If Roman Abramovich is used to anything by now, it's rumors and the resulting hefty price tags. Since the Russian oil magnate, worth roughly $14 billion, acquired Chelsea Football Club in England's Premier League, a familiar pattern has emerged: Once Chelsea is reported to be interested in bringing a soccer star onto the team, the price of said player rises to astronomical levels and Abramovich ends up retaining that player's services no matter the cost. (Most recently, he forked over $44 million for Ghanian midfielder Michael Essien.) Now Abramovich has his sights set on wine, according to Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA), which first reported on this. Last week, Abramovich visited several Italian wineries, including Lungarotti in Umbria and two Tuscan estates: Sassicaia producer Tenuta San Guido and Tenuta dell'Ornellaia. Abramovich wouldn't be the first foreign celebrity to jump into Italian wine, but he certainly could have a much greater impact. According to ANSA, Abramovich is looking for land with enough room for an olive grove as well as a vineyard. Don't be surprised if properties fitting this description suddenly hit the market with asking prices much higher than anyone ever imagined. For a guy who has spent about $500 million of his own just on soccer players, money's probably no object.
Lonely? Like wine? You may not have to go lookin' for love at the wine bar anymore. A new online dating service called Grapedates.com is up and running for wine lovers looking to connect over the Internet and, eventually, a glass of Merlot. To separate itself from all the other dating sites available, Grapedates includes a forum where wine-swirling singles can let each other know about upcoming wine tastings or dinners. Though the site is too new to tell how satisfied customers are, we'll know for sure that Grapedates was a success if several years from now we meet a kid named Cabernet and his sister Sauvignon.
It seems reasonable to ask why Bronco Wine Co. CEO Fred Franzia ever bothers to leave the courthouse. After five-years-and-running of litigation against the Napa Valley Vintners over the use of "Napa" in wine brands, Franzia now has another lawsuit to manage. Former production shift supervisors at Bronco facilities in Napa and the Central Valley allege that the company improperly withheld overtime payments and didn't allow them to take a full break. They claim to have sometimes worked shifts of 12-plus hours, seven days a week. Bronco denies any wrongdoing. Unfiltered has no personal knowledge of working conditions at Bronco, but we'd bet that the pace there is, well, a tad hectic. The company's Napa facility has a bottling capacity of 18 million cases per year. And its Charles Shaw label--better known as Two Buck Chuck--totaled 5.5 million cases alone in 2003, according to Impact Databank's 2004 U.S. Wine Market Report, and has continued to sell like hotcakes. It's a wonder anyone on the bottling line even has a chance to breathe.
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