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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

 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

White Denim, "Corsicana Lemonade," Downtown Records

Miguel Migs, "Window Shades Radio Mix," (free download)

Arctic Monkeys, "AM," Domino Recording Co.

Rob Garza, "Indian Summer Mix," (free download)

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers (Self-titled), Little Sur Records

Tedeschi Trucks Band, "Made Up Mind," Sony Masterworks

Grateful Dead, "May 1977" (box set), Grateful Dead Productions/Rhino Entertainment Company

Reach out to CORKZILLA

Taking Heat: Wresting The Jazz Back from Parker Jr.

Editor's note: CORKZILLA is honored to announce the addition of 2014 Wine Blog Awards nominee Christopher Watkins to the site as an occasional columnist. We're excited to have him on board, since he shares our enthusiasm for the intersection of music and wine and is a terrific writing talent to boot. We hope you enjoy his contributions!

By Christopher Watkins

It is my considered opinion that with the onset of "hot" being deployed as a wine descriptor (in reference to higher-alcohol wines), we lost one of our better metaphors for understanding the rather more intangibly emotional and aesthetic aspects of what wine is, does, and means.

It is probably not much of an exaggeration to say that with the emerging dominance of Robert Parker Jr.'s Glossary of Wine Terms in his books, “winespeak” as we knew it was fairly changed forever, and quite possibly much of the rest of contemporarily colloquial language as well. Green would never mean green again, the world became all too familiar with Jammy, Flabby, and Unctuous, and suddenly Barnyard no longer meant …well, Barnyard.

For better or worse, winespeak was here to stay, and with it the changed usages it beget.

Now, I don't mind a bit of language codification, and semantic standardization can both eliminate a great deal of confusion, and enhance shared understanding. What I do mind, however, is linguistic theft that diminishes rather than increases our ability to render the intangible tangible.

Cue "Hot."

Hot as style, feeling, vibe, character, quality, is a magically open-ended term that is somehow still eminently and intimately understandable. When something is hot, it can mean so much, and yet we all know what it means. Thus, it is an entity of expansion; an expansive term that both broadens and clarifies understanding. By doing so, it does what language does best, it builds bridges, makes connections, universalizes the singular, and brings the disparate to a shared table.

Hot as reference to a certain alcohol level, by comparison, is a closed term; it is small, specific, and limited. It tells us one thing, and one thing only. It is at best a pedestrian use of two-dimensional language; it is, at worst, a waste of poetry.


In my vernacular cosmology, Hot and Cold are styles, feelings, moods, best encapsulated and enacted by the alpha and omega of jazz trumpet: Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis (images courtesy of Wikipedia).

The Hot 5s & The Hot 7s, and The Birth of the Cool.

And all the world between.


You taste wine. You do. And when you taste it, you know something. You do. You know it intuitively, you know it viscerally, you know it sensually. You know whether the wine is hot or cool, because those words and terms mean something to you. You may not know they mean something to you, but they do. And you know this. You do.

Louis Armstrong's Hot 5s and Hot 7s recordings are rightfully considered canonical contributions to world culture, and they are indeed "hot." Hot is up, hot is lively, hot is exuberant. Hot is provocative and playful, devil-may-care and impassioned. Hot is free, loose, ribald, alive. Hot is the sound of New Orleans. Hot is the rhythm of pleasure. Hot is spirit made flesh.

There are wines that are just this kind of hot. And that's a good thing. Not a bad thing. It's a good thing. You've had them. In restaurants and cafes, on porches and on beaches, you've had them. With Steak au Poivre. With Rosemary Almonds. With grilled mushrooms. Off someone else's tongue in broad daylight. You've had them. With friends and lovers, you've had them. You've had them at dinner, and at midnight. The wine was hot, you were hot, the night was hot. You and the night and the heat. You've had a hot wine. And it was hot. You danced like a motherf*&%er. And it was fantastic.

So stand up and say it! Say, I know hot when I hear it, I know hot when I taste it. I have soul, I have The Jazz, and tonight, I want it hot. Say, I want Jazz Lips. And mean it.

