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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

Entries in Cabernet Sauvignon (4)


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.


Celebrating Three New Releases

By Ben Heskett

NAPA VALLEY, Calif. – Release parties are largely marketing events for the latest vintages. But three such endeavors last weekend showed just how different these fetes can be. As part of a fun day in Napa, CORKZILLA visited the following wineries debuting their latest: Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Silver Oak Cellars, and Girard Winery. Some random thoughts:

Robert Sinskey: One of my all-time Napa favorites, Sinskey continues to produce solid vintages, with particular emphasis on Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons. Their latest release, the 2010 Pinot Noir from Los Carneros, Napa Valley, is a stalwart of the winery, a terrific example of Carneros Pinot. I can't recommend a release party at Sinskey enough, largely because their accompanying snacks are tremendous – carmelized pork medallions on this day. As some of you may know, Sinskey has long prided itself on the role of food in the enjoyment of wine.

Silver Oak: Wow. I had no idea. Ignoring the fine 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon release for a minute, Silver Oak certainly knows how to throw a large release party (Photo at right). I knew it was a bit more of a “happening” than most release shindigs, but the thousands of people in attendance blew me away. As far as the wine goes, the 2007 Napa release is a terrific vintage with an interesting combination of fruit and spice. Random fact? I did not know Silver Oak has used American oak since the 1970s.

Girard: An early taste of their 2009 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, scheduled for release this summer. Spring Mountain is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) of interest to the ‘Zilla and this wine shows why, with terrific fruit and tannic structure. For more detail, the Girard blog says it all. The winery paired the Cabernet flight they were featuring with some tasty bites – A terrific way to taste wines from these mountain regions.

In addition to the featured wines, the wineries also poured some other vintages. Among the highlights there:

  • The Robert Sinskey 2006 Marcien Proprietary Red from Los Carneros, Napa Valley, a Bordeaux blend that shows surprising layers and depth, with dark fruit and chocolate notes. Not what you might expect from a Carneros blend.
  • The Robert Sinskey 2005 “SLD” Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap District, Napa Valley, a classic Napa Cabernet with the expected fruit flavors along with some impressive earth tones. I’ve been drinking Sinskey Cabernets for years and am always impressed with the results.
  • The Girard 2008 Atlas Peak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, two terrific takes on Cabernet at altitude from another terrific producer I’ve enjoyed for years. They’re both young, but filled with terrific fruit – Two for the cellar.

A Long and Winding Wine Road - Spring Mountain (Part II)

Editor's note: This is the second of two articles based on a recent CORKZILLA on-site visit. If you missed the first installment, comprised of Pride Mountain Vineyards and Paloma Vineyard visits, you can read it here.

SPRING MOUNTAIN ROAD, St. Helena, CA -- Ending a wine tasting day at a fine Napa restaurant is a real treat. Waking up having tasted a fair amount of Napa's offerings is another story. Add a dash of camping, rather than a pleasurable resort and spa awakening, and it can be a slow morning. Undaunted, the CORKZILLA co-founders plowed ahead, packing up the tent and pointing the CORKZILLA-mobile back up Spring Mountain Road for our final visit of the weekend.


Terra Valentine (By Joe Colgan and Ben Heskett)

After a little coffee injection to get the morning started, we decided to check out another recommendation from Wine Spectator's June issue which reviewed several wineries in the Spring Mountain district.

From the moment you pull off Spring Mountain Road at Terra Valentine you can see why this place is referred to as a hidden treasure. The winding and hilly road to the winery takes you past beautiful plots of vines that are surrounded by native forest habitat. The winery itself looks like a European chateau (winery entrance at left), complete with stain glass windows and large wooden doors. Built by hand in 1970 by Fred Aves (a sort of Renaissance man who is credited with inventing curb feelers for cars), the winery sits at about 2,100 feet on Spring Mountain with a very impressive view. A good history and more photos of the vineyards and winery can be found here.

With an annual production of about 7,000 to 10,000 cases (depending on the crop), the winery's main focus is Cabernet Sauvignon. Grapes are cultivated on two Estate vineyards - the Wurtele Vineyard, which is 35 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon located at about 1,000 feet of elevation, and the 30 acre Yverdon Vineyard, which ranges in elevation from 1,800 to 2,100 feet and is planted mostly in Cabernet Sauvignon. The Yverdon Vineyard also yields small amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Riesling.

