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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

Coming to America: International wine merchants and traders, Bordeaux Index, have recently opened shop in Los Angeles with the goal of offering a wider range of top American wines to customers worldwide, according to this report from Decanter magazine. The new location will help target fine wine investors and drinkers in the US, as well as help feed overseas interest in the best wines California has to offer.

The Fake Wine Fight: Billionaire wine collector William Koch is escalating his ongoing fight against counterfeit wines to federal court in New York. Koch claims that expensive vintage wines he bought at auction in 2004-'05 were counterfeit, and although he was offered a full refund when the suspected wines he purchased were proven fakes, Koch is moving forward with the lawsuit to "protect the integrity of the fine-wine market", according to this report.

The 38 Percent: A mere 17 percent of the French drink wine every day now, down from 50 percent in 1980. Mon Dieu! More significantly, 38 percent of the French do not drink wine at all. Why? It’s a generational erosion, according to this BBC News report.

Appellation Battleground: The Santa Barbara, Calif. area appellation of the Santa Rita Hills, often known for its Pinot Noir vineyards, is in the midst of an increasingly common phenomenon – disagreements over American viticultural Area (AVA) boundaries.  A Santa Rita Hills grape grower wants to expand the current geographical boundaries of the appellation, according to the Wine Spectator magazine, and is being met with some opposition.

Future of Red Mountain: Washington State wine drinkers know the Red Mountain appellation well, but in order to manage future growth, planners are readying a strategy for future development, according to this Wines and Vines magazine report. The plan covers issues such as irrigation and land use.


Wine Blog Nominations Open!

It's that time of year again - Nominations for the 2013 Wine Blog Awards are open. As CORKZILLA is part of an eco-system of dedicated friends and colleagues in the wine industry, we'd like to encourage our readers to nominate those stories or blogs that rise to the top. Don't be shy - Make yourself heard! And good luck to those bloggers we've met along the way.


Time to Share a Bordeaux

In our capacity as an observer of the wine industry, CORKZILLA tries not to take sides, and in the case of the lawsuit by Robert Parker's (pictured at left) Wine Advocate wine ratings newsletter empire against former correspondent and heralded wine rater Antonio Galloni (made public this past week), we will continue that tradition. But it is worth noting that both sides work in an industry that champions the power of a couple of glasses or just the right bottle to ignite a meeting of the minds, either intellectually or socially. On that note, we'll provide some takes on the news from a few outlets we enjoy:

- Decanter magazine offers a lengthy take with some interesting perspectives from those in the industry and impacted by some of the allegations found in the lawsuit.

- Crack San Francisco Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonne summons a prior life as a legal reporter to ask a few worthwhile questions based on the lawsuit.

- Finally, The New York Times weighs in, following up on a recent post about Galloni's departure, and blog The Daily Meal adds its .02 cents.


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Jersey? Sure: Great soil, a warm growing season, and cool ocean breezes are the perfect components for making fine wine. It seems the Outer Coastal Plain, located in Southern New Jersey, has just the right amount of these components to make extraordinary wine, according this New York Times report. The problem is trying to convince the wine drinking world that great wine can come from NJ.

Cali Passes 200M Case Mark: The California wine industry continued its long-term growth trend in the U.S., with consumption rising 3 percent in 2012, according to this reportbased on data from Impact Databank. Wines priced at $20 and above continue to surge as the consumer continues to look for quality, in addition to value.

It Only Took 600 Years: Venerable Italian winery Marchesi Antinori is finally ready to open its doors to the publicafter more than 600 years in the wine business. The Antinori winery has built a new facility in Bargino, Italy for the public to learn about its distinctive winemaking process, according to Forbes magazine. In our view, it’s about time!

Crowd-sourcing in the Wine Industry: Let’s face it – the wine industry is an expensive business to be in when you’re starting out, with large upfront costs. The online crowd-sourcing phenomenon is fast becoming a component of raising capital, according to this Wines and Vines magazine report, helping small wineries grow.


'Zilla's Monthly Wine and Tunes Pairing

Editor's note: As is sometimes the case, the real world gets in the way of the 'Zilla's fairly flexible publishing schedule. So we present February's Wine and Tunes Pairing a few days late. Enjoy!

By Ben Heskett

The jazz world lost a great one recently when renowned trumpeter Donald Byrd passed away in early February at the age of 80. Byrd made his mark as a so-called “hard-bop” trumpeter who played with many of the jazz giants of the 1950s and 1960s, such as John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, but his evolution as an artist as his career progressed – exploring fusion with other musical forms such as funk and rhythm and blues - is perhaps his most potent legacy.

