No, it's not something out of a B-grade horror movie. May is Glassy-winged Sharpshooter Awareness Month in Napa County, and this giant bug is here to help. Volunteers wearing the oversized insect suit will appear in a public service announcement and turn up at fairs and farmers' markets to scare unsuspecting gardeners, landscapers and anyone else who purchases nursery plants on which the bugs may hang out. Agriculture officials in Napa came up with the attention-getting costume to help spread the word about the consequences of the vineyard pest gaining a foothold (or winghold?) in California's prime wine areas. Sharpshooter eggs have already been found four times each in Napa and Sonoma this year on plant shipments from infested areas in Southern California, where the bug has spread a fatal vine malady known as Pierce's disease. Maybe the county should also come up with a giant bug-swatter to follow the sharpshooter around.
Speaking of squashing bugs, U.K.-based Diageo, the world's largest alcoholic-beverage company, is trying to swat any rivals who attempt to challenge it in size. Last week, French firm Pernod Ricard and partner Fortune Brands announced a plan to buy Allied Domecq's spirits and wine labels, which would make Pernod the second-largest global drinks company. Not to be left out, U.S. wine giant Constellation Brands is trying to get in the game. In response, Diageo announced today that it plans to issue a global bond, worth $900 million, to pay off debts and raise some money. The company also said--and do we detect a threatening note in its tone?--that it has a substantial amount of cash available for a major purchase or two. It could even monetize its remaining shares in General Mills, if need be. With all those options, don't expect to see Diageo running second anytime soon.
What kind of wine goes with freeze-dried food? According to Russian news reports, cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov just returned from the International Space Station with the recommendation that astronauts be allowed to drink wine onboard. NASA bans alcohol on its space flights, but Sharipov--who returned this week after being on the station since October, during a period of troublesomely low food supplies and other problems--suggested at a press conference that having 50 milliliters of wine or Cognac a day would go a long way to making the job more tolerable. "But only to improve our work, to better cope with the psychological stress," he said.
|California wine icon Robert Mondavi gets a medal from France.|
While Mondavi seems happy at being in such exalted company, he's probably less thrilled by a different form of recognition. The protracted carnage at the corporation he founded may have largely ended with the December buyout by drinks giant Constellation Brands, but the postmortem analysis of those events--and the family drama at the center--is just gaining steam. Wall Street Journal contributing writer Julia Flynn is now at work on House of Mondavi, a narrative that will span 100 years of family history beginning in 1906 with the arrival at Ellis Island of Robert's father, Cesare. Publisher Gotham Books, a division of Penguin, inked a contract with Flynn last September for a roughly 250-page book to be released in fall 2007. With her first draft due next January, Flynn has so far written three chapters, bringing the account to 1966—the year Robert began his Oakville property, soon after being ousted from Charles Krug Winery following the notorious fistfight with his brother, Peter. We can't say if there will be many other Jerry Springer moments, but readers should be sated by the anticipated insider accounts of the recent corporate bloodletting.
Feeling sentimental about the 150th anniversary of Bordeaux's 1855 classification? You could bulk up your wine collection with more cru classés or you could spend that money instead on a series of silver commemorative medals being released by the Paris Mint, which has stamped France's coinage since the days of Charlemagne. After an international competition to find a designer, the mint tapped Magdalena Dubrocka of Poland to fashion the coins. There will be one coin for each of the 86 estates in the classification, with one side depicting Dubrocka's design of the château. The flipside is left up to the individual châteaus, which could add their label design or signature image, such as Mouton-Rothschild's ram and arrows. The commemorative coins, which will be available at www.monnaiedeparis.com, will cost about 40 euros each, about the same as a very good bottle of Bordeaux.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions