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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 Napa Valley (4)


Weekly Wine News Around the Web

Benziger Sold to The Wine Group: Sonoma Valley stalwart Benziger Family Winery has been purchased by The Wine Group, according to an article in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. Benziger produces nearly 140,000 cases of wine annually, according to the report, but will now join the third largest wine conglomerate. Price estimates for the acquisition range from less than $90 million to more than $100 million, according to the article. Interestingly, The Wine Group is best known for its value wines while Benziger specializes in premium and super-premium wines, along with a commitment to bio-dynamic farming in its vineyards. We’ll see how this works out.

3G Eyeing Diageo Takeover Bid?: Rumors continue to swirl that 3G Capital is intending to make a bid for beverage giant Diageo, according to this report. News of a possible deal evidently originated from a magazine in Brazil, prompting a jump in Diageo’s stock price. The man behind 3G, Jorge Paulo Lemann, has made several bets on food and beverage companies in recent years.

Wait…How Much Did you Pay for that Wine?: The annual Auction Napa Valley to benefit local charities raised $15.8 million recently, down from 2014’s $18.3 million. One bid, however, was a record – the $2.4 million paid for a single live auction lot from Opus One that includes wine as well as travel, according to this report in Wines and Vines magazine.

Small Harvest to Blame for Prosecco Shortage?: There’s concern among producers of that lovely bubbly alternative Prosecco that there could be a shortage due to a smaller than expected harvest in 2014, according to this report. Consumption has evidently skyrocketed in export markets such as the U.S., the Shanken News Daily blog reported. You’ve been warned!


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.



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.