• No doubt millions will be watching the next "royal wedding," when Prince William will wed Catherine Middleton at the end of this month. For those in the States, that will require a very early morning—it begins at 3 a.m. on the West Coast. There's no word yet on which Champagne will be served at the reception (the cake designs, however, are quite impressive), but it's a good bet the bubbly will come from Champagne Bollinger. Queen Victoria issued a royal warrant to Bollinger in 1884, and Prince Charles served it at both his bachelor party and the wedding reception for his and Princess Diana. For those inspired to toast William and Kate on their wedding day with a Champagne breakfast, Bollinger has created a menu of "Royal Wedding Breakfast Pairings," intended of course to accompany a glass of Bollinger: Bubble and squeak or kedgeree to accompany a nice old-fashioned English breakfast would be spot on, but caviar and toast points with black truffles and poached eggs are more our fancy.
• That was quick. Crushpad made a high-profile move from San Francisco to Napa Valley just a year ago, and the custom winemaking company is already packing up and taking another Mayflower west to the city of Sonoma. The company has also taken on a principal investor: Florida finance executive and California vintner William Foley. Crushpad—which does custom-crush for small commercial producers (a few hundred cases) and consumers who just want a barrel or 25 cases of wine—will occupy a dedicated section of Sebastiani winery, which Foley acquired in 2008. The partners didn’t disclose the size of Foley’s investment or the percentage of his ownership, but it’s just the latest in a buying spree that includes Chalk Hill, Kuleto, Firestone and Merus. The move will be completed by the end of April; later this year, Crushpad will open a tasting bar at Sebastiani where more than 100 of its clients will be able to feature their wines for sale.
• Every spring, Japan turns pink as the nation’s beloved cherry blossoms appear, and traditionally, millions of Japanese take time for hanami, picnics with food and sake underneath the sakura, as the flowers are called. Sadly, there is little to celebrate now, a month after the deadly earthquake and tsunami that killed at least 12,000 people and left another 15,000 missing. Aftershocks continue and authorities are still struggling to control the nuclear plant in Fukushima. But some sake brewers are now asking people to raise a glass beneath the blossoms to help support breweries damaged, and in some cases destroyed, by the disaster. Several breweries in northeastern Japan’s Tohoku area, which was hardest hit, were destroyed either in the quake or the flooding. Some employees are missing. Other kura have lost their stocks and equipment. The industry was already suffering from shrinking domestic sales, and many analysts worry brewers will choose not to rebuild. Japan has looked to the growing American sake market in recent years, and several sake importers and retailers here are organizing charity events, such as NY Loves Japan on April 27. As the cherry blossoms bloom here too, Unfiltered plans on raising a glass to a brighter future for sake.
• It’s a frequently played card in the debate over lowering the U.S. minimum age for drinking: if you’re old enough to take up an assault rifle for nine months in Kandahar, are you not also capable of handling such weapons as a glass of Chardonnay? Rep. Bob Lynn of Alaska, which prides itself on being among the least nanny of states, has introduced a bill proposing just such an exemption: If you’re an Alaskan serving in the military, you can drink at 18. The legislation, H.B. 210, provides all the privileges of legal consumption to “underage” servicepersons, but as with just about any alcohol legislation, it has become a magnet for controversy. Anti-drunk driving groups warn of increased risks, and anyway, when soldiers deploy, they aren’t allowed to drink no matter their age. Of course, the federal government’s Sword of Damocles dangles over Alaska as well: Any state is free to lower the drinking age, but it forfeits a chunk of federal highway funding. And it takes a lot of road to get around Alaska.
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