The Birth of the Cool was exactly that. Cool.

And you know a cool wine, and you know what to do when one enters the room. You get all feline around it. You look away when it looks at you, you stare at its hips as it walks away. Your coy intertwines with its coy, and coiled, you begin to move. This is nocturnal wine. This is quiet wine. This is hush, baby. This is, I want to hear the sounds of your eyelashes on my cheek. These are indeed Moon Dreams by which to Move.

The Birth of the Cool sessions took all the sophisticated bombast of the big band, and streamlined it into a lithe mammalian stealth. All the contrapuntal harmonic dexterity and muscular roar of a complex and behemoth machine --the orchestra-- woven into a taut and sophisticated tapestry that spoke swingingly, and carried a mute.

The Birth of the Cool sessions were harmony of more than a musical kind; they were Black and White, European and American, Eastern and Western; a subtle zen-swing soul in smoke and glasses. 

When you find this wine, and you feel this way, you call it Cool. And you are Cool. And it's Cool.

~ defines Cool Jazz as being "characterized by rhythmic and emotional restraint, extensive legato passages, and a reflective character."

Over at, Hot Jazz is "emotionally charged and intense and marked by strong rhythms and improvisation."

And here is Robert Parker Jr.'s definition of "Hot" in his Glossary of Wine Terms:

"... hot denotes that the wine is too high in alcohol and therefore leaves a burning sensation in the back of the throat when swallowed."



Listen. When it comes right down to it, Satchmo said this:

"Hot can be cool & cool can be hot & each can be both. But hot or cool man, Jazz is Jazz."


Now, sub in "Wine" for "Jazz," and that is really the point. Wine is Wine, and no dictionary is ever going to define it.

And that's cool with me.

Christopher Watkins Bio

Christopher Watkins has been writing professionally for over two decades. He is a recognized veteran blogging and social media voice courtesy of his award-winning work in the wine industry and a published author of poetry, with a debut volume released and additional poems appearing in multiple literary journals. Watkins is also a Gold Record recipient for his lyrics and music.

He is also a social media manager for a marketing firm, contributing social copy, blog posts, thought leadership, and more, as well as a contributing writer and freelancer for numerous blogs, journals, and other publications.

Watkins’ writing has afforded him and his wife (a visual artist) the opportunity to travel widely, and they have lived and worked in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Denver, as well as a tiny fishing village in the rural west of Ireland. They currently live in Santa Cruz, California with their daughter.


'Zilla Plans at WBC14 in Santa Barbara County

The 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara is kicking off this evening with registration and a reception - A great time to catch up with a few folks and make some new friends. Asa a result of the rapid-fire nature of the conference, the best way to follow the action is our @corkzillasf handle on Twitter and our Instagram account of the same name. If we get a chance, we'll tap out a few words as the conference unfolds, but it is a lot to take in at one time. Keep it tuned to the 'Zilla for all the updates and a wrap up of the highlights.


Wine Spectator Donates $3M to SSU

Renowned wine publication Wine Spectator will make a $3 million gift to Sonoma State University in California to help build a new home for the institution’s Wine Business Institute. The donation will be made through the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation.

“The potential benefits to the wine industry are enormous,” said Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator magazine, in a press release announcing the gift. “We are pleased to be able to help the university and their students achieve their goals.”

As CORKZILLA readers know, the roots of this endeavor dates to the campus of Sonoma State and we couldn’t be happier for the university as well as Ray Johnson, the director of the institute. A mockup of the proposed new building, to be built on the Sonoma State campus can be found above (photo courtesy of Sonoma State University).


New Willamette Valley Pinot Entrant Delivers Balance

By Ben Heskett

I sat down with a dear friend recently to check out a new Pinot Noir entrant from the Willamette Valley in
Oregon. It’s the Elizabeth Chambers Cellar 2011 Winemaker’s Cuvee Pinot Noir, a well-balanced, slightly restrained blend that delivers if you’re looking for a good weekday wine to pair with a meal.

