This is Bill Anderson, the longtime winemaker at Chateau Julien Wine Estate in the lovely Carmel Valley of Monterey County. The device he is using to extract a sample from the barrel is commonly known as a "wine thief."
Regrettably, just to the north and east of bucolic Monterey, it seems that a different sort of wine thief is at work. Insurance Journal reports:
Silicon Valley oenophiles are on alert after a brazen robbery Jan. 4, when thieves broke into a posh home here and stole more than 150 bottles of wine. Estimated value: $500,000.
The heist -- thought to be one of the largest of its kind -- was the handiwork of seasoned connoisseurs: Investigators say the criminals removed few lesser-valued bottles and focused on 'cult wines' made in limited numbers, often signed by vintners.
Their booty included a magnum of 1959 Petrus worth as much as $6,000 and a difficult-to-assemble set of Bordeaux wines representing an unbroken line of more than 20 years of French harvests.
High-end wine has a lot in common with high-end art, and is a tempting target for theft for much the same reason: the stolen goods can command a high price on resale or at auction, and a tiny but wealthy subclass of collectors is willing to overlook mere legality in the quest to possess a rare item. Wine has the added advantage that, unlike unique art works, the provenance of a particular bottle is difficult to trace: while the origins of a stolen Picasso or Munch may be obvious, every bottle of Petrus looks alike. The IJ article notes one research effort that might be adapted to address that problem:
[A]n Italian company is experimenting embedded microchips into bottles . . . . [b]ut even that technology is aimed at deterring counterfeiters -- not stopping thieves who plunder private caves and cellars.
If you really want to know where your wine is at any given moment, you can always just drink it.
- A handy chart concerning "magnums" and the other elaborate, oft-biblical names attached to Very Large Bottles of wine is accessible at Wikipedia, here.
- Insurance Journal is surprisingly wine-oriented today. At Declarations & Exclusions, I follow up on their report that new wine warning labels are under consideration.