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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

A Few Thoughts on the SOMM Documentary

By Ben Heskett

SAN FRANCISCO -- I sent out a quick tweet after I recently saw SOMM, a documentary film about the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Master Sommelier exam, but I thought it worthwhile to offer a couple of further thoughts. As someone who is trying to carve out the time to study and successfully complete the Certified Sommelier exam at some point this year or next (the second level in the exam series), the Master Sommelier exam is beyond my reach, my palate, and my overall capabilities.

I would suggest, however, that the documentary is a worthwhile use of two hours of your time, and I found myself wondering if the publicity associated with the endeavor will forever alter this most prestigious and difficult of exams. My sense is the organization will adapt accordingly, so that the Master Sommelier exam retains its exclusivity. But I also wonder how many aspirants will now devote countless months of their lives preparing for the exams, no matter the talent.

These are interesting questions to track as the years go by. Will we continue to hear that one or two Master Sommelier exam takers have passed? Or will the documentary usher in an era in which the volume of exam takers will possibly result in more that pass. Given the historical statistics, I hope not, but it’s worth watching. And so is the movie – A wonderful view of just how crazy some “cork dorks” can be. Check it out and feel free to check in with your thoughts...on the documentary and the exam.


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Mid-Year Wine Business Check: As usual, the Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division weighs in on some mid-year hot topics in the wine industry, including such things as a lack of water and continued heat waves impacting crop size for the year. Rob McMillan is always a good read and his insights are significant as we head toward August.

The Natural Jump: Olive oil producer Colavita plans to partner with Terlato Wines for a line of super-premium wines scheduled to debut later this summer. The wines, to be sold under the Colavito label, will be comprised of familiar Italian varietals, such as Pinot Grigio and Valpolicella Ripasso, as first reported by the Shanken News Daily blog.

Wine Power Rankings: One of our favorite wine business blogs, the Wine Economist, has an interesting take on Decanter magazine’s wine industry “power rankings” issue. The list is compiled every other year, according to the post, and showcases a lot of what’s changing and not changing in the industry.

Pondering Chardonnay: Here’s some good insights from Steve Heimoff’s blog on the evolution in the perception of Chardonnay and where in California you can find the best of the bunch. He also delves into just how Chardonnay sometimes gets a bad reputation.


Happy U.S. Independence Day Everyone!

On this Fourth of July, we take a look back at a couple of archival Wine and Tunes Pairings of the recent past. We at CORKZILLA hope you have a safe and happy holiday. Enjoy!

- A look at a few white wines from a July Fourth barbeque in Sonoma in 2012.

- A Pinot Noir and a Syrah paired with tunes by Jackie Greene and The Band in 2012.

- A couple of gems paired with Ray Charles and Keb'Mo from 2011.


Stones Roses Documentary - Look For It!

It'll likely be hard to find on a screen in the United States, but we're extremely excited about the release of "Made of Stone," a new documentary covering the history of seminal Brit rockers the Stone Roses. Though they never really "made it" in the U.S., they're revered in many other parts of the world, and certainly influenced a great many up-and-coming bands that came after, including the likes of Oasis. They're first album is a classic. Check it out if you can. Here's the trailer:


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

UK Hungry for More CA Wine: A recent English summit held to promote California wines determined the United Kingdom market is ripe for new entrants, according to this report. There’s a lot of interesting perspectives here, but what I never knew was this: The top 5 wine brands from California in the UK account for 80 percent of all U.S. volume sales there, according to Harpers Wine and Spirit Trades Review magazine. The leading brands are as follows: Blossom Hill, Gallo, Echo Falls, Turning Ridge, and Barefoot.

New Record for Napa Auction: This past weekend’s Auction Napa Valley set a new record for the event, generating a whopping $16.9 million from various exclusive wine lots and related items, such as trips, according to this report in Decanter magazine. Proceeds from the four-day event go to local non-profit organizations. The event is organized by Napa Valley Vintners, a trade organization.

Interesting Notes on Labeling: Two recent blog posts offer thoughts on related, but different, strategies on labeling on wine: A label stripped of variety and place of origin, with only the name/branding of the wine standing out, and a U.S.  label focused exclusively on the appellation, a la France, over varietal.  Both Mike Veseth’s Wine Economist post and Tom Wark’s Fermentation blog thoughts are worth reading.