Elizabeth Chambers is a new entrant among Willamette Valley Pinot Noir producers, but the winemakers have a long history in the area. The company says it will initially produce 3,500 cases of wine, comprised in part of the aforementioned Winemaker’s Cuvee, and two announced single vineyard offerings from Shea vineyard and Freedom Hill vineyard.

Grapes for the blend are sourced predominantly from the Freedom Hill and Lazy River vineyards in the Willamette Valley.

My friend Nate Belden, a Sonoma County grape-grower, and myself initially were on the fence about this wine, but as it opened up it delivered a delicious mix of flavors, from plum and cherry to a hint of sweetness. The wine was aged 10 months in what the winery calls “predominantly used oak.”

This wine sample was provided by Gregory White, a marketing and public relations company, but our opinions on the juice remain our very own.

But don’t take our word for it, others have also weighed in on this new Willamette Valley Pinot Noir producer:

- The Pull That Cork wine blog offers some good background on the winemakers at Elizabeth Chambers and some good suggestions on how and when to drink it. 

- The wine gets four stars from an critic, who claims he’s “wanting more” after drinking it.

- The Amateur Gastronomer blog is also a fan, checking in from Georgia.

- Jeff Solomon of the Stay Rad wine blog also weighs in with this video tasting posted below:


Seminars from In Pursuit of Balance SF Now Available

If you were like CORKZILLA and waited too long to register for the ever-too-popular In Pursuit of Balance wine tasting event in San Francisco earlier this month, you won't be able to relive the ambiance but you can relive the seminars. They were posted online earlier this week. Enjoy!


Prince Bedazzles in Oakland

The sometimes reclusive Prince treated fans to a funk-fest this past weekend at an impromptu show at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif. For those of you who have seen the mercurial Purple One, you know - the dude is a flat-out entertainer. I thought I'd post a video from his recent appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show in Celebration of the Oakland show. Enjoy!


Catching Up With Anthill Farms

By Ben Heskett

Winemakers see challenges in new grapes. For Anthill Farms Winery, a now-stalwart cool climate Pinot Noir house focused on Mendocino County, Calif. grapes, the opportunity to experiment continues to drive its varietal exploration.

Anthill Farms plans to diversify its portfolio by 2015, adding both a Chardonnay and Grenache to its roster. The winery already delivers an impressive Sonoma Coast Syrah most years – an impressive expression of the grape. For co-founders Webster Marquez, David Low, and Anthony Filiberti, the intentiuon is to continue their tradition of "one-off" projects - "To keep ourselves sharp and not so complacent," according to Marquez.

I stopped by Anthill’s pick-up party in Healdsburg, Calif. this past fall (picture at left of Anthill's original pick-up party location in the same complex as its current environs), located in a non-descript warehouse off the Dry Creek Road in a familiar area for Dry Creek Valley winery tasting rooms such as Papapietro Perry Winery and Kokomo Winery. Among the library of Pinot Noirs being poured that day at the pick-up party (along with the aforementioned Syrah) there was a decanter of Grenache to taste.

“We love Grenache, and think of it as just as much of a challenge (and reward!) as making Pinot,” said Marquez in an email interview. “It’s extraordinarily expressive and we’ve been meaning to find an interesting spot for it for years.”

It is exciting news for Grenache lovers, as the expert team at Anthill delves into a grape that is rapidly being embraced for its depth and balance in California. “I think there is some momentum for it,” Marquez said. Indeed, the decanted Granache showed great fruit, with the type of finesse and nuance you've come to expect from California versions of the grape.

Anthill is sourcing its Grenache grapes from the Steel Plow Vineyard in Kenwood, in Sonoma County, located right in front of Landmark Winery. The vineyard is farmed jointly by Landmark and Phil Coturri of Enterprise Vineyards. The Grenache release is scheduled for 2015 with an intended price point of $22 or so, according to Marquez, in keeping with the winery’s philosophy to offer at least one value wine for around $20.

