Which is better, the book or the movie? When it comes to Napa icon Robert Mondavi, we'll get to decide soon enough. Robert Mondavi: A Man & His Dream will air on KRON Channel 4 in San Francisco on Oct. 23 and nationally in 2006. The documentary is the five-year project of Paul Chutkow, who co-wrote Mondavi's memoirs, Harvests of Joy. The film version of Robert's life has some things going for it that the book didn't, such as conversations with those closest to Constellation's 2004 acquisition of Mondavi Corp. for $1.3 billion. The film also gets into more detail about some of the famous Mondavi family feuds, as several family members were interviewed, including Peter Mondavi, with whom Robert had a long-running battle. "You get an inside look at the family dynamics that are not as simple as a straightforward success story would be," says Chutkow. "Robert is a very interesting guy. He's bigger than life. He has enormous capacities, and he has some enormous Achilles' heels, and all of those are going to be on the screen." Even viewers who aren't enophiles will get something out of the documentary, Chutkow claims. "Robert Mondavi transcends wine. He's an American pioneer. He has left a deep and lasting imprint on the cultural landscape of both Northern California and America as a whole."
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Unfiltered has come across numerous places that seem odd choices for growing wine grapes, but this one beats them all. In western Finland, at roughly the same latitude as Alaska, grapegrower Jukka Huttunen is tending a small vineyard planted in the shadows of the cooling towers of the Olkiluoto nuclear power station. According to Bloomberg, the grapes are a Latvian variety, and the warm water from the plant's cooling system helps the vines kick off their growing season early. The project has been going since 2000, when Huttunen, backed by an agricultural firm, found that other crops couldn't survive the harsh soils or winter. His releases--this year's production totals 80 bottles--are routinely sampled at Olkiluoto events. Though the cooling water that runs through the vineyard is not radioactive, it's doubtful that the wine produced will make it far beyond Olkiluoto staff parties. Bloomberg reports that even Helsinki sommeliers seem skittish about trying to sell a wine with that mixture of soil, vine and climate in its pedigree. Seems there's no splitting hairs--or atoms--when it comes to terroir.
Call it a hunch, but 2005 will never evoke fond memories in the executive quarters at Bronco Wine Co. Not for the growing season, mind you, but the litigation. The high-volume Central Valley powerhouse, best known for its Two-Buck Chuck label, is officially 0 for 5 this year in the legal system. The company lost a few rounds in Bronco v. Jolly, which will determine if brands such as Napa Ridge can continue to be made with Central Valley grapes, leaving them with the last resort of petitioning for an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. To top it off, last week, in a separate case, a Napa jury decided to hold Bronco liable for wage law violations in a case where production shift supervisors alleged that the company improperly withheld overtime payments. Sure, Bronco can appeal, and the $211,000 awarded in damages is pocket change for a company that had more than $300 million in sales in 2003. But it must feel like salt in the wound.
At first glance, it would seem that Cloudy Bay, the winery that more or less put New Zealand wine on the map, may be following instead of leading. The winery just announced that starting with the 2005 vintage of Sauvignon Blanc, it's switching from corks to screw caps--something that many New Zealand wineries have been doing for years to prevent TCA taint and oxidation. But actually it's us. Cloudy Bay has been using screw caps since 2002, yet it, along with several other Marlborough wineries, felt that Americans weren't quite ready to embrace the closure, so they bottled under cork just for U.S. shipments. "We've been very careful about when each market is ready to relate to screw caps," says Cloudy Bay winemaker Eveline Fraser, explaining why the United States is the last market to get twist-off Cloudy Bay. She adds, "Maybe it's just that we hadn't put the time in here," but now that the winery is doing customer education, it hasn't been having any problems with acceptance, even in conservative markets. Note to the rest of the wine world: Our closed little American minds can grasp the screw-cap concept already. Just go for it!
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