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• Life in the wine industry is a winding road, full of ups and downs and a few hairpin turns along the way. Just ask Yountville, Calif.'s Trefethen family, who were hit hard by the Napa earthquake last year, but are celebrating this month after winery executive vice president Loren "Lorenzo" Trefethen's latest success at the racetrack, at the Pirelli World Challenge in St. Petersburg, Fla. Driving the No. 13 ANSA Trefethen Vineyards Porsche 911 GT3, complete with French designer Erwin Dazelle's illustrated bottle of Trefethen spilling across the chassis, Trefethen took the podium twice, finishing 2nd and 3rd in two races, and landing him in second place in the overall Porsche GT3 Cup standings. Trefethen's racing—he took home three victories in the 2014 Porsche Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA—has been revving up morale at Trefethen Family Vineyards, whose historic 1886 Hamden McIntyre building was twisted into something resembling an M.C. Escher creation by the August 2014 Napa earthquake. Trefethen's dual lives as winery legacy and rising racing star isn't as susrprising as might seem: He's just the next in a long line of vintners turned racers (and racers turned vintners). Lorenzo's transition, however, was even easier than most: His father, John, is a passionate racer as well.
• En primeur is the system by which Bordeaux châteaus demand money for their wines the spring after harvest based on a complicated system—basically waiting on their neighbors to announce prices and then going slightly higher—that allows buyers to invest in claret early enough to, at least in recent years, see it markedly depreciate in value by the time it is ready to drink. But would this beloved futures model work on wine without nearly the prestige of Bordeaux? Graham's Port is floating a test balloon. The "Vintage Port Bond" actually out-futures futures: You can buy the wine before it's even harvested. While that may seem like parody—how can buyers even know if the wine is good?—the idea is based more on the British tradition of buying birth- or anniversary-Vintage Port, to be aged for decades and opened for celebrations. Graham's is offering a way to get a lock on your year before anyone else can, and they're working through U.K. merchants including Berry Bros. & Rudd, Fortnum & Mason, Hedonism, Jeroboams and Selfridges. The suggested price for a case is $574, which is what a case of the Graham's 2011—a classic-rated knockout already in bottle—costs at BBR, so the enticement is access rather than profit. Only one problem: Vintage Port is not made every year, and it is not traditionally "declared" until a year and a half after harvest. What if you've bought a wine that never exists? (Graham's has only declared 2011, 2007 and 2003 in the past decade.) In that event, Graham's will sub in two cases of the single-estate Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port. Very fine in its own right, the Malvedos is admitted by the winery itself to be less ageworthy, a potential issue if you're looking to celebrate milestones decades later—but it's still a pretty good deal for the price, if that's what you end up with.
• The volume of wine sold in supermarkets has never been higher, but many wine lovers lament the lack of knowledgeable staffers on hand to assist with their wine-purchasing decisions. Beringer Vineyards heard these complaints, and has introduced a solution. Beginning this month at Kroger grocery stores, the historic Napa Valley winery will offer in-aisle tastes of their three most popular varieties, Chardonnay, white Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, via single-serving “flavor strips.” They hope the strips will offer consumers more information before committing to their wine purchases. The individually packaged samples, which have a texture akin to Listerine breath strips, exemplify the fruit-forward flavors of the wines. According to a representative from Beringer, “The process to arrive at those precise flavors was a lengthy one … We worked in tandem with our winemaking team and our vendor for over a year to ensure we landed on the right flavor profile.” If the taste stations end up increasing Beringer sales, the company plans to launch flavor strips featuring other varieties. Unfiltered hasn't gotten our mouths one of these flavor strips just yet (we live in one of those states that archaically don't allow wine in grocery stores), but we fully support any product that introduces wine to a new group of inquisitive, potential wine lovers. But don’t go running off to Kroger just yet, all you underage kids loitering outside the corner store with your skateboards and your loud music—these flavor strips are alcohol-free. For that matter, get off our lawn, er, website!
• In Minnesota, the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee heard testimony in support of adding the Gopher State to the 38 that already allow Sunday alcohol sales. Distilled Spirits Council chief economist David Ozgo, along with retailers and consumers, testified in favor of lifting the ban on Sunday alcohol sales, a so-called blue law that has been in place since Prohibition. Ozgo testified that Sunday sales would increase sales volume by $82 million to $114 million, which result in increased sales tax revenue of $11 million to $15 million.
And in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill allowing spirits to be tasted in liquor stores. The bill permits a single half-ounce taste of a spirit per day for consumers of legal age.