Such appears to be the logic of Duckhorn Wine Company, which has sued over the Duck Commander wines. The controversial Phil Robertson, who recently got suspended (or not really?) from Duck Dynasty, was not named a party to the suit. Trinchero Family Estates is a defendant in the suit, as is Wal-Mart where the wines are line priced at $9.99. Duckhorn Merlot sells for $54 a bottle.
What do you think: valid mark infringement through a case of customer confusion? Or is Duckhorn seeking to simply get it’s name out there during the discussions of the popular TV show?
The Times has a story about a handful of “all-natural” gelato shops in Rome that are bucking convention and trying to boost year-round sales. Their strategy? Make savory flavors (such as anchovy, smoked salmon, pepperoni or gorgonzola) and even do wine or beer pairings, particularly to drive sales and interest in the frozen treat during winter months.
The story mentions Claudio Torcè of Il Gelato who estimates only 30 shops in Rome–out of 2,500–use “all-natural” ingredients. The author speaks with Andrea Puddinù, one of Torcè’s students who runs Il Gelato Bistrò. He pairs savory flavors of gelato with Champagne or prosecco as an “alternative to the classic aperitivo.” Marco Radicioni of Otaleg pairs craft beers with them, such as Moinette Belgian blonde with artichoke gelato.
So just in case you thought savory gelato was…impossible…to pair with wine, there are a few brave souls braving the cold to do it. Have you ever attempted the pairing? Would you, could you in a boat, with a goat?
If Fox News were to channel its resources to a vinous purpose, they could do well to declare a war on wine gadgets. Fortunately, Marketplace picks up the slack in the Marketplace Morning Report today. In it, the reporter tracks down a shop manager who admits he’s not wild about wine aerators but he stocks them (and more!) nonetheless because people want to give them as gifts! The same gent has actually placed a moratorium wine paraphernalia from his family after he got a ceramic dog that holds a bottle of wine.
I agree there are so many useless wine gadgets, such as the corkcicle (right). Keep that long, probing thing out of my wine bottle–oh, my! Why not just give a bottle of wine to a wine-loving friend? So much the better if you can share it together.
CBS Sunday Morning ran a 10-minute segment on wine fraud yesterday. The full segment is embedded above.
It centers on Bill Koch, including having the CBS correspondent walking around his cavernous cellar at his Palm Beach home, discussing his various counterfeit bottles. The segment also mentions the Kurniawan trial, talks with Maureen Downey, and examines some anti-counterfeiting technology at Opus One.
While it is an important and interesting subject, the piece could have been stronger. Interviewing other collectors, auction houses, some of the three Burgundy producers who testified at the trial or a wine critic would have made for a stronger segment–while Opus One may be faked in China, Bill Koch does not complain of having fave bottles of it in his cellar, so it would have made a tighter segment to have one of the producers involved his his story.
At any rate, it’s good to see the story getting reaching a broader audience. I was at a Christmas party over the weekend where people were talking about the trial, so it’s good the story is getting out there. A lot of people said it would make a great movie and I agree–maybe one day it will reach the silver screen.
For eight days at the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl St., proceedings were underway in the important and interesting trial of US vs Kurniawan. I attended for three days. Here are some outtakes from my time at the #rudytrial:
* Bill Koch, billionaire, testified that he liked “kiwi wine” as well as Spanish wine and doesn’t drink DRC every night from his 43,000 bottle collection. Alert John Hodgman to alter his billionaire schtick to include the everyday drinking wines of mere mortals!
* Bill Koch said the best wine he’s ever had was a bottle of 1853 Margaux at the chateau.
* When he finished testifying, Koch came and sat in the same bench in the gallery that I was sitting in. He took out his wallet to give some one a card. (Wait, he has a card?) The wallet was thinner than you might expect, a worn, crocodile skin jobby.
* The dapper Laurent Ponsot’s dress got more casual each day culminating in red jeans on day 7.
* There’s a cafeteria on the eighth floor where you can get sustenance. Took me three days to work this out.
* The affable Judge Berman read detailed instructions to the jury on how to evaluate evidence, what is reasonable doubt, which statutes to apply and recited chapter and verse of the statutes. He did the best job possible reading this but it lasted over an hour. Really. Needed. Coffee. And. iPhone.
* Phone envy: You can only bring your phone in the courtroom if you are a reporter who covers the courts on a long-term basis. Or court staff. Otherwise, enjoy the proceedings!
