Since he released Sex, Lies & Videotape in 1989, Steven Soderbergh has been known for one thing: not being known for any one thing. He has effortlessly switched from indie films to big-budget crowd-pleasers (Ocean’s Eleven) to epic dramas (Traffic) to a documentary on Spalding Gray. More recently, he’s abandoned film for television. Given that track record, a new role as the importer of a Bolivian spirit almost no one in America has heard of isn’t that surprising. Soderbergh was at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans this month to promote Singani 63 (about $30 a bottle), an eau de vie produced from Muscat of Alexandria grapes grown in the Andes and distilled and aged in steel for six months to preserve the variety's aromas and delicate fruit flavors.
He discovered Singani liquor while filming Che in Bolivia in 2008. The local casting director gave him a bottle on the first night. “My immediate thought was, ‘Can he supply enough of this to get through five months of shooting?’” Soderbergh told Unfiltered. Back in the States, he decided to get an import license to keep his bar stocked and perhaps sell some to friends. “I knew nothing about importing alcohol,” he admitted. “I knew people who worked in bars.” But after navigating all the regulations, in 2012 he found he was the proud owner of 250 cases in a New Jersey warehouse. Since then, he’s been slowly growing the project like an art-house film release, cultivating mixologists in a few markets. And if nothing else, he enjoys drinking plenty of his own inventory.
This week, wine crime strikes Britain (or, perhaps more accurately, returns to Britain after the briefest of hiatuses) with a major heist from tip-top merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd that the Daily Mail described as "a success” and “impressive” (quoting a source). The $2.2 million job—on a merchant that has been in business since literally before the United States existed and has supplied the royal family’s cellars for centuries—took quite a measure of cheek, as the burglars tallied-ho through a 4-by-4–foot hole cut in the wall of the BBR warehouse with power tools before crawling under laser-beam motion sensors, Mission Impossible–style, to reach the loot.
“They knew which way the CCTV cameras were facing and either avoided them or climbed a ladder to move them,” an in-the-know source told the Mail. “And the hole in the wall was cut in the perfect place. It was only inches below the laser security beam. You could not have picked a better spot.” The thieves made straight for the boxes containing the best stuff and took about three hours to pass cases of Latour and Mouton, bucket-brigade style, from one to another to their getaway van. And then, right there at the scene of the crime, they popped a few bottles of Moët (presumably also pilfered rather than brought for the occasion) to toast their success in bringing significant financial damage to a respected business that employs hundreds of people around the world. Cheers, jerks.
Napa’s animal lovers raised $750,000 at the annual Wineapawlooza earlier this month for the Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch, a no-kill sanctuary for rescued companion and farm animals. It tripled the goal of last year's event. Hosted at Gamble Family Vineyards, the event began with a preauction tasting from more than 60 Napa Valley wineries and chefs.
At $107,500, the top auction lot was a collection of 80 magnums from wineries including Behrens Family, Robert Foley and Staglin. Another highlight was an evening with Russell and Victoria Bevan of Bevan Cellars complete with a Dave Matthews Band concert, which was auctioned off for $70,000. (Unfiltered readers will recall that Matthews, a Napa regular, has his own wine label, Dreaming Tree.)
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event supported the Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch (named for the founders’ rescued Great Pyrenees, Jameson). “We are so overwhelmed and humbled by the amazing generosity of our wine community and guests,” said Monica Stevens, JARR’s founder and executive director, in a statement. “The money we raised will help make it possible for us to have a permanent home in the next year."
Ron Rubin, founder of Sonoma's Rubin Family of Wines, has joined the list of supporters for the Wine Spectator Learning Center, the future home of the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University. The total of Rubin’s pledge was not disclosed, but the university officials said it was one of the largest gifts of the campaign to date. It will be used to build the Ron Rubin Student Commons, which is slated to open its door to students in 2017. Rubin, who has sat on the Wine Business Institute’s board of directors since 2012, told Wine Spectator sister publication Shanken News Daily, “This Learning Center is essential for creating the wine industry’s future leaders.”