Unfiltered

Conan goes to Napa; wines get the Crick and Watson treatment; Coppola welcomes the kids; and Manhattan developers raise the stakes on luxury wine storage
May 9, 2007

• It's always great to see a celebrity in wine country, but there are some who probably wear out their welcome. In our book, though, Conan O'Brien is welcome back to Napa any time. O'Brien, who recently spent a week taping Late Night in San Francisco, took a side trip up to Napa along with a camera crew to have a look around Spring Mountain Vineyard. "It was so off the cuff," said vineyard manager Ron Rosenbrand. "They didn't tell us what to do or say. We were just told to play along and have fun with it." Highlights throughout the 8-minute segment included Conan's learning to spit (he proved much better at imbibing); remarking that the glass thief for pulling wine from the barrel "looks like something I'm gonna have to use when I'm 80"; and bringing his own, two-foot-tall tasting glass. Riedel would be so proud. Our favorite moment, though, was when Conan donned a tasting helmet with a glass affixed to each side. Not all gags go according to plan, though. According to Rosenbrand, the show's editors cut the part when Conan couldn't get the straws to stop siphoning, and wine was pouring out his mouth, all down his shirt, and all over the floor. A shame, since we were just about to go out and find tasting helmets of our own.

• DNA for DRC? Maybe. A new wine authentication system developed by Applied DNA Sciences in Stony Brook, N.Y., could protect premium wineries from future fraud--and provide collectors with a foolproof method of identifying stolen wine. According to CEO James Hayward, his DNA-based system, called SigNature, embeds a customized botanical DNA segment into a specialized ink that is then applied to a wine bottle, a cork or a label. "Once applied, the segment can be detected in a simple spot test or analyzed forensically. SigNature cannot be copied or removed," he explained. Given the rise of fake vintage classics both at auction and at retail, plus an increase in wine thefts, the potential benefits of an encrypted identification system are exciting. For example, a collector could have his entire cellar encoded so that in the event of theft, the bottles would be readily identifiable by police, auction houses or wine merchants. It costs about $16 per bottle to prepare and apply a marker for a 5,000- to 10,000-bottle collection, including authentication certificate and scanner. The price drops substantially to anywhere from $1.50 to $3 per bottle for larger cellars or producers. We haven't tested it, but if it works, it sounds like a small price to pay to know you're getting the real thing on the auction block.

 
At the last imaginary-persons blind tasting event, this guy left Aquaman and the Green Lantern in the dust.
• Trading Soju for Sauternes? Wine sales in South Korea are booming, —not because of wine touted by a critic, a sommelier or a celebrity, but by a comic-book character. Sukyoung Chung, a spokesperson for Sopexa in Seoul, said the nine-volume series called Kami no Shizuku ("Drops of God"), published by Haksan Publishing Ltd, focuses especially on Burgundy, although a number of wines from other growing areas are also mentioned throughout, thus raising awareness of and intrigue in wine. "Some companies have even gone as far as including the publication on their recommended reading list, as they feel it is a good educational tool," Chung explained. "However it has also drawn critics, as the description of the wines is over the top, and sometimes unconvincing." That's to be expected, since it's a comic book. Nevertheless it's having an effect. Over 500,000 copies of the series sold in South Korea last year and, according to Chung, the country's wine market grew by 31 percent ($88.6 million). While a comic book hooked South Koreans on French wine, the same probably won't work to get the French eating kim chee.

• You can't accuse Francis Ford Coppola of thinking small. Last week, the vintner and noted film director unveiled the plans for Sonoma's Chateau Souverain, the winery he acquired in 2006. The winery's new name is Rosso & Bianco, referring to Coppola's popular value red and white blends. With the help of an elaborate multimedia presentation, Coppola announced that he hopes to turn the winery--now home to the value wines as well as the Diamond Series--into a family-friendly destination. Plans include adding two public swimming pools surrounded by a bank of cabanas, bocce courts, a small amphitheater and a dance floor. While the facility already has a restaurant, Coppola would like to add a second, outdoor dining area. Coppola also hopes to make the winery the new home of his movie memorabilia collection, which has been on display at his Rutherford winery for years. This is all starting to sound like the Godfather trilogy, actually. Part I was very good and groundbreaking (Niebaum-Coppola winery), while Part II was a little more grand (Rosso & Bianco). Our crystal ball says that like The Godfather Part III, which was just a light and fun way to end the saga and introduce daughter Sofia to the screen, Coppola's third act will be to build a winery just for Sofia, Coppola's sparkling wine. You heard it here first.

 
Riff-raff not included.
• What well-to-do Manhattanites really want: Posh digs with wine-related perks, apparently. About a year ago we let you know about the personal wine-storage spaces in 15 Central Park West that start at about $80,000 each. Continuing the our-condos-are-more-extravagant-than-your-condos trend are the developers of the new Element Condominiums in Columbus Circle, as well as those building the Setai in the Financial District. Units at the 35-story Element sell for $850,000 to $6.5 million, and residents get off-site, climate-controlled wine storage for around $1.50 per case. Accessible at any time, a customized Web-based application displays the worth of owners' personal collections, and wine valets offer door-to-door service. But if you just want a taste of how the other half lives, you don't have to reside in one of the Setai's 167 units (from $700,000 to $6.75 million) to store your wine there. The property's climate-controlled "wine gallery" (two 30-foot-long, 10-foot-tall cases) and 200-square-foot wine room are open to club members, who can also visit the on-site Asian-fusion restaurant, bars and health club. But only a select few, primarily those who are "Wall Street-driven," will be invited to join, said Atit K. Javeri, director of investments at Zamir Equities, a Setai partner. "We don't want it to be open to anybody and everybody." For the anybodies and everybodies among us, we hear that Coleman makes a nice cooler.

Unfiltered

You Might Also Like

Wine, Women, Whiskey and Walls: Behind the Scenes of Tennessee's Terrific Suffrage Murals

Wine, Women, Whiskey and Walls: Behind the Scenes of Tennessee's Terrific Suffrage Murals

Cycles Gladiator wine helped fuel the series of huge art Walls for Women celebrating the …

Aug 12, 2020
Jon Bon Jovi Is Playing at Your House to Raise COVID Relief Money with His Rosé

Jon Bon Jovi Is Playing at Your House to Raise COVID Relief Money with His Rosé

The rock legend and Hampton Water vintner will be streaming a show Friday to benefit José …

Aug 10, 2020
NFL Wine Guy Will Blackmon Takes the Field with New 'Wine MVP' Biz

NFL Wine Guy Will Blackmon Takes the Field with New 'Wine MVP' Biz

The Super Bowl champion's new wine "concierge" company offers wine picks (with trading …

Aug 5, 2020
One-of-a-Kind Vineyard in Japan Offers Alternative Interpretation of Vine-Training

One-of-a-Kind Vineyard in Japan Offers Alternative Interpretation of Vine-Training

"Why are there grape trees at the station?" is the main question enotourists and commuters …

Aug 4, 2020
Shipping Crates, Historic Cottages, Tiny Houses Transformed into Winery Hotels

Shipping Crates, Historic Cottages, Tiny Houses Transformed into Winery Hotels

From California to Spain, wineries are turning all kinds of surprising things into stylish …

Aug 3, 2020
French Researchers Unlock a Secret to Wine Bitterness: Oak Barrels

French Researchers Unlock a Secret to Wine Bitterness: Oak Barrels

A study (and a very unpleasant blind tasting) reveals how one chemical compound in oak …

Jul 30, 2020