• For those of you Unfiltered readers just waking up from a coma, the New York Giants won the Super Bowl last weekend, defeating the New England Patriots in a highly anticipated rematch. And of course, Unfiltered is always interested to see what the champions celebrate with every time one of these children's games played by men concludes. This year the Giants made an interesting choice, but one Unfiltered can't fault, partying with newly single pop star Katy Perry, whose frequently changing hair was dyed a lovely shade of Giants blue. Of course, that party included Giants coaches and management, and the cool kids always sneak off to their own party for the good stuff, the cool kids being breakout star receiver Victor Cruz, retired Giants star Michael Strahan and hip-hop star Lil Jon, and the good stuff being a Nebuchadnezzar of Armand de Brignac "Ace of Spades" Champagne. The 15-liter bottle, priced at $100,000, was presented to Cruz in celebration of the Giants' victory at an Indianapolis pop-up version of New York's club Greenhouse. For Cruz, who barely makes the NFL minimum for second-year players, that bottle amounts to a quarter of his annual salary. Unfiltered wonders if he'd have maybe just preferred a raise after scoring the team's first touchdown Sunday and salsa-ing his way into America's hearts.
Once back in New York, members of the Giants were treated to more boozy gifts: Defensive end Justin Tuck presented everyone on the team a special-edition engraved bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label Scotch. Someone please just have a chat with defensive end Dave Tollefson, who apparently confused blue label with blue collar, telling the N.Y. Post it was "a working-man's drink … Johnnie Walker and some Coke!"
• Unfiltered takes as a rule that every inflatable bouncy castle operator harbors a terrible secret (this also applies to historical reenactors, artisanal food truck proprietors and post office workers who are friendly for no reason), so it came as no surprise to hear that a Toronto-area woman who operates such instruments of childhood terror has been accused of posing as a Ukrainian diplomat in order to embezzle wine from Ontario's beloved state-run liquor monopoly, the LCBO. In a delightful fusion of highbrow and low, former LCBO employee Francois Agostini is accused of funneling 1,618 cases of liquor to the fake diplomat, for an LCBO loss to the tune of 1.6 million loonies. The pricey booze was diverted to bouncy castle impresario/Ukrainian diplomat Andrea Smallwood/"Svetlana Petrovska," who then operated a healthy side business selling discounted spirits out of the back of her truck. The LCBO was reportedly alerted to the scheme by a trailer park resident who was resentful that Smallwood, her neighbor, had so much top-shelf booze.
• Unfiltered has been on the wine crime beat long enough to know the usual suspects when the Pétrus goes missing, so we're happy to report that the wine industry can sleep well tonight knowing two repeat offenders are off the streets. Theft-happy sommelier Mark Lugo and rotund arsonist Mark Anderson have finally been brought to justice.Or re-justice, in the case of Lugo, a former wine staffer at Per Se and BLT Fish who spent 138 days in a California hoosegow for theft of a Pablo Picasso. Lugo now faces sentencing in Manhattan for lifting several paintings and drawings from New York galleries and hotels last year, valued at $430,000. His M.O. was ingenious: Case the joint for weeks, create myriad disguises and concoct foolproof getaway schemes … no, actually he just walked in, took a painting off the wall and walked out. His devious scheme also fooled a wine store in New Jersey, from which he stole bottles of Château Pétrus on two separate occasions. (Who can forget his classic escape, when he fled the store while claiming the alias "Mark Hugo"?) Lugo pleaded guilty to grand larceny and faces a one- to three-year sentence.
Sausalito wine columnist and high-living embezzler Anderson gained notoriety for infiltrating and incinerating a wine storage facility in 2005, destroying 4.5 million bottles, much of it irreplaceable library vintages from small producers. Many vintners lost their livelihoods after the conflagration, and Anderson's sentence reflects the harshness of his act: 27 years in prison, which likely means life for the 63-year-old. (Already in poor health, he took the sentencing literally lying down, on a court bench.) In California wine country, no wine criminal escapes the long corkscrew of the law.
• From wine crime on to some literal wine and monkey business, Unfiltered can't resist wine-and-primate pairings. Whether they're lending their likenesses to critter labels or stealing tons of grapes from South African vineyards, we just can't get enough. We're especially into the monkeys of the Eastern Bloc, who appear to be unusually wine savvy. We first noticed it in Russia, then Budapest, and now we get word from Kazakhstan that the monkeys are drinking wine. According to a report by BBC News, zookeepers at Karaganda Zoo, in central Kazakhstan, have been feeding the monkeys a mixture of red wine, hot water, sugar and fruit, in order to ward off respiratory infections during the current cold winter months, during which temperatures have fallen to as low as –40° F. The prophylactic use of wine against illness is an old Russian [human] remedy, so it's no surprise that primates, so closely related to man, would get a dose of the same medicine. And, for the record, chief animal specialist Svetlana Pilyuk notes that pregnant and infant monkeys are not invited to partake of the grog.
• Unfiltered was on hand for another first for China in Bordeaux last week. Shen Dongjun, owner of cru bourgeois Château Laulan Ducos, became the first Chinese château owner to take an oath of everlasting devotion to the wines of the Left Bank when he was sworn into the Commanderie du Bontemps of the Médoc, Graves, Sauternes and Barsac. The Commanderie is best-known for two exclusive events, the Fête de la Fleur during Vinexpo and the Ban du Millesime during the futures tastings, and two competitions, the Left Bank Cup wine tasting competition and the Médoc Marathon. Despite the medieval robes, the Commanderie as we know it today has only existed since 1949. Trivia experts will know that "bontemps" refers to the wood bowl used by cellar workers to beat the egg whites used for fining, and the shape is the inspiration for the Commanderie’s caps, with their white tops a nod to the frothy eggs. Shen is following the emerging Chinese business model for Bordeaux: He has taken Laulan Ducos off the Place de Bordeaux and ships the entire stock himself directly to China—his website is now only in Mandarin. And the château serves as a swank storefront for a négociant business, the Laulan Wine Company, with plans to export other Laulan-branded wines to China.
• And of course the Chinese aren't the only ones capitalizing on the fast-growing wine market in the Middle Kingdom. California's Iron Horse Vineyards announced the creation of a special Year of the Dragon Chinese Cuvée last month. The vintage 2007 sparkling wine features a red and yellow label with the Chinese character for dragon on the neck and is printed in both English and Chinese. Iron Horse CEO Joy Sterling presented a bottle to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee last week. Sterling told Unfiltered Lee was happy to receive the gift because he "is planning a trip to China this spring and joked that the Iron Horse special cuvée might already be sold out by the time he gets there!" We also heard about a Chilean winery making news in the Chinese market this month, though we doubt they intended to become an Asian success story this way: Via Wines' Chilensis is apparently very close to some vary naughty words in Cantonese that we won't repeat here, outraging some, and reportedly delighting many more, inciting a run on the foul-mouthed wines from the Maule Valley at retail outlets in China and resulting in a 10 percent bump in price. Go figure.
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