Has it been 100 years already? Californians can be a bit ho-hum about earthquakes because they happen all the time. But this year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1906 quake, which was more than a little rattler. The merciless quake and resulting fires razed buildings not just in San Francisco, but in the surrounding counties as well, and tremors were felt as far away as Los Angeles, Oregon and central Nevada. Gundlach Bundschu, the Sonoma-based California winery, was headquartered in San Francisco at the time--with warehouses that spanned two blocks--when the 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit. A subsequent fire destroyed nearly 1 million gallons of wine. At 5:13am on April 18, the 100th anniversary of the quake, the fifth, sixth and seventh generations of the Gundlach Bundschu family will gather at Lotta's Fountain, which was a meeting point for separated families in the aftermath. It might be a little early in the morning, but if you are awake and can't make it to the gathering, at least raise a glass at home to everyone--not just the winemakers--who endured, rebuilding California and its culture.
As if we needed another example of how far apart the Old World and New World are. Earlier this week, Sonoma winery Don Sebastiani & Sons, which has long championed alternatives to cork, announced the release of a new wine called Used Automobile Parts. The Bordeaux-style blend will be available in three-packs ($150), each bottle sealed with a different closure: a rubber Zork closure, a screw cap and a new glass closure called Vino-Seal. But on the very same day, the Spanish government passed a new law banning alternative closures such as screw caps in 11 of the country's top wine-producing regions--including such modern and outward-looking regions as Priorat. This, despite some estimates that faulty corks can cause oxidation or TCA taint in as much as 15 percent of bottles. What's next? Will Bank of America confiscate all employees' calculators in favor of slide rules? Will Apple introduce the iPhonograph?
Merlot's mad as hell, and it's not going to take it anymore. Even before Sideways, Merlot had become something of a punching bag. But now the grape has just what any wine variety with a bad reputation needs: good public relations and advertising. Swanson Vineyards in Napa has launched a new Web site called merlotfightsback.com, offering a forum for opinions about Merlot and information on an elaborate Merlot seminar that's coming to a city near you this spring. And the latest releases from Sonoma winery Ray's Station, including a Merlot, are being advertised as "Hearty red wines for men" in a new campaign targeting the NASCAR fan and backyard-barbecue kind of guy. The Ray's Station labels further stress masculinity with a galloping stallion. Unfiltered agrees that's very manly indeed. Though we're thinking Savanna Samson might be a bit more effective at marketing her wine to men, with or without Merlot inside the bottle.
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