• Few thespians can carry a franchise like Antonio Banderas: Everyone loved Shrek, Spy Kids definitely existed and the code of Zorro was and remains a guiding set of principles in Unfiltered's life. So it makes sense that Banderas, a Spaniard born and bred, would invest in a serious winemaking operation with significant holdings and potential, with an eye on the long game. In 2009, Banderas purchased a 50 percent ownership stake in Anta Bodegas, an outfit in Spain's Ribera del Duero D.O. with 580 acres under vine. The winery itself is a unique wood-and-glass structure that has been awarded for the inventiveness of its design, and the wines are primarily red blends of Tempranillo, Cabernet and Merlot. (There is also a rosé and a Chardonnay.) Three years after his involvement began, Banderas launched the renamed Anta Banderas in the United States at last month's South Beach Food and Wine Festival, with a sold-out tasting of seven bottlings back to the 2004 vintage. The wines are still only available in a few states, but plans for expansion are underway. So far, they range from an entry-level Tempranillo in the $9 range to a $55 reserva. Naturally, most of the bottles are dressed all in black, with flourishes of red.
• Unfiltered checked out the New York Wine Expo this past weekend, where a few Wine Spectator seminars were included among the events and walk-around tastings. The Expo, held at the world's largest Rubik's Cube, otherwise known as the Jacob K. Javits Center on the far west side of Manhattan, is a fascinating potpourri of all things wine and (peripherally) wine lifestyle-related. The carnival atmosphere offered booths featuring wines from Finger Lakes wineries Dr. Frank, Red Newt and Fox Run juxtaposed with day-spa exhibitors and their beckoning masseuses. Côte-Rôtie and Crozes-Hermitage from Gabriel Meffre and Vidal-Fleury were poured steps from artists peddling hand-painted wineglasses and pitchmen challenging gawkers to slice a sad, soft tomato with their sharp, sharp knives. Riccardo Baracchi poured us a lineup of his outstanding super Tuscans while the buxom Magner's Irish Cider girls drew a different crowd. A lineup of 2010 New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs from Babich, Brancott, Craggy Range, Matua Valley and more showed beautifully … when the nearby snack station wasn't polluting the air with the overwhelming aroma of greasy microwaved eggs. We tasted Vintage and tawny Ports with representatives from Graham and Croft. And then the pushing and shoving started: Perhaps we should have known what to expect when a Real Housewife of New Jersey enters the room, considering the recent clamor over Bethenny Frankel's Skinnygirl wines, but this was the type of tasting melee normally reserved for the last bottle of Screaming Eagle. Yet there Unfiltered was, being wedged further and further from the evening's two-hours-tardy star, Teresa Giudice, and her new beverage, Fabellini, a bellini-style sparkling wine cocktail made at New York's Brotherhood winery. Turns out the claque weren't clamoring for Fabellini so much as the chance to take their picture with Giudice, confirming that the Wine Expo is as much about the wine as it is about the exposure.
• New York state wine lovers be warned—there's a pesky little two-word phrase trying to make its way into the 2012 state budget that could have a huge impact on New York wine consumers, retailers and wholesalers. The controversy centers around the "at rest" amendment to New York's alcoholic beverage control laws (Senate Bill 2473, sponsored by Republican Sen. George Maziarz, and Assembly Bill 2981, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Joseph Lentol)—the "at rest" phrasing would require all wine sold by New York distributors to retailers and restaurants to be stored within the state of New York for at least 48 hours before being distributed. Currently, most of the wine offered by New York's smaller distributors—read: everyone other than Southern Wine and Spirits and Empire Merchants, the state's two largest distributors—is stored in New Jersey. Constance Oehmler, CFO of Verity Wine Partners based in Manhattan, told Unfiltered today that there are more than 4 million square feet of space rented out to small New York distributors in New Jersey, and if the amendment were to pass, there simply would not be the physical space required to move all that stored wine into the New York City area, even if it were economically viable (she said the increased costs of storage here would add approximately $5 to the price of every case of wine). "If this amendment passes, [Verity Wine Partners] will no longer exist," Oehmler said. "I'll be living in a tent in Central Park," she half-joked. "And I don't want my 41 employees and their families forced to live in tents next to me." Opponents of the bill are encouraging New York residents to contact their representatives and "say no to at rest." The amendment is scheduled to go to a vote this Monday, March 12.
Jack Alexander — Orange NJ — March 17, 2012 6:05pm ET
Robert Taylor — New York, NY — March 17, 2012 8:38pm ET
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