Jazz and wine clearly are an incredible combination. To underscore this point, fellow wine and music aficionado Christopher Watkins from Ridge Vineyards offered an inspiring tribute to Byrd following his passing on the winery’s blog. The ‘Zilla will not pretend to match such prose, but in tribute to the smooth player that was Byrd on the trumpet, I find it only fitting to choose a similarly silky offering from Ridge, one of the 'Zilla's go-to wineries. In this case we'll go with a rare offering, the 2009 Merlot.

The Merlot grapes are usually part of the winery’s always exceptional Monte Bello Cabernet-based blend, but 2009 proved to be a good year for a separate bottling. I admittedly could have cellared this wine for another 3-5 years and it would be the better for it, but I could not wait to open this Merlot now, a 100 percent pure expression of the grape from the famed Monte Bello Vineyard located at the winery’s Santa Cruz Mountains facility. Silky, sultry, and full of terrific dark fruit and spice.

To pair with this classic, I’ve chosen two compositions from Byrd – an early expression called "Three Wishes" from the “Free Form” album and a more experimental cut called "Xibaba" from a period when Byrd was moving into more jazz fusion, adding some interesting psychedelic elements in the process. Byrd also appears on a formative, innovative and influential hip-hop and jazz fusion album from the 1990’s that remains in heavy rotation at the ‘Zilla estate – Guru’s “Jazzmatazz, Vol. I.” Rest in Peace, Donald Byrd. You were one of the greats. Cheers!


By Joe Colgan

In keeping with the in memoriam theme this month, we'd also like to pay tribute to another great musician we lost in February, former Allman Brothers Band guitarist, "Dangerous" Dan Toler. Playing with the Allmans between 1979-1982, Toler was a monster lead guitar player who's style added a bit of jazz fusion into the mix of the bands very established Southern rock/blues sounds. Post the Allmans, Dan spent much of the 1980s playing with the Gregg Allman Band, touring and recording on Greg's hit, I'm No Angel in 1986.

After learning of Toler's death I revisited a concert film of Allman Brother's Band from 1979 - "Live in Gainsville, FLA". It's a film I used to watch over and over again back in the day and it's where I first saw Dan do his thing. The clip below is the Allmans doing "Whipping Post" - watch for Dan around minute 1:30

As a pairing to honor Mr. Toler's legacy of beautiful guitar work, I'm going with a bottle I recently opened and loved, Terra Valentine's 1996 Wurtele Cabernet Sauvignon. Hailing from one of the 'Zilla's favorite AVAs in Napa, Spring Mountain, the Wurtele offers intense wild berries, leather and oak on the nose with a bit of minerality adding to a full bodied palette. This wine is deeply dark, big and bold with a nicely paced finish.  



Weekly Wine News Around the Web

More than $3 Million Raised at Napa Auction: It was quite a weekend at the Premiere Napa Valley wine auction, with 67 successful bidders dropping just over $3 million on wines from the region, according to this report.

Critics, the Advocate, and Big Change: Change comes slow in the wine world, in many cases, but it seems to be percolating at a faster pace among the leading critic cognoscenti. First, Robert Parker (pictured at right) decided to sell his influential Wine Advocate ratings and reviews empire to an Asian concern, and now one of the publication's most recognized voices, Antonio Galloni, is striking out on his own. All of these developments leave the state of wine criticism and ratings at an interesting juncture, according to this San Francisco Chronicle report.

Unified Inspiration: One of our favorite winery blogs, from Paso Robles, Calif.-based Tablas Creek Vineyard, offered some interesting thoughts on surviving consolidation in the current wine market, as part of a post in advance of this year’s Unified wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento, Calif. Check it out – It’s a good primer from a Central Coast success story.

$1.4 Billion in U.S. Wine Exports: The world continues to love U.S. wines, particularly from California, with exports in 2012 up for the third straight year, according to this Los Angeles Times report. Perhaps most interesting, exports to China grew 18 percent, thought it remains a small portion of total exports at $74 million, according to the report.

Will It Blend?: Of course we all decant our wines. Perhaps not everytime we pop or unscrew a bottle, but when that bottle is a special one - or even if it's not so special but could use a little breathing room to try and make it better - we break out our aerating toys. Inventor / chef Nathan Myhrvold believes wine should blended to really release a wine's full potential, according to this NBC News report. Myhrvold feels that the practice will let the wine breathe faster through the oxidization of certain flavor compounds, vent pent-up gases such as sulfur dioxide or release other volatile components from the wine. The 'Zilla plans to give this idea a spin.

Mandela Wine: It was announced that the family of South African Nobel Peace Prize-winning former president, Nelson Mandela, will be introducing House of Mandela wines to the U.S. market at Miami's South Beach Wine & Food Festival according to this Miami Hearlod report. House of Mandela has a two-tier line with prices ranging from $13 to $51.

