Billionaire Koch Sends Half His Cellar To Sotheby’s; Silicon Valley Meets Napa Valley; Plus Other News & Note

An old wine cellar.

It was recently reported that billionaire Bill Koch, known for his wealth and protracted legal battles against wine fraudsters, will sell half his cellar’s 40,000 bottles at auction in New York on May 19–21. The wines have been sorted into 2700 lots, with projected sales of up to $15 million. Highlights include 125 lots of Château Latour, 100 of Château Lafite, 80 of Château Mouton Rothschild, 60 of Petrus, 200 of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 100 of Domaine Leroy, 45 of Guigal, 11 vintages from Harlan, seven vintages of Penfolds Grange and a boatload of Piedmontese wines.

When asked why he was clearing out half his cellar, Mr. Koch responded, “I could not possibly consume everything in my cellar so I am delighted to offer this selection to allow collectors all over the world to enjoy the glorious moments that come with these wines.”

A Cascade of Wine And Chips

It’s a double anniversary celebration for Tim Kennedy, the founder of Tim’s Cascade Potato Chips and the proprietor of Don Carlo Vineyard in the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA. Kennedy purchased the vineyard a decade ago, and the transition from chips to corks began. Today, the homey tasting room at Don Carlo pairs Kennedy’s snacks with his wines. Kennedy recommends the jalapeño chips with his Chardonnay, and parmesan garlic with his red wines. The lineup of wines is just as adventurous, ranging from all the major Bordeaux varieties to a Super Tuscan Vino Rosso.

Speaking of Chips, Wine Bottles Go Hi-Tech

Kuvee Wine BottleKuvée, a young startup out of Boston, is promoting their first product, a wi-fi connected wine bottle with a touchscreen. This hi-tech package is supposed to keep wine fresh for up to a month. The package involves a special metal bottle and a wine cartridge that fits inside its base. Pop in a fresh cartridge and the bottle shows a digital image of the label and background information on the touchscreen. So far Bonny Doon, Schug, B.R. Cohn and Pine Ridge are among the 48 wines being offered.

“It’s a truly original approach to packaging and marketing wine,” notes Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm. “We’re excited to be among the first to take advantage of the benefits.” Most of the wines available are millennial-friendly offerings in the $15–$30 range. Downsides? It needs to be recharged every six hours, and at $199 it isn’t cheap.

And in Other Tech News: Robots Really Are Taking All The Jobs

While waiting for your Kuvée you may want to build your own Texterator. It’s a robot that pours you a beer when you text it. Think Siri with suds. Developed by Zipwhip, the Texterator debuted a couple of weeks ago at the GeekWire 5th Anniversary Bash. Attendees could text “Beer” and the robot would text back when their order was ready to be picked up.

The Texterator also laser-etches the last four digits of your phone number into a red solo cup, and will keep track of your re-pours, so as to advise you on whether you’ve had one too many. As if your spouse’s nagging isn’t sufficient.

If you’re technically minded and up for building your own Texterator, here’s the link to the source code.

Meanwhile, In the Trade

Napa Valley Winemaker Joe Wagner Announces Partnership With Alta Maria Vineyards’ James Ontiveros

On March 23, 2016, Joe Wagner, owner/winemaker of Copper Cane Wine & Provisions, announced a collaboration with winemaker/viticulturalist James Ontiveros of Santa Barbara’s Alta Maria Vineyards. Wagner and Ontiveros will work together on all future Alta Maria wines, beginning with the debut of Alta Maria’s 2014 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay and Pinot Noir this spring.

Both Wagner and Ontiveros have roots to California wine country dating back generations—the Wagner family in Napa Valley and the Ontiveros family in Central Coast California.

“After working with each other for over a decade, I’m thrilled to be partnered with James for the production of these very special Santa Barbara County wines,” Wagner said.

Fruit for the 2014 Alta Maria Chardonnay and Pinot Noir comes from the Santa Maria Valley. The wines will be available exclusively in Kroger stores nationwide for $15 beginning this spring.

New On-Premise Brand “Drumheller” Debuts

On Monday, March 28, 2016, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates announced the launch of a new, on-premise line under the Drumheller brand. The nationally-distributed brand features Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.

“Drumheller wines are a more restrained, yet elegant version of Washington’s expressive fruit,” said Tim Jones, winemaker for Drumheller. “We lean on Washington’s beautiful natural acidity and early picking to create wines that will show very delicate flavors, a pretty aromatic profile and fresh texture.”

Jones uses lightly toasted oak barrels to age the wine, with just a small portion new, so as not to mask the aromatics. The wines are fermented on the skins for about a week, to extract optimum fruit and structural components.

“A shorter time in oak allows us to capture and bottle some of the natural beauty of the place where the grapes are grown,” Jones explains. “As a winemaker and wine drinker, I really like wines that have a distinctive sense of place.”

France Falls From First Place. News Is “Hard To Swallow”

On Sunday March 27, 2016, Le Parisien confirmed the dire news that France is no longer the world’s largest producer of wine. According to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, France has been “dethroned by Italy, teased by Chile and Argentina, and tormented by South Africa and California.”

Just one year ago, France had regained first place, after falling behind three years earlier. But despite a slight increase in total output in 2015, Italy again overtook its northern rival. Adding insult to injury, Spain—which remains in third place globally—replaced France as the world’s top exporter last year with soaring overseas sales. And sacré bleu!—it was the French who were the biggest buyers.

Meanwhile, More Hard-To-Swallow News

We would not be doing our jobs if we failed to alert you to the proposed debut of Yoni (it’s Sanskrit—Google it) beer. The Order of Yoni (warning, link slightly NSFW) is seeking crowd-funding for a sour beer designed to contain “the essence of femininity.” Brewed with bacteria taken from a Czech model, Yoni claims it will “transfer her features, allure, grace, glamour, and her instincts into beers and other products, turning them into a dance with a lovely angel.” That’s about all we’re going to say about that.

On The Scene

Here are some upcoming wine events that are likely to sell out in advance, so move fast!

Big Apple ZAP Tasting!

ZAP is collaborating with New York Wine Events to bring a dedicated Zinfandel tasting to the Union Square Ballroom on Thursday, June 16th. Dozens of ZAP member wineries will be pouring.

Taste of Mendocino 2016 Features “Small Farms, Big Flavors”

It’s set for June 25th, at Fort Mason’s Gallery 308 in San Francisco. Over 30 Mendocino wineries will be pouring their best wines, alongside bites from artisanal food producers. Tickets are $60, available at

5th Riesling Rendezvous In Seattle July 17-19

It’s a ways off, but limited to just 300 people. Sign up in advance here.

Published on April 4, 2016
Topics: Wine News, Wine Trends, Wine Trends + News
About the Author
Paul Gregutt
Contributing Editor

Reviews wines from Oregon and Canada.

Paul Gregutt is a Contributing Editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine, a founding member of the magazine’s Tasting Panel, and reviews the wines of Oregon and Canada. The author of the critically-acclaimed Washington Wines & Wineries—The Essential Guide, he consulted on the Pacific Northwest entries in current versions of The World Atlas of Wine and The Oxford Companion to Wine.


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