Search the 'Zilla
'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 Terra Valentine (2)


'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.  



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.