Brunello Expands U.S. Focus: After focusing on large U.S. markets such as New York, California and Florida, the promotional group behind Sangiovese-based Brunello producers is targeting additional markets in the hopes of expanding exports from Italy, according to this report. Brunello is viewed as a more reasonable luxury option for many consumers, the report said.

Spring Mountain Pioneer Passes: Knight Michael Robbins, a Napa Valley pioneer who founded the Spring Mountain vineyard, passed away recently at the age of 89, according to this report. Though he left the industry in 1992, his impact on the Spring Mountain appellation (View from Barnett Vineyards of Spring Mountain at left) located above St. Helena, Calif. was huge. The 'Zilla delved into Spring Mountain in a series on the American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 2011.


Recent Wine Travels in the Bay Area

By Ben Heskett

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – There’s been a diverse array of wine events here recently, and though CORKZILLA can’t be everywhere, we tried to stop by a few of the most interesting ones. Due to scheduling conflicts and perhaps a preference for smaller gatherings, the ‘Zilla eschewed larger tasting in this early part of the year like the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) Festival and the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition tasting this year, in favor of more intimate encounters with different varietals. Our notes from these confabs follow:

- It’s not often you can explore a varietal such as Riesling with a vintner who lives and breathes the grape, like Raimund Prum. A President’s Day luncheon at San Francisco’s RN74 (restaurant and wine mecca, thanks to Rajat Parr) showcased the wide variations in vintages among SA Prum wines, with particular emphasis on the famous Mosel region's Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard, comprised of vines up to 120 years old. Fabulous fruit, well-rounded on the palate, complex, with varied acidity depending on the year for a flight comprised of a 2004, 2006 and 2007. Later vintages poured were also expressive, with lower alcohol levels of 7.5 to 8.5 percent. A wonderful dessert flight is pictured at the right, including a sublime, exceptional and rare 2005 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Trockenbeerenauslese, also known as a TBA, featuring botrytised Riesling grapes. All in all, an interesting journey through Mosel via SA Prum, a winery with a vast history that continues to produce world class whites.

- Earlier this month, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays took center stage at the third annual In Pursuit of Balance (IPOB) San Francisco event at the Bluxome Street Winery near AT&T Park where the Giants play. Some of my favorite California Pinot producers were there, such as Anthill Farms Winery and Copain Winery, but I focused on the Chardonnay being poured at the event. Among the standouts: Arnot-Roberts, Hirsch Vineyards, Knez Winery, Red Car Wine, Sandhi Wines, and Varner Wines. Though they varied in terms of appellation, most if not all of the winery participants shared a worthwhile quality: not too much oak. It’s a manageable event that any lover of Pinots and Chardonnays should attend. There’s also an edition that takes place the same week in Los Angeles.

- An additional luncheon in San Francisco focused on Sardinia as a wine region and Sella and Mosca, now owned by the Campari Group, as a producer of a wide range of interesting varietals, including an impressive flight of Cabernet Sauvignons (2004-2006). In the “price/performance” category that the ‘Zilla loves to champion whenever possible, the Sella and Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva DOC 2008 for $12 to $16 per bottle hit the spot, an approachable, versatile Grenache that benefits from two years of aging in barrel. Check it out.

- Finally, last month, as part of an occasional trip to Sonoma wine country, the ‘Zilla had an opportunity to not only check out the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from Jordan Vineyard and Winery of Alexander Valley, but take a tour of the sprawling family property. The wines? The 2008 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon needs some time in the cellar to evolve, but includes the usual winery elements – depth and approachability, with interesting nuances based on the vintage and tweaks to the blend (which in 2008 includes 18 percent Merlot and 5 percent Petit Verdot). The Chardonnay was a nice change of pace, with a lot of apple throughout. The property? We’ll let the photo at the bottom speak to that – It’s an amazing 1,000-plus acres.


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Trinchero Invests $300M in Lodi: Trinchero Family Estates is expanding its footprint in the Lodi, Calif. wine country, adding space and machinery that will grow its annual case production to 30 million, according to this report in the Shanken News Daily blog. Current production is 20 million cases, according to the report. It’ll mean 400 additional jobs for the area, according to this take.

The Chinese Wine Century?: China is expected to be the sixth largest producer of wine by 2016, according to this report. The country is also expected to be  the second biggest wine consumer by the same time, according to the report, based on research completed by Vinexpo.

Legal Quacking: Duckhorn Vineyards of California has filed a complaint against a Long Island, NY-based winery called Duck Walk Vineyards for breach of contract , according to this On Reserve wine law blog post. The complaint stems from an agreement for Duck Walk to include its geographic region on its labels. By not doing so, the complaint alleges, the NY winery is creating “customer confusion.” This is one to watch given how many duck-related labels there are in the industry.

