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Thursday Thorns
All The News That Fits We Spit

By Charles Olken

Sometimes the wine news is more alarming than the Republican primaries. Here are the latest bits of strangeness than have caught my attention.

ITEM: Paul Dolan Ousted

It was forty years and then some that Barney Fetzer decided to join the ranks of those wealthy individuals who were called to winemaking. Perhaps because he was not in the Napa Valley, we do not often speak of him and the empire he created as being part of the first wave of new wineries in the 1970 era. But there he was, before Caymus, before Clos Du Val, before Chateau Montelena. And, as we know, over the years, his small fledgling effort became a large, full-service winery. Along the way, Paul Dolan entered the picture, first as winemaker and then as family member when he married a Fetzer daughter. His influence helped the winery grow into the entity that then was purchased for mucho dinero by Brown-Forman. In time, all the Fetzers departed, of course and the brand lost its cache. But Dolan, and another set of partners went off and purchased the Parducci winery from the family and were running it, for better or worse, as a value brand. Now comes word that Dolan has been forcibly removed from Parducci in some kind of coup that led to the constabulary being called and his name and image rather abruptly being removed from the winery website and listings.

Now, all of this would be small beer in a world in which candidates for the Presidency call each other “despicable” save for the fact that this is our world, our everyday world, and Paul Dolan is a good man with the vision to create brands and to lead the way in modern viticulture. Dolan will wind up on his feet. He is smart, agile and connected. But this incident reminds us that is “people”, not machines who make wine.

ITEM: “Wine Producers Campaign For Truth In Labeling”

I saw this headline and started cheering. Surely, it meant that the wineries were going to start making alcohol statements more accurate, easier to find on wine labels and easier to read when found. The other night, we had a bottle of Peju Cabernet in which the government-mandated alcohol statement was printed in dark red on black, sideways, on textured paper and in tiny print. A roomful of wine writers and winemakers, having tasted the wine blind, could not read the statement with or without our glasses on.

But, no such luck. The article was all about how to protect the Napa name and why American producers of sparkling wine are still using the geographic term “Champagne” on their labels. Now, I am all for protecting Napa’s good name, but then, too, am I also all for protecting Champagne’s good name. What I don’t get is why some Americans in the wine biz think they can have it both ways. And, of course, I am still cheesed off that they want to have their cake and eat it too on wine labels but too many of them do not think that consumers are entitled to truth in labeling.


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by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:2/2/2012 10:46:16 PM

On item 2, bless you sir Charles

Sam Says
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:2/3/2012 12:35:45 AM

Thanks, Sam, I needed that.

what's in a name...
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:2/3/2012 8:50:18 AM

...while writing my latest book, I've made the decision that when I refer to an actual brand name, I have no choiuce but to use the word the producer uses: champagne. But whenever i refer to the wine in the text not as a brand but as a wine type, I use the words sparkling wine.

Can't tell you how many converstaions I had--and lost--with NY producers who have used and continue to use European name on some wines. I once aske done of them how he would like it a French producer labeled a wine White Finger Lakes, or some such. His response: why would they?


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