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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

Keith Richards, "Crosseyed Heart," Republic Records

Gary Clark Jr., "The Story of Sonny Boy Slim," Warner Brothers Records

Warren Haynes Featuring Railroad Earth, "Ashes and Dust," Concord Records

Jason Isbell, "Something More Than Free," Southeastern Records

Phish, "Live Bait Vol. 11" (free digital download)

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

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

Reach out to CORKZILLA

Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! Let us know what you’re pouring tonight.

Industry Projections Set the Tone: The Silicon Valley Bank’s recently offered its latest assessment and overview of the state of the wine industry. Their report and insights offers some interesting tidbits for the industry and 2011 is no exception, with the bank’s prediction of 11-15 percent growth in fine wine sales and continued acquisitions and recapitalizations of “wounded” wineries in the next 18 months.

Kenwood Mourns: On the heels of Jess Jackson’s death, the wine industry lost another luminary in Mike Lee, co-founder of Sonoma County stalwart Kenwood Vineyards. Lee was a giant in the growth of the North Coast of California as a wine-making region over the past 40 years. When Lee started making wines in Sonoma, prunes were the largest cash crop for the county, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Latest Bordeaux Thumps Up: Robert Parker’s latest Bordeaux scores are out and it sounds like 2010 is another great vintage. As we know, Parker’s scores sway the industry, so take note: Parker claims 2005, 2009 and now 2010 may be the greatest vintages of his career, according to the Wall Street Journal report.

Rioja in Argentina?: The Spanish wine industry lost the latest chapter in a 12-year old battle to stop Argentina from labeling some its wine as from “La Rioja Argentina.” The Spanish Rioja regulatory council will appeal. This represents the latest of several disputes over labeling and accurate regional designations in the industry.

And on a lighter note, many in the industry have chuckled at the ongoing 29th annual Paso Robles Wine Festival advertising campaign. Though promotional in nature, the spots are hilarious. The latest video may be the best yet:


'Zilla's Weekly Wine and Tunes Pairing

Editor's note: This week's Wine and Tunes pairing is tardy due to the CORKZILLA team's road trip to Paso Robles, CA for a weekend of tastings and winery visits in the area.

By Ben Heskett

Neil Young is a iconic California rock 'n' roller. As I drove down to Paso Robles from the Bay Area, I found myself appreciating the state I live in and the bounty - wine - that it provides. His acoustic "Sugar Mountain" represents another building block of my musical journey, and Young himself has always personified some version of the so-called "California Dream" that is unique in America, in my view.

In honor of the region we explored this weekend, I'll recommend a tasty Syrah that represents the area nicely and offers a good value ($20 or so) to the wine consumer at home: the Niner Wine Estates 2006 Syrah. Check out the winery on your next visit to the Central Coast.


By Joe Colgan

One of my favorite places on earth is Brooklyn, NY. One of my favorite bands from Brooklyn is the colossus Antibalas. This twelve-plus member horn driven band mixes its afrobeat foundation with funk, jazz, Latin, and soul. Their polyrhythmic grooves are infectious and contagious, making it virtually impossible for you to stand still. Seeing them in an outside venue or festival when the sun is shinning makes for a truly fantastic experience.

Having just returned from the gorgeous Paso Robles region of California's Central Coast, I'm going to recommend Justin Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay ($23) for this week's pairing. Even though this wine is fermented and matured in oak, you don't get that overbearing buttery flavour that many CA Chardonnays produce. What you do get is apple, lemon, and mineral flavors that finishes with some spice. It's very smooth and not too heavy for drinking in the sun. Just the perfect accompaniment to a day in the park with Anitbalas' horns and driving rhythm section.




SSU Adds Online Certificate Program

A quick note about a good friend of CORKZILLA, Ray Johnson, and a new program the Sonoma State University Wine Institute (Johnson was recently named director) is embarking on - Providing certificate wine business education programs online. This is a terrific development for all of those wine fanatics - within the industry and outside of the industry - to add to their knowledge base, and the online certificate option offers a terrific alternative to classroom instruction. Kudos to the SSU Wine Institute.


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Galloni New Parker in Town: His name – Antonio Galloni – may soon strike fear in the hearts of California winemakers. In a surprising development, wine-ranking legend Robert Parker announced his wine reviews successor for the California region, leaving many wondering how it will impact current wine-making techniques. Given the shadow Parker has cast across the wine industry with his 100-point ranking system, Galloni’s preferences will be an interesting trend to watch.

Printing Alcohol Levels: The San Francisco Chronicle took the bold step of instituting a new policy within its highly regarded Food & Wine section of the newspaper. Each recommended wine in the newspaper will also have an alcohol level printed next to it, further highlighting the issue of alcohol levels in wine. This is a hot topic in the wine world, and the Chronicle does a nice job of covering it here.

