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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 Pinot Noir (4)


New Willamette Valley Pinot Entrant Delivers Balance

By Ben Heskett

I sat down with a dear friend recently to check out a new Pinot Noir entrant from the Willamette Valley in
Oregon. It’s the Elizabeth Chambers Cellar 2011 Winemaker’s Cuvee Pinot Noir, a well-balanced, slightly restrained blend that delivers if you’re looking for a good weekday wine to pair with a meal.

Elizabeth Chambers is a new entrant among Willamette Valley Pinot Noir producers, but the winemakers have a long history in the area. The company says it will initially produce 3,500 cases of wine, comprised in part of the aforementioned Winemaker’s Cuvee, and two announced single vineyard offerings from Shea vineyard and Freedom Hill vineyard.

Grapes for the blend are sourced predominantly from the Freedom Hill and Lazy River vineyards in the Willamette Valley.

My friend Nate Belden, a Sonoma County grape-grower, and myself initially were on the fence about this wine, but as it opened up it delivered a delicious mix of flavors, from plum and cherry to a hint of sweetness. The wine was aged 10 months in what the winery calls “predominantly used oak.”

This wine sample was provided by Gregory White, a marketing and public relations company, but our opinions on the juice remain our very own.

But don’t take our word for it, others have also weighed in on this new Willamette Valley Pinot Noir producer:

- The Pull That Cork wine blog offers some good background on the winemakers at Elizabeth Chambers and some good suggestions on how and when to drink it. 

- The wine gets four stars from an critic, who claims he’s “wanting more” after drinking it.

- The Amateur Gastronomer blog is also a fan, checking in from Georgia.

- Jeff Solomon of the Stay Rad wine blog also weighs in with this video tasting posted below:


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.


'Zilla's Monthly Wine and Tunes Pairing

Editor’s note: Due to the Labor Day weekend, CORKZILLA is posting the Sept. edition of our Monthly Wines and Tunes Pairing a week late, so that our readers can take it in as they continue to relish those last moments of summer. Enjoy!

By Joe Colgan

Labor Day is a symbolic signal for most Americans that summer has come to an end. But here in  Southern California, summer's grand finale is still a long way down the road. The temperature outside is cookin', the BBQ is working overtime, and baseball is still in full swing. With the very welcomed three-day weekend just past, SoCal CORKZILLA invaded the Santa Barbara wine country for some much needed rest and relaxation; Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez Valley, et cetera, are regions we hope to feature more on the 'Zilla in the near future. Here's an interesting update on the regions current wine climate.

Like last year's Labor Day installment of the Wine and Tunes Pairing, we're going to again go with a Sauvignon Blanc recommendation that has been working well with this sultry/airless/muggy heat that we've been experiencing lately. The 2011 Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, is a beautifully crisp and refreshing wine for a very nice price; $14. Slightly clear in color with grassy green hues, the wine has a subtle tropical aroma with citrus/apple and stone flavors creating a bit of a dry palette. A little high on the acidity, but it adds to a punchiness in the mouth that doesn't offend - at least we're not offended. It's light and deliciously satisfying on a cooker of a day. This weekend it's grilled fish and the Matua.  

To pair with the wine this month, I'm going with a discovery that occurred two days ago while searching the internets. The band/man is Reignwolf, aka, Jordan Cook. Residing in Seattle, WA, Reignwolf has been tearing up the Pacific Northwest with his unique style of blues & rock which he delivers with a tremendous punch. At first glance, you can make the the obvious White Stripes & Black Keys comparisons, but there's a soulful power and intenseness with this guy that's rises above in certain ways. Searing vocals, precise guitar leads, paired with a stack of classic amps behind him and a black 335, Reignwolf is pure Rock. Here's a sample.  


By Ben Heskett

It’s happening. You can almost feel the mood change, the weather shift ever-so-slightly, and the onset of Fall start to arrive. There may be many more fabulous days outside the San Francisco CORKZILLA office, but once September arrives, Labor Day weekend is but a memory, you know the change of seasons can’t be far off, as my colleague above astutely notes in his own pairing.

It’s been a blur of a summer, with road trips, vacations and events combining to create a whirlwind of memories and moments. The time just goes too quickly sometimes, but as we head toward October there is much to look forward to, particularly in the worlds of wine and music.

To accompany these waning summer days, I’ve chosen a truly stellar representation of what’s coming out of Oregon right now – the 2010 St. Innocent Winery “Villages Cuvee” Pinot Noir, a blend of the winery’s younger vineyards with its Vitae Springs vineyard fruit as a common backbone across vintages (65 percent in 2010). Production of this wine varies greatly from vintage to vintage due to the acreage dedicated to younger vines each year, according to the winery’s website.

I’d heard of St. Innocent’s Pinot expertise, but was turned on to this reasonably priced offering (retailing at $24 if you can still find it) as a result of a meal at one of my neighborhood favorites,  NOPA, a restaurant in the Western Addition/Divisadero section of San Francisco with an often interesting, exploratory wine list. It was an eyebrow-raiser, with terrific dark cherry and a lean balance you don’t often find in a Pinot at this price anymore.

Just down the road from NOPA is The Independent, an ever-present club space that has had many names and incarnations. In keeping with the neighborhood crawl, I’ll feature a Bay Area band that plays here often and a tune that has a bounce that reminds me of summer celebrations. ALO, for Animal Liberation Orchestra, has roots in both Santa Barbara and San Francisco, and has hit on a sound that is a great combination of rootsy, funky, jammy musical flavors, a blend as interesting - and a description as applicable - as our wine choice. This acoustic version of “Blew Out the Walls” from a visit to the Relix magazine building is a great example of ALO’s approach, with an electric version here offering a good counter balance.

As a side note, they’ll be part of the wonder that is the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, which takes place for free in Golden Gate Park over the course of a weekend in early Oct. Check them out if you can. Cheers everyone!


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.