Rudy K's Fake Wines Get the Death Penalty

Plus, Rioja honors Eva Longoria, and eco-friendly wineries speak at COP21
Rudy K's Fake Wines Get the Death Penalty
A magnet was used to smash fraudulent bottles confiscated from Rudy Kurniawan. (Lynzey Donahue / US Marshals)
Dec 10, 2015

It's been a busy two days in the saga of convicted wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan. On Wednesday, a three-judge federal appellate panel in lower Manhattan heard Kurniawan's appeal of his 2013 conviction. Lead defense lawyer Jerry Mooney, who'd flown in from Los Angeles, was allotted 10 minutes of oral argument. A key issue was the warrantless search of Kurniawan's house by F.B.I. agents on the morning of his arrest. As Mooney's narrative of what happened that morning gathered speed, presiding Judge José Cabranes interrupted. "Mr. Mooney, you're on a roll," he said, but warned that his 10 minutes were almost up. After the hearing, a disappointed Mooney said of his foreshortened search argument, "It's the stuff that is spicy, sexy and fun." The appeals court does not reveal when it will announce its decisions. Kurniawan is serving his time in a California correctional facility, but Mooney told Unfiltered that he hasn't heard from his client in some time: "We send him all the papers, but he's gone dark."

And today, the end came for more than 500 bottles of Kurniawan's counterfeit and unsellable wine seized by the U.S. Marshals (more than 4,700 bottles seized from Kurniawan are being sold). Trucked to a recycling/composting facility in Creedmore, Texas (pop. 219), the bottles were unboxed by hand into a 20-cubic-foot, concrete-bottomed tub and smashed by a magnet. A door in the tub was cracked open, allowing the rogue wine to run out into a pile of earth. Witnesses said that the scent of wine infused the air. After thorough mixing, the "drunk earth" was carted to a 200-foot-long compost heap kept at a steamy 145° F by microbial activity. "The sugars and nitrogens in the wine will be a good benefit," explained Paul Gregory, director of organics and recycling for Texas Disposal Systems. The bottles, once pulverized into tiny pellets, will be sold as decorative glass at the firm's retail shops, Garden-Ville. Purchasers likely won't know that the glitter in their garden was once bottles of such faked luminaries as Lafite Rothschild, Lafleur and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Had his firm ever before recycled bottles of wine? "We've done beer, water and Gatorade," Gregory said. "But people don't usually bring me wine. They drink it."

U.S. Marshals destroy some of Kurniawan's confiscated counterfeit wines

Credit: Brien Aho for U.S. Marshals Service


Rioja Honors Eva Longoria

The control board of Spain's Rioja D.O.C. announced this month that actress Eva Longoria, the darling of Desperate Housewives, will be awarded the 18th-annual Prestigio Rioja Prize. The prize jury panel unanimously voted to recognize the Hollywood star for her philanthropic efforts creating the Eva Longoria Foundation and producing the documentary The Harvest, which focuses on labor issues of immigrant children. The actress, who owns the Los Angeles steak house Beso, will receive the award at a ceremony in Logroño, in Rioja, in the coming year. Past award winners are expected to attend, so Unfiltered hopes to hear that fellow awardee and actor Antonio Banderas, who owns part of the Ribera del Duero winery Bodegas Anta Banderas, is there to share a glass with the newest honoree.

Photos 12 / Alamy
Actress Eva Longoria will soon be the toast of Spain's Rioja.

Eco-Friendly Wineries Speak at COP21

"Climate Action in a Bottle: Red, White or Rosé?” That was the catchy name for a seminar that put wine on the agenda at COP21 this week in Paris. “Wine is a large industry for winemaking countries that has a big impact both on agriculture and finance. It definitively needed to be on the agenda at COP21,” said Alice Tourbier of Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte.

At the round-table panel, Tourbier was joined by Josh Prigge of Fetzer Vineyards, Valentina Lira from Concha y Toro, Jean-Guillaume Prats of Moët Hennessy and Robert Eden of Château Maris. All had been invited to share their company’s pioneering efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions and lessen their carbon footprint. “While preparing the COP21 presentation, we realized that our actions were actually numerous,” said Tourbier. SHL is a pioneer in recycling the CO2 naturally produced by the alcoholic fermentation into sodium bicarbonate, which is then sold to toothpaste makers.

Fetzer's Prigge was invited by the U.N. to share the winery's experience as the first in the world to receive Zero Waste certification, having diverted 98.5 percent of their waste from landfill. "It's an honor to be a part of this incredible program, whose topic—working toward making climate-neutral wines a reality on a global scale—underscores our ethos as a winery, and what we've been working toward since our founding in 1968," said Prigge.

The stakes are high, noted Prats, who cited droughts in California and Argentina. However, he said, global warming has opened up vineyards in regions where it would have been impossible to produce wine 30 years ago—Moët Hennessy has new vineyards in India and Mongolia. Fetzer Vineyards CEO Giancarlo Bianchetti summed up the industry's significance to environmentalism: "The wine industry is uniquely positioned to tell the story of climate change, because winegrapes are dependent on specific climates and regions for the growing of quality fruit, making vineyards especially vulnerable to a warming climate."

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