Fingers Crossed in Paso: This sounds like it may be only representative for those Paso Robles wineries with vineyards at high elevations, but Tablas Creek has been impacted by early April frosts in the region, with predictions of a 20 percent drop in production as a result. The last scare was in 2009, but those wines are looking good, according to the winery’s blog: “Quality should be fine, if 2009 is any indication. The 2009 reds, which are just being bottled now, are some of the most compelling that we've ever produced.  And it's good that the varieties on which we base our signature blends were the least affected.” More coverage of the frost can be found here.

5.5 Million Cases Later: Jess Jackson’s death prompted an interesting look at what’s next for the winery he founded. It’s a huge loss for the industry and an interesting question for the industry as well. A good overview of what’s next is found here.

Finally, CORKZILLA will be hitting the road this weekend, attending the Hospice du Rhone event in Paso Robles, Calif. Keep your eye out for us! And if you can't make it to Paso, you may want to check out the great Passport to Dry Creek Valley event in Sonoma.


'Zilla at the Hospice

CORKZILLA will be at this year’s Hospice du Rhone in Paso Robles, Calif., marking its debut at the annual event. The Central Coast of California is a vibrant wine region and Paso Robles, in particular, is hitting its stride with Rhone-inspired varietals. Send us a note if you’ll be there at or let us know about any wineries we should know about. Look forward to the weekend!


'Zilla's Weekly Wine and Tunes Pairing

By Joe Colgan

A few years ago I was turned onto the work of David O'Reilly, founder, winemaker, and co-owner of Owen Roe Winery. Based in the Pacific Northwest, Mr. O'Reilly has been producing wines with a minimal processing approach, using grapes sourced from the beautiful Willamette and Columbia Valleys of Oregon and Washington's Yakima Valley.  The wine that did it for me years back was the 2008 Abbot's Table - a fruit blend bomb that is a high performer at a good price point. Another favorite, and this weeks pick, is their 2009 Sinister Hand. This is a Rhone blend with a ton of dark fruit, pepper, and earth. This wine and a meat dish equals happiness.

The hand reference on the label made me go right to one of my all time favorite musicians, Charlie Hunter, whose hand abilities boggle the mind - or at least my mind. Playing the bass (3 strings) and the guitar (5 strings) simultaneously makes him a one man groove machine. If you get the opportunity, see him live..

Sláinte and happy Friday!

By Ben Heskett

Entering the World of Led Zeppelin is exciting for me, particularly when the question is what to pair with such an iconic, influential, heavy rock ‘n’ roll colossus. It’s also exciting because Zeppelin is one of my formative musical building blocks. An early, eye and ear-opening birthday gift from my sister was Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin III (Which in record format had a wheel you could turn embedded on the cover). The two albums represent sonic variations of the Zeppelin method – One steeped in English-style blues and heavy riffs, the other incorporating elements of so-called California rock and the mellower moods prevalent at the time.

But I digress, as usual. The beauty of pairing Zeppelin with wine – and this topic could be the source of an entire website on its own – is the versatility of the band. This has continued among members long after Zeppelin broke up in the early 1980s and is best exemplified by the varied solo career of uber front man Robert Plant.

Plant has aged well, in my view. Straying from the heavier notes of Zeppelin, Plant has in recent years become enthralled with American roots music. This is best exemplified in his work with Alison Krauss on “Raising Sand,” one of the most successful albums of 2009 (Grammy-winning, in fact). It continues with his latest solo effort, “Band of Joy.”

To accompany his own adventurousness, I think we owe it to ourselves as wine drinkers to go along for the ride and try out some big, full-bodied California Zinfandel, perhaps with some grilled meats to boot. A few options among my favorites:

Embracing the musical elements of Nashville and the South as a whole, such as the pedal-steel guitar and spartan, almost tribal use of the drums, Plant has re-imagined himself and forced the listener to expand their definitions of Plant as a vocalist and of some of the greatest songs in the Zeppelin catalog. One example is below, an interesting take on "Houses of the Holy" from his current solo tour (Which I will be attending later tonight at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, Calif.):


Jess Jackson: A Quick Follow-up

By Ben Heskett

In the aftermath of Jess Jackson's death at the age of 81 Thursday, much as been written. Perhaps the best retrospective on what is assuredly a fascinating life is the New York Times obituary on the founder of Jackson Family Wines. Retrospective elements are also posted on the Kendall-Jackson website, one of the leading brands housed under the Jackson Family Wines umbrella company name.

What comes through all of the coverage associated with a true wine industry maverick is a picture of a man with ambitions that matched his talent for following the American wine palate (As well as litigious tendencies, no doubt inspired by his legal background). His Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay started a California chardonnay craze, as the Times suggests. Further acquisitions expanded his repertoire and moved the company into higher-end wine categories.

But what I found most interesting is that he stumbled on his unique chardonnay approach by accident during the fermentation process, as noted by the Times, creating a slightly sweeter taste. As he once said, according to the Times: "I'm making wine for the consumer, not the wine writers." California may not see another wine industry magnate quick like Jess Jackson.


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Farewell to a Giant: Jess Jackson (Shown in the picture to the right), who turned an interest in wine into the billion dollar wine empire Jackson Family Wines (Commonly known as Kendall-Jackson), died today at the age of 81. His impact on the California industry was immense. Perhaps best known for turning his Chardonnay into one of the best selling white wines in the United States, Jackson also built a far-ranging wine company that included labels such as Stonestreet Winery and Arrowood Vineyards and Winery.

