• Unfiltered took a keener-than-usual interest in this week's Bachelorette finale, as wine country favorite Benjamin Flajnik was one of bachelorette Ashley Hebert's two remaining suitors. Flajnik, 28, is co-owner of Evolve Winery in Sonoma, and throughout the season we appreciated his efforts to introduce the other contestants to various wines and even give a few of them tasting pointers. His Evolve partner Michael Benziger shipped out a few cases of Evolve and Benziger wine for the contestants to drink while they were stuck in the mansion waiting for dates. And when another contestant, Constantine, was on a date with Hebert, he took a shot at describing the wine in his glass, crediting Flajnik for teaching him how. The potential rose-recipients traveled around the world in romantic pursuits, and got to eat at some swanky restaurants. After picking out a $300 bottle of wine one night, however, Flajnik noted he was no longer handed the list when it came time to order the wine.
Sadly, when our handsome winemaking hero got down on bended knee and proposed to Hebert in the Bachelorette finale, she could only respond with a mumbled “Sorry." Flajnik told Unfiltered the day after the finale aired that he was a little bummed—“Last night I had a bottle of '09 Evolve Cab, all to myself,” he said—but he'll have no shortage of suitorettes himself. He was a fan favorite on the show (Hebert's family much preferred him to her actual choice) and being a dead ringer for tennis heartthrob Rafael Nadal never hurt anyone. He's already been rumored to be seeing another Bachelor reject, chef and young Daryl Hannah lookalike Britt Billmaier. When Hebert rejected him, the Bachelor/Bachelorette-loving blogosphere, Twitterverse and Facebook nation were abuzz with rumors that Flajnik should be the star of the next season of The Bachelor (Hebert herself got the recent gig after being rejected at the end of last season's The Bachelor.) We asked him if he'd be interested in being on the other side of the rose next season. “I don’t know," he said. "Harvest is coming.” But the very next morning, he tweeted, @BenFlajnik: “Plans to be the next #thebachelor? I don't know...lots to ponder.” So fear not, Flajnik fans, he's at least thinking about it.
• New Jersey wineries' offsite tasting rooms—and, consequently, the New Jersey wine industry itself—have received a stay of execution. In December 2010, the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that New Jersey's wine laws were unconstitutional because they discriminated between in- and out-of-state wineries, out-of-staters not being permitted to open their own retail outlet tasting rooms. The problem would have been alleviated by either of two proposed bills in the New Jersey State Assembly and Senate permitting out-of-state wineries to open tasting rooms in the Garden State, one of which would also have permitted limited direct shipping. Both failed to pass in June, leaving New Jersey wineries' last hope an appeal of the Circuit Court ruling in July, an appeal that the judge was widely expected to reject. Were the appeal to be rejected, the state's remote retail outlets, which are the primary source of income for nearly all of New Jersey's wineries, would have been shut down. Last week, however, U.S. District Court Judge Katharine Hayden stayed the case until March 2012, giving New Jersey lawmakers another chance to resolve the issue when their sessions resume following this November's elections.
Patrick Cappiello brought out quite a few guilty pleasures at the Gilt Grand Award party.
• Last month Gilt restaurant at the New York Palace Hotel popped some big corks to celebrate its new Wine Spectator Grand Award. Wine director Patrick Cappiello emceed the event and opened an impressive collection of big bottles from the restaurant’s cellar. The lineup included magnums of Karthäuserhof Riesling Spätlese Trocken Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg 1991 and Domaine des Comtes Lafon Volnay-Santenots du Milieu 1995, a jeroboam of Château Gloria St.-Julien 1995 and an imperial of Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac 2004, to name just a few. The well-heeled guest list included regular patrons and a who’s who of restaurant industry insiders, including Tribeca Grill wine director David Gordon, Jean-Georges Management corporate wine director Bernie Sun and Eric Zillier of Gotham Bar & Grill. Unfiltered was also in attendance to congratulate the honoree. Cappiello, who formerly served as sommelier at Tribeca Grill and Veritas, two Grand Award-winning restaurants also located in Manhattan, adds a third Grand Award restaurant to his résumé, although this time as the restaurant’s wine director. After giving an enthusiastic toast to the restaurant’s staff, patrons and his mentors, Cappiello hit the room with a magnum of Roses de Jeanne Brut Blanc de Noirs Les Ursules from cult Champagne producer Cédric Bouchard. Cappiello also earns Unfiltered's award for wine commitment: He plans to permanently tout his achievement by getting a credit card-sized tattoo of the Grand Award’s familiar three-glass logo on his leg. Seriously!
• The Summer of Wine Crime has largely been one of minimal harm: a few bottles of Pétrus gone missing here and there, some counterfeit white Zinfandel (again, seriously!). But now comes the frustrating news that Mark Anderson, onetime owner of wine storage business Sausalito Cellars and the man who allegedly set fire to the Wines Central warehouse in 2005, has been granted an evidentiary hearing later this month to determine whether he may withdraw his initial guilty plea and stand trial. Anderson claims that his attorney at the time was poorly prepared. As the judge who granted the hearing put it, "It is clear we will never get this case over with." Anderson is also accused of selling off some of the rare wines his clients entrusted him with storing. The devastation to the warehouse, used to store barrels, shipments and back vintages by many wineries, was dire: Whitehall Lane, Justin and Viader lost significant inventory; von Strasser and Realm lost whole vintages; and at least one winery, Saintsbury, saw its entire library of back vintages go up in smoke. Anderson, for his part, reportedly complained of pain and lay down on a bench for most of his latest court appearance. No surprise there—this whole thing gives Unfiltered indigestion too.