• In a barrel auction sale that might make more than a few Bordelais rethink their own en primeur strategies, Château Miraval owners Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie pulled down $13,650 for a single barrel of their Miraval Blanc, an organically farmed and vinified Rolle (more commonly recognized as Vermentino) from the Côtes de Provence AOC that is farmed through a partnership with the Rhône's Perrin Family, owners of Château de Beaucastel. While the number isn’t Napa Valley Auction-grade, it isn’t a bad sale when you consider that current bottlings of Miraval Blanc are selling just north of $20. The autographed barrel, a 228-liter model, equates to about 300 standard 750ml bottles, which would value the proud owner’s wine at about $45 per bottle, effectively doubling the wine’s market value. The invitation-only auction took place in Correns, a hotbed of the organic wine movement in France, and raised about $33,000 in total for the Sustainable Village Project, which is undertaking the rebuilding of Kivu, a region in the Democratic Republic of Congo that shares a border with Rwanda and has been devastated by violence over the past few decades.
• Sure, some manufacturers of fowl-hunting products are content to remain within the realm of decoys and duck calls. But the Robertson family, whose wildly successful Duck Commander duck call landed them on the A&E reality show Duck Dynasty, have bigger dreams. Never one to turn down an exciting opportunity (except for once, when he declined a contract with the NFL because the football games would have interfered with duck hunting season), Phil Robertston and his long-bearded kinsmen have leveraged the popularity of their duck calls into a Christmas album, Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas, which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 charts; three New York Times bestselling books, including Silas Robertson's Si-cology 1: Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty's Favorite Uncle; and a line of home furnishings, which come exclusively in the family's signature pattern, camo. Naturally, the next step for this ambitious brand's empire was a wine label. So Unfiltered was happy, happy, happy to learn that the Robertsons had partnered with Trinchero Family Estates to launch Duck Commander Wines, whose first offerings, launching Nov. 18 and all priced at less than $10, will include the Triple Threat Red Blend 2011, Wood Duck Chardonnay 2012 and Miss Priss Pink Moscato 2012. Said Willie Robertson, Duck Commander CEO, "We decided to create Duck Commander Robertson Family Wines because we know that many of our customers and our viewers choose to celebrate family moments with wine." Unfiltered has always found duck to be a very fine pairing with wine.
• Next week, the third annual Napa Valley Film Festival reels its way into town. The festival has expanded over the years to embrace the wine-and-food opportunities in Napa, in addition to the 125 new independent films that will be screened. Not surprisingly, there will once again be a few wine-themed movies on tap (Somm made its debut at last year's festival.), including Red Obsession, a documentary about China’s fixation on Bordeaux narrated by Russell Crowe. There’s also Dossier Zinfandel, which traces the history of Zinfandel, featuring Napa vintner Mike Grgich, and The Monks of Vina, a documentary on a brotherhood of Trappist monks who make wine. First-time filmmaker and Dunstan winery owner Ellie Price is executive producer of a film in the festival called American Mustang, narrated by Daryl Hannah and featuring Clint Eastwood’s daughter Alison. The movie takes a look at the threatened population of wild horses in America. There will be plenty of wine flowing as well. At the opening-night party, Benchmark Wine Group is pouring from magnums of 1983 Pétrus, 1966 Château Margaux and 2003 Diamond Creek. VIP winemaker dinners will be hosted by Napa producers like Hall, Favia, Chappellet and Alpha Omega. There will also be wine pavilions serving patrons by the screening venues, wine lounges, cigar lounges, a tribute to Colin Farrell and, Unfiltered's greatest weakness, celebrities drinking lots of wine.
• Massachusetts wine lovers have been waiting a long time for a decent wine shipping bill to come along. It seemed like things were looking up this spring when local NFL legend and Washington vintner Drew Bledsoe joined the fight. Massachusetts House Bill 294, which would allow both in- and out-of-state wineries to ship to Massachusetts residents (in accordance with the Constitution, something Massachusetts legislators have had quite a bit of trouble with when it comes to wine legislation in the past decade) has been floating around the state legislature all year, but it seems one man is standing in its way: Sen. Thomas Kennedy (D) is the chair of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, and it's up to him to allow the bill to receive a hearing. Wine consumer advocacy organizations like Free the Grapes and the American Wine Consumer Coalition have been ramping up efforts to get Sen. Kennedy's attention, as he hasn't given any indication that he plans to give the bill a listen. This isn't a new development for Massachusetts—the same thing happened to a direct wine-shipping bill there that was introduced in 2011, which happens to be the same year the wine, beer and liquor distributors donated more than $13,000 to Sen. Kennedy.
Update: The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure will be hearing four wine shipping bills, including HB 294, on Tuesday, Nov. 12.