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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

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)


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.