Mondavi Family's Purple Heart Wines Benefit Veterans

Plus, chef Jacques Pépin's new charity Pinot Noir, Sotheby's auction will benefit Thomas Jefferson Auditorium in Bordeaux, and Idaho gets a new AVA
Mondavi Family's Purple Heart Wines Benefit Veterans
From left: Jeff Roy of the Purple Heart Foundation, winemaker Ray Coursen, and Paul Englert of C. Mondavi & Family (Courtesy of Purple Heart Wines)
Apr 21, 2016

When the Mondavi family approached winemaker Ray Coursen about collaborating on a charity wine to benefit veterans through the Purple Heart Foundation, the choice was easy. "I immediately said yes," he told Unfiltered. Coursen, a Vietnam War veteran, founder of Rutherford's Elyse winery and a longtime friend of the Mondavis, jumped at the chance to support his brothers in arms and now leads the winemaking efforts for Purple Heart Wines, which just released its first bottling, a 2013 Napa Valley red blend. He worked with the C. Mondavi & Family team, whose patriarch, the late Peter Mondavi Sr., served in World War II. They sourced fruit largely from theC. Mondavi & Family vineyards in Yountville to create the Merlot-based wine, which is priced at $20, a price arrived at in hopes of keeping the wine within reach for many veterans.

To celebrate the release of the wine, Coursen, along with friends and representatives of both the Mondavi family and the Purple Heart Foundation gathered at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York on April 19. They kicked off the wine launch with the presentation of a $10,000 check to the foundation and a promise to donate up to $50,000 annually in future years. The funds will go toward the foundation's efforts to provide financial, medical and emotional support to returning American soldiers. "I'm very lucky that I came home from Vietnam unharmed, but so many of my friends did not," Coursen said, "I'm so excited for this opportunity to give back."


Chef Jacques Pépin's New Charity Pinot Noir

More than 200 guests filled the top floor of the Yale Club in New York last night for the Wholesome Wave Benefit Gala, a five-course dinner and auction honoring chef Jacques Pépin and the late Michael Batterberry, cofounding editor of Food Arts (a former sister publication of Wine Spectator) and Food & Wine magazines.

Chef Michel Nischan, who credits Pépin's La Technique as the inspiration for his career, also credited Batterberry for encouraging him to cofound the non-profit Wholesome Wave in 2007 to bring healthy food to underserved neighborhoods. He and Pépin collaborated with charity wine label OneHope to produce a 2012 Edna Valley Pinot Noir ($75 per bottle, 75 percent of proceeds go to Wholesome Wave) with a label featuring art by Pépin. The wine was poured last night along with the debut of the Jacques Pépin Mentorship Award, which gifted $5,000 to culinary student Malique Harry of the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) in New York. "You have a great future ahead of you," Pépin told Harry.

Pépin himself received the Michael Batterberry Mentorship Award award, and a video was screened of renowned chefs sharing how the French cooking icon has influenced them. “Jacques Pépin, you are too cool. You are a true chef,” boomed chef José Andrés in one clip.

A live auction of celebrity chef dinners raised $50,250 for Wholesome Wave, and Pépin was all smiles. “I’m delighted to be here. We had extraordinary food and wine. … I did not cook anything tonight, and I’m sure you’re glad I didn’t!” he quipped. An entire generation of chefs, however, would disagree.


Napa Wine Train Lawsuit Settled

Our long Napan nightmare is over: The Napa Valley Wine Train (now under new ownership) and the Sistahs on the Reading Edge book club have settled an $11 million discrimination lawsuit through mediation.

The lawsuit stemmed from an incident this past August in which the book club's 11 members, including a then-83-year-old grandmother, were thrown off the train for "unruly" behavior, and the hashtag #LaughingWhileBlack went viral, creating a PR storm for the train as well as some unwanted attention for the book club members, who became the targets of racist comments on social media and two of whom claim to have lost their jobs as a result of the publicity. Details of the settlement were not disclosed, but the book club is happy to put the incident behind them. “We’re just looking forward to moving on and getting back to reading books,” club member Lisa Johnson told the San Francisco Chronicle.


Cité du Vin Charity Auction to Benefit Thomas Jefferson Auditorium in Bordeaux

Sotheby's in New York will host a charity dinner and auction of top-growth Bordeauxs next week to support the completion of the Thomas Jefferson Auditorium at La Cité des Civilisations du Vin in Bordeaux. The event is organized by the American Friends of the Cité des Civilisations du Vin, which was created to fund the naming of the Jefferson Auditorium in the Cité, an international center for wine currently under construction on the bank of the Garonne river in Bordeaux. The $90 million-plus project is slated to open June 1.

Among the lots on auction will be some very rare large-format bottles, including double magnums of Cheval-Blanc 2009 and Cos-d'Estournel 2000, jeroboams (4.5 liters) of Mouton-Rothschild 2000, Latour 2011 and Margaux 2012, and an imperial (6 liters) of Pétrus 1995. Dinner, with special guest Prince Robert de Luxembourg, will be prepared by a French and American team of chefs led by Daniel Boulud. Tickets to the April 27 benefit dinner and auction are $750, but online bids are already being accepted at Paddle8.com.


Idaho and California get New AVAs

Idaho’s emerging wine industry, which includes more than 50 wineries and 1,300 acres of vineyards, had its third American Viticultural Area (AVA) approved this week. Lewis-Clark Valley straddles the Idaho and Washington border, encompassing 479 square miles. Three-quarters of the appellation is in Idaho, with the rest stretching into Washington. As part of the ruling, the TTB will modify the boundary of the Columbia Valley AVA in Washington to eliminate overlap with Lewis-Clark Valley.

The Lewis-Clark Valley AVA includes myriad canyons which provide temperate climates within the otherwise cool region, home to a handful of wineries, including 16 vineyards planted in the region's nutrient-rich silty soils.

Meanwhile in California, Santa Barbara County continues to be carved into subappellations; the newest is the Los Olivos District. Situated within the Santa Ynez Valley AVA, Los Olivos neighbors the recently added Ballard Canyon and Happy Canyon, and is south of Santa Maria Valley.

The nearly 23,000-acre region, located 30 miles inland from the Pacific, is home to 13 wineries. Steve Beckmen of Beckmen Vineyards, whose winery is within Los Olivos, believes the new appellation will help further define Santa Ynez Valley. “It’s unique, and has the most uniform soil and climate of any of the AVAs in Santa Barbara County,” he said, noting that well-drained gravelly clay and loam soils and a warm climate make it a great place to focus on Bordeaux red and white varieties as well as Rhône grapes like Grenache, Mourvèdre and Roussanne.

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