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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

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

Phish, Oct. 17, 2014, Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR, Oct. 27, 2014, and Oct. 29, 2014, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA, and Oct. 31, 2014, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV, (digital downloads)

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

Beck, "Morning Phase," Capitol Records

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, "Give the People What They Want," Daptone Records

Jason Isbell, "Southeastern," Southeastern Records

Miles Davis, "In a Silent Way," Columbia Records

Reach out to CORKZILLA

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)


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

You’d Better Have a Good Reason, America! Wine drinking trends appear to indicate a slowdown in consumption in the United States, according to this article on based on research from Wine Opinions. There are many factors to indicate such a change in wine consumption after 20-plus years of growth, but what stands out as a data point is consumption falling in the “occasional wine drinker” category, with those drinkers generally thought to represent the next generation, or "bullpen," of future high-frequency wine drinkers, according to the article.

Brewer-Clifton Sells 70 percent stake: Fresh off being named the No. 8 wine in Wine Spectator magazine’s Top 100 for 2014, Brewer-Clifton sold 70 percent of the winery to a group of investors led by Ken Fredrickson, a master sommelier and wholesaler, according to an article in the Shanken News Daily blog. Making wines from the Santa Rita Hills appellation in Central California, Brewer-Clifton (bottles pictured at right from a tasting at the 2014 Wine Blogger Conference) is known as a top producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Too Much Bulk Wine? California’s huge 2014 harvest may mean an inventory surplus for grape-growers and wine producers, according to this article based on data from a large wine broker. The result? Cheaper wines and their growers will have a tough time finding a home for their product, according to the article, published in Harpers wine and Spirit magazine.

UK Manager of Fine Wine Liquidates: Continuing a trend in the United Kingdom, APW Asset Management Limited will go into liquidation, according to an article in Decanter magazine. APW Asset Management has over 2,000 customers in the UK, according to the report.


'Zilla Holiday Schedule - 'Tis the Season to Take a Break

The CORKZILLA staff will be taking the holidays off for the rest of 2014. We will return in mid-January and are looking forward to a terrific, wine-filled 2015. Cheers to you and your family and stay tuned for more 'Zilla in the new year. Happy holidays!


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Kurniawan’s Cellar Eyed as Compensation for Victims: Convicted wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan’s wine cellar may be a source of compensation for victims of his crime, according to this report in Decanter magazine. Victims of his fraud are owed upwards of $30 million, according to the article. One problem? Investigators will need to comb through his collection to ascertain the authenticity of his wines. Stay tuned.

Start Saving for Your Napa Vineyard Now: Another generation and prime Napa Valley, California vineyards could cost just as much as a prime plot in Burgundy, France, according to vineyard real estate experts interviewed by What will it cost you? Up to $1 million per acre, according to this report.

Jackson Expands to South Africa: Continuing to expand its footprint of vineyards across the globe, California’s Jackson’s Family Vineyards has purchased a 120-acre farm in the Banghoek Valley of the Stellenbosch region, according to this report in the Shanken News Daily blog. With 20 acres of vines, Jackson plans to release a Chardonnay called Capensis starting with the 2013 vintage.

Not so Fast: Despite a whirlwind of recent storms, reservoir levels in California remain at half their average levels, according to this article in Wines and Vines magazine. The California Department of Water Resources predicts the state needs six more similar storms to end the long-term drought, according to the report. Conserve, people!

Because We Couldn’t Get Our Gift Recommendations Act Together: Several thoughtful wine-related gift ideas from Alder Yarrow this week in this holiday-related blog post on There’s some good options here – from stocking stuffers to more expensive items. Happy holidays to all! Be merry, drink well, and be safe!


Shameless Plug Dept.: Science Project Gig in SF

CORKZILLA Co-founder Ben Heskett is at it again, using the rarified pages of the 'Zilla to promote a gig. Heskett uses a portion of his copious free time to play percussion and sing a bit in a blues-infused band called Science Project. The band is playing tomorrow, Oct. 28, at 8 PM as part of a benefit for HandsOn Bay Area at Thee Parkside in the Potrero Hill section of San Francisco. Hope you can make it - It should be a fun night. There's even a raffle item that's wine-related!


Achaval-Ferrer Takes Malbec to New Heights


By Ben Heskett

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- It is a rare treat when one of Argentina’s venerable Malbec producers chooses to share its wines in your city. Such was the case on a beautiful late summer day at a recent "Achaval-Ferrer Estates tasting at the Piperade restaurant here. The winery has done much to expand the view of Malbec in the world at large, and it was a unique opportunity to hear from the co-founder, Santiago Achaval.

As the seminal book on Argentinian wine Vino Argentino by Laura Catena says: “Achaval-Ferrer has done much to promote the distinctive terroirs of Argentine Malbec.” This was never more evident than in the interesting vineyard designate Malbecs at the tasting – the Finca Bella Vista 2012 and a flight of Finca Altamira vintages from 2012, 2009, 2006 and 2000.

The wines express the focus of the winery – low yields, single vineyards, and old vines, working in concert to deliver a unique approach to Argentinian Malbec. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was the older vintages that provided the most character, depth and silky Malbec experience – the 2006 and 2000 vintages of the Finca Altamira shined with dark fruit notes and a long, luxurious finish.

Santiago Achaval gave a compelling narrative of his winery, its history and where he thinks the Mendoza region of Argentina may go in the future. This last topic was interesting – Achaval hopes to see more Malbec from interesting places, driven by a single-vineyard approach, and he also believes white Rhone varietals will work in the region.

