Unfiltered foretold back in 2014 that Kanye West and Kim Kardashian would be the next big celebrities to join the wine game, with the creator of hits like "Jesus Walks" and "I Am a God" (the latter appearing on the Yeezus album) selling water as "wine."
Kanye got into quite a dust-up on Twitter yesterday, but the real news comes from Us Weekly: that among renovations to KimYe's new L.A.-area digs will be a rehabilitation of the vineyard (or two vineyards, according to some real-estate listings) on the property. "Kanye loves wine, and he’s really excited about this," a source told the tabloid. "He even joked about having a Yeezus wine!" In that vein, Unfiltered would urge that Kanye keep his new album title Swish, though last night he announced it would instead be called Waves, a less obvious wine reference. ("Pop," "spit," "bricking," and "purple drink" also have somewhat different meanings in rap than in wine and could be misinterpreted.)
The Couple That Broke the Internet bought the place in 2014 for a reported $20 million, and it has all manner of BBQ pits, swimming pools and the like, but while real-estate photos show the previous owner, Lisa Marie Presley, kept the vines in bloom, there's no report on whether they found their way into bottle before now. Unlike Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's Miraval property, there's not much land to hoe in gated Hidden Hills. So while West and Kardashian have brought in vineyard consultants, it'll just be another one of Kanye's humble projects for tooling around in the garden: "They just want to make their own wine at home."
Wine Country Super Bowl Parties Set to Kick Off
Unfiltered may have just found the world's wine-and-foodiest Super Bowl party. If only we had the $5,000 guests are shelling out for a seat! The second-annual Culinary Kickoff will be held Feb. 4 at Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning Michael Mina restaurant, hosted by chefs Michael Mina and Charlie Palmer. The menu features a slew of dishes from top chefs from around the country who will also be on hand, including David Burke, Todd English and Ming Tsai.
Dan Kosta of Kosta Browne and Tuck Beckstoffer have chosen the wines for the evening, with a sporting theme from wineries like TwentyFour by Charles Woodson (whose namesake will be there) and Red Stitch (Rich Aurilia will be there) and Mirror Napa Valley (Rick Mirer? You guessed it). Other NFL stars past and present gearing up for the Super Bowl at the culinary bash include Marshall Faulk, Justin Tuck and Ronnie Lott. Proceeds for the event (tickets can be purchased at www.culinarykickoff.com) will benefit the Culinary Kickoff Youth Scholarship Fund, which helps students with their Culinary Institute of America tuitions.
We're not sure if coach-turned-vintner Dick Vermeil will be making a return appearance at the Culinary Kickoff, but we do know where he'll be the day before: The Big Game Train party on the Napa Valley Wine Train. Vermeil will be joined other former pro sports wine stars Terry Hoage, Damon Huard and Mirer (pulling double duty) for a four-course menu paired with Vermeil's, Hoage's and Mirer's wines. Tickets start at $189 and a portion of proceeds will be donated to the NFL Hall of Fame Players Foundation.
And if you just want to get in on the wine-country Super Bowl spirit in the comfort of your own home, Freemark Abbey has released a Super Bowl 50 commemorative special-edition Napa Valley Fiftieth Reserve 2013 Bordeaux-style blend, in partnership with Wine by Design and the NFL, from winemaker Ted Edwards, priced at $100 a bottle.
Stolen Wine Recovered in France
What first appeared to be isolated burglaries has revealed a network of thieves and unscrupulous resellers targeting France's Rhône Valley. Last December, French gendarmes from Tournon got word that an old, elegant mansion in Châteauneuf-sur-Isère was a front for selling stolen wine, specifically wine stolen from Domaine Durand last fall. When they investigated, they found not only 900 bottles of Durand, but a 5,000-bottle stash of stolen wine that included 460 bottles of Domaine Garon, which was the victim of a $100,000 heist in 2014.
“It’s a big network. The gendarmes have already found 16 people,” Kevin Garon told Unfiltered. Now the French gendarmes are meticulously unmasking a network of thieves and fences. “The investigation is far from over,” said Garon.
Villains had broken into Domaine Garon in December 2014, stealing 1,800 bottles of their 2012 vintage, including Les Rochins, Les Triotes and La Sybarine. While most of the stolen Garon wine has already flowed through an illicit pipeline of resellers, the Garon family was grateful for the diligence of the gendarmes which resulted in the return of a portion of their prized cuvées. “We found out [last month]. It was our Christmas present,” said Garon. Happily, the stolen wines were stored in excellent conditions in the stone wine cellar of the mansion.
Gendarmes have been impressing upon vintners to increase their security. “We’re all much more careful now,” said Garon.
Statisticians Reject New U.K. Health Guidelines
Three weeks ago, the United Kingdom's Department of Health released updated alcohol guidelines for its citizens. "People have a right to accurate information and clear advice about alcohol and its health risks," the chief medical officers' report began, before cutting recommended alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day for men. However well-intentioned, its advice quickly raised eyebrows.
One condemnation of the chief medical officers' reduced alcohol recommendations comes from the Royal Statistical Society, a London-based organization dedicated to the correct use of statistics in decision-making matters. In an open letter, the RSS's president Prof. Peter Diggle and president-elect Prof. Sir David Spiegelhalter highlighted what they believe is the Department of Health's improper interpretation of information provided by a group of health experts. The RSS representatives looked at the statistics from the Sheffield modeling exercise, the same alcohol consumption evidence provided by the expert group. After comparing their notes with the official U.K. report, they found "consistent downplaying and even denial of benefit" of the protective effects of alcohol. Rather, according to the RSS, the chief medical officers inappropriately emphasized the potential harms from cancer and incorrectly evaluated the differences in alcohol's effect on men and women.
The Department of Health is welcoming feedback on the guidelines until April. The RSS and others hope for changes in the final report to reflect the overwhelming public skepticism toward the proposed advice. "Once public trust has been lost, it is extremely difficult to win back," Diggle and Spiegelhalter warned in their statement. "You will have lost a key tool in managing future behavioral change."
Fraud Conviction for Bordeaux's Controversial Loïc Pasquet
Loïc Pasquet, winemaker of the Bordeaux wine Liber Pater (and recent victim of vineyard vandals), has been found guilty of defrauding the French government of nearly $647,000. The money, in the form of aid and grants, was awarded by the European Union through France Agrimer, and was meant to be used for promotions on the export market.
The fraud was linked to a Chinese importer in Shanghai. Pasquet told Unfiltered that the Franco-Sino partnership unraveled after he’d given his importer 1,000 bottles of wine in exchange for promotional services. According to Pasquet, when the services didn’t happen, he asked the importer to pay him for the wine. The importer refused, and then "solved" the disagreement by sending false invoices to the French government to justify the fictional expenses.
Pasquet received a 12-month suspended sentence, a $33,000 fine and an order to reimburse $250,000. Pasquet’s family has already reimbursed $328,000. Pasquet told Unfiltered he would appeal the decision. “We lost the battle, not the war.”
Speaking from Dubai, the winemaker remained optimistic despite what he feels is an attempt by the French wine establishment to squash his business. “The money is not the real problem. The problem is the old grape varieties I’m re-introducing to Bordeaux and the price of my wine,” he said, referring to the experimental vineyard he planted and the $3,000-a-bottle Bordeaux blend he sells.
In the trial, he was also criticized for keeping shoddy records of chaptalization.