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Taittinger Toasts the SAG Awards

Plus, the duck-label war returns to Long Island and rears its beak in New Jersey, a wine auction aids Sandy victims, and vintner Lucio Mastroberardino succumbs to cancer

Posted: January 31, 2013

• Awards season rolls on and the bottles of bubbly continue to pop. A few weeks ago the glitterati were celebrating with Moët & Chandon at the Golden Globes, but it was an all-Taittinger affair at the Screen Actors Guild Awards this past Sunday night at the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center. Kicking off the festivities for the 13th time was the Champagne Taittinger Toast with Nurse Jackie star and ensemble SAG Award nominee Peter Facinelli and Taittinger artistic director and global ambassador Vitalie Taittinger. “Elegance, beauty, and passion define Champagne Taittinger and make the SAG Awards such a dazzling night," Taittinger said. "We are thrilled to toast to actors as their gifted performances have the power to move and inspire, like Champagne.” Taittinger kept the ceremony well-stocked with a "glorious ocean of Champagne": 160 magnums and 155 regular bottles of Taittinger La Française for the dinner and show, another 288 bottles for the post-awards gala and 220 half-bottles of Taittinger Nocturne for the legal-aged gift bag recipients. Taittinger also unveiled its new "bubble packaging" for the toast, with boxes bedazzled with golden hologram bubbles. This past Friday, Vitalie also hosted a Taittinger-sponsored Women in Hollywood luncheon at the Sunset Tower Hotel, where she entertained actresses Angie Harmon, Jessica Joffe, Cat Deeley, Radha Mitchell, Louise Roe and others.

Taittinger wasn't just at the SAG Awards to make sure none of the beautiful people went thirsty. Two 6-liter methuselahs of Champagne Taittinger La Française are being auctioned to benefit the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, which supports children's literacy programs, emergency relief for union members, preservation of union members' creative legacy and scholarships. The bottles were signed by SAG Award winners backstage after accepting their Saggies (actually, the nude statuette holding thespian masks is called "the Actor"). If you're interested, you've got eight days left to bid on the SAG Awards signed bottles on eBay (current bid: $811). Also up for grabs from the SAG Awards auction are a 6-liter bottle of Justin Isosceles 2010 ($260), two bottles of Mercury Alexander Valley The Messenger 2008 and Alexander Valley The Rocket 2005 ($41), dinner for four with sommelier Caroline Styne-selected wine pairings and autographed cookbook at chef Suzanne Goin's A.O.C. restaurant in L.A. (now going for $154 … This auction ends in a few hours! Why aren't you bidding on this?!) and a Nurse Jackie season 1 DVD with a pen that looks like a syringe ($13).

• It's round two in the war of the ducks, Duckhorn Winery of Napa versus Duck Walk Vineyards of Southhampton, N.Y. The issue: Duckhorn of California would like to be the only duck in the row. The two waddled a trademark battle to a federal court in 2003 and reached a settlement limiting Duck Walk production and geographic distribution. It also required Duck Walk to design its labels so that consumers would not mistake the New York wine for its more famous California counterpart. Ten years and several other label skirmishes later, Duckhorn is back in court again claiming that Duck Walk is not living up to its agreement. This is not your usual David and Goliath battle. Duckhorn, a national brand, may be well-funded, but Duck Walk owns 1,000 acres in the superpricey Hamptons and its proprietor, Dr. David Damianos, also operates the Island’s largest winery, Pindar Vineyards on the North Fork. During their first battle, Damianos told Wine Spectator, “It’s not confusing: Our duck is cute; theirs is ugly.” In Dundee, Ore., Duck Pond Cellars underwent a drastic revamp of its wine label after tangling with attorneys from Duckhorn. And Smoking Loon wine from Sebastiani Cellars in California started out in 1999 as Smoking Duck until it heard from Duckhorn. Silver Decoy winery, a small five-family operation in Hightstown, N.J., got a call recently from Duckhorn and is now facing a June 2013 deadline for a label makeover, according to Silver Decoy partner Jerry Watlington. Duckhorn produces a second line under the Decoy label and Silver Decoy had until recently been under the radar in New Jersey. Good showings by Silver Decoy in wine competitions this past year are the suspected culprit in bringing the label to the attention of the ever-watchful Duckhorn legal staff. The Silver Decoy partners have yet to create a new name and label design. Elsewhere, Calistoga, Calif.-based Lawer Family Estates' Duck Shack label is cleared for take-off, having gotten the all-clear from the almighty arbiters of all wines waterfowly.

New York City’s food and wine community was among the first responders in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Three months later, the superstorm is no longer front-page news, and according to John Ragan, wine director of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, that’s exactly why many New Yorkers need help now more than ever. To continue the relief effort, Ragan has organized DeVine Intervention, a fine wine auction that will run online March 25 to April 7. Supported by auction house Sotheby’s Wine, auction broadcaster Vortex Solution and wine transporter Western Carriers, DeVine Intervention will offer 250 lots donated by sommeliers, restaurateurs, importers, distributors and winemakers. 100 percent of the hammer price of each lot—with no buyer’s premium—will go to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. Wine lovers eager to contribute to the ongoing disaster relief can bid on collectibles from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Champagne Krug and Giuseppe Quintarelli, among other producers.

Lucio Mastroberardino, chief winemaker at his family’s Terredora di Paolo winery in Campania, Italy, died Jan. 29 after battling cancer. He was 45. Mastroberardino was the son of Walter Mastroberardino, who split from the family’s eponymous winery in 1992 and began bottling his own wines under his Terredora di Paolo label in 1994. In addition to his father, Lucio Mastroberardino also worked alongside his sister Daniela and brother Paolo. Terredora di Paolo is the largest winegrower in the region, with 500 acres planted to Aglianico, Greco, Fiano and Falaghina grapes. The winery’s Greco di Tufo Loggia della Serra, sourced from one of the highest vineyards in southern Italy, and Falanghina Irpinia have both twice earned a spot on Wine Spectator’s annual Top 100 wine lists between 2006 and 2011. At the time of his death, Mastroberardino was president of Unione Italiana Vini. He had also recently been appointed president of the local Consorzio di Tutela dei Vini d'Irpinia. Luca Bigerna, president of Vias Imports, the winery’s U.S. importer, released the following statement: “Everyone at Vias is extremely blessed to have been touched in some way by Lucio. Whether we have known him for 15 years, 10 years, five years or one month, we were able to experience a profound sense of his greatness, his artistry, his diligence and his soul. He portrayed the essence of dedication in everything he did, the way he worked, the way he lived, and the dreams that he had. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mastroberardino family.”

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