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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

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013 - A Quick Photo

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!




Shameless Plug Dept.: Science Project Gig in Pacifica

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.



Weekly Wine News Around the Web

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.


Jordan's Estate Tour Worth the Time

By Ben Heskett

The CORKZILLA team can't be everywhere, but we do try to point out some unique wine and vineyard experiences for you to enjoy.

The immaculate Jordan Vineyard and Winery in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, Calif., is well-known for its Bordeaux-style Cabernet Sauvignon blend, a consistently stellar performer across the years. Now Jordan has added an estate tour to its portfolio of wine tasting and tour options and we at the 'Zilla can’t recommend it highly enough, given what we’ve seen of the sprawling 1,000+-acre property.

The ‘Zilla doesn’t typically endorse particular tasting rooms or tours very often (though the Benziger vineyard tour in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, is a must for the basics of a winery operation) but we were moved by our Jordan property tour earlier this year (One corner of the property pictured below from Jan. of 2013 – Thanks for the tour, Lisa!). It’s a beautiful place that seems to go on forever. Plus, the staff clearly has some fun. Check it out.



Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Kiwi Sales Momentum: Sales of wine from New Zealand to the U.S. grew 13 percent in the last 12 months, according to the latest data (Map of New Zealand at left). The growth, as reported by the Shanken News Daily blog, is largely based on the continued popularity of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which accounts for more than 90 percent of imports to the U.S., the article said.

Vintage to Add Viansa?: Anyone familiar with the drive to Napa or Sonoma Valley has undoubtedly passed the hilltop Viansa Winery. Now that winery is up for sale for around $15 million, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, with Vintage Wine Estates expected to soon close a deal for the 50,000-case operation. A Vintage Wine Estates spokesperson declined to confirm the deal, according to the report.

Labor Challenges in Napa: As we celebrate Labor Day in the U.S. it’s worth noting the increasing issues facing wineries in Napa Valley, where rising wages, competition for workers and a lack of housing will present challenges moving forward, according to this report from Wines and Vines magazine. The news may present some new dynamics for Napa Valley, but it could be a boon for skilled workers in the area, the report said.

We Won’t: A critic at the Wine Advocate Magazine will stop reviewing wines from Friuli’s Fluvio Bressan after the Italian wine producer waded into an immigration debate in his country with a racist post on his blog. “If you are offended by rants… just don’t read them. If you don’t like me please DON’T buy my wines,” Bressan said in a subsequent blog post, as reported by Inspired idea.

“Smoke Taint” Worries: As if the wanton destruction of hundreds of thousands of beautiful, pristine California forest around Yosemite National Park were not enough, smoke taint from the so-called Rim Fire may now impact the harvest in Calaveras County, according to this report in the Calaveras Enterprise.

Big Year for Cooperage: In another clear sign that the American wine industry has rebounded fro m recessionary times, orders for new barrels are up, according to this report. What could be an issue going forward, according to the Wines and Vines magazine report, is high-quality wood. Barrel storage at the Jordan Vineyard and Winery in Alexander Valley, Calif. is pictured at right.



A Tribute to Grey Stack: Familiar Story for a Small Producer

By Ben Heskett

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- There was a noticeably absent winery at the recent Family Winemakers of California tasting here at the Fort Mason complex. Grey Stack Cellars, a small producer in Bennett Valley (a Grey Stack vineyard pictured at right) in Sonoma County, did not make it this year. Despite making one of the finest Sauvignon Blancs in the state, Grey Stack is suffering the same fate as many smaller proprietors – the owner has decided to go “on a ‘hiatus’ from wine production for the indefinite future.”

Proprietor Peter Young is a friend of CORKZILLA, having been part of the Sonoma State University class that helped launch this blog and, through the years, opening up his home and vineyards to us. His wine is tremendous, with the “Rosemary’s Block” Sauvignon Blanc, in particular, getting some of the top scores in California for the varietal. I also happen to think his Grenache and Syrah are phenomenal. As Peter said in an email announcement detailing the closure: “It turns out it takes more than good wine to make a financially successful winery. I have tried everything I could think of over the last four years to try to get Grey Stack through the transition from large hobby to successful business without a lot of success.”

And therein lies the problem. The wine industry is dominated by huge conglomerates that gobble up about 85 percent of the U.S. market. That leaves the scraps – roughly 15 percent of the market – to the boutique wineries, hobbyists and small producers to fight over. It’s brutal. Perhaps Young was not an astute businessman (not uncommon among those who prefer to make wine), but it speaks to a larger issue – how is the discerning U.S. wine consumer supposed to find unique, small production wine experiences if those types of businesses can’t thrive? This is a topic the 'Zilla will be returning to again and again.

