• It's not often that Napa Valley ends up splashed across the national and international tabloids, but when pop star Christina Aguilera decides to hold her wedding there, suddenly the valley's wineries, restaurants and resorts are all over the pages of the likes of Us and People. Aguilera and music executive Jordan Bratman held their ceremony on Saturday at Staglin Family Vineyard (which, our sources tell us, she has visited previously). But before that, the happy couple stayed at one of the exclusive cottages at Auberge du Soleil resort, which also hosted the Japanese-themed rehearsal dinner, and spent a few days enjoying the luxuries wine country has to offer. That included lengthy dinners at the French Laundry, which stayed open late to accommodate them, and at La Encantada, the private estate of Austin Hills, co-owner of Grgich Hills Cellars. For those of you who are more interested in the wines that were served than the dress that Christina wore, our sources say that Billecart-Salmon NV Champagne was poured after the ceremony, and the reception featured Staglin Chardonnay Rutherford 2004 (pre-release, lucky girl) and Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Salus 2001, both from magnum. Dinner was accompanied by Staglin's 2004 Chardonnay Rutherford Salus and the 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford (94 points, $100). I guess now we know what the girl wants: Big, bold and rich.
• Rest in peace, little bear. Unfiltered was sad to receive word that Gundlach Bundschu winery's Bearitage is going into permanent hibernation. Before you reread that last sentence, let Unfiltered break it down for you. Meritage is a registered trademark, and if a winery wants to blend Bordeaux varieties and use this term on their wine label, it has to be licensed and meet specific criteria. Gundlach Bundschu took a slightly different twist and, with the 1990 vintage, came up with Bearitage, a play on the word and on the concept. Bearitage was a blended wine (including a very un-Meritage grape, Zinfandel) with a lovable image of a bear on the label. Ta-da--marketing genius! Fast-forward to 2005, when every other label features a penguin or kangaroo or some other fauna, and now Gundlach Bundschu wants to focus on its own estate wines from Rhinefarm Vineyard. So with a heavy heart, Unfiltered informs you that Bearitage has kicked the, um, barrel.
• It's no secret that much of the French wine industry, aside from the top estates, has been in big trouble for some time. But two French business-school grads hope to help change that. Erwan Thill and Stanisas Rocoffort de Vinniere have spent the past seven months traveling to all of the world's major wine regions to look at their wine quality and how they market their wines. At the same time, they have been collecting hundreds of bottles of wine along the way and shipping them back to France for a charity auction. For their venture, called Vins Des Globes, the two received 42,000 euros in backing from several French wineries (such as Moët & Chandon, Château Talbot, Château de Fargues and Veuve Clicquot), winery suppliers and marketing organizations such as Sopexa. The guys say they were impressed by California's friendly, educational wine tourism and the cooperation among the Kiwis. "In New Zealand, the winemakers share ideas and work together," says Thill. "In France they just fight." Citing Chile and Argentina as good models, they'd like to see their countrymen improve quality, adapt to consumers' tastes and make the labels simple to understand. "French wines are too complicated--you have to understand geography first," Thill gripes. They'll be presenting their recommendations to the sponsors in March but are concerned about the response they'll get since these are, after all, French winemakers. "They're ready to listen," said Rocoffort de Vinniere. "Before they were leaders, and now they're willing to change." We'll find out for sure soon….
• Veterans Day has passed, but Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery has announced a Veterans Appreciation Month. Veterans are offered free tours every Wednesday and a 15 percent discount on all purchases in November. As the winery pointed out, when the war to end all wars was brought to its conclusion with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, U.S. citizens weren't able to toast the good news because Prohibition was in full force. So raise a glass for our veterans, pronto!
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