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UC Davis Receives Historic Mondavi Archives

Plus, West Coast vintners come to the aid of wild mustangs, another European vintner sets up shop in China and another winery grows in Brooklyn

Posted: June 17, 2011

• America's premier enology school scored a monumental donation from the family of America's most famous vintner this week. The children of Robert MondaviMichael Mondavi, who now runs his own eponymous estate, and Marcia Mondavi Borger and Tim Mondavi of Continuum Estate—have donated more than 40 boxes of materials belonging to their late father to the University of California at Davis. The papers and photos include Robert Mondavi's correspondences with wine industry leaders and former California Gov. Gray Davis, hand-written speeches (one of them for Julia Child's 90th birthday party) and photographs of Mondavi and his family dating back to his college days at Stanford in the 1930s. Experts in the special collections department of the UC Davis library will now spend the next year cataloging and organizing all of the documents in preparation for a public exhibit next year, and the archived collection will be available for research by both students and the public thereafter. "This collection is a terrific addition to our library," professor emeritus and acting librarian Randy Siverson told Wine Spectator. "We already have one of the world's most comprehensive collections in viticulture and enology and this gift will add further luster to it."

• Like the bald eagle and the buffalo, the wild mustang is an American icon. Also very American of mustangs: They are immigrants, descended from domesticated Spanish horses, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The number of wild equines has been reduced from over 2 million at the start of the 20th century to less than 30,000 horses and burros (wild donkeys) spread out over 10 western states today. Fortunately for the remaining mustangs, those states are populated by some horse-loving winemakers. Ellie Phipps Price, owner of Sonoma County’s Durell Vineyard and Dunstan-Durell Wines recently put up most of the $31,000 it cost a horse-rescue group to assure that wild horses rounded up by the BLM weren't sold to slaughterhouses. (The BLM pegs the number of horses that available American grassland can sustain at the current number of 30,000; as an invasive species with no natural predators, their numbers have to be controlled.) Price adopted three colts herself and keeps them pastured at Durell. Last year a Washington winery, 14 Hands, whose name was inspired by the state's wild horses, partnered with Return to Freedom, a charity organization that provides sanctuary to many captured horses, to provide cash donations and wines for fund-raising events. Wild Horse Winery in Templeton, Wash., has partnered with Return to Freedom as well, as has Sculpterra Winery in Paso Robles, which will host a wild horse benefit this Saturday in the winery's sculpture garden.

• China's wine country looks like it could soon be getting crowded. China has taken over as the hottest market for high-end wines in the past few years, and a growing number of vintners around the world think they can soon cash in on China's domestic wine market as well. Domaines Baron de Rothschild (Lafite) has 60 acres in Shandong Province, Louis Vitton Moët Hennessey has a project in in Ningxia and Rémy Cointreau's Dynasty Wines joint venture has been around for decades. Next up? Mihalis Boutaris, the scion of Greece’s foremost winemaking dynasty (and son of winemaker-turned-politician Yiannis Boutaris, who was recently elected mayor of Thessaloniki). Boutaris has teamed up with state-owned Mogao winery in Gansu Province (northwestern China) to form China's first Sino-Hellenic wine venture. Boutaris says the mountains of Gansu Province resemble the mountains of northern Greece, where his family got its start, and he thinks the sunnier, drier climate of Gansu is capable of producing grapes with more intense flavor and greater disease resistance than those of the more humid, warmer winegrowing regions on China’s coast. The new winery, Moen Estates, is located along the Silk Road near the westernmost outpost of the Great Wall of China. According to Boutaris, his Sunshine Valley label wines are intended as an affordable luxury for the rising middle class of discerning Chinese.

• New York City’s best-known winemaking and custom-crush facility is Manhattan’s City Winery, but when it comes to urban wineries, Brooklyn may soon be the top destination in the Big Apple. In the past few years, Red Hook Winery, Brooklyn Oenology and now Brooklyn Winery have come onto the scene. The last of these debuted its inaugural vintage, 2010, for Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir last week. Since the only crop that grows in Brooklyn is pizza, the grapes had to be sourced from elsewhere, and though the winery has fruit from Napa to Mendoza in the pipeline, its first offerings hail from the Finger Lakes and Russian River Valley. (Winemaker Conor McCormack is no stranger to California grapes; he's a transplant from Napa’s Crushpad.) At the release party, guests enjoyed music, morsels and a visit from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. In an impromptu speech, Markowitz admitted that in the past, when he had thought of things Brooklyn was missing, a winery was not among them. But the borough president and enophile welcomes the development, as both a winery and a terrific event space. Indeed, among others on hand at the party, Unfiltered ran into the carpenter who installed all the wood paneling that classes up the walls, and the embossed tin roof is original to the historic building that houses the winery. In its most recent previous incarnation, the space was a sketchy nightclub; McCormack pointed out the duct that once belched foam for foam parties. Brian Leventhal, one of the owners, and McCormack both favored the Chablis-style Chardonnay, though an informal survey found that all the wines had admirers. And though clients can make their own barrels of wine, like at City Winery and Crushpad, McCormack also relishes the freedom he has in experimenting with house wines. One new limited release is an “orange wine,” a Chardonnay fermented on its skins for three weeks. McCormack characterized it as a wine customers order “one” glass of. But he knows his clientele: A Brooklynite will try any wine once.

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