Achaval (pictured at left) and fellow winemaker Roberto Cipresso are committed to developing his wines without a lot of intervention, letting the particular vineyards – Finca Altamira, Finca Bella Vista, and Finca Mirador – speak for themselves. This needs to be underscored - This is a fairly unique approach in Argentina, and a philosophy that is certain to develop further in the region.

Achaval Ferrer also produces a Malbec-driven blend called Quimera as well as a Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon using the general appellation designation Mendoza.

Separately, for those podcast enthusiasts, Grape Radio recently posted a good primer and discussion about Argentinian wines and Malbec specifically. You can listen the episode here.


WINE GEAR: Saving Your Wine - An Update

Editor's note: CORKZILLA welcomes back occasional columnist and dear friend Jim Louderback for another in his series on wine-related gadgets. He submitted two columns for us in 2011 (which can be found here and here), took some time off from noodling with the latest in wine gizmos, and now he's back for an update. Enjoy!

By Jim Louderback

A few years ago I wrote a story for CORKZILLA about my experiences with devices, gasses and other gewgaws that purported to preserve an open bottle of wine so you could drink it the next day, or even the next week.

I ended up deciding that a two pronged system – using both a barrier and an inert gas – was ideal. Mysystem of choice used both the Wine Shield and a canister of nitrogen and other inert gases from Private Preserve. But times change, devices change, and my preferred method of preserving wine has changed as well.

I have not yet laid out the $300 plus for the Coravin, an innovative device that uses a needle to penetrate the cork of a valued bottle – sucking up the wine and replacing it with argon gas. The device reportedly worked great – until a few customers reported that the device caused their wine bottles to explode.

According to one winebar owner, the explosions were caused by users continuing to pump argon into their bottles far beyond what’s necessary. The additional gas ultimately stressed the bottles out, causing them to burst. That same owner still uses and loves his Coravin, but he’s ensured that his bartenders are well versed in how the system works. The company has come up with a fix – essentially a neoprene sleeve for the wine being pumped, which seems to work fine.

Still, $300 for a wine preservation system that still requires you to buy canisters of argon gas seems like a lot to spend. But I was intrigued by the concept of argon – a truly inert gas that sinks, rather than rises.

So a few months ago I was excited to discover VineyardFresh – a new consumer-grade canister of gas, packaged much like Private Preserve, which claimed to be better because it used 100% argon. So I bought two canisters and gave it a whirl.

Unfortunately one of the two canisters I purchased was nearly empty. But the company’s customer support was great – and they quickly mailed me a new one free of charge.

Much to my surprise – as I’ve seen so many "snake oil" contraptions sold as wine preservers – VineyardFresh worked great. It quickly added 3-4 days of life to most bottles I tried it on, when used in conjunction with the Wine Shield. I even started using it on its own – and the results were similar.

From my tests, Wine Shield and Private Preserve together can give you 1-3 days of life for an open bottle, particularly if you close it up pretty quickly after opening. But VineyardFresh does even better. A VineyardFresh / Wine Shield combination gave me routinely 2-3 days of fresh, just opened wine taste, and extended my own drinkability range to five and sometimes six days. It seems to offer 3-4 days of additional freshness even without the Wine Shield.

My recommendations: if you’re looking to preserve a bottle for a day or two, pick up some VineyardFresh and use it without reservations. For a more expensive bottle, or to add another few days, combine it with a Wine Shield. But if you’ve been using Private Preserve – which does work – you’re better off replacing it with VineyardFresh. It is simply delivers better results.

Sooner or later I’ll get my hands on a Coravin and will do some blind testing. Until then, VineyardFresh is the best solution I've found to date.

Jim Louderback's bio

Jim Louderback is a veteran technologist and media executive, lover of great wines, and follower of great bands and music. You may bump into him at various music venues in the Bay Area and beyond. He's a big fan of everything from Pinot Noir to Cabernets and Syrah, but unaccountably can't stomach Zinfandel. On the white side he's happiest with Viognier or a Caymus Vineyards Conundrum, can't stand acidic Sauvignon Blancs, but has been known to wax poetic on Rose. Go figure. Jim lives in Pacifica, CA, with his wife and son. He can be reached at


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

The New Paso Robles AVA Jigsaw Puzzle: The Paso Robles wine region in California has gotten its wish – the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued a new American Viticultural Area (AVA) regulation that divides much of the area into 11 distinct districts, effective in November of this year. The TTB ruling is seven years in the making and is intended to better represent the diversity of different grape-growing districts in the Paso Robles region, according to this report.

California Winery Volunteer Buzz Kill: News of fines for the Castro Valley, Calif.-based Westover Winery due to use of volunteers during the grape harvest have shook the wine industry and produced a lot of visceral reaction as a result. The Westover Winery will close as a result of the fines, according to this report. Alder Yarrow tackles this ridiculous situation in a well-said piece on his Vinography blog.

Declines in Global Grape Production This Year: Wine grape production will decline in 2014 across the board, with the likely exception of France, according to a new report on global production by Rabobank, as reported in Harpers Wine and Spirit. Total decline is expected to be 4 percent, according to the report.

Napa and Sonoma Harvest Update: Napa Valley grapes are 95 percent picked, according to this Napa Valley Register report, and reports indicate Northern California has largely dodged drought worries this year, according to another report. Growers in Napa and Sonoma counties in California weighed in on the harvest here earlier this month.

Costco Weighs In: An influential executive at the box store giant Costco discussed the state of the wine industry at the retail level with the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. There are some pretty interesting insights here. Interestingly for this Rose lover, those wines “performed well” this year, according to the article.