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Wine-and-Football Season Kicks Off for Raider Nation

Plus, Rudy Kurniawan's trial postponed, Singapore students make wine from the foul-smelling durian fruit and more

Posted: August 1, 2013

• For Unfiltered's sport-minded readers, the PGA Championship may be just a week away, and baseball's playoff picture is starting to shake out, but all the talk around the wine fridge this week has been about football, with NFL teams opening training camp around the country. Fittingly, we've got football wine to talk about as well. Retired NFL stars, coaches and owners have made a habit of getting into the wine business, but one of the oldest such associations has been pulling a QB sneak on us for nearly 25 years: The McGah family of Napa's McGah Family Cellars were cofounders of the Oakland Raiders football franchise in 1960, and maintained their stake in the team until 2005. E.W. McGah passed down his stake in the Raiders in 1983 to his son, E.J. McGah, who had played several seasons for the Boston Red Sox before and after World War II (wine and baseball is an equally popular pairing). E.J. purchased the family's 65-acre Rutherford estate in 1990, and it's now run by his grandson, Sherratt Reicher, himself a former defensive assistant and scout for the Raiders as recently as 2002. Today McGah Family Cellars makes two estate-grown wines: Scarlett Cabernet Sauvignon and 1070 Green Sauvignon Blanc. "Working with Al Davis, I built a solid work ethic and learned that building a strong foundation is critical to success," Reicher told Unfiltered. "Football and winemaking are actually quite similar. The same sense of passion and dedication that we invested into the Raiders franchise is something that carries across to McGah Family Cellars. Our team works hard for nine months ensuring the grapes we grow are the best possible, then the harvest is like our Super Bowl." Perhaps now that the word is out about this Napa wine with Raider roots, the elaborately costumed superfans in the Black Hole will have to rethink their beverage selections for pregame tailgates.

• Federal prosecutors will have to wait a few months longer to put Rudy Kurniawan on trial. In a Manhattan courtroom Wednesday, District Judge Richard Berman pushed the trial date of the accused wine counterfeiter back from Sept. 9 to Dec. 9. The main reason for the delay is that it's still unclear who will be defending Kurniawan, 36, who has been incarcerated for well over a year in a Brooklyn detention center. According to Judge Berman, unspecified differences arose in June, if not earlier, between Kurniawan and Michael Proctor, his lawyer since shortly after his arrest in March 2012. While Proctor is still the attorney of record, two new attorneys, Jerome Mooney and Vincent Verdiramo, flanked Kurniawan at this hearing. Mooney explained that arrangements have not been completed with Kurniawan's family in Indonesia. As another lawyer in the courtroom speculated, "They're probably waiting for Mr. Green"—fee payment up front, as is common in criminal representation. Berman has not hidden his irritation at the game of musical chairs going on with lawyers. At a conference last week, the gray-haired judge told Kurniawan and the lawyers at the defense table, "I'm a patient person, but I've never had a situation like this. I'm assuming that when we get on track we'll stay on track."

• Can the world's foulest-smelling fruit make a wine worth drinking? Two students at the National University of Singapore have produced a white wine made from the durian fruit, revered and reviled throughout southeast Asia as the king of fruit, with its spiky husk and football shape, a creamy pulp and profound stench likened to rotting elephant carcass, a city dump on a sweltering day and turpentine. Its repulsive smell has led officials to ban it from public transport in Singapore and Malaysians are forbidden from eating durian in public. Scientists have identified four odorous durian molecules never before found in nature. Yet none of these obstacles curbed the entrepreneurial spirit of students Christine Lee, 29, and Fransisca Taniasuri, 22, both in the food science and technology program, who produced a white wine made from durian pulp after a four-week fermentation. Absent a tasting sample, Unfiltered reserves judgment on the wine’s organoleptic qualities. Fermentation does some amazing things with molecules, and we love the results. Lee and Taniasuri are currently open to investment, but wear a helmet if you're touring a durian orchard: Reports of death by falling durian are widely exaggerated, but better safe than concussed.

• In mid-July, Argentine oil baron Alejandro Bulgheroni purchased Podere Brizio in Montalcino for an undisclosed sum from proprietor Roberto Bellini. With this acquisition, Bulgheroni now has a total of 62 acres of Brunello di Montalcino D.O.C.G., 20 acres of Rosso di Montalcino D.O.C. and 17 acres of Sant’Antimo D.O.C. Earlier this year, Bulgheroni purchased Poggiolandi for a reported $20 million from Stefano Cinelli Colombini of Fattoria dei Barbi, which included 331 acres of land with 62 acres of vines. The purchase of Podere Brizio supplements the necessary winemaking facility and cellar that will facilitate the vinification of both areas in Montalcino in 2013 and 2014. Bulgheroni also owns wineries in Argentina, Uruguay and California.

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