The merger of wine and NASCAR, Shafer's Last Chance and Boz Scaggs and the bottle blues
Posted: February 15, 2006
It was only a matter of time. Unfiltered predicted that wine would become a bigger feature at NASCAR races this year, but we thought we were joking when we suggested that the cars could soon have wine on them. Ravenswood Winery is helping to sponsor Brewco Motorsports in the NASCAR Busch Series this year. Ravenswood will be the primary sponsor for the No. 27 Ford in three races, which means driver David Green will be in a car painted to look like sloshing wine going almost 200 miles per hour. The car also includes Ravenswood's longtime slogan—No Wimpy Wines—and the Sonoma winery is planning marketing events at the races and at wine retailers where Green and the car will make appearances. Senior estate manager Kathy Whaley says the sponsorship has been in the works for a year and a half, and that the winery chose Green's team because he's consistently in the top 10—meaning more TV time for his sponsors. It's a long way from when these cars carried moonshine around at top speed.
|The fire is out at Shafer.
Everything Must Go! After 13 vintages of Firebreak
, Shafer Vineyards in Napa Valley has extinguished its Sangiovese program. The final 2003 vintage is being released on March 1 for $42 and has been dubbed Last Chance, the same name the winery gave its last Zinfandel in the 1980s. "It's weird that we're doing it, because it's not a failure," says winery president Doug Shafer
. "It's about focus." Shafer's vineyard sites are better suited to Cabernet and Syrah, he explains. Many fans of the wine—including his wife—told him not to pull out the vines (it's too late, by the way). But they usually change their tune when he points out that the winery can now make more of its highly rated Hillside Select and Relentless
. Firebreak was born after Doug's dad, winery founder John Shafer
, visited Tuscany in the 1980s and fell in love with Antinori's Tignanello
. The vineyard got its name because it's a natural firebreak. (As Doug tells it, his mom had put her foot down about planting any more vines, but a huge wildfire nearly burned down the family's house. She saw that the hill was toasted brown, while all the nearby vines were still green, and insisted on putting in more vines. And so his dad got a new site.) Despite the sentimental history, Doug says his latest visit to Tuscany convinced him that the Italians do best with the difficult Sangiovese grape. "We're going to send a bottle to Piero Antinori
along with a white flag of surrender. He said he's looking forward to receiving it."
|Boz Scaggs has a case of the Kermit Lynch blues.
The Wine Bottle Blues: Before he became a renowned importer of French wines, Berkeley, Calif.-based Kermit Lynch
fronted a Bay Area rock band in the 1960s. Although he gave up his musical career when he couldn't even afford a decent jug of red wine, it seems he never quite shook the blues. Decades later, he met musician Boz Scaggs
at a Domaine Tempier wine dinner and they became friends. One summer, they were hanging out at Lynch's house in Provence, and after plying Scaggs with some great vintages, Lynch played him a few of his old tapes. "The next day Kermit seemed certain I had offered to gather some top musical talent in my recording studio in order to . . . guess what?" Scaggs recalls in his summary of the project. The result is Quicksand Blues
, a new CD collection of Lynch's old songs, on sale for $12.95. (Unfiltered can guarantee that the words "a bottle of wine" show up at least once.) The album includes Scaggs on guitar, Alvin Youngblood Hart
on vocals and guitar and soul singer Jackie Payne
, along with Lynch himself lending his voice to some tracks. As Lynch puts it, "I ended up spending more time in Paris, but I was born in Bakersfield."
"Do you smell the tropical aromas in this wine? It's due to the delicate handpicking and processing by the chain gangs." That's the impression that owners of The Crossings in New Zealand feared consumers would have if their street were renamed Prison Plantation Road. The Marlborough winery, however, won its fight with the local district council, which had announced the change late last year. The idea behind the name was innocent enough; it referred to a nearby forest planted by minimum-security prisoners a little more than a century ago. But since wineries are required to put their address on their labels, The Crossings' parent company felt the name would hurt the brand. "When I think of the name I don't feel the fresh tangy flavor of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, I think of a brutal process," chairman John Cutfield told The Marlborough Express. The street will instead be called Old Plantation Road, and the winery has agreed to put up a sign that explains the history of the area.