• California’s wine regions are once again under threat of wildfires. One of the most recent fires in the state, dubbed the Gloria fire, started just east of the town of Soledad, in California’s Salinas Valley. To the west of the valley lie the Santa Lucia Highlands, to the east lie, among others, the Pinnacles and Stonewall Vineyards of Constellation’s Estancia winery. California fire investigators now believe the fire, which has burned more than 6,000 acres, started as a result of so-called “bird bombs” used in the vineyard to scare away hungry birds trying to feast on ripening grapes. Investigators at the scene say they spotted fragments of the bird bomb that is most likely responsible for the fire. While “bird cannons” designed to scare birds automatically go off every 20 seconds and expel no sparks, bird bombs are fired from a hand-held pistol and burst in the air, often sending sparks into nearby grass or brush. Investigators are currently looking for the person or persons who may have been working in the vineyards at the time. The fire was not reported by vineyard workers, but by motorists passing on nearby Highway 101 that runs through the valley. Costs for fire containment have surpassed $4 million and who will foot the bill has yet to be determined. Where’s a good old-fashioned scarecrow when you need one?
Zaza Pachulia aims to add wines from his native Republic of Georgia to the menu at Eno.
• Seven-foot Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia is diversifying his portfolio. He has purchased Eno, the Atlanta restaurant and wine bar that is also home to this season’s Top Chef: Las Vegas contestant Eli Kirshtein. When asked about his plans for Eno, Pachulian said he loved the food, but would like to add some Georgian wines to the list. Georgian as in the Democratic Republic of Georgia, Pachulia’s home country. And Unfiltered thinks it’s not a bad idea. Not only are the vintners of the Republic of Georgia suffering from the Russian boycott of their wines (Russia was by far their no. 1 market), but Unfiltered was impressed with their dry Saperavi reds at a Georgian wines seminar late last year. Pachulia also mentioned there would be no staff changes, with now former owner Doug Strickland staying on as beverage manager. Unfiltered hopes that by the next time we venture south, chef Kirshtein will have some Saperavi short ribs on the menu.
• At last, a rebuttal to those smug 60-calorie beer commercials. So’ Light, a reduced-calorie, low-alcohol wine, available in Grenache-Cinsault, Terret-Sauvignon and Merlot, contains 60 calories per glass and ranges from 9 percent to 9.5 percent alcohol. To lighten the calories, producer Les Domaines Auriol of Lezignan Corbieres said So’ Light undergoes a “de-alcoholising procedure using combined membrane technologies,” whatever that means, developed under the guidance of France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research’s Pech-Rouge experimental unit for enology in Gruissan. Domaines Auriol managing director Claude Vialade said the new wines are targeted at drinkers who want to indulge a little without sabotaging their gym efforts, and deliver an innovative solution to reconciling health and pleasure. Of course, the idea for light wines certainly isn’t new (nor for wines marketed specifically to women). Last year, Bodegas Casa de la Ermita released Altos de la Ermita, a Monastrell-Tempranillo-Petit Verdot blend (6.5 percent alcohol). Then there’s Slender, the sugar-free wine sweetened with Zerose from Chateau Thomas winery in Indiana. And let’s not forget Canada’s “light wine” craze of the 1970s, which produced labels such as Baby Duck, Fuddle Duck, Duddle Duck, Queenie and Yellow Bird, all in the 7 percent to 8 percent alcohol range. If these new diet wines have any resemblance to the Canadian light wines of yesteryear, Unfiltered suspects they’re for the birds.
• Unfiltered knows plenty of people who travel with wine and are justifiably concerned with how it’s treated between check-in and baggage claim. A brand-new product may offer some semblance of comfort to those who feel the need to baby their bottles, however. Called the Wine Diaper, it’s a bottle-sized, zip-sealed plastic bag lined with absorbent cotton meant to protect your wines (and your clothing) from the thumps and bumps of suitcase travel. Unfiltered applauds the impulse to keep wine bottles cradled during flight, but if the results of our David Letterman-style test are typical, we’re not sure how well your wine-laden luggage will hold up to the kind of aggressive handling it is likely to receive on an airport tarmac. This morning Unfiltered took to the streets of New York and dropped an unopened bottle, secured inside the Wine Diaper on the curb outside our office. We were successful in breaking the bottle. Unfortunately, the Wine Diaper was unsuccessful in containing the broken glass and its contents. As always, if you’re packing wine in your checked luggage, Unfiltered recommends tipping your skycap, generously.
Courtney May — Atlanta, GA, USA — October 15, 2009 3:08pm ET
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