• The relatively young Sierra Foothills sub-AVA of Fair Play lost a member of its small community of about 20 family wineries earlier this week when a fire broke out at Oakstone Winery in the early morning hours of July 9. The cause of the fire is still being investigated, but foul play is not suspected. Owners John and Susan Smith opened Oakstone in 1997 after purchasing their vineyard on Slug Gulch Road in 1989 (that's slug as in slugs of gold, not the mucus-y mollusks: this is California Gold Rush country). John Smith estimates the damage to be in excess of $3 million, which includes about 4,600 cases of wine and another 14,000 gallons of wine in barrels and tanks. Sentimentally, Smith is saddened to see all the winery's local awards and citations go up in flames, "but those don't count very much—it's what you do this year and next year that matters," Smith said. "It's more of a transition than a tragedy," Smith continued, confirming his positive attitude about the whole thing, "Shit happens; life goes on!"
• Archaeologists in China have unearthed what may be the oldest liquid wine (residues have been found on older vessels) yet discovered. The liquid is in one of six bronze vessels that date from the West Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 771 B.C.) found in a tomb at a dig in the city of Baoji. The director of the archaeology team explained that the presence of liquid was determined by shaking the 3,000-year-old thing, a technique that Unfiltered remembers from its archaeology student days as one of the most effective ways of analyzing delicate artifacts, along with kicking them, sitting on them and hammers. Unfortunately, the tools for opening the mystery box were not available, so the vessel could also be an early Odwalla bottle or even the long-lost Heavenly Toilet of Eternity. One reason to suspect wine, however, is that the hoard also turned up a 3-foot-long rectangular "prohibition device," which the Zhou would place on tables to remind imbibers to drink in moderation, when no human buzzkill was available. (The previous Shang Dynasty was undone in part by heavy boozing at the top level of leadership, and wine had become a symbol of corruption and excess.) Unfiltered imagines the prohibition box inscribed with messages like "Isn't it a little early to start drinking?" "Don't forget you have work tomorrow," and "Go ahead, throw your life away—what do I care? I'm just a metal box."
• Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte has announced its first ever U.S. brand ambassador, actress Megan Hilty of the NBC musical drama Smash (inviting endless puns on the collaboration that Unfiltered is above using. Maybe …). Hilty, who the brand refers to as a "true Champagne enthusiast," said in a press release, "I'm thrilled to be associated with Nicolas Feuillatte, as I enjoy Champagne so much and the rosé is one of my favorites!" Following their first reading for the show's second season, the entire cast of Smash was invited to celebrate the announcement Tuesday night at New York's Bagatelle restaurant, where Hilty reportedly learned to saber a bottle of her favorite Feuillatte rosé. Presumably nothing (and no one) got smashed in the process. (Sorry.)
• Unfiltered has a feel-good follow up to our recent story about the controversial zip line proposed in Napa’s Mount Veeder. To remind you, Lighthouse for the Blind’s Enchanted Hills camp had proposed the zip line as a way to bring in revenue. Neighbors complained with traffic and wildlife concerns. We have learned the permit request has since been dropped, and a new group was formed, the Mount Veeder Stewardship Council. The Council said they will help Enchanted Hills in their search for funds. “We are looking forward to greater neighborhood integration,” a statement read.
James Yeamen — West Kingston, RI US — July 15, 2012 8:17pm ET
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