Marquez said Anthill also plans to make a Chardonnay on a “consistent basis,” targeted for early 2015, if not before, he said.

Anthill recently completed its annual spring release. It also was pouring as part of the ever-so-hot In Pursuit of Balance wine tasting event this week in San Francisco, Calif. You can sign up for Anthill’s waiting list here.



Weekly Wines News Around the Web

$687M for California Drought Relief: The California legislature this week passed a bill to provide drought-relief to those stricken by the current parched conditions in the Golden State, according to this report. The $687 million legislation will provide money for water management programs in drought-stricken areas, according to reports. The conditions are forcing farmers to choose among their crops. The state may get some help from NASA, of all places, according to this report.

More Marketing for Mezzacorona: With sales passing the 1 million-case mark, Italy’s Gruppo Mezzacarona plans to redouble its marketing efforts this year in a bid for further growth, according to this Shanken News Daily blog post.

Evening Land Gains High-Profile Investors: Though there are few details, an interesting partnership was announced between Rajat Parr’s Sandhi Winery and Oregon’s Evening Land Vineyards, according to Decanter magazine. This will be one to watch with the players involved, but also to see just how Evening Lands’ vineyards evolve. Separately, Oregon continues to make gains with the wine consumer, according to this report.

Parker Stirs the Drink: It’s always interesting when wine tasting guru Robert Parker (pictured at left) offers his opinions on the state of the wine industry, but at a recent event, those types of comments came among a cadre of his fellow accomplished wine writers, sparking a somewhat heated debate in the blogosphere. Jon Bonne, wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, offered a response to Parker’s comments on the trend toward low-alcohol, more nuanced California wines. Parker's much-discussed response at the conference can be found here. It’s a debate that will continue to rage, within California and the wine industry, and though there’s no right answer necessarily, it is an interesting conversation< to have.

BottleRock a Go?: And finally, it appears the BottleRock Napa Valley music festival will take place at the end of May at the Napa Expo in downtown Napa, Calif. Stay tuned!


Happy Valentines Day!


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Editor's note: After a holiday and work-related hiatus, the Weekly Wine News Around the Web returns as an occasional CORKZILLA feature.

BottleRock Hard Ball: A pair of recent stories in the Napa Valley Register paint a interesting picture of a wine country music festival at once in a better place, but perhaps hamstrung by the mistakes of the inaugural 2013 event. The BottleRock 2013 music festival (photo of Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes at BottleRock 2013 at right, courtesy of, which took place at the Napa Expo in the city of Napa, was a musical success perhaps, but a financial debacle. The first piece details the bankruptcy filing by the original promoters, BR Festivals LLC, while the second delves into just how the city of Napa plans to deal with the new promoter, Latitude 38 Entertainment, who bought some of the assets from the original group. Evidently, the city plans to ask for full payment of overdue 2013 bills before approving the 2014 version of the festival. Stay tuned.

Another Record Harvest in California: The California Agricultural Statistics Service released a preliminary version of its Grape Crush Report detailing a 5 percent increase in crushed wine grapes over 2012, according to this Wines and Vines magazine report. Prices for wine grapes dropped by 3.4 percent for the year, however. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel (in that order) remain the three most widely planted varieties in the state, according to the report.

Turley Shines Light on Amador County: The San Francisco Chronicle’s Jon Bonne has a terrific piece on a recent vineyard purchase by Turley Wine Cellars in the Amador County portion of Northern California, southeast of Sacramento, and the history of this often overlooked region.

New Zealand Empire for Foley: With its acquisition of Martinborough Vineyard Estates for an undisclosed sum, Foley Family wines of Healdsburg, Calif. Continues its expansion march. The acquisition gives Foley 1,100 acres of vines and a 550,000-case production in New Zealand, according to this Shanken News Daily blog post.

Mendocino County Legend Passes Away: John Parducci, an industry pioneer that is credited with putting Mendocino County, Calif. On the map as a wine region, died recently at the age of 96. This affectionate appreciation in the Ukiah Daily Journal details a full life of a man dedicated to vineyards and wine.