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Screaming Eagle sold, & Top 5 wines of the week


Yesterday’s surprise announcement that KFC Corp., the parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken, has purchased Screaming Eagle Winery sent shock waves up and down Napa Valley.

Already nervous due to the recession, the valley’s cult wineries were caught off guard by the move, which had been in hush-hush planning for weeks, according to insiders who did not wish to be identified, because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The purchase price was not announced, but is likely to have been in the mid-nine figures, one insider said, making it the most expensive winery deal in U.S. history. As part of the deal, Screaming Eagle will produce a second wine, Frying Eagle, that will be sold in KFC franchises nationally and, eventually, overseas. Those in the know say also that the Colonel’s iconic face will be incorporated into Screaming Eagle’s label.

The sale of Screaming Eagle should not have been a complete surprise, however. Many of Napa’s top wineries have been quietly seeking buyers, due to sluggish sales because formerly wealthy collectors are no longer seeking out expensive wines. There have been persistent rumors that TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., was in secret talks with Harlan Estate, but those negotiations hit a snag following the devastating March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami that wrecked TEPCO’s Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Business Week recently reported on a possible merger between Colgin Cellars and Sears, while Aflac, the big insurance compay, is said to be interested in Scarecrow.

Personally [this is Steve speaking], I wouldn’t be surprised to see even minor cult wines, such as [deleted] and [deleted], brought under corporate control, which might not be a bad thing, when you think about it, as I have. If most of the cult wines were owned by a corporation, they’d have a monopoly, and they could then raise their prices, so the cult wines would be even more expensive than they are now. Then all wineries would benefit because of the proven economic theory known as trickle-down. So I’m in favor of the corporate takeover of cult wineries.

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Top 5 wines of the week

100 points. Chateau Lactic 2008 Chardonnay (Russian River Valley); $37. I gave this wine 100 points! My first perfect Chardonnay ever! An extraordinarily rich, opulent Chardonnay, brimming with luscious flavors of buttered toast, buttered popcorn, buttercream, vanilla, caramel, butterscotch and melted butter. It was fermented and aged in 100% new, high-char French oak for 2-1/2 years. So balanced and rich, its finish lasts literally for more than an hour. 30 cases, 15.7%.

98 points. Bronwyn 2008 “Parallelogram” Red Wine (Paso Robles); $75. Made from an unusual blend of Syrah, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Xinomavro (a rare Greek variety), Tempranillo, Tinta Cao and Gewurztraminer, this unoaked wine has flavors that are difficult to describe, even with a dictionary. I opened my Webster’s at random to the word “leishmaniasis,” which sounds right. 256 cases, 15.2%.

97 points. Mishuga Family 2007 “MazelTov!” (Oakville); $475. Made from 99% Cabernet Sauvignon by a superstar winemaker who cannot be identified because s/he is under contract to a cult winery whose owner hates Melvin Meshuga (apparently they’ve both been married to the same woman, oops, I shouldn’t have said that! Too late, I just hit the “send” button) and would fire the superstar winemaker if he found out that he/she was working for Meshuga. The other 1% in the blend is Xinomavro (a rare Greek variety). 2 cases, 15.7%. Kudos also to Meshuga’s 2009 “Bris” Pinot Noir.

95 points. Feral Cat 2009 Xinomavro (Livermore Valley); $35. Xinomavro is a rare Greek grape variety. According to Wikipedia, “Various writers have compared Xinomavro to Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, etc.” Therefore, it must be quite good! I was unable to taste this wine in a blind tasting of other Xinomavros, since this is the only one in California, so I tasted it, blind, in a flight of Pinot Grigios, and you know what? It was, well, not the best, but certainly it stood out as unique. So I said to myself, “I give this wine 95 points!” And, for the price, it’s a pretty good value. Drink it with, uh, anything you darned well want! It’s a free country.

94 points. Blue Ox non-vintage Merlot (California); $4/300L. Imagine a “wine in a box” on steroids! The equivalent of a full barrel of Merlot, it works out to about 11 cents a bottle. True, it’s not a very good wine, in and of itself, although if you like the smell of sweaty armpits, it’s for you! But the price is recession-proof. The box measures approximately 5 feet high x 3-1/2 feet wide and is quite heavy (400 pounds), so you’ll need to get some help from the guys and find a dolly and pickup truck to get it home. The little spigot that comes out from the Ox’s nose is really cute.

  1. Steve,

    I found the ’09 Xinomavros a bit fleshy, verging on wobbly, myself.

    And isn’t the capsule on the Meshuga ‘Bris’ Pinot a hoot?



  2. Michuga Family. Are they from Michigan? You said Oakville but I could swear they’re from Michigan…

  3. I’m just gonna go get some Screamin’ Fried Chicken…

  4. Nowhere in the world is Xinomavros so well expressed as in the Livermoore Valley. Over 10,000 acres are scheduled to be replanted there this year alone, replacing the failed cabernet sauvignon experiment.

  5. A pure delight! Thanks for the laugh!

  6. A great laugh this Friday morning!

  7. LOVE it! Thanks for the laugh!

  8. “Blue Ox non-vintage Merlot (California); $4/300L… The little spigot that comes out from the Ox’s nose is really cute.”

    I did the market research test on this package. Be thankful the spigot just comes out of the nose.

  9. Kristin says:

    Wonderful! Thank you for the great laugh!

  10. Wondering what your thoughts are on the new Snookie Sangiovese…instead of a GSM, it’s a GTL blend. It’s a bit over the top and flabby, but in small, short bursts of flavor, it’s explosive.

    Sad to hear that Chateau Tiger Blood went belly up. I thought for sure that Warlock White Zin, Goodess Grenache, and “Duh” Dolcetto would do well, but, alas, they were just a flash in the pan.

    Don’t get me started on the Bieber Barbera….too young to drink, and short on the finish.

  11. I think young Justin got got his wings clipped!

  12. Christian, I played around with the idea of other body parts, but this is a family blog.

  13. You actually had me up until Frying Eagle.

  14. Sonya Says Wine says:

    I am just glad to see Xinomavros finally being recognized for all of its splendor and potential.

  15. “And isn’t the capsule on the Meshuga ‘Bris’ Pinot a hoot?”

    Serve with poached squid rings.

  16. Funny, funny stuff, Steve. And not just a few words! What were you smoking or drinking when you wrote that?

    Chateau Lactic looks like is worth a special effort to find . . . .

  17. Tom, smoking and drinking nada. Sheer fun.

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