* The courtroom sketch artist drew on REALLY big brown paper. Like 36 x 48. She also has a binocular headset for a closer look at people and the evidence. She works quickly but the charcoal from her pencils gets on her hands.
The jury has returned a verdict: Rudy Kurniawan has been found guilty of selling counterfeit wine through the mail and engaging in wire fraud. Judge Richard Berman will announce the sentencing on April 24; Kurniawan could spend 40 years in federal prison.
I returned to the Moynihan courthouse yesterday in hopes that the jury would begin their deliberations, but the proceedings dragged on and the jury was dismissed for the day only to begin their deliberations today. The prosecution rested on Monday, and yesterday the defense brought one witness, C. Robert Collins, a former wine importer. Among other things, Collins admitted over almost two hours that almost all the bottles he inspected as evidence were fakes, he defended Patriarche as having good wines in their cellars, and disputed whether a 1923 Roumier bottling should be dismissed as a fake prima facie even though the domaine only came into existence in 1924.
Joseph Facciponti presented a terrific defense summation for the prosecution and included easy-to-follow powerpoint slides. He argued that the defendant’s “magic cellar” produced such rare wines that the families of the domaines didn’t even know they existed. “The magic show worked for a while,” Facciponti said. “But there was no magic, only lies, smoke and mirrors.” He said that over the period 2004 – 2012, Kurniawan was a “prolific wine counterfeiter in his home” who created a witch’s brew of concoctions that the prosecution had compiled into a “mountain of evidence.” He was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, Facciponti argued, and he was motivated by greed. One thing that is not in dispute in the trial is that the defendant sold fake wines and “we know from the evidence that he was making them.”
As to the defense’s suggestion that Kurniawan was using the labels and corks as part of a home improvement project, Facciponti said “that’s preposterous.”
The prosecution showed that Kurniawan lied three times in an application for a $3 million loan from Fine Art Capital. He lied about his immigration status, saying he was a permanent resident when an immigration judge actually denied his petition for asylum in 2001 and ordered him to leave the country. He also understated his expenditures and outstanding debts.
The defense attorney, Jerome Mooney, mounted a free-wheeling, 55-minute summation in which portrayed Kurniawan as a victim in a wine world awash in fakes. He suggested that Kurniawan was “obsessive,” “keeping everything,” and trying to make the old bottles better, adding wax here and there to chipped capsules. Should he have done that? “Probably not,” Money said comparing it to innocent collectors on the PBS show “Antique Roadshow.” He suggested that Kurniawan wanted to be part of the club of collectors. As to the fake Ponsot bottles he tried to sell in 2008, he didn’t want to name his Indonesian source of fake Ponsot wines out of “danger” to that person.
US Attorney Jason Hernandez rebutted these points saying that Kurniawan lied to Fine Art Capital when he had separately said in an email that he was in deep S-H-I-T financially. He lied to Jancis Robinson in a story to make him look as if he were fighting counterfeiting. Why write did he write Eric Greenberg and say he could “move” his suspect Bordeaux for him. Why did he pay a 5% commission to Antonio Castanos, to try to sell more wine at auction in 2012 while telling him not to reveal the source?
“If you think the defendant was merely polishing bottles in his home, then you must think that next week a man in a white beard is going to come down your chimney and leave you a case of ’45 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti,” Hernandez said.
The jury deliberations took less than two hours. Pete Hellman, who has done a great job covering the trial (and counterfeiting more generally) for Wine Spectator, writes that Rudy didn’t flinch as the verdict was read.
On human interest level, none of his friends or family appeared in the court yesterday, which could have been the last day in a long time that they could have seen him. It will be interesting if he will appeal or even if he will claim inadequate representation. Mooney was Kurniawan’s second legal team; Michael Proctor represented Kurniawan at first. No reason for the split was disclosed.
It remains to be seen what the Department of Justice will do with this verdict in hand. (Attorneys Hernandez and Facciponti deserve some fine Burgundy tonight as they did an extremely thorough job with this case.) Clearly, Rudy Kurniawan–whose own biography has many holes–had accomplices to varying degrees. Clearly, he is not the only fake wine producer in the world. In many ways, counterfeit wine is the perfect crime since trophy bottles are often traded and flipped; even when the corks are pulled, the drinker may not know if it is the genuine article.
No matter what the feds do going forward, the Rudy Kurniawan saga has been one heck of a story.
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