• Celebrities in the drinks business are Unfiltered's wine and cheese, if you will, so we were delighted when we learned that Drew Barrymore, the actress we've watched grow up, from E.T. to Poison Ivy to Grey Gardens, has recently turned her attention from the screen to the vineyard. Barrymore's eponymous new label debuts with a Pinot Grigio from northern Italy. The IGT Delle Venezie, currently available in California and with broader distribution planned throughout the spring, retails for $20, and the label, a stylized Barrymore family crest, was designed by Shepard Fairey. "I love wine, and it's always fun when you can do something in your work life that you love in your personal life," Barrymore told Unfiltered yesterday. "It seems very authentic to me. … Pinot Grigio has always been a love of mine. If I go to a restaurant, it's a safe, surefire bet and I love it." That sounds like good logic to us, especially coming from Tinsel Town (we'll also congratulate singer/actress Jessica Simpson this week for successfully not naming her soon-to-be-born daughter "Zinfandel," as she reportedly nearly did—a slightly less impressive triumph of sound reasoning). As for future additions to the Barrymore portfolio (who is rumored to be expecting herself—no word yet on varietally inspired baby names), she envisions taking her brand global, especially if it means including one of her favorite reds, Malbec. "Please, somebody from Argentina come find me!" she said. Extra terroirs of Mendoza, phone home … er, Hollywood!
• Washington winemaker David Forsyth has left Mercer Estates, ending his longtime association with co-owner Mike Hogue to launch his own label. ForsythBrio will feature Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings from highly regarded vineyards, including McKinley Springs in Horse Heaven Hills, Sagemoor in Columbia Valley and Kiona in Red Mountain. His first release will be 60 cases of a 2006 Cabernet from McKinley Springs, priced at $50 a bottle, followed by three 2007 single-vineyard Cabernets. Forsyth has been chief winemaker at Mercer since Hogue Cellars founder Mike Hogue and the Mercer family started that Yakima Valley-based winery in 2006. Before that, Forsyth was chief winemaker and director of winemaking at Hogue Cellars, starting in 1986. Mercer Estates, whose production reached 25,000 cases at its peak, is downsizing to 15,000 cases due to the struggling economy and problems cracking the national market despite critical acclaim for its wines. Forsyth told Unfiltered he plans to produce Cabernets sourced from a changing roster of top Washington vineyards. His style is to back off on oak and pick a little less ripe than others do, letting the vineyard identity emerge. “I want to say, this is what fruit from the Desert Wind vineyard in the Wahluke Slope tastes like, this is what Sagemoor tastes like,” he said. “Not everyone will like all the wines. But they will express those differences. That’s what makes those wines interesting and unique.”
• There's more depressing news from the widening world of wine crime today. Vineyard vandals in the past have been content to merely ambush-harvest a winery's crop, leaving the vines in tact. But March in France provides no hanging grapes, leaving this week's smash-and-grab only half complete. An unknown vandal, or gang of vandals, demolished 1,900 Merlot vines at Château Labat, an estate in Bordeaux's Haut-Médoc region. Owner François Nony told Unfiltered that the attack most likely happened the night of March 16. He has filed for about $16,000 in insurance, the value of the vines and a year of lost productivity. Nony, however, hopes that the decimated vines, which represented a third of their plot (Labat is 27 acres in all), will be back in form in a year or two, as he plans to replant immediately. As for who's behind this, it remains a mystery. ("Since the press has reacted, the police and the insurance seem more cooperative," Nony noted wryly.) Nony himself is puzzled by the motive. While he is vice president of the Cru Bourgeois Alliance, he sees no chance of any internecine sabotage within the "very peaceful" organization. "An ex-worker or just a bunch of hooligans would imply that they were motivated enough to do a six-hour job at night, which seems quite remarkable," said Nony. But if that's the case, Labat lost more than the vines: "If it's an ex-worker, I should have kept him, because his productivity is high!"
• Keeping up with the Joneses is an American tradition. And as Americans' tastes have matured over the past few decades, wine has become one as well. And for better or worse, reality TV seems here to stay. So it makes sense that housewives made famous on reality TV programs for jealously feuding over material things would be scrambling to have the most successful wine in the gated community. So far, Real Housewife of New York Bethenny Frankel's Skinnygirl brand is blowing away the competition, with six-digit case sales expected in its initial run. Last year Atlantan Housewife NeNe Leakes announced her Miss Moscato brand, capitalizing on skyrocketing Moscato sales and earning her an appearance on Anderson Cooper's Anderson daytime talk show. Real Housewife of New Jersey Teresa Giudice and her Fabellini showed up at the New York Wine Expo this month. And now we've learned that another Housewife of Atlanta, model Cynthia Bailey is the new spokesperson for P.T. Moscato. So be warned all you Real Husbands of America—the lady of the house is going to be insisting on her own wine label soon enough.
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