China on the Move: Chinese investors continue to swoop in and pluck prime vineyards across the globe, in these latest cases finalizing deals in Marlborough, New Zealand and Bordeaux, France. Two Decanter magazine reports dive into the transactions: Here’s the Bordeaux deal, and this is the New Zealand purchase.

Jackson Continues Drive Toward “Premiumization”: Jackson Family wines is an interesting company to watch right now, with the recent passing of its visionary founder, and new strategies for an always-changing market. The company plans to increase its presence in higher-end Pinot Noir and add a new varietal to its popular La Crema line, according to the Shanken News Daily blog. There are some other good tidbits to chew on in this report as well.


A Quick BottleRock Shot

By Ben Heskett

A word on the inaugural BottleRock Napa music festival (Willpower stage photo at right) held at the exposition ground in Napa, Calif. I only attended the Thursday slate of bands, with hopes dashed of a Black Crowes - Furthur back-to-back mindbender when Furthur's Bob Weir decided he needed a break and the band canceled. Nevertheless, the diversity of acts was impressive (ALO, Primus, Avett Brothers) and the use of space at the expo was inspired. The Black Crowes remain at the height of their powers, delivering a pure set of rock 'n roll that will long be remembered in the valley. If I was to quibble, I would make the wine component of the festival more WineLands-like, with a central place to feature wineries adorned appropriately, but the different wineries represented was terrific. I was in more of a beer mood at the time, I will say. The festival will be back next year with organizers announcing a three-day approach over the weekend of May 9-11.



Weekly Wine News Around the Web

PA Backs Off on Privatization: Anyone who’s spent time in Pennsylvania knows it’s a hassle to procure wine and spirits – Stores are state-controlled and, like similar states, have an interesting approach to customer service, hours of operation, location, and many other key consumer issues. Well, it looks like privatization is on ice in the state, for now, according to this report, with a modified approach preferred by the state’s Senate.

Meditation on Terroir: One of our favorite winery blogs by Tablas Creek Vineyard reflects on the genesis of the term “terroir” and its increased importance in the wine industry, particularly among so-called new world appellations. It’s a great read, delving into the history of terroir and its growth as an essential element for many winemakers and drinkers.

“Parkerization” a Myth?: Wine critic of all wine critics Robert Parker has criticized the notion that there’s been a “Parkerization” in the wine industry so that wines suit his tastes, according to this report. Parker says his tastes remain “complicated and varied,” the report said.

Northwest Vineyard Buys: Two purchases in Oregon highlight increased vineyard buyout activity in recent months. According to two reports from Great Northwest Wine newsletter, Bacchus Capital Management of San Francisco, Calif. purchased Panther Creek Cellars and Precept Wine of Seattle, Wash. bought the Yamhela Vineyard in Oregon’s Yamhill-Carlton appellation. Terms were not disclosed.

Editor’s note: The ‘Zilla has been offline for a bit, but we wanted to share the following older news stories with our readers.

Advocate Settles with Former Critic Galloni: The lawsuit filed by wine-rating newsletter the Wine Advocate and its founder Robert Parker against former critic Antonio Galloni has been settled out of court, according to this report. As previously reported, the lawsuit attracted a lot of attention in the wine industry due to the prominent personalities involved.

Land Loss: Some startling results from a study done by researchers at the University of Texas were released last week which suggests that land suitable for growing grapes will disappear between 25% to 75% in major wine producing areas throughout the world by 2050 due to global warming. The study is the first to combine the impact of global warming on wine regions, according to this report from Decanter magazine.



'Zilla's Monthly Wine and Tunes Pairing

Editor's note: The CORKZILLA team has been woefully behind schedule in terms of our Wine and Tunes Pairing publishing lately. Let this serve as a March/April edition of our signature feature. We'll offer another edition in May. Appreciate your readership!

