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Marked for Jest: Steven Seagal and Friends Offer Wine Advice

Plus, wine at Outside Lands, Leeza Gibbons supports Alzheimer's research with Cellar Angels, and a 19th century French vineyard earns historic status

Posted: August 17, 2012

(Note: Unfiltered normally doesn't do stage directions, but in the spirit of what's to follow, we ask that you read this to yourself in the husky, foreboding voice of the guy who does every movie preview's voice-over, ever.) “Imagine a world without YouTube, iPads, smart phones or this website. A world in which it's always the early '90s, and your only source of wine knowledge is a videocasette in which the likes of Steven Seagal, Dudley Moore, Whoopi Goldberg and Kelly LeBrock dispense advice via a series of vaguely mortifying skits involving crab puppets, tuxedo'ed cater-waiters jumping into pools to save guests from drinking iced red wine, and Herbie Hancock playing a plastic keyboard with 22 keys. That world is … The Celebrity Guide to Wine.” (OK, you can drop the voice now). The one-hour video, equal parts absurd Hollywood pantomime and useful basic wine information, is genially hosted by Bernard Erpicum, who was then the mâitre'd and sommelier at Spago, which explains the list of what were then A- and B+-list celebrities. It recently surfaced on the internet and has been making the rounds, allowing us the fun of giggling and pointing at the hammy acting and hacky jokes and regrettable fashion, before being struck by the cold realization that 1991 was actually quite a long time ago—a time when the release price of Château Pétrus, as Erpicum intones solemnly in the video, was only “several hundred dollars per bottle.” Come to think of it, Unfiltered might just want to live in that world ...

• Music wasn’t the only draw for the crowds who flocked to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park this past weekend for Outside Lands, the tremendously popular music, food and arts festival. While headliners such as Stevie Wonder, Metallica, Neil Young, and Jack White played over the course of three days, festival-goers indulged in a variety of food and drinks from local restaurants, food trucks, breweries and wineries. This year the festival upped its culinary focus with entire sections of the park dedicated to specific products such as Outside Lambs, and a food court serving chocolate goodies called Choco Lands. Wine lovers, however, headed straight for Wine Lands, a tent that featured nearly 40 producers, mainly from California but with French and Portuguese wines being poured as well. Armed with reusable GoVino plastic wineglasses, festival goers could taste Zinfandels from Turley and Orin Swift, try a Pinot Noir from Claypool Cellars, owned by Primus bassist Les Claypool, or sip an unoaked Chardonnay from Mer Soleil. There was also a side bar featuring several white wines on tap. Wine retailer Peter Eastlake, who wants to change the stigma associated with wines being served at music festivals, curated Wine Lands, which is now in its fifth year. And if the packed tent was any indication, the response from music fans has been positive. “People are more relaxed at a festival and interested, not afraid to ask questions and, overall, grateful you’re there, pouring great wine,” said Steve Graf, cofounder of Banshee, who was pouring a selection of his wines. Unfiltered says rock on, wine-loving music fans.

• Unfilered tends to serve as the Entertainment Tonight of the wine world, so it seems appropriate that we're spotlighting TV host Leeza Gibbons today. She is now partnering with Cellar Angels, a charity wine label, to benefit Alzheimer's Caregivers. Interested wine lovers can purchase a bottle of Napa Cabernet from Cellar Angels and select Leeza's Place as their charity of choice, and 10 percent of the net proceeds will go to Leeza's Place or Leeza's Care Connection, which both benefit Alzheimer's research for the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, which was created in honor of Gibbons' mother.

• You're not likely to find Pacherenc, Gros Manseng, Pinenc, Fer Servadou or Arrufiac on a U.S. wine label, but these offbeat French grape varieties were planted in southwestern France around 1822, just a year after Gustave Flaubert was born and Napolean Bonaparte died. The vines are still alive today, and have recently been designated by the French authorities as a historic monument, an honor usually reserved for buildings of historic and cultural significance. A press release from the Gers region’s cultural affairs department termed the vineyard a “remarkable example of biodiversity and genetic heritage … as well as ancestral cultivation methods.” The 600 vines are set in 12 rows positioned to allow for the passage of yoked oxen. At the time they were planted, there was little emphasis on varieties, and many local grape varieties would be planted together in the field. Among the 20 different varieties in the vineyard are seven that as yet have not been identified. They are being called Pédebernade 1 to 7 in honor of the vineyard owner and the family that has kept them going for nearly 200 years. The ancient vines survived the phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s that almost eradicated the vineyards of Europe. Experts credit the sandy soil of the region, located on an alluvial plain at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains with saving the vines. (The phylloxera louse generally does not thrive in sandy soils.) The vineyard belongs to Rene Pédebernade, 85, and his son, Jean-Pascal, 45, and has been in the Pédebernade family for eight generations. The family says it plans to open the vineyard to the public, and it has asked the local cooperative to make a wine using only fruit from the vineyard.

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