Sarah Palin’s Wine Soapbox

Plus, great news for wine-loving Massachusetts residents and The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd get new wine labels
Jan 14, 2010

• When former Alaska governor Sarah Palin announced her resignation in July 2009, she pledged she could make more of a difference on the issues that matter to her from outside Juneau. As she eloquently explained in her resignation speech: "It would be apathetic to just hunker down and 'go with the flow.' Nah, only dead fish 'go with the flow.'" But while political pundits predicted Palin's book tour and even her new gig as a commentator on Fox News, no one realized she would wade into the contentious issue of direct-to-consumer wine shipping. On Tuesday, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) announced that Palin will be the keynote speaker at their annual convention in Las Vegas in April. In a statement, WSWA president Craig Wolf said, "Gov. Palin is a great supporter of America’s free enterprise system and understands that industries like the beverage alcohol industry play a key role in driving our national economy. We're proud and honored to welcome her as a speaker." Palin reportedly charges a $100,000 speaking fee. Unfiltered hopes to have a front-row seat. The WSWA is the country's biggest opponent of allowing wineries and retailers to ship wine directly to consumers, and it will be interesting to hear what a great supporter of free enterprise thinks of the current three-tier system.

• Just two days after the WSWA’s announcement, Unfiltered learned of some big news for wine-shipping supporters. Family Winemakers of California has won its lawsuit in federal appeals court against the state of Massachusetts, which has a 30,000-gallon cap limit for allowing wineries to ship to residents of the state. This decision continues the trend toward the abolishment of shipping bans. No word on whether direct-shipping proponents will book Champagne bottle-signing prankster and impeccable Palin impersonator Tina Fey for their annual direct-shipping symposium.

In 2008, Unfiltered brought you the news of a dessert wine from The Rolling Stones. They’re back at it again, and they’ve brought some friends: Wines That Rock offers three varietals, each with a rock’n’roll-inspired label. Forty Licks Merlot features the classic Stones logo on the label; The Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon of course features Pink Floyd’s most famous album cover, and Woodstock Chardonnay pays tribute to the three-day festival of peace and music (among other things). The wine company began as a partnership between the rock business managers of RZO (who work with The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Sting and U2) and Mendocino Wine Co. Also always music to Unfiltered’s ears, Wines That Rock embraces “green” practices, from use of solar and wind power at the winery to eco-friendly packaging. Cofounder Ron Roy said that "traditionally you create the wine and then name it based on its personality. With these wines, we developed a bottle that captured the attitude of the music." Unfiltered hopes a Loving Cup to drink it out of is in the works.

• When it comes to politics, Unfiltered has long believed that it’s not how you govern the country, it’s what you drink while you’re doing it. Unfortunately for Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, what he’s drinking and cellaring these days has drawn public scorn from Max Allen of the Weekend Australian and Nick Ryan of Gourmet Traveller. Australia’s Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee recently released a detailed list of the taxpayer-purchased wines kept at the PM’s official residences in Sydney and Canberra. The collection includes six-year-old Sauvignon Blancs and Viogniers whose age would make them "tired and flabby," according to Allen, and low-priced Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand whose provenance, according to Ryan, is "grounds for treason." Ryan was particularly vitriolic in his assessment of the collection, calling it "boring as hell. The kind of list you'd find in a golf club full of retired Rotarians. A lot of tired old whites." Despite their harsh words, both writers acknowledged that former Prime Minister John Howard, who was known to prefer beer to wine, is truly to blame for the state of the official cellar. Sounds like Australia has a good place to start when they finally get around to dealing with that wine glut.

• After watching farm laborers toiling in Napa Valley vineyards on a hot day without shade, Napa Valley businessman Garth Patterson came up with an idea. Patterson invented the Cooling Station, a sort of trailer that provides relief for California’s farm workers from temperatures that often drift into the triple digits in the summer. The Cooling Station’s aluminum canopy provides shade and seating for 12 workers, while its NFL-quality misting fans can reduce surrounding temperatures by as much as 25 degrees. It includes an emergency shower, potable water and a first-aid box, all the materials required by OSHA at a vineyard site. “Although you are required to have shade, water and first-aid supplies all in one spot, employers are often hard-pressed to spend the money for all supplies and then keep them in one place,” Patterson said, explaining the merits of his invention. Operating costs are minimal, too, he said: “It runs for six to eight hours on just 1 gallon of gas.” But the estimated $20,000 price tag may be holding prospective buyers off. “Growers at this point seem somewhat reluctant to invest,” he noted, but he believes that the rental or lease business may end up being the best market for the Cooling Station. However it makes its way into vineyards this year, Unfiltered thinks it’s a pretty cool idea.

Musicians / Singers Direct Shipping Gifts and New Products Legal and Legislative Issues Unfiltered

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