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• Great actors present a character in such a compelling way, the viewer feels as though they’re seeing something real and true rather than a clever dupe. Asian fans of actor-vintners Brad Pitt’s and Angelina Jolie’s Provence rosé, Miraval, have lately been seeing bottles of pink in the store “acting” Miraval convincingly enough that Jolie, Pitt and the Rhône Valley’s Perrin family, who co-owns the brand, decided to put counterfeit protections in place. “We have heard from some agents in Asia that some of the [forged] bottles were really, really close [to the real thing],” winemaker Marc Perrin told Unfiltered. “So we really wanted to do something that was a proof of authenticity. And nothing is better to do that than the engraving of the bottle, which is really difficult to duplicate”: The 2014 vintage of rosé that shipped a month ago is all bottled with a tiny “Miraval” inscribed near the base. “Because the color of the rosé is very clear, you can see the engraving; it’s high visibility.” Jolie and Pitt purchased the 1,500-acre Miraval estate in 2012 with the first bottling of rosé bearing that vintage. The squat bottle shape and textured label made it a difficult wine to imitate, and Perrin confirmed that some fraudsters were basically phoning it in with a “normal Burgundy kind of shape.” But Perrin was seeing “more and more” Oscar-worthy portrayals. “For now it’s very anecdotal, but we wanted to move very quickly in order to avoid further problems.” After all, Perrin reckons the 2014 might be Miraval’s best performance yet.
• Earth Day is an annual big deal at Sonoma County’s Iron Horse Vineyards. This year’s event was no exception. A surprise appearance by California Gov. Jerry Brown, and a scheduled appearance by Kevin Jorgeson, the local man who recently conquered Yosemite’s El Capitan, highlighted the event. Of the 200 or so people present at the event, nearly everyone raised their hand when Jorgeson asked who had followed his 19-day ascent of the 3,000-foot “El Cap.” Jorgeson, who helped select the final blend for the 300-case release of Iron Horse Summit Cuvée 2010, was raising funds for the B-Rad Foundation which, through projects that support community wellness and environmental stewardship, honors the life of Jorgeson’s friend Brad Parker, a Sebastopol climber who was killed this past August in a fall from Yosemite’s Matthes Crest. On display at the winery were photos of the climb taken by Jorgeson’s friend, photographer Jerry Dodrill. Brown used the surprise visit to applaud California’s environmental leadership and to reassure those present that the state will survive its historic four-year drought. Brown stressed that seawater, gray water, treated wastewater and rainwater could all be pressed into service in relieving the drought. Iron Horse CEO Joy Sterling sits on California’s Food and Agricultural Board.
• Trinity Oak’s One Bottle One Tree program is still growing. Over this past year, the winery has continued to plant one tree for every bottle of wine sold, while simultaneously investing in an expansion of partner Trees for the Future’s agroforestry campaign. Together, they’ve focused on teaching local farming communities how to advantageously incorporate trees into their agricultural practices. This shift in focus has not slowed the tree planting itself: Since last April, Trinity Oak and Trees for the Future have planted almost 1.7 million trees together, bringing the grand total of trees planted since the campaign’s inception in July 2008 to 12,390,546.
Trinity Oak isn’t the only winery getting in on the tree hugging. For the third year in a row, Candoni De Zan Family Wines is partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant a tree for every case of their organic Merlot, Pinot Grigio and Buongiorno proprietary blend sold during April, May and June. Ironically, while California's Trinity Oak focuses its efforts in Brazil, India and Kenya, Italy's Candoni has been replanting forests in the United States—spend your tree-planting wine dollars accordingly.
• The leftovers from winemaking—the mass of grapeskins, pulp and seeds known as pomace—have been repurposed for lots of products: Vineyard compost, animal feed, biofuels, grapeseed oil, polyphenol extracts for nutritional supplements and cosmetics, and more recently, food preservatives and fiber-rich, gluten-free flours. Now there's a new use: herbal teas.
The Republic of Tea has just launched a collection of tisanes made from the skins of winegrapes grown in Sonoma County. Sonoma Teas consists of three iced tea "varietals"—Chardonnay, Rosé (a blend of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc) and Cabernet—plus a Mulled Zin hot tea to be released in September. The grapeskins—which are freeze-dried quickly after crush—come from WholeVine Products, founded by Jackson Family Wines chairman Barbara Banke and former Chalk Hill Winery co-owner Peggy Furth to simultaneously help fund local charities and cut waste by coming up with sustainable ways to use winegrowing byproducts.
"Nothing had been done before to extend their life as a beverage," says Kristina Richens, minister of commerce for the Republic of Tea, which is based nearby in California's Marin County. She explained that since the large grapeskin pieces don't fit into traditional tea bags, the company turned to large infusion pouches, suited for entertaining. (A tin of six pouches, which each make a quart of tea, costs $8.) Additional fruits and herbs are added to the tisanes to round out the grape flavors since so much is extracted during winemaking. The end results contain no caffeine, no calories and no alcohol, but lots of polyphenols such as resveratrol—whereas traditional teas from Camellia sinensis leaves or buds are high in the beneficial polyphenol catechin—making grapeskin tea a great option if you're craving a glass of wine at work and can't have one (not a problem Unfiltered recognizes!).
• Montefalco—the central Italy wine region within Umbria famous for its rustic Sagrantino wines—is celebrating Earth Day 2015 with the announcement that Montefalco wine producers have joined together to form what they're calling the "New Green Revolution," a set of sustainability-focused guidelines for grapegrowing, winemaking and wine sales. It's an alternative to organic certification, which wine producer Arnaldo Caprai says is not always effective enough in its reduction of vineyard pollutants. Marco Caprai (Arnaldo's son, and the current proprietor of the estate) says that already his winery has achieved a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide production, a 40 percent decrease in power use (thanks to renewable energy sources) and a 60 percent drop in vineyard pesticide application. Earth Day, Caprai says, is a great opportunity for him and his neighbors in Montefalco to get the word out about their "revolution" and encourage other regions in Italy to adopt greener practices that make sense for their area. At an Earth Day conference in Perugia, Caprai told Unfiltered he "spoke about the need to put agriculture back in the center of economic discussion. … The world population is growing, and very soon we'll have to contend with a shortage of natural resources, which in turn will decrease global food supply." Caprai is doing his part to ensure we don't have to face a Sagrantino drought.