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Fire Destroys Bergström's Equipment, Wine Collection

Plus, a controversial winemaker incites a boycott, wine as Virgil drank it, and more

Posted: August 29, 2013

• An Aug. 27 fire damaged an equipment barn and wine-storage facility beyond repair at Bergström Wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The flames were concentrated on the maintenance side of the building, where a tractor and vineyard-management equipment were stored. The Bergström family’s personal wine collection also sustained substantial heat and smoke damage. “We believe that more than 150 cases of wine were potentially ruined,” winemaker and co-owner Josh Bergström told Unfiltered via e-mail. “Fortunately, our main stock of current-release wines as well as our general wine library containing all of our wines going back to our first vintage in 1999 are safe and sound in a separate warehouse off-site.” The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but according to Dundee Fire District Chief John Stock, the combustion may have been a reaction between a leaking container of Stylet Oil, a mineral oil used to control pests and mildew, and copper hydroxide powder, which is used as a fungicide. Both products are commonly used in organic, biodynamic and sustainable viticulture. “Probably a lot of people in the wine industry use these and don’t realize that they are the last two chemicals that should be sitting next to one another,” said Stock. A Facebook posting by Bergström provoked an immediate outpouring from the Oregon wine community, with fellow winemakers offering to loan their tractors and equipment and, in one case, dropping off a case of wine to replenish the family’s lost collection.

Prominent American restaurants and retailers announced they would remove the wines of Friulian producer Fulvio Bressan after news got out that the Italian winemaker had posted a racially charged rant on Facebook against Italy's minister of integration, Cécile Kyenge, who is Italy's first African-Italian minister. Chambers Street Wines in Manhattan pulled the wines, as did Astor Wines & Spirits, calling the incident "crazy" on Twitter. Bobby Stuckey of Frasca Food & Wine, a Boulder, Co., restaurant specializing in northern Italian cuisine and wine, also Tweeted his boycott. Bressan responded to Stuckey in a comment on the blog Do Bianchi by claiming it "such an honor" to be off Frasca's list and even insulting Stuckey's sense of fashion .

• When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And when in Sicily too! Italian archaeologists are planting vines in Catania, a city on the island’s east coast, with the aim to make red wine entirely as the ancient Romans did. Archaeologist Daniele Malfitana and researcher Mario Indelicato will be using the works of big-time winegrower and writer Columella, published circa the first century AD, as a guide for the winemaking project, as well as Georgics, Virgil’s epic poem about agriculture. The grape of choice will be the indigenous Nerello Mascalese, a late-ripening grape whose wines boast delicate aromatics and a light body. The vines will be planted with wooden Roman tools and supported with canes and woven juniper leaves. The fermentation will take place in human-size terracotta pots, which back in the day were lined with beeswax to make them impermeable. After fermentation, the juice will age in the pots, sealed with clay or resin. No fermenting agents will be used, nor any modern chemicals; mechanization will be banned from the winemaking process. Chaptalization is totally legit though, as Romans often added honey and water to their wines in order to dull their sometimes-vinegary taste. “You can call this experimental archaeology,” Indelicato told the Guardian. The first vintage should be ready in 2017.

• In the latest installment of the New York fine dining world's effort to provide relief to Hurricane Sandy victims, The Hess Collection has partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society to hold Sip for the Sea, a sustainable wine-and-food event that will raise funds to renovate the New York Aquarium. A longtime advocate of sustainability in both the vineyard and the ocean, Napa-based Hess is gathering 20 New York chefs, from Del Posto, Rouge Tomate, Beauty & Essex and more, at the Central Park Zoo on Sept. 12. "Hess is always looking for ways to get our sustainable messaging out," said Brian Scott, strategic account manager for Hess and the founder of the event, noting Hess' longtime partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The tasting will allow guests to sample dishes created specifically to pair with the Hess Collection family of wines on hand (from Hess, Macphail, Artezin, Glen Carlou and others)—yellowfin tuna Dalì from Casa Mono with Amalaya Torrontés/Riesling Blend 2012; Bristof Bay sockeye salmon pastrami from the Lambs Club with Peter Lehmann 8 Songs Shiraz 2009—and the chef responsible for the top-rated pairing wins a dinner for two at Maze by Gordon Ramsay. Scott said that it's been easy to rally support for the New York Aquarium, which incurred more than $80 million worth of damages in the wake of the hurricane. "We want to rebuild this place," he said. "The plans for the new renovation down there are super cool … so we're very excited to be a part of it. And the community's excited." Tickets to the event start at $200 and are available at www.wcs.org/sipforthesea.

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