• It was Sideways meets Big Wednesday at the inaugural Central Coast Longboard Surf Classic this past Sunday, as local winemakers and brewers paddled out at Pismo Beach for an exhibition match. A sunny day with surf in the three- to four-foot range set the stage for the vintners, including Mike Chase of Denner Vineyards and Terry Culton of Adelaida Cellars, to face off in 15-minute heats. Josh Beckett, winemaker at Peachy Canyon and Chronic Cellars, took top honors in the finals. "I got really lucky," Beckett said. "It was hit or miss on the wave selection." He gained an edge when the leash-less runner-up, Aaron Jackson of Aaron Wines (“an exceptional surfer” according to Beckett), lost his board after a wave. "I got a few more waves while he was chasing his board.” The event capped off the first Wine, Waves and Beyond, a four-day festival celebrating two of the Central Coast’s most enticing assets, its surfing scene and its wineries. Proceeds go to the non-profit Association of Amputee Surfers, which promotes the inspiration, education and rehabilitation of the disabled, with a focus on veterans. Beckett, a surfer since the age of 15, was also one of the organizers. Plans are already underway for next year’s event, and Beckett hopes to expand the competition to winemakers from beyond the Central Coast. “It's amazing how many people in the wine industry surf,” Beckett said. “They just started coming out of the woodwork.”
• Unfiltered regrets the passing of Art Finkelstein, an architect who designed and founded Whitehall Lane winery in St. Helena and later established Judd’s Hill in Napa. He died at the age of 68 on May 28 after a long battle with cancer. Finkelstein grew up in Illinois but headed west to Los Angeles to study architecture at the University of Southern California. After he graduated, he opened an architectural office in Los Angeles. It was during this time that he took his first steps toward becoming a vintner, making wine in the garage of his home in the early ’70s. His homemade wines received honors at wine competitions but it was a trip to Napa that finally persuaded him to take up winemaking as a profession. In 1979, Finkelstein and his brother Alan Steen purchased a vineyard and property in Napa. Art designed the iconic winery and they named it Whitehall Lane, after the road that runs along the border of the property, but the size of the winery was too much for Finkelstein, who had to devote more time to managing the business and less time to making the wine. In 1988 the brothers sold the winery and Art and his wife, Bunnie, purchased a 14-acre vineyard along the Silverado Trail in Napa. He designed a new winery, limiting production to several thousand cases, and called it Judd’s Hill, after his son. Art was actively engaged in his community and well-respected by his peers and friends. “He had an incredible human quality about him, people were important to him,” said Boots Brounstein of Diamond Creek, who knew him well.
We herd about this one through the grapevine. (Groan at your leisure.)
• Body-paint bedecked bovines beset Bordeaux! From June 7 through Sept. 14, Bordeaux and its surroundings will play pasture to 60 ornate ungulates as the latest city to host CowParade, the largest public art installation in the world, which has grazed from New York to Istanbul over the past decade. The cow-sized cow mannequins, all painted by different artists with lively hide designs rarely found in nature, have raised over $20 million, as all are auctioned at the end of each city’s stampede. About a dozen of Bordeaux’s cows have been sponsored by the wine industry, including some from Château Fombrauge, Château La Lagune, Château Lafon-Rochet, Château Marsau, Domaine Rollan de By, Château AD Francos and laboratoire oenologique Michel Rolland.
• One of Long Island's most ambitious wineries has just hired one of the region's most ambitious winemakers. Bedell Cellars, located on the North Fork, announced last week that it had signed Rich Olsen-Harbich as the new winemaker. Olsen-Harbich has made wine on Long Island for 30 years—long enough that he wrote the AVA applications for the North Fork and Long Island. He has spent the past 14 years just down the road at Raphael Cellars, where he's gained a reputation for minimalist intervention winemaking. Bedell was founded by one of the region's other pioneers, Kip Bedell, who started it in 1980 after making wine in his Garden City, N.Y., home for a few years. He sold to film executive Michael Lynne in 2000, and Lynne has invested plenty of resources in the project. But winemaker John Leavenberg left suddenly a few years ago. His former assistant, Kelly Urbanik, has made the wines since.
Hough Vineyard's terroir brings new meaning to "Cleveland rocks!"
• Remember how music fans scoffed in the early 1990s when it was first announced that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would be built in Cleveland? Well, move over, rock gods, there’s now a vineyard in Cleveland. Unfiltered recently spoke with Mansfield Frazier, journalist, gardener, house-builder and executive director of Neighborhood Solutions, a non-profit organization whose mission includes job creation and re-entry support for former prisoners returning to life on the outside. “We look for opportunities to create employment, and that was the impetus for starting the vineyard,” said Frazier. He and his wife, Brenda, and other community members have recently planted 300 Traminette and Frontenac vines on a 3/4-acre abandoned lot owned by the city in Cleveland’s Ward 7, a neighborhood called Hough (pronounced “huff”). Frazier joked that he chose grapevines “because they’re sexier than bell peppers,” but also elaborated on his vision of a working urban winery with a hospitality component that would serve the upwardly mobile community and visitors to the nearby Cleveland Clinic while providing employment for area residents. He has been seeking support from foreign investors, and plans to call the Cleveland-grown wines “Chateau D’Hough.”
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