Our experience at Terra Valentine was nothing if not relaxing. The natural surroundings paired with being on the mountain in the morning air created a perfect vibe for tasting wine. After exploring the winery, our estate guide, Jeanne, led us into a very impressive library (pictured at right below) which served as our tasting venue; apparently the paneling within the library once belonged to William Randolph Hearst. It was here that we sampled a wide range of breeds and varietals - 2010 Rose, 2009 Riesling, 2008 (Amore) Sangiovese - but it was the flight of cabs that really stood out from the rest of the pack.  Their 1996 Wurtele Cabernet Sauvignon was the highlight of the morning, offering wild berries and oak on the nose and a bit of minerality adding to a full bodied palette. It's big and bold with a nicely paced finish. With limited supply left, we were fortunate to bring some home with us.

A hidden gem of the winery may be its suble Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, a restrained wine with less of the citrus and tropical fruit missiles apparent in a lot of contemporary SBs. The notes were light - A bit of pineapple, and some melon. An overall crispness makes it a perfect addition to any summer day or evening.

To top off a wonderful tasting experience, the Terra folks have nailed the elements required to truly showcase the wines - offering a well-thought-through cheese, nut and chocolate plate to go with each portion of the tasting. The CORKZILLA team was impressed with this additional element - many tasting rooms offer a bread stick here and there, but the thoroughness of each combination in this case was unique and impressive.

Overall, the wineries of Spring Mountain we visited offer the wine drinker an array of solid, if not always spectacular, red wines, with a few surprises along the way (see our white recommendations). Perhaps our favorite was the Merlot at Paloma Vineyard (a surprise to the CORKZILLA team), but several other interesting reds also stuck in our heads - a 1996 Terra Valentine Cabernet, the "young" Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignons at Pride Mountain. It is larger wineries such as Terra Valentine and Pride Mountain (Paloma could be viewed as the boutique entrant of the Spring Mountain visit) that face an ongoing challenge - how to keep the wine consumer coming back. By creating a continuing set of quality wines year after year, they're clearly on the right path and CORKZILLA looks forward to the great things to come.

From a certain perspective, Spring Mountain Road offers a Napa road less travelled. Though many wineries along the way are well-established, with all the usual wine tasting trappings, there is a certain laid-back atmosphere that’s a nice change from Napa’s bustling valley floor. At one winery, the CORKZILLA co-founders literally spent over two hours with the tasting room staff, enjoying the wine…and the scenery. At another, we were given an extensive tour of the caves while we tasting the wine. And at yet another, we were given a very, very personal tasting experience we will not soon forget. It's a far cry from some of the "churn and burn" techniques of some of the more popular Napa Valley tasting attractions. For that, we raise a glass to a fine weekend of exploration.


'Zilla's Weekly Wine and Tunes Pairing

Editor’s note: Wine and Tunes Pairing co-conspirator Joe Colgan is currently off the grid on vacation. His pairing will return next week.

By Ben Heskett

The world has innumerable problems. That much is certain. I don’t need to go through the laundry list of ills facing the Earth and its people. I would never compare the unfortunate situation I'm about to address to any serious issue, but it is ever-present. What issue is that, you ask? It’s the state of rock ‘n’ roll. I will resist a diatribe on the topic, but let’s face it – There’s just not enough good rock bands out there. Period.

Oh, the Foo Fighters may put out a decent song every once and a while and we can always count on some of our more indie-oriented sistren and brethren to contribute on occasion, but when was the last time a band literally made you open your eyes a little wider, made your ears prick up a little bit, and made you look around like you’re checking out a rare animal in the wild and you're making sure someone else sees it too?

I give you Rival Sons, a Southern, CA-based band I discovered while surfing music channels on television late one night. I was transfixed on the song posted below, called “Pressure and Time,” for its adherence to some of rock’s basics – A tough, world-dominating riff, a Robert Plant-like vocal performance, and a groove that can’t be ignored.


How to meld this type of song with wine could be a central topic for CORKZILLA until the end of time. It’s tough, but not impossible. Let’s face it, great rock ‘n’ roll played at a high volume does not necessarily make you think of a good bottle of wine. Beer? Sure. Whisky? Er, yup. But wine? To pair with a bone cruncher such as this, I think you need to delve into what you might be cooking while listening.

In my case, when I want it loud, I’m generally also wanting some sort of meat product – a steak or perhaps one of my famous pork chops. In that scenario, there is one call that rises above all others – A big, bold Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. For the purposes of this pairing, I’ll go with one of my favorites – the Heitz Cellar (Tasting room pictured above at left) 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet. I’ve chosen this one due to its cost relative to some of Heitz’s other Cabernet offerings (If you want to treat yourself, check out the Martha’s Vineyard vintage – Off the charts), but it still represents the best of Napa, with its dark berry fruit, tannins and long, velvety finish. This is a young wine that will only get better with age. If you can be patient, let it rest and evolve. If not, turn it up and pop the cork!