• World No. 1 men's tennis player Novak Djokovic has gotten pretty comfortable Down Under. He won the Australian Open for a record fifth time this month, and teamed up with Australia's Jacob's Creek winery for an autobiographical documentary series on the Serbian eight-time Grand Slam tournament champion. The Made By series, of which Djokovic is the debut subject, is a resurrection of another collaboration between Jacob's Creek and a tennis legend, the Open Film series, which starred Andre Agassi. It's all part of the Australian brand's "global tennis platform," which includes sponsorships of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the China Open. The series, which premiered in Melbourne in January and is viewable at MadeByJacobsCreek.com, is narrated by Djokovic, and covers his childhood in war-torn Belgrade through the fall of Yugoslavia, his tutelage under renowned coach Jelena Gencic and the fulfillment of his childhood dream of winning Wimbledon. The Made By films were directed by Brooklyn, N.Y., native Keith "Keef" Ehrlich, whose Made by Hand documentary series was a hit at the 2013 South by Southwest film festival. The Djoker has always been one of Unfiltered's favorites, more for his personality and famous impressions of other athletes than his overpowering baseline game, and viewers can see him attempting some Australian slang in the outtakes, giving his best shot at "Good on ya" and "Fair dinkum knackers," as well as trying to pronounce "Jacob's Creek" in Chinese. "I was inspired to partner with Jacob's Creek," Djokovic says in the film, "This is an opportunity to have such a strong partner to represent my story and myself and who I am."
• Sometimes it takes an unfortunate incident to remind us that wine is farming and farming requires pretty hard labor, but this story has a happy, if belated, ending. This week, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a statement that its Wage and Hour Division had investigated California farm labor contractor Manuel Quezada for wage violations against migrant workers during last year's harvest in Mendocino for Roederer Estate, which had been using Quezada's services. Quezada was cited for failure to pay workers at the required time intervals, failure to provide wage statements and failure to disclose working conditions to workers; 59 of them will now be receiving over $163,000 in back wages
Unfiltered reached Maisons Marques and Domaines USA (that would be Roederer) director of marketing and communication Xavier Barlier and he emphasized that the company itself was not found in violation of any DOL statutes, and that in fact the DOL investigation was concluded—"with our help," said Barlier. "We were surprised by the DOL findings. They came to us for assistance. In the Enhanced Compliance Agreement that we signed to monitor practices of our labor contractors, we are going above and beyond our legal obligations because it is important to us that all agricultural employees are treated fairly." Susana Blanco, director of the Wage and Hour Division in San Francisco, said, "This case strikes a fair balance between rectifying Mr. Quezada's violations and his and the winery's willingness to step up to the plate to correct violations now and in the future." Barlier told Unfiltered of Roederer's treatment of workers, "You don't produce a great wine without the collaboration of everyone."
• Winery vandalism has reared its ugly head again, this time in Australia's Barossa Valley. Early Sunday morning, someone entered Kellermeister Winery and opened the taps on four tanks, draining about 25,000 liters of Chardonnay from the 2010 and 2011 vintages, worth more than $200,000. The culprit's performance was caught on multiple security cameras, however, and it didn't take police long to apprehend a suspect, a 57-year-old man from Lyndoch. Winemaker Mark Pearce declined to comment on the identity of the man, but he's not crying over spilled wine. "We were really lucky," Pearce told Unfiltered. "We only lost two Chardonnay wine batches which were in tank, ready for bottling. We are fully insured for our loss." Pearce is simply glad that the vandal went for the Chardonnay and not for his more-expensive Shiraz lots (the "ultrapremium red wines," Pearce said, "are in a much higher-security area"). This destruction of wine marks at least the fourth incident of its kind in the last three years, following similar attacks in Tuscany, New Zealand's Hawkes Bay and the Languedoc. The good news, said Pearce, is that 2015 is looking tremendous in the Barossa. "We will make some cracking wines this vintage," he said. "I have no doubt we’ll be enjoying beautiful wines from this 2015 vintage long after we’ve all forgotten about the unfortunate loss of our wine."
• We’ve seen them all before: rustic deck furniture, barstools and the ever-present flower beds. All the natural if not predictable end-of-life reincarnations for used barrels in wine country. Indigo Greenlaw and Willis Rowe whose Marlborough, New Zealand, company is called the Paper Rain Project, have found a new destination for retired wine barrels: longboard skateboards. Each board is made from a few staves of a French oak barrel (their barrels come from Michael Seresin), and Greenlaw estimates that they can get about four boards per barrel. The staves are fitted and formed, with the natural slope of the staves creating the kind of relaxed geometry one associates with a longboard skateboard: low, easy and stable. Wine lovers who love to freeride can select from a few ready-to-go designs or have your own custom work applied to the boards, but what we at Unfiltered really like are the details: The top of the decks feature the pink stain of years of Pinot Noir production seeping into the staves, and the grip tape is made with ground-up glass from recycled wine bottles. The boards are available for shipping to the U.S. (and abroad) starting at around $200.
• Last week, the federal government approved a new American Viticultural Area (AVA) within California's Sonoma Valley, but as is so often the case with new AVAs, controversy is afoot. The Fountaingrove District AVA encompasses 38,000 acres of mineral-rich volcanic soils on the western slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains, wedged between the Russian River Valley AVA to the west and Napa Valley’s Diamond Mountain District and Spring Mountain District AVAs to the east. But Fountaingrove was also a utopian community founded in the 19th century by Thomas Lake Harris, where a winery operated on the 600-acre property under the stewardship of Japanese émigré Kanaye Nagasawa. The winery became very successful, with much of the wine being shipped to an exclusive store in New York.
Strangely, the now-abandoned winery, the main Fountaingrove properties and most of the old vineyards are not in the Fountaingrove District AVA. “I would say that around 95 percent of the Fountaingrove AVA is not in what people would even consider to be Fountaingrove,” said Rene Byck, vice president and co-owner of Paradise Ridge Winery in Russian River Valley, which is located near the original Fountaingrove property and has a current exhibition in honor of Nagasawa. “I just think it will now be more confusing than if they had named it something else; the name has kind of been hijacked.” The new AVA abuts much of the historic Fountaingrove property, which already sits in the Russian River Valley AVA, but the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) does not want subappellations to overlap as they have permitted in the past. There are 35 commercial vineyards covering about 500 acres in the Fountaingrove District AVA, and eligible wineries will be able to use the appellation name on labels beginning March 20.