Some news on wineries changing hands -- one of which turned deadly...
* One of B.C.'s most well-respected wineries has a new owner. CedarCreek Estate Winery and its Kelowna and Osoyoos vineyards was bought by Mission Hill Estate Winery owner Anthony von Mandl from the Fitzpatrick family. Given that CedarCreek wasn't even on the market -- as well as the fact it's one of the most respected wineries in the region -- it's safe to say von Mandl shelled out a pretty penny. (If you've ever seen Mission Hill Estate Winery in West Kelowna, you'll know he's got plenty of pretty pennies.) The Fitzpatricks are said to have hung on to the beautiful Greata Ranch Estate Winery and nearby Peachland vineyard.
* Van Mandl isn't the only one making a big splash buying wineries in B.C. When Jeff and Susan Vandermolen announced they had closed a deal to sell Beaufort Vineyard and Estate Winery to a "high profile buyer," there was plenty of speculation as to who the buyer might be.
Safe to say that few considered the buyer to be as high profile as James Cameron, director of such films as The Terminator, Titanic and Avatar.
And while you've heard of most of Cameron's films, you may not have heard of Beaufort before. It was the first winery of the handful built in Vancouver Island's Comox Valley. And while it's not a region that has received heavy traffic from wine tourism, expect an uptick in the future.
Prior to the disclosure of the new buyer, Jeff Vandermolen said in an interview with the Comox Valley Record that the new owners "really want to be a part of the community and they have a real commitment to sustainable farming and agriculture, so I think they're going to be a huge positive asset to the valley."
* A billionaire travels to France and does a deal with a Bordeaux winery owner to buy his chateau. The two board a helicopter, which crashes, and all on board are killed.
Sounds like a murder-mystery novel, but sadly it's real life. Lam Kok had travelled to Bordeaux prior to Christmas to buy La Rivière from James Gregoire. The two did the deal, then boarded a chopper (piloted by Gregoire) with two others, which crashed in the Dordogne River.
The wreckage was removed from the river shortly thereafter, but the river's depth and current meant the bodies weren't found right away. Now, two months later, French authorities said DNA of a body pulled from the river confirmed the body to be Kok's, the final of the four on board to be accounted for.
Some celeb-related wines this week...
VINCENTE GANDIA NV CHARLIZE THERON BRUT (Cava, Spain -- $15.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
According to the label, actor Theron's contribution to this Spanish bubbly was the artwork on the label, donated to a cause called Whatever it Takes to help raise money for Trade plus Aid as well as 21st Century Leaders. (Look for other Spanish wines in this range featuring art from Penelope Cruz, David Bowie and Pierce Brosnan.) Pale straw in colour, there's a decidedly doughy note to the nose, with mineral, pear and green-apple notes and a hint of chalk. It's crisp and nearly off-dry, with pear and red-apple skin leading the charge fruit-wise and some sweaty, chalky and doughy notes lingering below. A good cause, but there are better $16 (or $13-ish) Cavas in our market. 3 1/2
WAYNE GRETZKY OKANAGAN 2012 CHARDONNAY (Okanagan Valley, B.C. -- $15.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
The Great One's only been making wines in the Okanagan Valley for a few years now -- his winery is long-established Ontario's Niagara region and, to a lesser extent, in Napa, Calif. (Having said all that, Gretzky's actual input in the wine's components and/or his help in the vineyard are minimal at best, although proceeds from the wine go to his Wayne Gretzky Foundation.) Crisp, ripe pear and red apple come forward on the nose, with underlying vanilla and peach notes. It's a medium-bodied Chardonnay, and doesn't get bogged down in too much oak. Tasty, and with great balance. 3 1/2
DEEP PURPLE 2011 ZINFANDEL (Lodi, Calif. -- $16.54, Liquor Marts and beyond)
A trip down the rabbit-hole that is the Internet got me nowhere as it pertains to learning whether the classic-rock band of the same name has anything to do with this wine (Update: no relation to the band). In many ways it's typical California Zinfandel: aromatically, there's plenty of ripe blackberry, blueberry jam, raisin and spice, with a hint of plum. No "smoke on the water" here -- rather, just plenty of ripe dark fruit that borders on sweet, and a hint of spice to keep things somewhat interesting. 3 stars