• What type of wine do millionaires like best? You might guess classified-growth Bordeaux, cult Napa Cabernet, cru Burgundy or a convincing approximation thereof … But the wines of P.S. Match, the new line launched by Patti Stanger, the titular millionaire matchmaker of the dating show Millionaire Matchmaker, are priced at just $8 to $13. Brought to us by Prairie Creek Beverages, the same company responsible for J.R. Ewing Bourbon, P.S. Match offers a sweet red blend from Italy, plus a Central Coast Cabernet and a California Chardonnay, with an Italian rosé bubbly on the way. Unfiltered met Stanger this past fall, at a preview for the wines, and she confirmed that she'd served them during the "mixer" phase of her show/service, where they were a hit. That came as no surprise, as California négociant extraordinaire Cameron Hughes is the man in the cellar. A wine brand was a natural choice for Stanger—she says wine brings people together and gets them in the mood. P.S. Match is also in the planning stages of opening or buying a wine bar in Los Angeles, where wine lovers can hope to meet their perfect pairing.
• Strange Inheritance with Jamie Colby is a television program on Fox Business Network that is exactly what it sounds like: Host Jamie Colby visits people who've been left extraordinary bequests, from the world's tallest thermometer to an alligator farm to guns owned by Bonnie and Clyde. This week's episode, airing again tonight, spotlights a not-so-strange inheritance with a very unusual recipient, Oregon's Brooks Winery and Pascal Brooks, who inherited the brand from his father, Jimi, when Pascal was just eight years old. Upon his father's sudden passing in September 2004, Pascal's aunt, Janie Brooks Heuck, who knew nothing about the wine business, took over the finances at Brooks, and Jimi's winemaking pals harvested the grapes and made the 2004 vintage. "An 8-year-old kid and his accountant aunt get together with a former motorcycle mechanic to make wine?" Colby asks in the episode, "That sounds like a recipe for disaster." The first few years following Jimi's death were lean for Brooks Winery, but that all changed when Pres. Barack Obama served Brooks Willamette Valley Riesling 2006 at his first state dinner, for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. The winery has been growing—and improving—ever since, receiving outstanding scores for its Pinot Noirs. Brooks was also the subject of the 2014 documentary American Wine Story. "Brooks was my first winery visit," Colby told Unfiltered. "It blew me away—the beauty of Oregon, meeting winemakers, seeing the process, meeting Pascal, and his aunt, who I absolutely look up to and admire for everything she did to get this accomplished, and seeing Mount Hood in the background… It's just spectacular." The episode can also be viewed at StrangeInheritance.com.
• In late January, two truck drivers booked a table for dinner at Restaurant Peyrat in Bordeaux's St.-Estèphe. They had a cargo of wine, and the restaurant sits across the street from a quiet, dirt parking lot along the Gironde estuary. After dinner, the drivers went to sleep in their respective cabs. During the night, thieves emptied both trucks of their cargo—48 cases of fine wine, notably Pomerol’s Château La Fleur-Pétrus. “[The drivers] heard nothing. Maybe someone knocked them out with gas, but I sleep in a house 50 meters away and I didn’t hear anything either,” Jean Bernard Giminez, owner of Restaurant Peyrat, told Unfiltered. The gendarmes suspect an organized band of thieves followed at least one of the trucks, targeting its cargo, and when they found two parked, they seized the opportunity. The total value of the wines has yet to be released, but it’s allegedly in the tens of thousands of dollars.
• On the night of Jan. 29, near midnight, six masked men broke into Château Ménota in Barsac. They entered the château through the tower by breaking a window, found the owner home alone, and locked her up while they ransacked the château. Armoires, cupboards, and drawers were emptied in the search for valuables. Their crime spree was cut short when they discovered their hostage missing. Armed with nothing but her courage, the owner had escaped to her office and called the police. Before the authorities could arrive, the criminals fled in her Mercedes. They took hunting rifles, jewelry, silver, money and perfume. They did not make it as far as the wine cellars, nor, fortunately, the office. Château Ménota produces a Sauternes, and a sweet white Graves, Château Ménota Cuvée du Portail. The estate is owned by the Labat family. Crime scene investigators attempted to lift DNA and fingerprints from the house, but the intruders wore gloves in addition to their balaclavas. The Mercedes was found in a rest area on the highway to Toulouse. Again, they left no fingerprints or DNA. A week into the investigation, the police are not any closer to finding the criminals, who are not thought to be locals.
• It's been a bumpy start to 2015 for our Kiwi wine industry friends. First, there is the proposal by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to collect $2.9 million NZ in additional taxes from the wine industry to cover “regulation costs.” Obviously the winegrowers are less than thrilled at the idea of additional taxes, as they already pay more than $200 million NZ a year in excise taxes—up 60 percent in the past decade—according to Steve Green, chairman of the New Zealand Winegrowers Association. Speaking to Stuff.co.nz, Green said, "We would have thought MPI, as part of the business-growth agenda, would have been looking at how it supports the wine industry's growth, rather than imposing more costs on the sector. From our perspective, requiring the industry to pay an additional $2.9 million [NZ] to MPI every year is manifestly unjustifiable.”
And if that wasn’t enough to sour a few winemakers, there was the decision by Air New Zealand just days later to dispense with their previous policy of offering a variety of New Zealand wines throughout their seat classes and airport lounges. In a move aimed at cost reductions, the airline, whose 28-year title sponsorship in the country’s largest wine competition is now in question, decided to go with a single supplier, Villa Maria, for use throughout economy and business economy, with business and first class still offering a wider selection. And New Zealand winemakers are speaking out, most notably about the fact that Air New Zealand’s majority owner is the government of New Zealand itself and, as such, should be promoting the industry as a whole, not just a single brand, no matter how large that brand may be. Then too are the softer, if not more vocal, threats of choosing what airline they would use for their own travel out of and back to New Zealand. Speaking to the Marlborough Express, Peter Yealands of Yealands Family Estate said, "I don't think it sends a very good signal to the wine industry,” while Clive Jones, winemaker and general manager for Nautilus went on record saying, “There was quite a degree of loyalty to Air New Zealand, but now if there is a cheaper airfare on another airline, we might just try to save costs, like Air New Zealand is."
• Last month witnessed the transference of what might be the oldest white wine still in barrel from its old home to a new one. The wine in question, housed in the Hospices de Strasbourg of Alsace since its harvest in 1472, was discovered last April to have been leaking at a significant rate (estimated to be about 3 liters a year) from the barrel it had called home since 1718. The task of creating a new yet identical home for the wine was taken on by two of the world’s foremost coopers, Xavier Gouraud and Jean-Marie Blanchard, both of the famed cooperage Radoux. Radoux supplied the wood and the two men supplied the labor: 200 hours mating the staves, which wasn’t as easy as the typical barrels they encounter on their day job, as this barrel was 450 liters in capacity (double the size of a typical barrel), and had to be a replica of the previous Alsatian barrel with its unusual egg shape. When the barrel was completed and deemed to be sound, the 500-year-old wine, the grape identity of which has been lost to time, was delicately transferred to its new vessel. The wine has only been tasted three times since being committed to barrel, once in 1576 to mark the occasion of an alliance between Strasbourg and Zürich; the second in 1718 to commemorate the laying of the first stone for a hospital in the city and most recently in 1944 by Gen. Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque to celebrate the liberation of Strasbourg. Unfiltered suspects someone must have snuck a sip last month but, for now, no one is willing to taste and tell.