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Geno Auriemma Tips Off March Madness with New Vino

Plus, a red for the King of Blues, an Eagle serves up a Peaceful Easy Feeling Cabernet, a drone spotted above Sonoma's vineyards, a Victoria vineyard pot bust, and wine country is America's best country

Posted: March 21, 2013

• For sports fans across the U.S., today and tomorrow will be perhaps the least productive work days of the year. Why? Because teenage boys and girls are skipping class to play in a basketball tournament—what's otherwise known, for good reason, as March Madness. And few people know how to succeed during March Madness better than University of Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, winner of seven NCAA national championships, not to mention a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Knowing full well that you are much more likely to be watching basketball (and drinking) than working right now, Auriemma released his newest line of eponymous wines from Italy today, made by 47 Anno Domini Vineyards in Italy's Veneto region in partnership with Wines by Design, the same folks who helped launch the New York Jets' Uncorked Cabernet. The Geno Auriemma lineup includes a Prosecco NV, a 2012 Pinot Grigio, a 2010 Puglia Rosso and a 2008 Cabernet-Merlot blend. "The decision to create a line of Italian wines was the fulfillment of a dream," said Auriemma in a press release. "For me, these wines bring back memories of growing up in Italy. I wanted to create wines with character for people to enjoy at their tables with family and friends." And while playing hooky from the office during March Madness.

Don't let the lyrics fool you. The thrill is not yet gone for 87-year-old blues legend B.B. King. In fact, he's just getting started when it comes to wine. This week he released the B.B. King Signature Collection Red 2010 and White 2011, made by Bodega Santa Cruz in Spain's Almansa D.O. Available now in Memphis and Nashville, but coming soon to a wine store near you, the B.B King red is a Garnacha, Syrah and Cabernet blend Crianza and the white is 100 percent Verdejo; both are priced at $14. Seems like a good pairing for the busted-bracket blues later this weekend.

We didn't need the Eagles' hit song "Hotel California" to tell us that permanent vacations are best avoided, especially in this job market, but it does raise the question of what wine pairs best with colitas, especially when Don Henley implores the hotel captain to "please bring me my wine." Turns out they serve pink Champagne at the Hotel California, but the sense of impending doom the song leaves us with makes us think Eagles songwriter Jack Tempchin's new Cabernet would be more welcome. The new Peaceful Easy Feeling California Cabernet Sauvignon is being made by Temecula's South Coast Winery and will sell for $17 a bottle. Just don't plan on opening a bottle to alleviate any of that rampant March Madness that's going around: Peaceful Easy Feeling won't be available until April 26.

The Santa Rosa, Calif., Press Democrat has the scoop on a story that passes for scandal in Sonoma: Kunde Family Estate has been taking aerial videos of its vineyards and posting them to its YouTube page. But how are they getting this sky-high footage? With a toy helicopter DRONE. Is the $1,000 camera-mounted terror of the skies nicknamed "Vino" also equipped with a botrytis rot blaster to take out competitors' vines on American soil? It would be irresponsible not to speculate. According to the PD, Vino is just a cutesy name for the DJI Phantom Aerial UAV Drone Quadcopter, which has a range of 984 feet, a GPS-enabled autopilot mode and—one must assume—the capability to rain fiery death from above upon any critic or blogger who might disparage Kunde's wines. "We're just filming our vineyards," as communications manager Marcia Kunde Mickelson sinisterly put it. It turns out that using Vino the Drone for commercial, promotional purposes is illegal, leaving Vino grounded and Sonoma's skies once again ruled by tourist-laden hot-air balloons alone.

You know who does have good reason not to want drones flying over their vineyard? People using their vines as a cover to hide a ton of marijuana plants, is who. In Australia's New South Wales, North East Victoria police found the biggest crop of cannabis they'd seen in a decade, adding some biodiversity to an 86-acre vineyard. According to Australia's Herald Sun, two men were arrested for farming cannabis, and will be missing out on a payload estimated at $18.7 million in street value. It is unclear if the grapes in the non-commercial vineyard were going to be used to make wine or if they were just chilling out on the vines thinking about, like, how crazy photosynthesis is and stuff.

It doesn't get any better than wine country living. You can take that from Fodor’s Travel Guides, which named three wine country destinations among its 10 Best Small Towns in America, published earlier this week. Healdsburg, Calif., tops the list, cited for its “Norman Rockwell charm,” its vibrant town square that often features live music and the locally famous thin-crust pizza at Scopa. Fodor’s neglects to mention that Healdsburg is, most important, the point at which three of California’s great AVAs meet—the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys. Also showing in the Top 10 is Traverse City, Mich., which has long been known as the nation’s largest producer of tart cherries but is gaining increasing recognition for its grapes: The cool-climate Old Mission Peninsula AVA now produces noteworthy ice wines, sparkling wines and dry Rieslings. Finally, so-nice-they-named-it-twice Walla Walla, Wash., makes the cut with its recent influx of gourmet establishments, whose remarkable growth over the past few decades is due in large part to the boom of the area’s wine industry.

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