Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cuttings From The Online Vineyard

    Remembering the Civil War, sweetly
  • The latest campaign of the Civil War involves reds and whites rather than Blues and Grays. With the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States under way, wineries in Virginia are commemorating the anniversary by promoting a self-guided tour of commonwealth battlefields and tasting rooms. Visit a war site, then a nearby tasting room, urges the Virginia Wine Board. Not sure how the flavor of one will affect the taste of the other, but stranger pairings no doubt have been tried in the country's wine culture. Virginia visitors can pick up a "passport" along the way to be stamped at each winery on the tour, giving themselves a kind of medal of valor for the long and exhausting trek. Participating wineries also are releasing 30 special wines that pay tribute to notable battlegrounds and pivotal characters in the state. While many of the labels take a balanced or neutral position concerning the conflict, the Confederacy overall gets more favorable acknowledgement. One proprietary wine, "Traveller," even is named in tribute to Gen. Robert E. Lee's horse.
  • Since at least the Ronald Reagan Administration, California vintners have looked forward to the release of menus for state dinners at the White House. They, with wine enthusiasts generally, wanted to see what wines were chosen to accompany the featured courses. Today, copies of many menus from the Reagan and subsequent administrations hang in the tasting rooms of wineries that were blessed with having one or more of their wines chosen to be poured for this or that head of state. That tradition apparently is ending, or at least being interrupted, by the Obama Administration, which seems fearful that voters uneasy over the shaky economy might become downright angry when they learn that the President is serving a prime minister a $100 California chardonnay, and not just one bottle, but several. Or maybe the President's lack of transparency has less to do with election-year politics than with culinary embarrassment. The White House hospitality staff, after all, has been stung by foodie criticism concerning its pairing of food and wine for heads of state, such as a high-alcohol grenache with "coconut-aged basmati" and "green curry prawns with smoked collard greens" for Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. At any rate, Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News, a former colleague of McClatchy Newspapers, pulled together this comprehensive and fair report on the whole issue. Eventually, of course, the identities of the wines will become known; leaks at the White House aren't unheard of, and few vintners are the silent type.
  • Has the FBI checked out Rudy Kurniawan's art collection? He's the 35-year-old Indonesian who FBI agents arrested last week in what could turn out to be the largest wine-fraud case in the nation's history. Six years ago, Corie Brown, then a writer for the Los Angeles Time (now she's general manager of the the culinary website Zester Daily), wrote this telling profile of Kurniawan, who was maintaining an expensive and high-profile presence on the wine-auction circuit. In view of subsequent developments, Brown's feature  includes this gem of a paragraph: "There are serious pitfalls to buying old wine, Kurniawan says. Counterfeit wines and wines damaged during shipment or poor storage are common. Only after he'd tasted hundreds of bottles did Kurniawan learn how to spot the fakes, he says. He studies the corks for signs of tampering, knows the telling details of the labels for all of the top wines, and can spot bottle markings that don't match that bottle's label." Just as intriguing is her closing paragraph, in which Kurniawan says his new passion is collecting art. For reaction among wine collectors to word of Kurniawan's arrest, be sure to read the comments at the end of this posting at Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist.com.

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