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Mark Cuban Invests Big in Box Wine

Plus, the Smithsonian honors six of America's great winemaking families, and the San Francisco Giants celebrate with Mumm Napa … again

Posted: October 30, 2014

• This past Friday on ABC’s Shark Tank, viewers saw outspoken billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban get into the wine game. It was a rocky start for Austin, Texas-based BeatBox Beverages (they’ve reimagined the classic wine box as a Warhol-esque facsimile of an '80s era jam box, which conveniently holds a party-worthy 5 liters of wine priced at $65 per 2-pack, or about $5 per standard 750ml bottle). Cofounders Aimy Steadman, Brad Schultz and Justin Fenchel offered the Sharks a taste of their “wine-based beverage”: It's an 11 percent alcohol drink based on orange wine—no, not that hip wine made from white grapes macerated with their skins that your least favorite somm won't stop making you taste; BeatBox is literally made from fermented orange juice. Investor and resident Shark Tank enophile Kevin O’Leary took a sip of the company’s Blue Razzberry Lemonade and declared, "This tastes like shit!" But that didn’t stop him, or any of the Sharks, from bidding on a piece of the company, descriptive flavor profile notwithstanding.

BeatBox's creators were asking for an initial offer of $250,000 for a 10 percent stake in the company, explaining that in a competitive and incumbent-brand-laden alcohol market like Texas, they made $235,000 in sales in just 14 months. That figure got the Sharks' attention, and when a circling group of the show’s namesake creatures have their eye on the same bait, you get what people tune in for: a frenzy. But it was the BeatBox team's insight as to why people buy box wine in the first place that really hooked the Sharks: When people buy a box of wine, it's for a group—the purchase is ruled by convenience, not brand. “You guys don’t sell wine," Cuban said, "You sell fun.” Comparisons to Bethenny Frankel's wildly successful Skinnygirl line of wines didn't hurt, either, and offers from everyone in the room started stacking up. But when Cuban offered $600,000 for a 33 percent stake in the company, the BeatBox trio recoiled a bit, prompting Cuban to ask for a counter offer. Fenchel, the company’s CEO, asked for $1 million for 33 percent, and Cuban bit.

• In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the museum celebrated six vintners and members of winemaking families during a winemakers' dinner at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C., last night. The Smithsonian deemed the 1960s a tremendous expansion and growth period for many American winegrowing regions that resulted from a combination of postwar prosperity, new ideas about living close to the land, an infusion of capital in certain regions, a spirit of innovation and experimentation, and a desire to improve the quality of wine produced in America. The celebrated group consisted of members from integral contributors to the wine industry including: Jason Lett of Eyrie Vineyards, whose father, David Lett, was the first to plant Pinot Noir vines in Willamette Valley; Frederick Frank of Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, whose grandfather ignited the vinifera revolution in the Finger Lakes region, elevating the New York wine industry; Mount Eden’s Jeffrey Patterson, who took over winemaking operations in 1983, continuing the lineage of the historic vineyard in the Santa Clara Mountains; Rob Cook, current winemaker at Chalone Vineyard, first planted in 1919 in the rural and rustic Pinnacle Mountains of Monterey County; Kathleen Heitz Myers, whose parents, Joe and Alice Heitz, crafted the first Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in 1966, Napa Valley’s first single-vineyard Cabernet; and Warren Winiarski, whose famed 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon outscored their French competitors at the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting, and was included as part of the Smithsonian's "101 Objects that Made America" in 2013. "We knew that there was potential for great American wine in those days," said Winiarski in a statement. "I was lucky to have started growing grapes and making wine along with others whose quest for great wines from America coincided with mine. We all made this happen together."

• For the third time in the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals, it was the Madison Bumgarner show in last night's decisive Game 7. Bumgarner pitched 5 innings of scoreless relief last night after winning Game 1 and earning a complete-game shutout in Game 5, culminating in his being named World Series Most Valuable Player. And for the third time in the past five years, Mumm Napa sparkling wine was waiting for the triumphant Giants in the locker room. Unfiltered's honorary MVP goes to Mumm Napa assistant winemaker Tami Lotz, who attended every single Giants post-season home game this year. As this is starting to become a regular thing for the Giants and Mumm, the winery last year created a special cuvée dedicated to the team, Mumm Napa Giants Brut Prestige ($27), featuring the Giants logo on the label. It's part of an entire lineup of team-themed wines that Major League Baseball has been rolling out over the past two years. For last night's victory, a Mumm Napa spokesperson informed Unfiltered, the winery brought enough sparkling wine "to fill a hot tub"—more than 300 gallons worth, or 130 cases. Just to be clear, though, we much prefer our sparkling wine pulled from an ice bath.

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