John Elway Drafts Rob Mondavi Jr. for New Napa Reserve

Plus, Burgundy smash-and-grabs are on the rise, broken glass triggers a South African wine recall, and a Texan takes his winery back
John Elway Drafts Rob Mondavi Jr. for New Napa Reserve
John Elway is handing the ball to Rob Mondavi, Jr. to make his new Napa Cabernet. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty)
Jun 11, 2015

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• NFL retirees have created a wine category all their own. But in the past few years, quarterbacks in particular have raised the bar, led by Drew Bledsoe's Doubleback Washington Cabernet made by Leonetti's Chris Figgins, with QBs Dan Marino and Damon Huard following in his cleats.

With such a high standard set, two-time Super Bowl champion and one-time Korbel Spray-Off champion John Elway knew he wanted to make a championship-caliber wine if he was going to make one at all, and that required an all-star winemaking team. Elway drafted Rob Mondavi Jr. of Michael Mondavi Family Estate to craft the new SevenWines Elway's Reserve Carneros Chardonnay 2014 and Elway's Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet 2013 (made mostly with St. Helena grapes).

“For well over a decade, it has always been a vision of mine to take the celebratory spirit and experience of my restaurants and capture it in a bottle of wine,” Elway said in a statement. The SevenWines bottlings will be distributed by OneHope Wine, a charity-focused brand that has a track record of collaborating with professional athletes. The Chardonnay is expected to cost around $35 a bottle, while the Cabernet should be priced at around $75; they'll of course be on the menu at Elway's steak houses, and will also be available for purchase online beginning this September, just in time for kickoff.


Another Burgundy Break-In at Brocard

Zut alors! The French guardians of fine wine feel besieged enough when wine-criminals fake their wines, but it's even worse when the bad guys simply take the wines. Following paramilitary-style heist assaults on estates like Bordeaux’s Palmer and Yquem, Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis is reporting its fourth raid in nine months. We’re past the age of disgruntled workers rolling out barrels under the cover of night: The most recent hit on Brocard—and there have been others in Chablis—was a pirate-style B&E job from an armored car equipped with a ram, Julien Brocard told Unfiltered. The thieves zeroed in on Brocard’s grand and premier cru bottlings from the 2011, ’12 and ’13 vintages: 2,500 bottles stolen so far, valued at some $57,000. Grands crus Les Preuses, Les Clos and Vaudésir, and premiers crus Vaulorent, Vau de Vey and Butteaux are among the cuvées carted off, with 4 percent of Brocard’s high-end production now lost to the bad guys.

Brocard said that in ways, this new breed of aggressive winecrime is the price of aggressive wine success: “I would say that there is some parallel to sales increasing. We saw our wine [considered] like a luxury product to the thieves. We saw those thieves 20 years ago for jewelry, and now they have come to the wine field.” In sleepy Burgundy, the police may be outmatched and ill-equipped to deal with aggravated, organized burglary. No bottles have been retrieved nor suspects brought in: “[The police] did not realize the importance," Brocard said. "That’s the question: Why they are so slow?”


South Africa's Not-Quite Total Recall

• A South African producer named Distell is recalling a handful of batches of its wine from British and Irish supermarkets after small particles of glass were discovered in the wines. "The incident happened on a specific bottling line and during a specific time period at Bergkelder, which is one of Distell’s bottling plants. It was caused by the metal fill tube of the filling machine making random contact with the neck of the bottle. The problem has since been rectified and we’ve put in place procedures to ensure that there can be no reoccurrence," Distell's Dennis Matsane told Unfiltered. Matsane said the inspections turned up glass in 0.2 percent of bottles on the line and all particles were under 0.5mm in size. (According to medical experts Distell consulted and existing literature, such particles would not pose harm to adults.)

"Nonetheless, consistent with our zero-tolerance approach, we decided to recall all potentially affected wines for inspection." The recalled brands include various Pinot Grigios, Cabernets and Chardonnays from Nederburg, Secret Cellar, Fleur du Cap, Two Ocean and the well-what-did-you-expect label, Danger Point.


A Texan Vintner Takes His Winery Back

• In February of last year, we reported on the return, of sorts, of vintner Bobby Cox to one of Texas’ most important wineries, Pheasant Ridge, by way of a purchase by Bingham Family Vineyards. The winery, which was founded by Cox in 1979 in what is now the Texas High Plains AVA, was renowned for well-made wines in a region everyone assumed couldn’t support a vineyard, at a time when quality wasn’t necessarily the highest priority in the Texas wine scene. Then the recession of the 1980s hit Texas hard and forced Cox to sell to a retired geologist in 1992, who in turn was bought out by the Binghams last year. Now, as of May 23, the homecoming is complete: The Binghams and Cox have agreed to split the assets of Pheasant Ridge, with the Binghams taking all the wine that hasn’t been labeled yet (read: all wine in tanks, barrels and shiners), as well as all vineyard and winery equipment, with Cox keeping the winery and tasting room, the 60-acre vineyard, and the brand.

So after 23 years, Cox owns Pheasant Ridge once again. The Binghams are moving forward with Bingham Family Vineyards, making the transition from a longtime grower with over 245 acres under vine to that of winemaker, hence the need for the equipment. While Cox finds and purchases the needed equipment to get things back up and running at Pheasant Ridge proper, he’ll be crashing with another Texas wine industry veteran: Kim McPherson of McPherson Cellars, also in Lubbock.

Crime Theft Sports Football Winery Purchases and Sales Unfiltered

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