It’s going to be an exceptionally exciting year here at Unfiltered. Election years always are. As has become our tradition, we’ll be making a few brash predictions for 2016 to kick off the new year. We don’t want to spoil the presidential race for anyone, but we can tell you about a little surprise that leading Republican candidate Donald Trump has in store for wine lovers …. But before we get to the juicy details of the near future, let’s first check and see how last year’s prognostications fared. (And if you’re understandably concerned that you just can’t keep up with all of the celebrities, criminals and esoterica that keep the world of adult beverages on its toes, we’ll happily deliver two full weeks of Unfiltered high- and lowlights to your e-mail inbox every other Friday—for free!)
Last year’s faux-Cristal ball (confiscated from convicted wine counterfeiter and Unfiltered Hall of Famer Rudy Kurniawan) revealed that Internet sensation Grumpy Cat, having just starred in her own Lifetime holiday movie, would introduce a wine brand—Grümper Veltlitter, perhaps? She took a different tack, introducing a line of not-so-fun party supplies and, last month, unveiling her own animatronic wax-and-fur likeness at Madame Tussauds in San Francisco.
We were a little closer to orbit with our prediction that NASA’s new Orion spacecraft program would lead to some lunar (and loony) wine-and-food projects from Danny Meyer, Guy Fieri and Paul Hobbs. Some folks may have looked at Meyer like he was an alien when he announced an end to tipping at his New York restaurants, and Fieri couldn’t even get his Sonoma winery off the ground, but we did discover that the Lovejoy comet is spewing the alcoholic equivalent of 500 bottles of wine a second. And on that encouraging note, we now boldly beam up yet another out-of-this-world wine forecast.
Five years ago, 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump purchased the 1,300-acre Kluge Estate in Charlottesville, Va., that would be rechristened Trump Winery. With 200 acres planted, it is objectively the yuuugest vineyard in the state, as well as the classiest and the best. In 2016, Trump will pledge to make American wine great again.
But Trump will also warn of the dangers of more and more foreign wines coming across importers and into our country. "They send the bad ones over," Trump says, accusing the governments of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and all the other winemaking countries of pushing corked wines, critter labels and Moscato on real American drinkers, leading many wine-loving uncles around the country to observe that Trump may be controversial, but if you listen to what he's saying, he actually has some good ideas. In 2016, Trump will propose a ban on all foreign wines "until we can figure out what's going on," and will go on to encourage Americans only to drink wines that can produce TTB documentation that they were grown, vinted and bottled in this country.
Trump has been especially vocal in his criticism of Spanish-speaking immigrants like chef José Andrés, whom Trump sued in 2015 for breach of contract, accusing Andrés of canceling plans to open a restaurant in a new Trump luxury development after Trump's incendiary remarks about foreigners. As the suit goes to court, Trump will claim Andrés was acting out in anger. "You could see habañeros in his eyes. Tabasco coming out of his … wherever."
One of Unfiltered's guilty pleasures in 2015 was HBO's hit new dramedy that critics loved to pan, Ballers. Season 1 starred Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a retired football star embarking on a second career as a financial planner for professional athletes. It's a service desperately needed by many young, newly wealthy sports stars, and one that can also yield acrimony when investments don't go the way an athlete hoped. Case in point: Future NBA Hall of Famer Tim Duncan filed a lawsuit against Terroir Capital founder Charles Banks in 2015, alleging that Banks, who Duncan had retained when he was just a rookie, "hustled" Duncan into winery investments and lost $20 million of his money.
Ballers, Season 2: The Diversified, the Vinified and the Vilified will be ripped straight from the headlines, starring Duncan as himself, The Rock as Banks and Duncan's wine-loving and winery-investing coach Gregg Popovich (played by season 1 star Rob Corddry) hilariously caught in the middle. As with season 1, celebrity cameos and expensive cars will abound, including Bill Harlan doing parking-lot donuts in his Tesla (as pictured in Wine Spectator's Nov. 15, 2015, issue cover story) and Dallas Cowboys superfan Adam Lee, having just sold his Siduri brand to Jackson Family Wines, rolling around in a giant pile of money and nearly inking a deal to buy the Cowboys from Jerry Jones, only to be outbid by the "King of Pinot Noir Sales" Joe Wagner.
The unexpected success of the wine-industry documentary Somm in 2012–'13 led to the inevitable in 2015: A sequel, Somm: Inside the Bottle, and a reality TV series that also followed a crew of wine professionals training for the Master Sommelier exam, called Uncorked, on Esquire Network. Not everyone loved the first Somm film, and many cast a wary eye toward this year's debuts, but the "Sideways effect" seems to be as influential on film and TV programming as it was on California Pinot Noir sales, and we can guarantee more wine on screen in 2016.
We already know that Matthew McConaughey is on board for a yet-to-be revealed role in the screen adaptation of Benjamin Wallace's Billionaire's Vinegar, but the movie everyone will be talking about in 2016 is Middle Man, starring Steve Buscemi as a warehouse manager for the totally fictional Southern Charm Beverage Group. Movie posters will feature an ominous tagline: "Winemakers make wine. Retailers sell wine. But only the wholesalers are brave enough to buy the wine from the winemakers and sell it to the wine sellers …"
Filmgoers will be riveted as Buscemi's character oversees the updating of Southern Charm's state price-posting system from typed forms mailed through the postal service to an Excel file uploaded digitally through the liquor authority's website, attempts to comply with anti-competitive behavior regulations and quietly makes the maximum allowable contribution to every single candidate running for every single office. Meanwhile, his apprentice (played by Kevin Hart) struggles to balance the stresses of wine distribution with study for the exam to achieve his life goal of becoming a Master Wholesaler. Can he pass all three rigorous components of the test: Theory, Bulk Discount and Forklift? Buscemi will earn an Oscar nod for his tear-jerking performance: "Someone has to mark up these wines, damn it! It's the law!"
• In 2015, it was reported that Champagne house Taittinger ventured "beyond the wall" to plant a vineyard in Kent, England, previously thought a frozen, inhospitable wasteland where no good winegrapes could grow. But in 2016, the Champenois will be repelled by a horde of pasty, gray-skinned, brutish, zombified creatures native to the land of perpetual winter, called "White Walkers," or "Britons."
• The last of the old "century vines" at the Robert Mondavi To Kalon Vineyard will die in 2016. In the attic above Charles Krug Winery, Peter Mondavi Sr., 101, tips over the king on the opposite side of an old chessboard. "Checkmate."