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James Cameron Takes on Canadian Winemaking

Plus, House of Cards disses Long Island wine and a real-life congressman fires back, and PBS airs a new documentary wine series

Posted: February 20, 2014

• Film director and deep-sea explorer James Cameron has just become North America's newest celebrity vintner with his purchase of Beaufort Vineyard and Estate Winery in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, for $2.7 million. Cameron enlisted First Leaf, a winery consulting firm, to help him with the winery acquisition. “We did a thorough study of the site and the property," First Leaf principal Tilman Hainle told Unfiltered. "It was challenging, because this is not a long-established area. This is still pretty frontier winegrowing territory. [Cameron] wanted to have a good indication of, does this have potential to really take off? I think that the potential in that region generally and that property specifically is there in spades." Hainle, a former Okanagan Valley winemaker, said that southern Vancouver Island is a prime cool-climate growing area on the coast. "We’re not going to be making big blockbuster reds here," Hainle said. "We’re going to be focusing on lighter, more delicate, and I think one completely underexplored wine style here—high-quality sparkling.”

Cameron grew up working on his grandfather's farm in Canada. "He has a real interest in organic and sustainable growing and how important farming is for the world," Mark Timmermans, the new GM of the 84-acre property with 6 acres under vine, told the Times Colonist, a Canadian daily. "We’re going to carry on pretty much business as usual for the next year anyway. We don’t have specific plans at this point to go into other crops." So far, anyway: Cameron is a vegan and a vocal advocate of sustainable agriculture, with a biodynamic farm in Santa Barbara and some 3,700 acres in New Zealand he's converting to a wide variety of crops.

• In a case of life imitating art, a real-life congressman has taken exception to a slice of dialogue that took place on episode four of season two in Netflix’s award-winning political thriller, House of Cards. The scene in question involves fictional Congresswoman Jacqueline Sharp who has assumed the role of House Majority Whip, played by actress Molly Parker, confronting two congressmen who were holdouts on a bill she needed votes for. Sharp was told they were holding out because no favor was being offered (this never happens, right?) and when she returned to meet with the two holdouts, one stated he needed help with a waste-treatment facility, and the other, “Ben,” was seeking funding for a wine museum on Long Island, gloating about the quality of his district’s wines. When Sharp, who hails from California, mind you, realizes they are fishing for favors, she reverses her charm, lashing out at the two congressmen, addressing Ben: “I’ve tried some [Long Island wines]. It tastes like piss compared to what we have in Napa. The sort of piss that belongs in Paul’s waste-treatment plant.” Now the real-life analog to Long Island Congressman “Ben” is Congressman Tim Bishop who, when asked about this slight toward his district’s wine, released this statement: "I take exception to anyone criticizing Long Island wines. We have exceptional wines produced by skilled, dedicated and hard-working owners and their employees of vineyards on both forks of our East End, which is why wine production is one of the fastest-growing industries on Long Island. I invite the individuals involved in the show to visit New York's First Congressional District to join me at some of our vineyards." No word on whether or not that challenge has been accepted. The writers are no doubt a bit busy with the recent announcement that House of Cards was renewed for a third season, hopefully giving them an opportunity to revisit this Long Island wine controversy.

• It's been a while since we had some reality television wine news to share—the Bachelor crew just returned from New Zealand's North Island, where they didn't even go wine tasting—but American Public Television is distributing a new six-part television series on PBS called Vintage: Napa Valley 2012. Vintage follows the staffs at Chimney Rock, Rutherford Hill and Markham Vineyards as they bring in the 2012 harvest. "By tracking [just] three wineries closely, we were really able to get to know the players and dig down into the culture of winemaking in the valley," said creator and producer Peter Backeberg in a press release. "What the show is really about is the nitty-gritty of making fine wine. It is hard work, with long hours and a lot of pressure. But the people are dedicated and passionate and they have a lot of fun. Hopefully we captured that and will give viewers a glimpse of what really goes into the birth of a vintage." Check your local listings to catch the series—it's already started in some markets, and will begin by the end of the month elsewhere.

Allan Pannizzo
Farmingville, NY USA —  February 23, 2014 7:21pm ET
I hate to admit it, but Long Island wines are still a long way off from being compared to Napa Valley. As a Long islander, I am still suprised the Quality has not taken the jump needed to be taken seriously. I think there is alot of potential, but people have been saying that for years and it has yet to fully materialize.

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