Go Cheap?: A recent survey completed by a psychologist indicates we may not know as much about what wine we’re drinking as we think. Richard Wiseman recently conducted a test of 578 wine drinkers at the Edinburgh International Science Festival and his findings are telling: People could only tell the difference between cheap and expensive white wine 53 percent of the time, 47 percent for red wine. Claret was the hardest to pinpoint, with only 39 percent of respondents getting it right. Time to focus on those $10 and under varietals, perhaps?

 Stressful Time of Year: The Napa Valley Grapegrowers’ Budbreak Conference underscored the reality that the spring is the most stressful time for grapegrowers and vineyard managers. Some good coverage here.

 Contribution to the Shameless Royal Wedding Hype: Here’s a cocktail to mix as you soak in all of the particulars of the wedding in television (4 AM EST, I believe, so pace yourself!).

 Sure Sign of Spring: One of our favorite Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandels, Girard Winery, released a quick, nifty video this week showcasing the steps the 2009 release goes through to go from barrel to blending tank at the winery. Watch below:


Donkey & Goat take L.A.

By Joe Colgan

On a recent Friday night, one of CORKZILLA's favorite wine shops in SF, Ruby Wine, played host to Jared Brandt - winemaker and proprietor of Donkey & Goat Winery. Two days later, one of CORKZILLA's favorite wine shops in LA, Domaine547, also hosted Jared for an afternoon of great wine. We were there to taste and speak with Jared about his approach to winemaking and the future of his winery.

Jared, together with his wife Tracy, run Donkey & Goat out of a small warehouse in South Berkeley, CA. Focusing primarily on Rhone varietals and Chardonnay, they source their grapes from three areas in Northern California - the Sierra Foothills, Mendocino County, and Monterey. Both Tracey and Jared are at the forefront of the natural wine movement, creating wines that are as minimally processed as possible. Before starting Donkey & Goat they honed their craft in the Rhone Valley where they gained an appreciation for the techniques of traditional old world winemaking. It was this experience that helped them create wines which can speak about the terrior they came from. 

At the tasting in LA, Jared brought five wines which represented Donkey & Goat's spring releases: 

2008 2008 Fenaughty Vineyard Syrah (116cs produced) $35

2009  Brosseau Vineyard Chardonnay (119cs produced) $40 

2009  "413"  Red Blend - Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache & Counoise (226cs produced) $32

2009 2009 "The Prospector" Mourvèdre (103cs produced) $28

2010  Isabels Cuvée Rosé of Grenanche Gris (191cs produced) $19

All of these wines showcased Tracey and Jared's quest for producing wines that develop naturally with limited human intervention. They don't adhere to the practice of creating the same wine year after year, which allows for constant exploration.  At some point this year, Jared said they plan on moving to a larger facility in Berkeley which will foster greater case production and a larger wine selection. CORKZILLA highly recommends adding Donkey & Goat to your collection. Small operation, great people, and fantastic wines created using natural practices. What's not to love?




'Zilla's Weekly Wine and Tunes Pairing

By Ben Heskett

Editor's note: Since the publication of this Wine and Tunes Pairing, Beady Eye has disabled the embedding function for the "Millionaire" video on its YouTube page, so it has been replaced with a live version. For purposes of the mood below, picture driving along the Spanish coast in a vintage Rolls Royce...Enjoy!

Thus far, my “Weekly Wine and Tunes” choices have trended toward the classics, whether versions of great rock standards or older tunes. This week I’m going to flip the script. For years, I’ve been a huge fan of all things Oasis. Though not approaching vintage offerings from his former band, ex-Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher’s latest effort, called Beady Eye, has put put out a decent tune that deserves to be heard. The video, filmed in Spain, is below:

Due to the ever-present Mediterranean sunshine in the video for “Millionaire,” let’s visit a Rioja that could go well with such a wonderful coastal drive. We got a good start last fall with a review of a Rioja tasting with friends, one of the first CORKZILLA posts.

As a follow up to those recommendations, I'll recommend a Rioja in the relative bargain category: The 2005 Beronia Reserva, which ended up as one of Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines of 2010. Check it out and let us know what you think.


By Joe Colgan

CORKZILLA is going to go big this week. Big song, big performance, and big wine. The first time I heard Jeff Buckley doing Leonard Cohnen's Hallelujah I was completely blown away and became an immediate fan. He took an already fantastic song and created his own hauntingly beautiful version that is deep in texture and expression. Buckley's delicate guitar approach on this track, combined with his trademark falsetto and vibrato range, creates a moment of perfect harmony and balance.

I'm going with a 2005 Jordan Cabernet to match up next to Buckley's performance. Born in Sonoma's  Alexander Valley, this wine is deep in color and has a dark berry and tobacco nose. The taste is a complex range of fruit, cedar, and oak that finishes very smoothly. A very enjoyable and balanced wine that mirrors what this song is doing.