Log In / Join Now

Cold, Gold Champagne for the Red Hot Heat

Plus, don't try to open the new $168,000 Penfolds bottle yourself, and Napa's controversial new zip line

Posted: June 28, 2012

• The Miami Heat's "Big Three" got what they brought their talents to South Beach for last week: a huge bottle of Armand de Brignac Champagne. Sure, NBA All-Stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will also get a set of championship rings, a banner and a parade for winning the 2012 NBA Championship over the Oklahoma City Thunder. But Armand de Brignac, the Champagne made famous by Jay-Z (at least among the hip-hop and, consequently, pro athlete crowds), seems to be the big prize among champs these days, no matter what the sport. The NHL's Los Angeles Kings were pouring it after their recent championship win, and New York Giants star receiver Victor Cruz and teammates popped a Nebuchadnezzar of Ace of Spades with hip-hop star Lil Jon in Indianapolis after winning the Super Bowl in February. Unfiltered can only watch wistfully as these outrageous golden bottles are popped with each passing championship, knowing that the Wine Spectator softball team has once again been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs well before season's end. If only we could convince a few wine-loving Yankees and Mets to bring their talents to Park Avenue South …

• A new bottle of Château Pétrus will only set you back four grand; that's weeknight money compared to the most expensive new release in the world, the recently unveiled Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Block 42 2004, coming to a retailer near you for $168,000. Well, not quite: This is a limited-edition release—just 12 bottles, if you can call them that. And these wines are very specially packaged (no, the bottle isn't glued to the hood of a Lamborghini).The wines are actually contained in scientific-grade ampoules, which are all glass and no closure—no cork, not even Australia's beloved screw cap. The ampoule, holding 750ml of wine, is encased in a glass sculpture, which is itself positioned in a cabinet, each element being lovingly crafted by renowned South Australian artisans. Really, the premium you're paying is for the world's first really, totally, seriously 100 percent fraud-proof wine packaging system. Because there is no way some conman is getting any wine other than the Penfolds Block 42 into a container that has no opening … wait. How do you get the wine out? When you're ready to drink up, a top Penfolds winemaker will fly to your house and pop the ampoule "using a specially designed, tungsten-tipped, sterling silver scribe snap." Obviously. What airport security guard wouldn't believe that explanation for having a tungsten-tipped, sterling silver scribe snap in your carry-on?

• For those who like a little “zip” in their wine, Napa might be getting a lot zippier. There’s a proposal in the works to build a mile-long aerial zip line course in Mount Veeder, located in the Mayacamas mountain range above downtown Napa. The Napa County Planning Commission is currently giving neighbors in the area a chance to voice their concerns, in a neighborhood that includes the vineyards of The Hess Collection, Lagier, Meredith, Lokoya and Robert Craig. The folks behind the proposal are those that run LightHouse for the Blind’s Enchanted Hills camp, which is one of two camps in the western United States serving blind, visually impaired, deaf-blind and multi-disabled children and adults. The idea is that the zip line—which would be on their 311 acres of forested land on Mount Veeder—would be a chance to bring in needed revenue to support the camp. The concerns (besides the sound of screaming zip-line enthusiasts) include the additional impact of traffic on the narrow and curvy roads of Mount Veeder, erosion and disturbing the Northern Spotted Owl. Proponents say it would be nice to have more options of things to do in Napa, including family-friendly activities like being strapped into a harness and enjoying oak and madrone trees from above. While area vintners seem to be privately opposed to the project due to the increase in traffic it would bring to the mountain, they've been publicly averse to doing so … Cabernet calling the Merlot red and all that.

Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  June 28, 2012 4:07pm ET
Go Ace of Spades!

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.