• Professional golfer Phil Mickelson took top honors and the green jacket for the third time at the Masters tournament in Augusta, Ga., this past weekend. But he wasn't the only golfer celebrating. PGA legend and former Masters champ Mark O'Meara was on hand celebrating the launch of a new Champagne, Beau, in which he has invested. O'Meara is joined by a supergroup of golfing buddies also backing the bubbly, including Curtis Strange, Vijay Singh and Hunter Mahan. The wine will be available to the non-pro golfing public in May, but Mickelson will be one of the first to receive one after his emotional victory (both Mickelson’s wife, Amy, and mother, Mary, are being treated for breast cancer, but both were able to attend the tournament and waiting to embrace Mickelson when he won). Beau, a zero-dosage luxury Champagne whose bottle is encased in copper, is a brand made and imported by Toast Spirits. In other wine- and Augusta-related news, in keeping with tradition (and the Masters is nothing if not about keeping with tradition), Angel Cabrera, last year's winner, as part and parcel of his victory in 2009, got to choose the wine for this year's Champion's Dinner, held on April 6. His pick? Achával-Ferrer, as Argentine vintners Santiago Achával and Manuel Ferrer live in Cabrera's hometown of Villa Allende.
At more than $10,000 a pop for the harvester assisting robot, Unfiltered thinks we'd spring for the mechanical harvester and just pay one person to drive it.
• When the machines take over, what kind of wine will they drink? (Robotée-Conti! OK, cue the rotten tomatoes.) We need not preoccupy ourselves with speculations of wine for robots yet, but the era of wine by robots could be dawning. Japan’s Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology recently debuted the voice- and motion-sensitive Power Assist Suit, a robotic exoskeleton that enables farmers and field workers to pluck and hoe all day with 62 percent less physical effort than puny flesh-people usually expend. In Japan, two-thirds of the agrarian workforce is over 65, and grape picking is a strain on the arms, neck and lower back. A newer model of the suit may include special grape-vision goggles that would allow the wearer to measure the ripeness of clusters on the vine, as well as his own vital signs. Meanwhile, in France, the government has preemptively mandated that all wine harvested in these suits must be labeled “Séléction de Cyborgs Nobles.”
• Oregon winemaker Sam Tannahill heard his name over the public address system as he walked toward the gate at Portland International Airport Tuesday. “I knew exactly what it was about,” he sighed ruefully. Security had found his paraphernalia. No, it’s not what you think. A search of his checked bag had discovered his cow horn filled with a white powder and samples of several preparations used in biodynamic agriculture, meant for a demonstration later that day in San Francisco. A crowd of TSA agents surrounded his bag. “Do you know that there is something strange in your bag?” asked one. Tannahill, a partner in A to Z, Rex Hill and Frances Tannahill, tried to explain that the powder was quartz, “like you pick up off the ground,” and that it was in the cow horn because it is meant to be buried in soil to enhance compost. “They looked at me like I was nuts,” Tannahill recalled. “The guy said, ‘OK, if the baggage handlers are OK with it.’ They were not. When Tannahill asked if he could leave the materials for his vineyard manager to pick up, he got a terse answer. “No way.” He took the offending materials to his car, and missed his flight.