• As the story of the accused White House party crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi broke over the Thanksgiving holiday, Unfiltered thought that the now-infamous couple’s names, faces and audacity rang a bell. Sure enough, just as White House staff were bamboozled into allowing the spotlight-loving Salahis into last week’s State Dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, so too was Unfiltered arm-wrestled into providing coverage of a party the couple threw at Virginia’s Oasis Vineyard in 2005. Ironically, the 2005 event, which celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Granholm decision on direct-to-consumer interstate wine shipping, included some staged “party-crashing” of its own, in the form of uniformed UPS employees delivering wine to Tareq as he began to address the assembled crowd. Alas, it was a happier time then for the troubled couple, and for Oasis, which has since filed for bankruptcy, according to the Washington Post, after a protracted legal battle between Tareq and his family over ownership of the winery. Oasis winery is currently closed, but its website claims a “grand re-opening” is scheduled for 2010. There were some wine-industry names that actually did make the “list” at the White House State Dinner, however: Wines from Napa’s Modus Operandi, Santa Ynez’s Beckmen, Willamette Valley’s Brooks and Virginia’s Thibaut-Janisson wineries were paired with the cuisine of guest chef Marcus Samuelsson.
Bassist Les Claypool briefly leaves the stage for a glass of his Pinot Noir with the lovely Pachydettes.
• Primus frontman and Bay-Area bass guitar legend Les Claypool has lived in Sebastopol, Calif., for 15 years. After watching the area’s apple orchards replaced with vineyards over the past decade, he finally decided to make his own wine this year, and it’s as quirkily named as most of his Primus albums (but much more appetizingly labeled than the band’s best-selling platinum album Pork Soda). Claypool Cellars’ Purple Pachyderm, a 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, debuted at a party last week hosted by Sebastopol’s Hopmonk Tavern. Partygoers were treated to wine, a performance by Claypool, and dances with the “Pachydettes,” a crew of female fans dressed as if they’d just stepped off the stage at the Moulin Rouge.
99-year-old Louis J. Foppiano is joined by Matt Gallo at his birthday party (and roast).
• An ornery, crusty old coot celebrated his 99th birthday in Healdsburg, Calif., the weekend before Thanksgiving. Louis J. Foppiano—Louie to some and Lou Sr. to others—is one of the grand characters of Sonoma County wine. A small group of friends gathered Saturday in the cellar of Foppiano Vineyards to tell stories and generally give him hell. On hand to toast Foppiano with his beloved Petite Sirah, or “Petty Sarah,” as old-timers call it, were Matt Gallo, Jim and John Pedroncelli, Ed and Donna Seghesio and others. Foppiano has lived his entire life on the family ranch located on the northern edge of Russian River Valley. The winery was started in 1896 by Foppiano’s grandfather, Giovanni Foppiano, a native of Genoa, Italy. When his father died unexpectedly in 1924, Foppiano was only 14 and was left to run the ranch with his mother. Despite Prohibition and the Depression, he prevailed. Paul Foppiano, the family’s vineyard manager, represents the fifth generation on the ranch. The eldest Foppiano spoke little during the gathering, instead watching the proceedings from a chair, balancing a hand on his cane. Recalling his father’s legendary cheapness, Lou Foppiano Jr. described his first job at the winery in 1970: cleaning up. “He paid me a dollar an hour for two years, when he finally raised it to $1.25 an hour.” Acknowledging that locals jokingly call the winery “an old dump,” Lou Foppiano talked about how the family is remodeling the winery and restructuring the vineyards. Shiny new French oak barrels line the cellar. Despite the friendly roast-like atmosphere, new winemaker Natalie West summed up what many felt when she said, “Lou, you’ve built such a great legacy and I’m so proud to be a part of that now.”
• A new museum exhibit in France has revealed that Napoleon’s Empress Josephine had a penchant for fine Bordeaux during their reign, particularly Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Lafite, all of which were classified as first-growths some 40 years after her death at the 1855 Universal Exhibition in Paris. A new exhibit dedicated to Josephine Bonaparte’s wine cellar at the National Museum of the Château de Malmaison, previously her chief residence on the outskirts of Paris, confirms that up to 45 percent of the Empress’ selection was from Bordeaux. “She was originally from Martinique, so she had strong ties with merchants in Bordeaux, France’s main port at the time, which traditionally exported wine to the Caribbean,” explained museum curator Elisabeth Caude. The inventory of Josephine’s cellar following her death in 1814 shows she had, all in all, the equivalent of 13,200 bottles tucked away. A quarter of this volume was stored in barrels. The selection reflects the drinking preferences of the Empress’ era, as it included a great deal of fortified wine as well as Champagne, such as Moët and Ruinart. Josephine’s cellar also boasted generous amounts of Hermitage, Saint Péray and Côte-Rôtie alongside her collection of luxury Bordeaux wines.
Yellow Tail fans should flip over these new wine-cocktail glasses designed by archtiect-turned-designer Michael Graves.
• Known for its cute animal marketing almost as much as its wine, Australia’s Yellow Tail brand has partnered with renowned architect-turned-designer Michael Graves for a limited-edition series of glasses to help celebrate the brand’s new wine-inspired cocktail recipes, called Wine[tails]. The set of four glasses, two sets of which are currently being auctioned off on eBay (with another series to be offered next week) echo Graves’ lighthearted style by incorporating the necks of upturned wine bottles as the stems. When asked about the design process, Graves told Unfiltered, “Yellow Tail wine is approachable, fun and unpretentious. We wanted our glasses to embody a similar playfulness.” And as if having unique cocktail glasses this holiday season isn’t enough, you get the added sense of self-satisfaction that comes from knowing all proceeds from the winning bids go to the American Association of Museums, an organization that supports museums throughout the United States.
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