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!
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!
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.
$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.
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 www.concertcapture.com), 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.
I recently screened a compelling music documentary about a little town in Alabama called Muscle Shoals and the music studio there that revolutionized music in many ways. It's called, aptly, "Muscle Shoals," and is likely available on many of your favorite "On Demand" cable systems right now. That's how I watched it - In my living room with a meaty bottle of Syrah close by. It's filled with great stories from many of the musicians you've undoubtedly come to know and love. Check it out:
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Another great weekend in Golden Gate Park at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass free festival, replete with stunning sunny days and the usual dizzying array of musical talent. In addition to local favorites Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers (barely visible in this macro shot of the Star Stage at right), some highlights include Billy Bragg, Bonnie Raitt, Richard Thompson, First Aid Kit, Buddy Miller, and the Wood Brothers. Alas, CORKZILLA could only be in so many places at once so our park invasions were limited to Friday and Sunday this year. It can't be said enough - There are a lot of amazing festivals in this country, many of which have sprouted up in recent years, but it's hard to beat a free day of unbelievable music in Golden Gate Park in October. See you next year!
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 Saturday, Oct. 19, from 2 PM until 4 PM at the Surf Spot on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Pacifica, Calif., just south of San Francisco. Please come - It's going to be a great time.
Cutting U.S. Inventories Leads to Ouster at Treasury: It was a bit of an odd announcement when it was released earlier this year that Treasury Wine Estates would either destroy or discount excess U.S. wine inventory from prior vintages to position itself for future growth. Now that decision has cost Chief Executive David Dearie his job. Read coverage of this interesting wine industry development here and here.
U.S. Grape Prices Heading South: A recent post by the esteemed Silicon Valley Bank’s Rob McMillan indicates that two straight bountiful harvests in the U.S., a continued sluggish economy, and continued pressure from consumers on price increases, among other factors, will likely lead to downward pressure on grape prices. It’s a great read for those who want, or need, to know.
Oregon Joins the 20th Century: Anyone who has ever purchased alcohol in Oregon knows how difficult it is to figure out where you need to go to get a bottle of vodka, for example, versus a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine. The state liquor stores sold the liquor, while a variety of stores sold beer and wine. Now that’s changing, with state liquor stores adding beer and wine to their portfolio, according to this report. It’s about time.
Commonwealth of MA Punts on Wine Shipping Regs: Direct shipping regulations will gather a little more dust after the state legislature in Massachusetts declined to advance a bill that would allow wineries to ship directly to consumers in the state, according to this release from Free the Grapes. No word on when the “HB 294” bill may get a hearing.
Bordeaux Production Levels Lowest in More Than Two Decades: The Bordeaux region of France suffered through a cold spring and random hail storms this year. The result will be a 20 percent drop in grape production, the lowest levels seen since 1991, according to this report. Industry experts are watching how this will impact pricing closely.