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.
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).
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 Examiner.com 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:
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: