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From “Luann” to “Cult” Wine in 5 Column Inches

Kenyonwine01Wine makes its way into the funny pages with some regularity. Our local wine shops proof positive of that as the yellowed clippings from the paper adorn the checkout area.

Though, most Americans, I think, identify more with Charlie Brown then Rex Morgan, MD.

Leave it to the Japanese to eat our lunch in this regard.  A little over 10 years ago, a manga (a comic strip for adults) called "Sommelier," published in a Japanese daily, made reference to an obscure (at the time) California Pinot Noir from Calera winery. 

The strip stars Satake who is a wine taster with an encyclopedic knowledge of the premier crus and in between wine tastings he solves complicated crimes.  And, in the heroic tradition, he apparently gets the girl, too.  Channeling some obvious zen energy for the protagonist, a writer for the strip had this to say on the back cover of the graphic novelization:

"At France’s sommelier’s contest, Joe Satake, while winning the championship, declines the honor. A genius walks the road of proud loneliness. He says, ‘There isn’t bad wine. When encountering wine, there is only a suitable time.’ Wine’s many jewels are made as partners—occasionally a sweet and    sometimes bitter story is woven. Wines don’t lie—sommeliers see the truth inside wines. When Joe Satake holds it, it’s a new encounter!!"

A press release was issued on this on the 21st.  But, here’s an article from an Anime magazine dated 1999—same story angle

The full release can be found here.

The connection to Calera winery is tied to the manga

In this one single day’s strip of Sommelier, drawn and written by KaitaniShinobu and edited by Kenichi Hori, our fearless Joe Satake recounts that hewas at a tasting where he was given two wines to taste "blind." One was thesuperstar wine, Romanee-Conti itself, from the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti,the pride of Burgundy; the other was a California wine, Calera Pinot Noir fromthe "Jensen" Vineyard, named for the owner’s father. The rival sommelier, anevil and jealous man, tried to trick Satake by describing the wines and thenconcluding that the better wine was the DRC. However, at the last minute,Satake realized that there was only one wine similar to the DRC and that wasthe Calera, which Satake deemed the winner. He not only saved "face" anddefeated his evil nemesis, but also got a dreamy eyed-girl racing to his side.Hey, this is a comic strip!

It might be a comic, but certainly no laughing matter:

Today, our sales in Japan are stronger than ever, in spiteof the slow economy in Japan over the past decade. Looking back, nothing couldhave prepared us for this. The idea of a comic strip "launching" our brand insuch an important, newly emerging wine market as Japan might be seen as merecomic relief, were it not for the fact that still today, ten years later, oursales to our two importers there are still growing—rapidly!"

Calera’s web site can be found here.

In an yet-to-written post 6 months from now, an American winery, taking a cue from Sommelier does product placement with the kid from Zits, Cathy, and Jon Arbuckle from Garfield.   Said winery’s sales increase by .003%  at Costco on the same day that there is a  a retiree sampling brioche near the wine section in Naples. 


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