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Give Him the Damn Cab: Keyshawn Johnson Starts Wine Label

Plus, Cornell set for $106 million wine school expansion, a Languedoc rancher claims beef tastes better when the cows get a few bottles of wine, and Scotland authorities seize $82,000 of stolen wine

Posted: July 19, 2012

• Former NFL Super Bowl Champion, All-Pro wide receiver and 1996 No. 1 draft pick Keyshawn Johnson has announced he's getting into the wine game. KJ1's first release is a 2007 Cabernet from eastern Oregon's patch of the Columbia Valley. It will begin distribution in September and will be priced at $125 a bottle, with about 60 cases made. Johnson is partnering on the project with R.C. Mills, a Los Angeles-based restaurant industry veteran. The KJ1 label features an image of the Greek god Hermes (or the Roman god Mercury, take your pick), who was known as the messenger of the gods as well as a patron of athletics. “I’ve enjoyed wine for years and for me, Cabernet is king,” Johnson said in a press release today. The Just Give Me the Damn Ball author joins a long list of former NFL greats who have dabbled in the wine business, and follows close on the cleats of the NFL's first team-labeled wine, Jets Uncorked.

• This December, Cornell University will open a huge new building housing a showcase winery and teaching facility for enology and viticulture. It’s part of a $106 million expansion financed by the state of New York to aid agriculture and the wine industry in the Empire State. At Ithaca and its New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, Cornell has helped farmers and vintners for more than 125 years. The new food sciences facility, with floor-to-ceiling windows, will be a showcase for the state’s agricultural efforts, “allowing visitors to follow food as it progresses from the field to the table,” said Kathryn Boor, dean of the agricultural school. Two years in the building, “the multistory structure will house a full-scale winery with the latest in technology,” Dean Boor added, “allowing our students to learn, experiment and make mistakes as they progress toward excellence in the field.” The wine division of the agriculture school has some 70 students on a degree path, with many more taking specialized courses and pursuing research projects. Cornell has 40 faculty members assigned to the station at Geneva and students and faculty travel frequently between the two campuses. Cornell's wine division is the East Coast counterpart to wine schools at UC Davis, Berkley, Sonoma and Fresno. The primary difference is that the California schools specialize in warm weather, Mediterranean-style wines, while Cornell focuses on cold-weather varieties more adaptable to the colder climate of the Northeast and upper Midwest.

• A few months ago, we brought you news of Australian cows that had been fed winemaking waste as part of an agricultural nutrition study, the results of which included cows that produced more milk and less gas. And in 2007, a Japanese chef asked for Wagyu cattle in Australia that were fed a liter of wine a day. Now, with the goal of creating happier (and theoretically therefore tastier) animals, a Languedoc-Roussillon winemaker and his cattle-ranching neighbor have begun to experiment with feeding cows up to two bottles of wine per day. According to an Agence France-Presse report, winemaker Jean-Charles Tastavy has teamed up with rancher Chaballier Claude on the project, called Vinbovin, which has been approved and regulated by the French farmers' union (FDSEA). As predicted, the meat of the wine-drinking cows is fattier and more tender (read: better tasting) than that from their teetotaling peers. The downside, according to rancher Claude, is that their wine-supplemented diet has tripled the cost of feeding the happy cattle, a price increase reflected in the cost of the meat. While it remains to be seen whether the French will pay more for the wine-fortified beef, if their enduring love of fatty, pricey foie gras is any indication, wine-fed beef may soon be on many of France's top tables.

• The wine police blotter has been relatively quiet these past few months compared with 2011's Summer of Wine Crime. (Perhaps the indictment of alleged wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan has all the wine criminals lying low.) But someone was up to some boozy shenanigans in Scotland recently. About $82,000 worth of stolen wine has been seized from a shop in Edinburgh after neighbors grew suspicious that top-shelf Burgundy was being peddled at 11 bucks a pop. The store, Top Cellar, was holding down 1,500 bottles of the wine, which usually retails for $55 in the U.K. The tip-off, apparently, was that the deal on Jean-Marc Brocard Grand Cru Chablis was just a mite too sweet—sweet enough, even, that the store owners are not under particular consideration for guilt in the theft, though Unfiltered suggests they might be tried for not knowing anything about the wines they sell. The bobbies traced the caper back to a port in Dover, though there is no explanation for why Top Cellar bought a bunch of unfamiliar wine from some random person in the first place. But not all parties are pleased with the outcome of the investigation. As the Scotsman article commenter "Richard Blowhard" put it after that paper broke the story, "What kind of complete cretin calls the rozzers when they get a 35 quid bottle of plonk for 7 bucks? Complete idiot. Hope you feel proud when you go back to twitching you curtains." Unfiltered's translation bureau has identified a "rozzer" as a policeman, a "quid" as a unit of currency, and a "curtain twitcher" as a "dodgy watcher." We just hope the evidence locker in Edinburgh is kept at a brisk 55° F.

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