Kendall-Jackson president Rick Tigner made his reality television debut last night on CBS' Undercover Boss, in which executives at large companies pretend to be new low-level hires to get a look at a typical day in the life of one of their blue collar (or no collar) employees. Having met Tigner, I have to say that the makeup and disguise made him fairly unrecognizable.
For a first-time viewer of the show, it impressed me on several fronts, perhaps most because it embraced the inner workings of the wine business. Most shows that cover wine still portray it as a romantic endeavor. Not Undercover Boss. Here are a few observations I jotted down last night.
Using wine as an investment vehicle, where the goal is to profit financially rather than just drink well, is about as tricky as playing the stock market. That is, it’s just as easy to lose money as win it. And if the past few years haven't made the risk involved painfully obvious to traders of either commodity, the recent Wine Spectator Auction Index numbers for Bordeaux should serve as another cautionary tale: The Chinese are no longer driving Bordeaux prices through the roof, and prices are dropping.
I didn't intend to write about corks again today. But last night as I opened a 1995 Beringer Howell Mountain Tre Colline Cabernet (which was excellent), the cork split in two and eventually crumbled.
The moment that cork split I remembered what I had promised to remind myself about opening older bottles of wine: Don't use a traditional corkscrew; use an ah-so.
The quality of corks appears to be taking a turn for the better. For the second year in a row, we encountered fewer "corked" bottles in blind tastings in Wine Spectator's Napa office than we did in the previous year. When we taste blind, we keep track of wines we think have cork taint, marking down any bottles that show the musty, moldy flavor often caused by 2,4,6-trichloranisole in the cork. This isn't a scientific analysis; we don't test every wine for TCA. But when we retaste a second bottle of the suspect wine, we usually find that the wine itself was sound. In 2011, out of roughly 3,400 bottles of California wine topped with cork, the percentage of "corked" wines dropped to 3.8 from 4.8 in 2010-the best year since we started tracking this. In 2009, nearly 7 percent of the wines were corked, and in 2007, it was 9.5 percent. An 8 percent rate would be equivalent to nearly one bottle a case, which is horrible.
Kendall-Jackson president Rick Tigner will make his acting debut Jan. 29 when he stars (if that's the right word) in the CBS show Undercover Boss.
According to a press release, viewers will get to share his experience as he works in the vineyards and cellar while wearing a disguise, including exploring parts of the winery never before seen on television. Tigner's upcoming appearance is another example of the wine world's increasing appeal as a prime-time crossover vehicle. PBS' The Wine Makers and Vine Talk attempted to capitalize on the increasing popularity of wine here in the U.S., but never quite reached the desired audience. Sonoma winemaker Benjamin Flajnik, however, grabbed the American reality TV audience last year on The Bachelorette, and parlayed that into his own starring role as this season's Bachelor.
Too little too late. That's one way to look at Sonoma County's new Fort Ross-Seaview appellation, approved by the feds late last year. It separates what most refer to as the "True Sonoma Coast"—from the Pacific to the edge of the redwoods—from the sprawling appellation that bears the Sonoma Coast name. But achieving notoriety for Fort Ross-Seaview may present a difficult challenge, particularly if the area's better-known wineries, such as Marcassin, Peter Michael and Flowers, choose not to use it. Marketing typically trumps appellations and the cachet Sonoma Coast presently owns among wine lovers will be difficult to overcome.
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