Is US wine fakir Rudy Kurniawan musical? This would seem to be the implication of Jancis Robinson’s strange blog posting yesterday: “Rudy never seemed to have a girlfriend but sometimes brought his mother to wine tastings. He took over the restaurant Melisse in Los Angeles for her 60th birthday celebrations.” I should ask Jancis’s friend Tim James, who has a nose for this kind of thing, being an expert, as he is, in “suspiciously childless” wine farm owners both alive (on the now very dead Grape magazine) and dead (in Noseweak).
On the subject of girlyman Californian restaurants, is this the same Melisse in which Rudy held a “coming-out party” in September 2003 that is the opening salvo in Benjamin Wallace’s suspectly titled Château Sucker in New York magazine? Certainly his dress was flamboyant enough: “L.A.-hip and noticeably pricey: selvage jeans, custom Hermès suits, Patek Philippe watches, Chrome Hearts glasses, crocodile boots. He’d flap open his jacket to reveal a silk lining printed with a repeating cursive ‘Rudy’.”
Interesting to report that when the feds busted Rudy, they found “pornographic” quantities of “lead capsules and sealing wax and rubber stamps with vintages and châteaux names, such as 1899 and 1900 Latour and 1992 Screaming Eagle.” Uncorked broke the news of Rudy’s arrest to Screaming founder Charles Banks over pizza at his Mulderbosch hacienda, earlier this year. “I know the guy” was the shocked reaction of Chas.
Another fascinating detail vouchsafed by Michael Steinberger in Vanity Fair is that the French winemaking whistle blower Laurent Ponsot met the FBI in the same NY hotel room in which Dominique Strauss-Kahn had his whistle blown. Carl Jung would have a field day with this material or at least Gary Indiana, who I fervently hope is busy with a Three Month Fever-style treatment of the affair.
Jean Phillips owned Screaming Eagle with Heidi Barrett as winemaker- 1992.
Mr Banks and business partner Stanley Kroenke bought it in 2006, Mr Banks sold his share in 2009, and as such has nothing to do with Screaming Eagle currently.