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Far East Diplomacy with a Chinese Cuvée

Plus, Shafer Vineyards hosts Train's new video, cellar surprises unearthed in Champagne, Ecco Domani's young designers toast Fashion Week and a wine charity roundup

Posted: February 16, 2012

• Last week we told you about Iron Horse Vineyards CEO Joy Sterling presenting a bottle of the newly minted Year of the Dragon Chinese Cuvée to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Lee was impressed with the vintage 2007 sparkler, but the occasion was just a warm-up for Sterling: She celebrated Valentine's Day at the White House, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden hosted a lunch for Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in the Benjamin Franklin Dining Room; chef Ming Tsai provided the Chinese-American fusion cuisine and Sterling provided the Iron Horse Year of the Dragon Chinese Cuvée. This is by no means Iron Horse's first foray into the world of international diplomacy. Iron Horse has been served at the White House during the past five administrations, beginning with the historic Reagan-Gorbachev Summit Meetings. Let's hear it for Iron Horse sparkling wine—bringing together Communists and the Free World since 1985!

• The rock band Train has appeared in these webpages before, when we chatted with guitarist Jimmy Stafford about his travels through wine and when the band released their own "Drops of Jupiter" Petite Sirah with Concannon Vineyards, named for the band's 2001 hit. There's a "Calling All Angels" Chardonnay too, and now the band has quite literally taken the show to the vines: If you recognize the setting of their latest music video for the single "Drive By," it's because much of it was shot at Napa's Shafer Vineyards. In the video, lead singer Patrick Monahan seduces a comely brunette Napa winery tour guidestress. They do a little jig on the crushpad and mirthfully fall down in the grapes (curiously surrounded by a crowd of clapping people), followed by some glass-clinking among the barrels, followed by a retreat to a more private off-premise location for a pour of slyly recognizable Drops of Jupiter Petite Sirah, followed by an even hastier retreat from bed the following morning by Mr. Monahan while our poor cellar doe still slumbers—the ol' "drive-by." Ugh, men. (Unfiltered remains firmly partisan to the "Slow Ride" school of transit-metaphor relations.) But! Our hero assures us that his ungentlemanly behavior was actually not a "drive-by" but a symptom of scary, overwhelming feelings. To woo the gal back, Monahan and bandmates triumphantly drive by Shafer in late-'60s model roadsters to pick her up. The clip, most of which was filmed in one 18-hour marathon day, ends with Monahan and paramour driving off in what to Unfiltered's untrained eye looks to be a blue 1968 Pontiac Firebird convertible. In our reckoning, this could be the biggest "sort of about a beverage but actually more about love" video in soft rock since Savage Garden's "Cherry Cola."

• There's an old joke that you can earn a small fortune as a winemaker by starting with a large one, but one Champagne producer has inadvertently made close to $1 million by simply undertaking a renovation. As first reported by Agence France-Presse, workers hired by Francois Lange, head of Les Riceys-based Champagne house Alexandre Bonnet, found themselves showered with gold coins as they dismantled the ceiling in a former grape-drying facility on the winery property. The coins, 497 in all, were minted by the U.S. Treasury between 1851 and 1928 and are worth approximately $980,000. Lange intends to split the loot with the workers, and is contemplating a special vintage in honor of the found treasure.

• The Spring 2012 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is winding down here in New York and, as always, wine was the beverage of choice among the beautiful people, especially at the shows for the 2012 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation winning designers, Jason Alkire and Julie Haus of Haus Alkire, Sara Beltran, Tim Coppens, Daphne and Vera Correll of CorrellCorrell, Alexa Galler of Eighteenth, Sunhee Hwang of Sunhee and Titania Inglis. Each of the winning aspiring young designers received a $25,000 grant from Ecco Domani Wines to create their own show at Fashion Week, and the popular Italian wine brand seems to have a good eye: Past winners include Alexander Wang, Zac Posen, Rag & Bone and Proenza Schouler.

• World-renowned consulting enologist Michel Rolland is partnering with California winery Montesquieu Wines and the Wine to Water charity organization to help drought-afflicted areas in Ethiopia. Rolland's Bonne Nouvelle 2003 is a Stellenbosch blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Pinotage; $20 will be donated to Wine to Water for each bottle sold (retail price $39) for the purpose of raising $40,000 to dig four deep bore wells in the Dale region of Southern Ethiopia, where 60 percent of the population does not have access to clean water. Montesquieu is importing and distributing the wines at no charge, and they can be purchased at www.winetowaterstore.com.

• In March 2011 we found former Penfolds winemaker Daryl Groom donating his time to the Colby Red Wine project, made in partnership with Treasury Wine Estates and sold exclusively at Walgreen's. The wine, sales of which benefit the American Heart Association, was named for and inspired by Groom's son, Colby, who was born with an atrial septal defect and other heart problems that were corrected with a mechanical heart valve from the St. Jude Medical Foundation. In celebration of American Heart Month, we're happy to announce that not only did Colby Red outpace its initial goal of raising $100,000 for the American Heart Association (more than $175,000 has been raised to date), but Groom has announced a new goal of raising $300,000 by the end of this year. And Colby, now 14 years old, is just as active as his father—he told his story at five AHA Heart Balls in 2011 and helped raise an additional $750,000.

• Finally this week, a new charity wine brand made for and by women launched last month, the HandCraft Artisan Collection by third-generation winemaker Cheryl Indelicato. The California Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah are each priced at $15, and HandCraft will donate $1 for every bottle purchased, up to $100,000, to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

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