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Free at Last: New Jersey Passes Direct Shipping Bill

Plus, the winemaking Bachelor takes his heart (and dates) to San Francisco, outer space terroir, strange bedfellows in Bordeaux and wine crime never sleeps

Posted: January 19, 2012

• New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill legalizing winery direct shipping in the Garden State this Tuesday. The law, which also permits wineries to open as many as 18 offsite retail tasting rooms in the state, takes effect this May. Senate Bill 3172 passed in December and its companion, Assembly Bill 4436, passed Jan. 9, sending the direct-shipping legislation to Drumthwacket, the governor's residence in Princeton, N.J. For now, New Jersey wineries can get back to the business of winemaking knowing that their satellite tasting rooms are safe from legal challenges, but the new legislation isn't bulletproof. Under the new law, residents can only receive wine shipments from wineries making less than 250,000 gallons of wine annually—that's what's known among wine law geeks as a "capacity cap limit," and it's known to the U.S. Court of Appeals as "unconstitutional" (see Family Winemakers v. Jenkins in Massachusetts). The reason? All New Jersey wineries fall well under the capacity cap limit, but that cap excludes more than 90 percent of the wine made in the United States, and that's what lawyer types call non-facial discrimination. Not to worry, though, Jersey wine lovers. We talked to Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D), who sponsored the bill, and he said "[if] the courts rule the cap is not valid, then we'll just move forward without the cap." So get into the spirit during this week in which we celebrate civil rights and say it with us, New Jersey: "Mr. Christie, take off this cap!"

• Wine shipping rights and the Constitution are all well and good, but let's talk about something serious: It's time for another dispatch from reality television as we continue to chronicle the winemaking Bachelor's journey of romantic discovery. This week our handsome hero, Envolve winery's Ben Flajnik brought his cadre of lovely suitorettes from his native Sonoma to his current hometown, San Francisco. For his first date, he brought Emily the Chapel Hill PhD student on a hike—up the Bay Bridge support cables (sorry Ben, but that'd have been a lonely date if you'd invited Unfiltered). Continuing the outdoorsy theme, the Bachelor then took 10 of the ladies skiing, down an artificial snow-covered stretch of one of the City by the Bay's famously steep streets, affording us our first glimpse of topless Ben this season, not to mention plenty of beautiful babes in bikinis. Brittney was invited on the episode's second date (without her grandmother). Instead, she cried, quit the show, and cried some more. Ben bravely rebounded and "first-impression rose" winner Lindzi gleefully accepted second-choice honors for a personal concert in City Hall, then an uninvited guest, Shawntel the funeral director, showed up to vie for Ben's heart, to the great dismay of the rest of our heroines. Drama prevailed, tears and foul language abounded and roses were awarded … to everyone except Shawntel, Jaclyn and Erika (who collapsed in anguish).

Next week, Flajnik will be in Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival. Utah also happens to be the site of this Monday's episode. (Where, if HBO's Big Love taught us anything, Ben can just marry all the girls!) He tells Unfiltered he'll be combating the chilly Utah air with some hearty reds this week—Medlock Ames Merlot, Melville Pinot Noir, Imagery Cabernet Franc and Dutcher Crossing Zinfandel.

These days, drinkers don't find Chilean wines particularly alien, but that may be about to change: Tremonte Vineyard, in the Cachapoal Valley, has launched a space wine. Ian Hutcheon, the winery's owner, moonlights as an astronomer and wanted to unite his interests, so he steeped a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite in a batch of his 2010 Cabernet. Presto: Meteorito. The 3-inch meteorite belongs to a collector of space refuse and is thought to have made its way down to Chile around 6,000 years ago. During malolactic fermentation, Hutcheon borrowed the rock for a swim in Cabernet, ultimately bottling about 1,100 cases of the space hooch, which is so far only sold at his observatory, the Centro Astronomico Tagua Tagua in Chile. Unfiltered can't speak to how the extraterroir is reflected in the wine, but the truth is out there. (Hopefully the truth is nothing like what every sci-fi horror film we've ever seen would suggest might happen after drinking this wine.)

• Strange bedfellows are behind one of Bordeaux's latest acquisitions. A 12-person consortium led by Yannick Evenou has purchased Château Réaut from the Louis Roederer group with a little help from Facebook and a few hundred minority investors. In his day job, Evenou is the managing director of the Fayat group, which includes Château La Dominique, but he dreamed of owning his own vines, particularly when he heard Réaut was for sale. “The terroir is unbelievable, and it’s been replanted to grand cru classé standards of [2,200 vines per acre],” said Evenou. The estate includes 64 acres of gravel and gravel-clay-limestone soil in the Côtes de Bordeaux AOC, with south-facing slopes. Evenou described the Cab-Merlot blend as “rich, full-bodied, intense with a really deep color.” He knew he wanted it; he didn't know how he was going to pay for it. Opportunity knocked when 50 Burgundians showed up for a tasting at La Dominique, explaining that they were all owners in a Burgundy estate. They offered to help him to set up the same property sharing deal at Réaut. Using word of mouth and a Facebook page, they sold 425 shares at $1,900 each. Now they have owners from 14 countries, including the U.S., Denmark, Croatia, China and Italy. Not to mention Burgundy. “Notice our label—the Bordeaux-Burgundy coat of arms—this is a joint project,” said Evenou. Six of his 12 partners are Burgundians, including Jean Ramonet. From Bordeaux, there is Denis Cuny, owner of the popular bistro Les Noailles. And the minority shareholders are welcome to visit and use the estate. “They’ve already started coming,” said Evenou.

• On Christmas Eve, a waiter at Manhattan restaurant SD26 allegedly executed a reverse-Santa Claus when he surreptitiously filled his sack with eight bottles of primo vino and made his escape out of the cellar (presumably not via the chimney). William Pomakoy's reported haul was valued at $6,434, an impressive $804 per bottle (one wonders if SD26 applies the list markup to bottles reported missing). Perhaps Pomakoy and alleged Per Se grifter Mark Lugo can grab a table together sometime at theft chef Antony Worrall Thompson's joint and reminisce about favorite larcenies over a few bottles from their newly embellished personal collections. Never ones to be out-felonied by the Americans, the British posted a recent fraud of their own. A British man posing as an agent of soccer player Yaya Touré purportedly swindled a Luxembourg merchant out of $33,000 worth of Bordeaux, including Latour, Lafite, Margaux, Pétrus and Ausone. Supposedly Touré was planning a smashing party but, despite receiving (forged) bank receipts detailing payment, the merchant probably should have picked up some "off" aromas when instructed where to leave the wine: a hair salon.

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