurs to more casual, entry-level drinkers, according to an article in Decanter magazine. The study, completed by Wine Intelligence, highlights a new demographic segment has emerged since its last study of China came out in 2012.


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Arsenic in wine?: A class-action lawsuit filed in California Superior Court suggests dozens of wines may have extremely high levels of arsenic in them, according to this report in USA Today. The stunning alleged revelations covers wines made by 28 California wineries, according to the report. The lawsuit largely targets low-cost white and blush wines. Data for the lawsuit is based on tests done on numerous wines at a lab in Denver, Colo., according to the report. Stay tuned on this legal action, as the Shanken News Daily blog accurately described the charges as “incendiary” in their report.

Bloodshed in the Vineyard: A shocking murder-suicide played out amid the vines of Napa Valley this week, according to several reports, resulting in a vintner and an investor dead and an area wine industry shaking its collective head. The basics of the violent events can be found here, thanks to a report from the Napa Valley Register. Two additional reports provide some interesting perspective on possible motivations for the heinous acts – one from the San Francisco Chronicle and another from The New York Times.

Prized Barolo Vineyard Sold: Giacomo Conterno, produce of world-class Barolo wines, has expanded its area footprint with the purchase of the neighboring Arione Vineyard, according to this report in Decanter magazine. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The vineyard is nine hectares in size.

Article Stirs Sommelier Debate in San Francisco: The San Francisco Chronicle’s departing wine editor Jon Bonne sparked much debate in the Bay Area by positing that the city’s wine scene has seen better days and legitimate sommeliers are now hard to find, part of a “brain drain” in the area. Alder Yarrow’s Vinography blog has a great take on this seemingly off the mark perspective.  It was a hot topic among many wine industry representatives at a recent luncheon in the city to taste Italian wines at the Sociale restaurant.


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

The Ebbs and Flows of the Direct Shipping Battle in the U.S.: One of the more astute winery bloggers has posted an update on what has been a recent upturn in the fortunes of state direct shipping legislation in the U.S. Tablas Creek Vineyard, based in Paso Robles, Calif., reviewed recent developments in the direct shipping fight, with solid gains in Massachusetts and South Dakota, and progress in Indiana. Important news for consumers and producers alike (image at right courtesy of Free the Grapes!).

British Wine Theft: Bolney Wine Estate, located in southern England, lost 5,000 bottles of a wine as a result of burglary, according to this report in Decanter magazine. The theft represents a potential loss of nearly $125,000 in wine for the producer, known primarily for its sparkling varietals.

Chinese Approach to Fake Wine Sales Unclear: After appearing to clamp down on sales of counterfeit products, including wine, over the Internet, it remains unclear at just what stage Chinese government enforcement is at, according to this report. A state agency reportedly admonished some Chinese online commerce sites for their practices, but that warning was quickly retracted, leaving some to wonder just what to make of it.

California’s Suisun Valley Beckons Wineries: With both Napa and Sonoma Counties in California grappling with growth issues, some wineries are looking eastward to Suisun Valley to either start or expand their operations, according to this report in the Napa Valley Register. Wagner Family of Wine is among those placing bets on the emerging region, according to the report.


Reflections on a Recent California Winery Sale

By Ben Heskett

It was with some concern that I recently read an email from Siduri Wines, based in a non-descript office park in Santa Rosa, Calif., describing their intention to sell their Siduri and Novy brands to Jackson Family Wines.

My initial reaction? Another small producer is gobbled up by a large conglomerate, with undetermined – read: not positive - results going forward. But, as you can tell from the timing of this post, I gave it some thought. The email was reassuring, and I, for one, would frankly love to be able to order Siduri wines via the Internet, rather than the current email, phone or form-based systems, for one (photo at left courtesy of Siduri Wines).

Additionally, there was a calming vibe in the communique: “We came to believe that the best way of pursuing our dream of making that perfect vineyard-designated wine was to sell both Siduri and Novy to Jackson Family in a deal that keeps me on as winemaker. That way, their resources can be brought to bear on the sales, marketing, business and logistics of producing Siduri and Novy, freeing me up to focus on the winemaking. In simple terms, we’ve always been more winemakers than winery owners, and this allows us to concentrate on doing just that,” the Siduri email to customers reads.

One of my gravest concerns upon hearing the news was that the business model of the winery would change, as well as the humble headquarters where the magic happens. We are told, from the same email, that a move is not in the cards and pilgrimages to that non-descript office park in Santa Rosa can continue. And I have made a few.

It will also be interesting to see how the Siduri model evolves – That is, working on a contract basis with grape growers in California and Oregon to make great wines, rather than owning a sprawling vineyard estate. That flexibility has always been compelling to me, and I hope it still will be in the hands of Jackson Family Wines.

I’ll also fill you in on a little secret. I once was forced to enjoy the Jackson Family Wines tasting room experience. I was expecting the worst, but was surprised when there were several vineyard-designate wines on offer. I should have known better, but did not.

Look, it could be a disaster. Do these positive signs have any relation to how the Siduri acquisition will go? Some do, some don’t. But I am heartened by these words from the email, entitled “Huge News…,” that I received from Siduri founders Dianna and Adam Lee: “The goals we hold remain the same, but we believe that our ability to reach them has exponentially increased.”

I’ll take them at their word.

For more details on the Jackson acquisition of Siduri and Novy, here’s a couple of reports:

- "Kendall-Jackson Parent Buys Pinot Specialist Siduri Wines," Santa Rosa Press-Democrat

- "Kendall-Jackson Owners Buy California Pinot Powerhouse Siduri," Wine Spectator

- "Siduri Sells to Jackson Family Wines," Grape Collective (article includes complete Siduri email to customers)