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Brunello Destruction Puts Disgruntled Vandal in Prison

Why has the bitter victim resigned from the Brunello association? Plus, undercover foie gras spies in Napa Valley and a Carneros Pinot inspired by the Large Hadron Collider

Posted: March 28, 2013

• If you spill the wine, you'll do the time. That's the message a Siena, Italy, court sent to Andrea di Gisi, the man convicted for breaking into Montalcino winery Case Basse in December, opening the taps on 10 large casks of aging wines and pouring out 80,000 bottles worth of Brunello di Montalcino from the past six vintages. The crime left owner Gianfranco Soldera with almost nothing to sell. The court sentenced di Gisi to four years in prison. According to Italian press reports, he plans to appeal. Di Gisi was once employed at Case Basse and had told witnesses he was angry that Soldera did not provide him with lodging.

Meanwhile, Soldera has resigned from the Brunello Consorzio. He told an Italian newspaper that one reason was that he was offended by the organization's offer of wine donated from members' properties to create a special cuvée he could sell. Soldera felt this would trick customers into thinking that the wine was from his property. Consorzio vice president Donatella Cinelli Colombini refuted that in a post on her website: "The meanest thing is the accusation that the consorzio ‘proposed a swindling [of the customer].’ How could it be that the wineries give him a gift to help him in a difficult moment, thus creating a ‘solidarity Brunello,’ and he responds in this manner?"

California's foie gras kerfuffle continues. This month, the Bay Area-based Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit in Napa County Superior Court against Napa’s La Toque restaurant for violating the California state ban on the sale of foie gras that went into effect this past July. According to John Melia, an attorney for the ADLF, La Toque continues to serve the outlawed foie gras in defiance of the ban. Melia claims that an ALDF undercover investigator visited La Toque on three separate occasions and was told by staff members that if he ordered the “Chef’s Table Menu,” it would be accompanied by a serving of foie gras. According to La Toque executive chef Ken Frank, long a champion of what he insists is humanely farmed foie gras, the outlawed delicacy is indeed served at La Toque. But Frank claims that he does not “sell” the foie gras, which he legally purchases from Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York. He doles it out for free at his discretion to select guests. Since the law prohibits only the sale and production of foie gras, Frank claims he is not violating the law. “I am taking the high road,” Frank told Unfiltered, “and am trying to protest without doing anything illegal.” This is not the first time Frank and foie fighters have sparred: "I was sued by the Animal Protection and Rescue League [in 2012], and the court ordered APRL to pay over $12,000 of my attorneys fees," Frank said in a statement issued by La Toque. Frank remains an unabashed advocate for foie gras in the face of this new litigation: "There are a lot of chickens in Arkansas who’d like to be treated as well as the ducks at Hudson Valley," Frank told the Napa Valley Register.

California winemakers name their wines after everything from French puns to parts of the human anatomy. Until now, however, none that Unfiltered is aware of paid tribute to an elusive subatomic particle. Enter Boson Pinot Noir Carneros 2011, inspired by the international teams of scientists at CERN's Large Hadron Collider and their search for the Higgs boson (the so-called “God particle”), believed to be a basis of all matter in the universe. The wine is a collaboration between Samantha Sheehan of Poe wines in Anderson Valley and Steve Matthiasson, a Napa vineyard consultant whose clients include Spottswoode, Stag’s Leap and Chappellet. “It boils down to awe really,” said Matthiasson, 43, who makes his own quirky blends of rare European varieties and likens winemaking to physics. “When you become fascinated with wine you’re always trying to unveil truth and go deeper and deeper. It’s a very similar mentality.” Only 142 cases were made for the debut ($35); the 2012 vintage, sourced from a pair of vineyards in Carneros and the Russian River Valley, will raise the production up to 600 cases. James Gillies, chief spokesman for the CERN laboratory conducting the Higgs boson research said that the scientists are “thrilled” to inspire winemakers, adding, “We hope that current interest in the Higgs boson will translate into greater engagement between science and society.”

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