As Young said in his announcement: “One of my biggest regrets is that I will no longer be able to supply my customers the wines they have come to enjoy. My only other regret is that these great wines from Bennett Valley probably won’t be made anymore.” Stay tuned for any news we may get as far as who takes over Grey Stack’s vineyards and production – these are grapes that deserve to be made into fine wines!

For those interested in any remaining Grey Stack wines, the website store is open, offering what’s left from the cellar. Good luck to you, Peter Young, and thank you for producing some great representations of what Bennett Valley, a little known corner of Sonoma County, can offer.



Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Wasted Wine: Australian wine company, Treasuary Wine Estates, is planning to destroy more than half a million cases of wine that has sat on shelves too long. More than $33 million of wine will be lost which equals about 500,000 to 600,000 cases of white wine that didn't move off the shelves as fast as company executives hoped, according to this report in The Press Democract. Treasury Wine Estates owns Chateau St. Jean, Cellar No. 8 and Souverain in Sonoma and it's Napa brands include Stag's Leap Winery, Beringer Vineyards and St. Clement.

Top WA Wines: Washington State ranks second in the United States in the production of wine, behind only California. Here's a quick look at some of the State's top wineries, published in this week's Puget Sound Business Journal. Wineries are ranked by gallons sold in 2012.

Eastern States: Wineries from North Carolina to Connecticut are a bit concerned as to how the 2013 growing season will turn out. A cool spring led to a later than normal bud break and the summer has been exceptionally wet. As Wines & Vines reports here, for September, sunny/warm days and cool nights until the end of harvest would make a big difference in overall wine quality - this according to Hans Walter-Peterson, viticulture extension specialist at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in New York. The article has a nice state by state forecast for the end of the 2013 growing season.

Crooked Winery Sales: According to Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization that monitors money laundering, it is belived that a few Chinese and Russian investors are hiding money gained illicitly by using investments in French vineyards, as reported here by Wine Spectator. Investigations reveal that foreign investors are devising ways to invest in wineries through complex legal structures based on multiple holding companies in tax havens and friendly countries that make it nearly impossible to determine the identity of the owner or the origin of the money, according to the article. 


Way, Way Outside Lands - Some Cool Links

As CORKZILLA readers, you've come to expect our attendance at the annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif. Well, for a variety of reasons it didn't happen this year, but that doesn't mean we won't share a treasure trove of videos and photos that recently appeared on the festival's website. It's great stuff. And, as a final note, it's great to see an amazing festival thrive in your city - From the music, to the food, to - of course - Wine Lands (Entrance from 2012 pictured at right). An awesome part of every summer. Keep supporting it everyone!


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Turn that Frown Upside Down: A new report indicates 22 states in the U.S. receive grades of “D” or worse when it comes to creating a friendly, welcoming environment for wine consumers (a Dry Creek Valley, Calif. vineyard is pictured at right). The 2013 version of the report, compiled by the American Wine Consumer Coalition, highlights some interesting data points and underscores the notion that many states still have “archaic laws” when it comes to the interests of wine consumers. A press release overview of the report posted on can be found here and the full report can be downloaded here.

Through the Proverbial Wine Varietal Fog: Some interesting thoughts on Riesling and Oregon Pinot Gris from one of our go-to bloggers, the always interesting Mike Veseth and his “Wine Economist.” In his latest installment, Veseth offers some thoughts on how to sell these sometimes misunderstood wine varietals in an ultra-competitive market. A good read.

A French Hailstorm’s Impact: A recent severe hailstorm has damaged vines across France, with the price tag for the weather event estimated at more than $125 million, according to this report in The Guardian. The larger houses and grand crus of Champagne and Bordeaux were largely spared the worst, according to the report. 

Duckhorn Looks to Expand: The St. Helena, Calif.-based Duckhorn Wine Company has purchased a Hopland, Calif. property that serves as the custom crush facility for the Rack and Riddle wine brand, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

A Review of Clone and Root History: A Sonoma State professor offered a good historical take on the relationship between some key California vine clones and their French roots, no pun intended. Read the article here.


Because We Can Dept. - A Great Summer Tour

As you know, we at CORKZILLA can sometimes get around to a few live concerts. Earlier this week, I took in the Tedeschi Trucks Band and Black Crowes show in Boston, a terrific double bill that should be on everyone's list if the tour is coming to your town. This is just a quick word-to-the-wise - It was a great night of music.

Below is an incredible version of "Angel from Montgomery" from a recent Tedeschi Trucks Band tour stop (without the Black Crowes) at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside Denver, Colo.

...And a recent Black crowes gem from the tour mentioned above (apologies, the audio is not the greatest):