By Ben Heskett
Sometimes you find new music on the radio, other times you catch a band you don’t know in concert and are pleasantly surprised. And then there’s the opportunity to experience a new venue – Say the newly re-opened Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, Calif. perhaps? It is for this reason that CORKZILLA has been exposed to the warm hearth bluegrass of Greensky Bluegrass, a terrific outfit out of Michigan that has been touring the country for some time.
Greensky Bluegrass plays the Sweetwater next week and we at the ‘Zilla are excited to check any band with the bluegrass chops these guys have, complete with a stellar approach to songwriting and – from what we can tell – a solid decision-making process as far as cover songs (A cursory search found a “Light up or Leave Me Alone” by Traffic and an “I Know You Rider,” perhaps best known as a Grateful Dead cover). The Sweetwater Music Hall should be a terrific place for the show, with its long history of hosting American roots music. Who knows, maybe Sweetwater investor and Dead member Bob Weir will show up.
We’ll turn you on to Greensky Bluegrass via a 2010 live version of “Cold Feet,” featuring some terrific banjo picking, and mandolin and guitar playing, along with ample evidence of superior song craft. This version, recorded at a Portland, Ore. concert, showcases the interplay between a band that still exudes excitement and a fresh approach, even if some might characterize the bluegrass genre as somewhat limiting muscially (Not that the ‘Zilla agrees with this characterization).
There’s really only one choice when faced with a musical pairing of bluegrass – That uniquely American grape, Zinfandel. For purposes of this pairing, we’re going to dip into the ‘Zilla wine cellar for a gem we’ve been waiting to open for some time – A Ridge Vineyards 2003 Geyserville Zinfandel, made from 76 percent Zinfandel, 18 percent Carignane, and 6 percent Petite Sirah.
Based on a prior pairing, it’s no secret that the ‘Zilla is a longtime Ridge fan. This wine, in particular, is an incredible example of what a California Zinfandel can be, with complex flavors enhanced by storage over time, with black fruit notes and a smoothness and structure that is common among the more refined Ridge vintages. So have at it – Pop the cork on a California original and crank up some American bluegrass. Yeehaw! Cheers!
By Joe Colgan
It feels good to get back to the Wine and Tunes pairing. It's been a while, and because both wine and music are the two keys ingredients that make up the 'Zilla experience, it's like being reunited with an old friend. Our last posting of this feature took place during the holidaze season at the end of 2011. Since the inception of our Wine and Tunes pairing way back in March of last year, we've had over 50 installments which offered our varied experiences or ideas about joining music and wine together. As we welcomed the new year with open arms, we took some time to evaluate our focus on how we share our thoughts about our two loves with you. The Wine and Tunes weekly pairing will now be a once-per-month event which will allow us to devote more time and energy focusing on this very important feature of the site.
A lot has happened already this year. Spring is slowing starting to show it's face here in Southern California. Trees are blooming, temperatures are averaging in the mid-70's, and birds are filling the air with sound. Of course the best indication that Spring is rapidly approaching is this beautiful sound, courtesy of the SF Giants. This time of year also means green vines, warming soil, and bud break in the vineyards. All of these elements of Spring puts big smiles on our faces here at the 'Zilla.
What doesn't put a smile on your face during the start of Spring is having a arthroscopic partial medial meniscectomy and synovectomy. In layman's terms - having a procedure to fix your knee after going for a run and suddenly hearing a 'pop'. This event causes a lot of setbacks in one's day-to-day life - one of which is not being able to enjoy vino regularly because of a steady diet of some very formidable pain meds. But once the initial healing period of about two weeks was over, the 'Zilla cellar was open for business once again...
I'm going to recommend a wine that was my first 'welcome back' choice - Donkey & Goats's 2009 Four Thirteen, which is a blend of 46% Syrah, 33% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre, and 3% Counoise. On a number of occasions, the 'Zilla has written praises about what this small production natural wine house in South Berkeley is cabable of. This particular selection packs some beautiful elements of pepper, blackberry, and leather on the nose that continue through the palette. Nice red color and medium bodied, it's a delicious wine that could show even more greatness if kept horizontal for a few more years. Retails for $30.
To pair with this Bay Area urban winery creation, I'm going with a tune from The Wood Brothers that is on a playlist for when I go running - which is something I won't be doing for a while. This guitar and bass duo's music is chock-full of some feel good blues/rock/folk. Their live shows are proof that sometimes less can be more.