By Ben Heskett

SAN FRANCISCO -- The recent Rhone Rangers tasting here included its usual sumptuous reds, refreshing, crisp whites, and a smattering of resurgent rose. In light of this festival of Rhones, CORKZILLA will get you ready for spring wine drinking as part of this month’s Wine and Tunes Pairing by featuring a few of our favorites (We'll call it a flight) from the tasting – a departure from our usual modus operandi of picking a single bottle to pair with a musical composition.

I’ll highlight a few options that tickled my taste buds at the annual Fort Mason event, now given increased importance in the region with the end of the Hospice du Rhone wine event in Paso Robles, Calif. I've whittled it down to three after initially listing five finalists, focusing on wineries you may not be familiar with. It was a terrific year at the Rhone Rangers event, full of distinct, high-quality wines that left a good impression. The diversity of styles within American Rhone varietals at this moment in time is notable. It was tough work, but someone had to do it. Here they are:

  • AmByth Estate 2010 “Priscus” Grenache Blanc: A Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, and      Roussanne white Rhone blend that offers a rich, complex experience.
  • Villa Creek Cellars 2011 Garnacha: A 100 percent pure Grenache expression with good tannic balance.
  • Miraflores Winery 2009 Estate Syrah: Focused fruit-driven Syrah, with grapes grown on hillside vineyard at 3,000 elevation in the Sierra Foothills of California.

I’ve left a few of my musical favorites in the files to be used for special 'Zilla occasions, and this Wine and Tunes Pairing is just such an occasion. To go along with our diverse mix of Rhone-style goodness, I will turn to one of my all-time favorite songs – “Fearless,” by Pink Floyd off their “Meddle” album, which ended up offering a synthesis of the band’s early years of exploration and more than hinted at the genius to come. In fact, the ‘Zilla has gone to the “Meddle” well once before for a Wine and Tunes Pairing, with a May 2011 edition featuring another mindbender, “Echoes.”

With uplifting lyrics, a psychedelic build, and a chorus at the end featuring the Liverpool FC (soccer team, for those American readers) Kop Choir singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Fearless" is a tour de force that stands the tests of time. It's an appropriate accompaniment for Rhone wines, since these varietals offer a depth, diversity and complexity rarely found. Cheers!

For some additional coverage of the always worthy Rhone Rangers event here, check these diverse entries from fellow wine bloggers:

- The Solosyrah blog reviews a number of Syrahs from the event, focusing on more balanced versions of the varietal. Some good insights here from Cyrus Limon.

- The Enofylz blog focused on the abundant Rose’s at the Rhone Rangers event, offering some good recommendations.

- Not directly connected to the recent Rhone Rangers San Francisco event, but nevertheless related, the Simple Hedonisms blog offers a feature on Bonny Doon Vineyards, its charismatic founder Randall Grahm, and the recent release of its white Rhone blend. Additionally, Steve Heimoff offered his thoughts on a surge in interest in the Grenache Blanc varietal.



SSU Cellars - Celebration at Kokomo Winery in Dry Creek

Those of you who read CORKZILLA frequently probably know that the roots of this endeavor can be traced directly to a wine class on the campus of Sonoma State University in Northern California. A grad uate class called Wine Business Experience at the school started producing an annual vintage and, as a result, they're celebrating next weekend at the Kokomo Winery in Dry Creek Valley, Calif. Here's the details:

WHEN: Saturday, Apr. 20, 1-4 PM

WHERE: Kokomo Winery, 4791 Dry Creek Road at Timber Crest Farms in Healdsburg, Calif.

RSVP: Contact Dana Swilley at SSU at (707) 664-3347 or


Rollin' and Tumblin' at the Terrapin Spring Rambles

Occasionally the 'Zilla feels the need to share a particularly awesome moment related to music, wine, or, frankly, otherwise. Our latest comes from the Friday, Apr. 12, star-studded "Ramble" at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, Calif. The venue is the brainchild of former Grateful Dead bass player Phil Lesh and his wife Jill. The latest series of rambles includes Luther Dickinson, from the Black Crowes and North Mississippi All-Stars, along with Anders Osborne and Jason Crosby, among others. It was a great night of music. In the below photo, blues guitar virtuoso Dickinson is playing an amplified tin can with two strings during a raucious version of "Rollin' and Tumblin'" (video  of the North Mississippi All-Stars version embedded below the photo).