• Unfiltered attended the New York premiere of Blood Into Wine, the documentary (and part mockumentary) about the efforts of rocker/vintner Maynard James Keenan’s and his vineyard partner Eric Glomski’s efforts to promote northern Arizona’s winemaking potential. As well-documented in Keenan’s former WineSpectator.com guest blog, the Tool and Perfect Circle front man has been making wine and establishing vineyards in northern Arizona for about five years with his Caduceus label. The film features no shortage of celebrity cameos, among them actress Milla Jovovich, comedian Patton Oswalt and Wine Spectator’s own James Suckling. Levity was provided in the form of several mock interview segments with comedians Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim and Bob Odenkirk. “Now tell me about the audacity where you would think that someone would want to see a documentary about you and the process to make this poison?” Heidecker deadpanned to audience laughter. After the screening, Keenan and Glomski were on hand to take questions, and Keenan also made a special announcement: Earlier that day, he proposed to his girlfriend, Lei Li, on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. She said yes, and we say salud!
• Wondering if the recession is over yet? At Acker Merrall & Condit's Hong Kong auction on May 28 and 29, any remaining signs of 2008's wine lull seemed nonexistent, as the auction brought in an impressive $19.5 million (HK$152 million). It was not only the largest Asian wine auction ever held, but the second-largest wine auction of all time worldwide in terms of volume and value, according to Acker's results. Over 19,000 bottles were available to bidders. Most of the lots came from a single consignor, dubbed "the Imperial Cellar." Record prices included a super-lot of Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux that went for HK$1,952,000 (US$250,578). The lot consisted of 96 bottles from the 1988 to 1999 vintages and was the highest priced lot of Jayer wine ever sold. Acker also offered a lot of 360 bottles (vintages ranging from 1978 to 2007) consigned by Château Margaux, which brought in HK$1,464,000 (US$187,933), a new world record for the Bordeaux first-growth at auction. The proceeds were donated to the Great Wall Society of China for the preservation of the architectural wonder. The Christie's May 29 auction in Hong Kong also produced some spectacular results, including the "Liquid Gold Collection," a super-lot of 128 750 ml bottles and 40 magnums of Château d'Yquem spanning three centuries. The lot sold for an unprecedented HK$8,040,000 (US$1,032,092) making it the most valuable lot ever sold by Christie's, the most valuable lot ever sold in Asia and a record price for d'Yquem. It seems, at least in Hong Kong, that the demand for blue-chip wine is unstoppable. Whether that amounts to U.S. collectors joining the purchasing frenzy is yet to be seen.
• Unfortunately, the other recent trend in wine auctions is concerns over counterfeits, and that specter was not absent from Acker's Hong Kong sale. Though not named in the catalog, the consignor of Acker's "Imperial Cellar" was Eric Greenberg, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and collector. Energy executive and collector William Koch is currently suing Greenberg and Zachy's in federal court over wines Greenberg consigned that Koch alleges are fakes. Acker president John Kapon would not comment on Koch's allegations against Greenberg, but in his promotion of the sale, he stated, "Seven of us spent two weeks in cold, dark conditions inspecting, cataloging, photographing the thousands of bottles. If we were not comfortable with the condition of any given bottle, we left it behind." Kapon won a legal victory against Koch on Tuesday, when a New York appellate court dismissed two of Koch's three claims in a separate lawsuit against Acker. The court ruled that Acker's catalog disclaimers, combined with Koch's failure to inspect five wines he says are counterfeits before he bid on them, protects the auction house from liability. Koch plans to appeal the ruling, and his allegation of breach of contract is still pending. The lawsuits are far from over.
• Here’s another one for the “flying winemakers” files: the brand-new Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Wine Club. Association president Craig Fuller has established the club as a way to raise money for the non-profit AOPA, while introducing its 415,000 members to the world of fine wines. A number of the bottles available to club members and the general public through the club’s website (http://www.aopawineclub.org/) include those made by winemakers who also fly aircraft for pleasure and/or in the course of their work. Those winemakers include John Trefethen of Trefethen Family Vineyards, Tom Burgess of Burgess Cellars, Ehren Jordan of Failla Wines, Heidi Barrett, who uses a helicopter to conduct vineyard visits for La Sirena, and her husband Bo Barrett, who flies himself all over the western United States to conduct business for Chateau Montelena. (Just please, don’t drink and fly.)
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