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Carlos Santana Takes the Sparkling Wine Stage

Plus, embezzlement charges for a Santa Barbara winemaker, former Queensrÿche frontman Geoff Tate takes his wine label on the road, and more
Photo by: Jim Marshall Photography LLC
This Jim Marshall photo of Carlos Santana graces the Santana Savor label.

Posted: November 12, 2015

Latin rock pioneer Carlos Santana is returning to the wine stage, this time collaborating with his lifelong friend and photographer Jim Marshall to release Santana Savor, a limited-release sparkling wine produced by Mumm Napa. Next week, the wine will be poured for the first time at “Jim Marshall Seen Through the Eyes of Carlos Santana,” a photography exhibit at Mumm Napa that showcases Santana's favorite rock portraits by Marshall. The two Woodstock vets collaborated with the San Francisco Art Exchange to select 40 original photographs, including the one found on the label of the new Savor bottle. The $25 dry bubbly is a blend of Napa Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris, and 25 percent of the sales proceeds will go to the Milagro Foundation, a charitable organization founded by Santana and his wife, Deborah, to help underserved children.

Former Oreana Winemaker Charged with Embezzlement, Tax Fraud, Money Laundering

Embezzlement has allegedly struck the wine industry yet again. Former winemaker Christian Garvin was arrested Nov. 5 on charges of tax fraud, money laundering and embezzling more than $1.6 million from Oreana Winery in Santa Barbara, where he worked from 2005 to 2013 and controlled 10 percent of the business. If convicted, Garvin faces up to 52 years in prison.

Though Garvin started Oreana Winery in 2005 with two Los Angeles–based business partners, Barry Goldfarb and Judy Koyama, according to Santa Barbara police Sgt. Riley Harwood, Garvin fancied himself the sole proprietor of the winery. “He managed the tasting room and winery, and to folks here, he was the main persona,” Harwood told Unfiltered, going on to say that Garvin created a business bank account to manage the winery's funds and then opened a separate account at a different bank with a name similar to the original, but which listed him as the sole proprietor and account holder. Over the course of several years, Garvin allegedly diverted payment checks for wine and other services into the personal account.

Harwood said Garvin's business partners became suspicious when they noticed discrepancies in Garvin’s record keeping. “They initially wrote it off as forgetfulness or poor bookkeeping habits,” said Harwood, noting that they soon realized the discrepancies were much more substantial, which prompted them to conduct an audit in 2013. They originally believed that Garvin had embezzled nearly $200,000 from the business.

Garvin left Oreana shortly after the audit, but remained in the area. His business partners contacted the Santa Barbara Police Department, which Harwood said lead to the investigation revealing Garvin’s second bank account. He said the total amount allegedly diverted is more than $1.6 million. A secondary investigation by the Franchise Tax Board alleges that Garvin filed false state income tax returns from 2008 to 2013 because he had not reported the embezzled funds as income.

Garvin pleaded not guilty to 58 felony counts of embezzlement, money laundering and tax fraud in court on Tuesday, and remains in Santa Barbara County jail on $260,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in court again next month.

Geoff Tate Takes Insania on the Road

Former Queensrÿche and current Operation: Mindcrime frontman Geoff Tate joined the winemaking musician club back in 2008 with the introduction of his own label, Insania, a Bordeaux blend made by Holly Turner of Three Rivers winery in Walla Walla. He followed that up with a sophomore effort Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend also from Washington.

But Tate hasn’t forgotten that wine fans, like music fans, require that you keep producing. To that end, he has announced that his Insania line is going across the pond to Germany, in a partnership with Rinklin wines of Baden. Rinklin, an organic winery founded in 1955 that specializes in Pinot Gris, Riesling and Pinot Noir, will be vinifying and selling the wine. The wine, a nod to his wife’s German heritage, will be a Bioland-certified organic 2014 Kabinett Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris to us). The wine will be for sale via Rinklin’s website later this month, with the 2014 vintage limited to about 500 bottles priced at about $16. Described by Rinklin as “youthful … with harmonious and encouraging acidity,” Insania's German offering should pair well with Tate's brand of heavy metal.

L.A. Wine Directors Honored for Commitment to Burgundy

Wine director Phillip Dunn of Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning Spago Beverly Hills, who has helmed chef Wolfgang Puck's flagship wine program since 2013, just earned another prestigious award for the mantle: The Prix Le Montrachet, an honor awarded annually to a sommelier outside of France who has shown outstanding knowledge of and commitment to the wines of Burgundy, specifically white wines from the Côte de Beaune. "My team and I are humbled by this honor from Prix Le Montrachet," Dunn told Unfiltered. "I consider Burgundy the forefather appellation for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and we are constantly working to keep a wide and varying selection on our list."

Organized by Le Montrachet restaurant in Puligny-Montrachet, the prize opens its applications to a different country or city each year, with this year's focus on Los Angeles. Burgundian wine and restaurant professionals evaluate each sommelier candidate based upon his or her restaurant's wine list and responses to a questionnaire about the region and its wines. This year's group of winners also included Justin Prairie of Grand Award winner Capo and Silvestre Fernandez of Patina, who received second place and honorable mention, respectively. A dozen Burgundy winemakers will join Prix Le Montrachet cofounder Philippe Faraut to present the awards at Spago at the end of the month.

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