• Don't cry for me, Ribera del Duero: As the world economy continues to deflate, an increasing number of celebrities seem to be moving their money into a more rewarding form of investment: wine. Last week we told you about Sting's Tuscan project, and this week, Spanish actor Antonio Banderas is getting in on the action with a 50 percent ownership stake in Ribera del Duero winery Anta Bodegas, which will now be known, appropriately enough, as Anta Banderas. The prolific actor/director, whose numerous roles have included Che Guevara in the film version of Evita, alongside Madonna (who you'll recall has gotten into the wine business herself), and the voice of Puss in Boots in the animated Shrek movies, is a native of Andalusia, which makes Unfiltered wonder whether Sherry and olive oil might soon be added to the winery's lineup.
• Just a few weeks after word leaked out that the European Union was going to allow wine producers to make rosé by simply blending red and white wine, rosé producers who were pink-faced with rage at the idea have forced a compromise. The new rules are part of an effort to loosen winemaking regulations to allow European winemakers to better compete with New World winemakers. Most European rosés are made by crushing red grapes, letting the juice extract a bit of color and flavor from the skins, and then draining the juice off before fermentation. Under the new rules, cheaper table wines can be made with the blending method. But after rosé producers complained that this would weaken the image of rosé at a time when sales have soared, the E.U. came up with a compromise: Rosés must be labeled either "traditional rosé," meaning the old maceration method was used, or "blended rosé." Not surprisingly, the critics weren't calmed. "The problem with rosé is that many people have always thought that it was produced by coupage [blending]," said Christophe Delorme, who produces both Châteaunuef-du-Pape and Tavel rosé at Domaine de la Mordorée. "For decades our job has been to prove that rosé is a 'pure' wine. Now the only thing remaining in the memory of people will be: 'It's produced by coupage!' Politicians are a kind of cancer that spoils everything."
|This is what four years of waiting looks like.|
• A controversial new winery in Knights Valley finally got the thumbs-up this week from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, and Jess Jackson is pleased as punch. Jackson toiled for four years to get his new winery—Pelton House—approved in this remote corner of California wine country. While there are other wineries in Knights Valley, most notably Peter Michael, this will be the first and only with a tasting room, a feature that's the cause of the controversy. It seems that some neighbors had chilling visions of a Disneyland-style visitor center and tour buses jamming Highway 128, while others supported Jackson, whose Sonoma County wine empire includes Kendall-Jackson, La Crema and Arrowood. As part of the project, Jackson will restore a 150-year-old stone winery on the property and build a new production facility away from the highway. Jackson has been harvesting grapes from the property since he bought it in the mid-1990s, and the winery is expected to produce about 5,000 cases a year from 35 acres of vineyards.
|Finally, a Netherlands hotel that caters to hobbits.|
• Do you find that drinking wine makes you sleepy? If so, next time you're in the Netherlands, consider stopping off at the Hotel de Vrouwe Van Stavoren in the northern province of Freisland, where you can catch some shut-eye in one of four guest rooms situated in 15,000-liter wine casks imported from Switzerland. Each room has two single beds as well as an adjacent sitting room and bathroom. The hotel's proprietors have plans to add eight more "barrel rooms," the next installments to be supplied by Beaujolais' Château de Courcelle, as the unconventional barrel-recycling program has won over guests.
• This is the third year that Ron and Mary Bitner of Idaho's Bitner Vineyards have donated a magnum of their reserve Cabernet Sauvignon to the College of Idaho Gala Auction. Ron Bitner, a graduate of the college, says that normally a bottle brings in a few thousand dollars. At this year's auction though, on March 14, someone got carried away: The bottle, the low estimate for which was about $500 this year, sold for $10,000. What prompted the heated bidding? Bitner explained that the winning bidders were a group of trustees for the college. The bottle was signed by both the outgoing and incoming college presidents. "They're going to give it to Dr. Bob Hoover [the outgoing president] at graduation this spring and have a toast with it," Bitner said. This year's auction raised a total of $155,000 for the university's scholarship fund.
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