View from the Conglomerate: A good piece by wine blogger and Washington Post writer Dave McIntire about the impact on small wineries when they’re gobbled up by big alcohol conglomerates, such as, say, Constellation Brands. An interesting quote from Joel Peterson, one-time winemaker at Ravenswood, now part of Constellation: "There is no doubt that acquisition by a larger entity negatively impacts the reputation of a smaller winery…Frequently this opinion is unjustified. The wines that Ravenswood produces now are as unique . . . as they have ever been. The corporate input is strictly budgetary." This issue continues to be an intriguing one for small wineries.

Winemaker Archive: Napa Valley’s Shafer Vineyards has posted an archive of several columns by winemaker Elias Fernandez. Check it out here – There’s some interesting topics and information.


'Zilla's Monthly Wine and Tunes Pairing

Editor's note: My colleague's contribution to this monthly CORKZILLA feature is delayed so we'll get you started with one portion of the Wine and Tunes Pairing.

By Ben Heskett

The first month of this New Year blew past us a CORKZILLA. It’s been a busy start to 2013, and we’re just now catching our breath. During this portion of the year, I often look forward to hibernating over a good meal with an appropriate wine accompaniment.

To kick of this year’s Wine and Tunes Pairing feature in style, I’ll feature a terrific wintertime red wine from a favorite winery of ours. To go with those hearty winter dishes, such as the feast I cooked up for New Year’s Eve (liquid accompaniment at right), we’ll pop the Justin Vineyards and Winery 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Justin is one of the trailblazers along the Central Coast of California. Based in Paso Robles, just north of San Luis Obispo, Justin has been delivering world class Bordeaux-style wines for years, as Paso Robles has evolved into a wine destination for many from an oenophile backwater. Paso Robles is booming now, with hundreds of established and up-and-coming wineries, but Justin got a head start at its vineyards west of Route 101.

The result of a reduced 2008 crop due to weather fluctuations, the 2008 vintage of a Justin stalwart is made up of 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon grapes (not to be confused with Justin’s red blends). It’s aged in 100 percent French oak for 18 months and could easily be cellared for another five years or more. We couldn't wait.

To pair with this seasonal delight, I turn to a true legend, Bonnie Raitt, who released a stellar new album in 2012. I initially thought I would choose a song from that opus, but amid my YouTube travels I found an older gem that I believe is the perfect combination with a Justin Cabernet – “Angel from Montgomery” (a cover of the John Prine original). Her take reflects a soulfulness and a certain California vibe that is matched by this Justin vintage.

I’ve known for some time that Raitt could really deliver on this song, but it crystallized during a 2004 benefit for the quixotic Presidential campaign of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean in San Francisco. Raitt belted out a wonderful version. It was striking – The highlight of the show. Pair this Justin Cabernet with Bonnie and you can't go wrong. Cheers!


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Corked: CORTICEIRA AMORIM, the largest cork company in the world, is opening up shop right in the heart of Napa on February 1st. The U.S. arm of this mega stopper producer plans to operate it's sales and distribution efforts from a brand new 50,000 square foot energy-efficient facility, according to this piece from Amorim Cork America’s general manager, Pedro Fernandes, says “Building this facility is part of a strategic investment in the future of both the U.S. wine industry and the natural cork industry."

Wine's Future: It seems the world's wine industry is going to have to do some heavy lifting if it's going to make any headway in today's current global economic uncertainty, according to a new report by Rabobank which focused on the outlook for the global beverage industry in 2013. The wine industry will face tighter availability of global wine inventories, a soft consumer environment, and the need to continue developing many emerging markets, according to this report in The Wall Street Journal.

Australia's Wine Push: In an effort to spread the good word about wines from 'Down Under', the Australian government backed organization, Wine Australia, has launched a new campaign called 'Next Chapter'. The intent here is to bring awareness to the undiscovered side of Australian wine, varietals, regions, families and characters, according to this report in SFGate. In a campaign similar to what Greece is doing, Wine Australia aims to highlight the county's regional, boutique and historical/classic wines.

Wine Held Hostage By Sandy: Since Hurricane Sandy blasted trough the East Coast in late October, roughly 1,600 cases of top-notch wine has been the focus of a heated battle between the wine owner, restaurateur Keith McNally, and the storage facility that has had a tight grip on the bottles since the storm passed. The downtown Manhattan storage facility, WineCare, suffered damage from Hurricane Sandy and has yet to resume operations—or allow clients to access their wines, according to this report from Wine Spectator. Apparently WineCare has recently filled for bankruptcy which is leaving it's customers wondering when and if they'll see their wine again.