Enth Degree - November 15, 2005
News and notes from the world of wine.
The suspense had been building since Napa Valley's Opus One winery had revealed that in a matter of days there would be an announcement regarding its ownership status. Looking for a scoop, journalists from far and wide showed up at the winery promptly at 10a.m. on September 22 for the scheduled revelation. The news was delivered by co-owners (above) Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who also owns Château Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux, and Robert Sands, president of wine behemoth Constellation Brands. (Opus One was founded by Robert Mondavi and Philippine's late father, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, in 1979. Last year, Constellation became the Baroness's partner when it acquired Robert Mondavi Winery.)
At 10:30, an orchestral refrain sallied forth from hidden speakers, trumpeting the new opus for Opus. The music played on right through the opening speech by winery general manager David Pierson. Someone finally found the off button in time for the Baroness to speak. "We have decided to keep Opus One a 50/50 joint venture like it was before," she said dramatically. The hushed crowd waited for more. It came in the form of a short but well-deserved tribute
The Baroness did, however, allude to the fact that there had been "issues and problems" subsequent to the Constellation purchase. Apparently these have been worked out. The only real change is that Opus will now be run as an independent company with its own sales and marketing, winemaking and administrative team. Michael Silacci will remain as winemaker. Everyone seemed relieved.
Wine gets its own reality show! Produced by PBS, Wine Makers is a new series in which five people will compete for the chance to produce their own wine. ** Long-time Napa viticulturist Robert Steinhauer has been named 2005's winner of the Wine Industry Integrity Awards, presented by the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission. ** Tired of the same-old slushies on your late night 7-Eleven runs? KDM Global Partners LLC has signed with the convenience chain to provide a private-label wine. Thousand Oaks Vineyard wine will be sold exclusively through 7-Eleven at 3,200 locations. ** Dennis Black, owner of Black Emerald Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, has been named the new president of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association. ** San Joaquin Valley, having become the leader in smog pollution, is preparing to adopt the nation's first air-quality restrictions on winemaking. The vintners in the area's 109 wineries who mass-produce wine would be required to install pollution control on their fermentation tanks, the same that are used in oil refineries and steel mills. ** Grant Raeside has been named executive director for Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance. ** Chard seeks fun-loving Syrah for long walks on the beach? You can turn your love of wine into a way to meet other single enophiles. Grapedates.com is an online dating site for "singles who share a sophisticated lifestyle and a love of wine." ** Icon Estates has appointed Larry Levin vice president of winemaking. ** Hong Kong's Disney park has four new additions—all of which are Oregon wines. This is expected to bolster visibility of Oregon wines in Asia. ** Morgan Winery has appointed Gianni Abate as their new winemaker. ** Cornell University has started a new 4-year undergrad program for viticulture and enology, the first of its kind on the East Coast.
—Samara D. Genee
Best known as Seven of Nine, the sexy Borg from Star Trek: Voyager, and Ronnie Cooke, a lawyer turned teacher on Boston Public, Jeri Ryan has moved from in front of the camera to a restaurant's front of the house. Ryan studied theater at Northwestern University, and entered beauty pageants to help pay the tuition. She was crowned Miss Illinois in 1989, and competed the following year for the Miss America title. After graduating, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting, landing roles on Melrose Place, Matlock and other series and feature films. She will appear in seven episodes of The O.C. this season. A divorced mother of one, Ryan now lives with boyfriend and business partner Christophe Emé. Together they recently opened Ortolan, a French restaurant in West Hollywood.
Wine Enthusiast: You're a successful actress, but at night you're basically the hostess in this restaurant. What's that about?
Jeri Ryan: I did it backwards. I never waited tables while I was a struggling actress.
WE: How did you meet Christophe?
JR: It was at one of those SOS/Taste of the Nation dinners. He did this exquisite little tomato tart. And he looked very cute in his chef's jacket.
WE: You were born in Germany. Were you raised there? Do you like beer and German food?
JR: I was an Army brat. My father was based in Germany at the time I was born, but we moved back here before I was one. Beer is something I've never acquired a taste for. I don't like anything about it.
WE: Did you grow up with wine at the table and helping out in the kitchen?
JR: No. My parents didn't drink wine when I was growing up, and we didn't go to fancy restaurants. My mom cooked, but it was utilitarian: feed the family. But she did bake —blueberry pies, cherry pies, pies with fruit off our own trees. I love to bake, and I have my own apple and peach trees. I initially became interested in restaurants at Northwestern. And once I was married, I began to cook. …I drank a lot of wine while working on Boston Public. [Executive Producer] Mark Listo is a great guy and a big fan of Italian and French wines, and he taught me a lot. He got me started on great white wines. My dressing room on that show was known as "Jeri's Pub" because I always had wine.
WE: Does your son share your interests?
JR: He will definitely be a wine connoisseur. When we were tasting wines before opening the restaurant, I would give my son the glass to smell. He was always dead on with his thoughts. For one wine, he [thought that it smelled like] "the makeup trailer on Star Trek," and he was right.
WE: How much did you have to do with the wine program at Ortolan?
JR: I'm extremely involved. More than 85 percent of the wines on our list came from the tastings, and I was there for every one of them.
WE: How's your spitting technique?
JR: "Spitters are quitters" was our motto. But you have to spit sometimes.
WE: What are you drinking most these days?
JR: Pinot Noir. And I'm a huge fan of meritage wines. I love Ports, too. I recently had a Smith Woodhouse 1986 Tawny. The finish is pure black walnut—just lovely, lovely, lovely.
WE: What about white wines?
JR: I'm a recent convert. My single favorite is Yorkville Cellars' 2001 Eleanor of Aquitaine. It's organic, and a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. It was my favorite from the tastings [at the restaurant], out of more than 1,000 bottles. It has lime zest and apricot on the nose, and it's buttery. I don't put it on ice; I prefer it warmer. It's so complex, it keeps evolving and changing, and has so many layers. We bought everything they had —26 cases.
WE: Do you get to travel much?
JR: Before we opened the restaurant, we went to visit Christophe's family in the Loire Valley. It's just heartbreakingly beautiful, and the wines are phenomenal. His family grows grapes and makes wine. We got to help harvest his brother's grapes and watch his dad press them.
WE: You have quite a reputation as someone who's really fit, with a great body. How do you keep that up while working around so much food and wine?
JR: "Fit" is the wrong word! I'm lucky to have a good metabolism. I'm thin, but not fit. I work out when I have to. I hate it. I am the least athletic and laziest person on the planet.