• In her breakthrough hit, "All I Wanna Do," Southern songbird Sheryl Crow sings the praises of "a good beer buzz early in the morning," but it seems that these days she's trading in Budweiser for Fumé Blanc. Following the release of her recent cookbook, If It Makes You Healthy, Crow has partnered with California's Chateau St. Jean winery for Soak Up Sonoma, a program at the winery and online to promote wine, music and healthy eating and to get everyone just a little bit closer to feelin' fine. "I am very excited about our partnership with Sheryl Crow," Chateau St. Jean winemaker Margo Van Staaveren told Unfiltered. "Her style aligns nicely with our winery—relaxed, elegant and charming. It's a great opportunity to showcase Chateau St. Jean to Sheryl Crow music fans."
Periodically throughout the year, free downloads of singles off of Crow's new album, Feels Like Home, will be made available through the winery's website, as will recipes from her cookbook, such as Pecan-Crusted Trout and Edamame Succotash, each paired with a recommended Chateau St. Jean wine. But life's not a disco–and it ain't no country club either–which is why the partnership aims to make a difference beyond the plate. Coinciding with Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the upcoming Notes of Hope initiative will support a cause close to Sheryl Crow's heart. A breast cancer survivor herself, Crow will promote Chateau St. Jean as they donate $1 for every bottle of their wine purchased to a variety of breast cancer charities. Rounding out the partnership, the "Holiday Harmony" program in December will offer seasonal recipes, additional music downloads and entertaining ideas to have some fun until the sun comes up over—oh, don't pretend you don't know the song.
• Last week at Lake Tahoe, 35 celebrities assembled to pop corks for charity in the seventh annual Korbel Champagne Spray-Off contest. Sports icons like Martin Brodeur, Chipper Jones and Aaron Rogers competed to see who could spray the farthest cork home run, three-pointer, slapshot—well, whatever they envisioned to get in the zone. Special mention goes to those who blasted with style: former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien doused the crowd with fizz, while NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice performed his trademark touchdown dance. But top honors went to Miami Heat forward Shane Battier, who managed to shoot his cork 100 feet. He received $5,000 from the Korbel Toast Life Foundation to donate to a charity of his choice. The proceeds will go to the Battier Take Charge Foundation, an organization established by Battier and his wife, Heidi, to further the development and education of underprivileged youths.
• It's mostly old-timers who call New Zealand the "Shaky Isles," but earthquakes are as fresh as Sauvignon Blanc in the country, as winemakers were again reminded this week. On Sunday at around 5 p.m. local time, a 6.5 magnitude quake rattled the fault line lying between the North and South Islands, with reverberations felt most keenly in the lower Awatere Valley in Marlborough and aftershocks continuing into the next day. Most of the region's vineyards and wineries were only lightly jostled, luckily, with one exception. Representatives for area wineries like Kim Crawford, Drylands and Yealands reported no serious injuries, though the former two took on "minor damage to tank restraints" and the latter saw "some wine spillage as the tanks were dancing, and a bunch of broken bottles in the cellar door." Kim and Erica Crawford's winery Loveblock didn't fare as well, unfortunately (the Crawfords are no longer affiliated with the Kim Crawford label). "When we first set our site on Loveblock, we recognized that the land has its own rhythm and we respect that. The Awatere Valley sits smack bang on a fault line that runs below our vineyard as well," they said in a statement to Unfiltered. "The result was the loss of a tank of Sauvignon Blanc," a spill of about 10,600 gallons and $39,000. Local purveyors of fine wine and spirits weren't spared, either: A Wellington establishment discovered that while much of its stock was unharmed, the quake had selectively smashed a $3,000 bottle of Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac.
• Unfiltered doesn't necessarily recommend judging a wine by its label—unless it's a really cool label, and this week, we got word of three that fit the bill. Terravant Wine Co. launched Spin the Bottle wines, using lenticular technology to animate the label: As you walk past these wines on the shelf, the bottle on the label spins; if you actually play Spin the Bottle with the label on the bottle also spinning, a powerful genie emerges and grants you three reprimands that, really, you're way too old to be playing Spin the Bottle.
Frisson is in the air at Sonoma's Jolie-Laide Wines too, with new releases that make us go "ooh, la la." This year, Scott Schultz's Trousseau Gris, Pinot Gris and Syrah labels exhibit sketches of a nude woman by tattoo artist Kapten Hanna, all of which got TTB approval this month. It's a sign that the TTB is loosening up: nude art labels have famously been rejected in the past.
Louis Roederer opted for a little more bling with the launch of its Cristal 2002 Jeroboams. It's a unique bottle, designed by Paris artist Philippe Di Méo and encased in a 24-karat gold lattice by expert goldsmiths. Just 25 of these limited-edition bad boys will be available in the United States.
• Having reinvented the way humans communicate, with AOL Instant Messenger—it's how your grandparents Gchatted—Steve and Jean Case are giving a 8-) look at a new field ripe for innovation: Virginia wine. The former AOL execs opened Early Mountain Vineyards at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Charlottesville wine country last year, and now they've brought on worldwide wine consultant extraordinaire Paul Hobbs to help them make the most of the terroir. As a pioneer in Argentinean fine wine, he's an old hand at sorting out the unexpected challenges that can come with new regions, like when you've got hail (sorry). "For Argentina it took a full three years to diagnose and resolve core problems of an underperforming region and another year to uncover the hidden attributes of a locally underappreciated grape, Malbec," he told Unfiltered. "In Virginia, we are just getting started, and we are already developing a clearer picture of what the challenges are that lie ahead. Naturally, no one knows what outcome can be expected, but we do know the road ahead is going to test us." Jean Case added, "We believe in the potential for Virginia to emerge as one of the world's top wine regions, and I couldn't think of any better person to help us reach that goal than Paul Hobbs." And here Unfiltered had been so certain Donald Trump would play that role.
• Beware of selling Bill Koch bad wine. Last April, the billionaire collector scored a huge victory over wine dealer Eric Greenberg in a Manhattan courtroom. In a case involving 24 fraudulent bottles consigned by Greenberg to a Zachys auction in 2005, a jury awarded Koch $355,811 in compensatory damages and a whopping $12 million in punitive damages. Now Koch also wants Greenberg to reimburse his legal bill totaling $7,865,872. In a 153-page filing with trial judge J. Paul Oetken, Koch's lawyers break down 14,000 hours of legal billings, ranging from $190 per hour for litigation clerks to $995 per hour for lead lawyer John Hueston, a former prosecutor of Enron's Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. Normally, each side pays its own legal fees in American courts. But, besides finding Greenberg guilty of common fraud, the jury also found that the Californian had violated two consumer-friendly sections of New York's General Business Law, which can permit the wronged party to collect legal fees from the loser. Koch also wants to be reimbursed for as-yet-unspecified other costs such as travel and photocopying fees and still-accruing interest on all sums won at the stiff rate of 9 percent. Both the punitive damage award and legal fees that Koch wants could be reduced by the judge. In the face of Koch's reimbursement claims, Arthur Shartsis, head of Greenberg's legal team, said, "The real question is whether there should be some proportionality here."