• The golf-and-wine season is officially in full swing now that the pros have teed off at Augusta National for the year's first major, the Masters. Justin Leonard kicked things off last month when he signed on as the newest partner of Beringer, the official wine of the PGA Tour, and now Unfiltered's spy caddies have tipped us off to the wine-and-food pairings served at this year's Champions Dinner, held Tuesday night and hosted by the 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel. (Despite Augusta National's reputation for clubhouse exclusivity—No Girls Allowed!—the Champions Dinner wine pairings remain transparent, unlike the White House's.)
The reigning champ selects the menu and wine list for the annual dinner, where only past Masters champions are invited, and Schwartzel, a South African, had big plans: He wanted to take the dinner outside for a big South African-style barbecue, or braai, and become the first golfer to do the cooking himself. ("Just make sure Schwartzel doesn't burn the steaks," Fuzzy Zoeller reportedly said, exercising his trademark tact.) In a surprise move, the Masters Committee exercised a writ of "change is bad" and insisted that Augusta National's chefs do the cooking. The Cape-inspired feast started with biltong and droëwers (the former being a South African version of jerky, and the latter, dried sausages) paired with Cape of Good Hope Chardonnay Serruria 2010 and Anthonij Rupert Cabernet Franc 2007. The main course, all from the braai, included filet mignon, lamb chops, chicken and boerewors (farmer's sausage) with "monkeygland sauce" (no monkeys are harmed in the making of this savory marinade popular in South Africa on steaks and burgers). The barbecued fare was accompanied by Cape of Good Hope Chenin Blanc Van Lill & Visser 2010 and Anthonij Rupert Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. We can only assume springbok was out of season in Georgia.
• The invitation read, "Voted the amateur photographer least likely to give up his day job, but not for lack of talent," so curious art and wine devotees packed the tasting room at Bordeaux second-growth Château Brane-Cantenac in Margaux for the unveiling of its annual photography exhibition. Médoc château owners and assorted VIPs in attendance know (or claim to know) Eric Boissenot, 43, as the prolific consulting winemaker to 150 estates, including four of the five first-growths. But none of them knew that the man who blends 400 wines a year is also a passionate black-and-white photographer. "There were a bit surprised," smiled Eric. "It's not something I talk about." In fact, Brane’s owner Henri Lurton only learned himself when Eric stopped in during last year's show and admitted his love of photography.
All along, while Eric was learning wine from his famous father, Jacques, he had been spending his allowance on cameras; his first was a Yashica. Today he's amassed a collection, including large-format cameras, some dating back to 1900—none of which use batteries or cells. The photos he takes show amazing detail and finesse. He develops using Ansel Adams' Zone System, which allows him to find optimal density and nuances in the picture. "It is like blending a wine," said Boissenot. "Each element has its place, and you're looking for harmony and balance." The exhibition, which features 23 photos, will run for one year, and can be seen in the main tasting room at Brane-Cantenac until March 2013. Now that his secret's out, Unfiltered expects Boissenot to be called on for double duty at Mouton-Rothschild—art of the blend, and art on the label.
• The "Big Rivers" zone in the south of Australia's New South Wales province lived up to its name last month. Winemakers are counting the cost of grape losses after rivers broke their banks, and unprecedented floods swept through vineyards mid-harvest. Houses were evacuated around the town of Griffith in the Riverina wine region following a deluge of 12 inches of unseasonal rain in seven days, almost half of which fell in 24 hours. The Casella winery, one of Australia's largest and the producer of the Yellowtail brand, became an island in a sea of water, narrowly escaping rising floodwaters with the hurried construction of a sand-bag levy. Other vineyards were less fortunate, with what remained of the harvest left to rot on the vines after the onset of botrytis brought on by the wet conditions. Most growers, however, were relieved to complete the majority of harvest prior to the deluge, and that fruit shows considerable promise. Still, early estimates suggest the floods may have rendered 22,000 to 33,000 tons of Riverina grapes unsuitable for winemaking, 6 to 10 percent of the production of the region. Despite these losses, Australia is still a country in which a heavy oversupply remains. Yet one can't help but think Australia's rivers hold some kind of grudge against its wine industry.