• Overheard recently at the Lafayette, Ind., White Castle drive-thru window: "Quatre Château Blanc Sliders avec un verre de Cabernet, s'il vous plaît." OK, maybe not. But Unfiltered's late-night slider binges could be getting more sophisticated soon. The 90-year-old fast-food chain has begun toying with the idea of offering wine and beer along with sliders and frites, er, French fries. (And you thought we'd finally gotten past the "Sideways Effect.") The great experiment is taking place at a conjoined White Castle and Blaze Modern BBQ, a new restaurant concept in the White Castle portfolio recently launched to compete in the more upscale Arby's market. Unfiltered spoke to White Castle spokesman Jamie Richardson today, who told us the $4.50 glasses of wine, served in an "elegant" disposable plastic wineglass—with a stem and everything—are being well-received. Four wines are currently on the menu: Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, all made by Barefoot Cellars (ironic, as shoes are actually included in the White Castle dress code). Richardson is a Wine Spectator subscriber himself, so who better to ask when it comes to recommended White Castle wine pairings? "The Cab goes great with a double cheeseburger!"
Andesite cliffs differentiate Naches Heights from the surrounding valleys.
• Washington state’s 12th American Viticulture Area (AVA) has just been approved. The Naches Heights AVA is perched on a small, volcanic plateau above the Columbia Valley. Naches Heights Vineyard's Phil Cline, who planted the first modern-era vines there in 2002, and Paul Beveridge, of Wilridge Winery and Vineyard, were the driving forces behind the new AVA. They successfully argued that the 13,254-acre growing area, located a few miles northwest of the city of Yakima, has geological, soil and climate conditions distinct from the huge Columbia Valley AVA within which it’s located. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau found the new AVA is located on a Tieton andesite volcanic rock formation and has relatively uniform wind-blown soils, consisting of Tieton loam and Ritzville silt loam. In contrast, the surrounding valley has gravelly alluvial soils deposited by the Missoula Floods. Naches Heights is also higher and generally cooler than surrounding growing areas, ranging from 1,200 to 2,100 feet in elevation. “The cool climate gives us better naturally occurring acidity on all grapes, and better color on the fruit from the cooler nights,” Cline said. “The aromatics stand out. And it’s a lot easier to grow grapes in one type of soil than in the Yakima Valley, which has seven or eight types. That drives me nuts down there.” Cline and Beveridge use organic and biodynamic farming methods, and are encouraging other growers to make the AVA an enclave of sustainable viticulture. Cline estimates that at least half the acreage of the new AVA is potentially plantable and foresees a grapegrowing expansion. Naches Heights joins two other new West Coast AVAs this month, California's Coombsville in Napa Valley and Fort Ross-Seaview in Sonoma County.
• When it comes to grapegrowing, a long hang time is usually a good thing. Not so much when it comes to getting paid for your wine-themed talk show. Stanley Tucci, host and co-producer of PBS' Vine Talk chat show, is alleging that he, his company and many others involved in the making of the show are still awaiting payment from lead producer Jersey Wooly Productions long after the production of the first season wrapped. (It began airing in April.) The show takes the form of a jaunty rap session that pairs food personalities with celebrities to evaluate wine flights and talk turkey, or other foods. Season 1 guests who took to the glass included John Lithgow, Jennifer Coolidge, Patricia Clarkson, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi and Nathan Lane. According to director Joe Loccaro, the Vine Talk crew was only paid this month, and sources say others involved in production have been hosed out of six figures so far. Tucci is said by a publicist to have pulled out of the show entirely, which would leave Season 2 in need of a host. Considering Tucci's résumé—he received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of a terrifying pedophiliac serial killer in The Lovely Bones and has also portrayed a terrorist assassin in The Pelican Brief and a ruthless organized-crime kingpin in Road to Perdition—Unfiltered suggests they pay the man.
• The season of giving is in full swing, and Unfiltered wants to acknowledge as many wine industry good deeds as we can. This week we learned that Clos Pegase winery founder Jan Shrem has donated $10 million to the University of California at Davis for a new art museum to be named for himself and arts patron Maria Manetti Farrow. The 40,000-square-foot museum will house the university's 4,000-plus works of art as well as serve as a teaching and cultural resource center.
• Beaulieu Vineyards is celebrating the holiday season with hunger relief efforts. BV Coastal Estates, in partnership with Feeding America, is providing more than 1 million meals to 12 different food banks in 10 states. If you're in the giving spirit as well, take on the BV Give & Give Back Facebook challenge to provide 1 million minutes of volunteer service to help the hungry: Visit www.facebook.com/bvwines, select a food bank near you in their online registry, pledge your volunteer minutes in the Million Minute Minder and receive a coupon for savings on BV Coastal Estate Wines.
• Of course, the season of giving is also the season of indulging, and Korbel is donating some much-needed designated drivers this holiday season. Partnering with BeMyDD, a designated driver and personal driving service, Korbel is giving away free chauffeurs for New Year's Eve. Just register at www.bemydd.com/korbel for a chance to win. (Act fast though—winners are chosen Dec. 23.) Unfiltered wishes a safe and happy holiday season to everyone!
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