Coming soon: The best of Unfiltered's round-up of drinks in pop culture, delivered straight to your inbox every other week! Sign up now to receive the Unfiltered e-mail newsletter, featuring the latest scoop on how wine intersects with film, TV, music, sports, politics and more.
• It’s been a while since Unfiltered checked in on the stars of Bravo TV’s Real Housewives and their many wines. In that time, Lisa Vanderpump of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills launched her own line of sangria with her daughter Pandora and son-in-law Jason Sabo. LVP Sangria comes in a traditional red version made from Spanish Tempranillo grapes and a rosé sangria made from Bobal and Garnacha; both are priced at $14 a bottle. (If getting through a Real Housewives reunion episode calls for something harder, there’s also a Vanderpump Vodka.) And this month yet another Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star announced that yet another Real Housewine is on the way, and Unfiltered couldn’t have come up with a better name for Brandi Glanville’s new Sonoma County Chardonnay: Unfiltered Blonde will debut in April at Fleming’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills. "This wine has been in production for over a year,” Glanville told Unfiltered. “I wanted it to be perfect, and it is! I've worked very hard and been a part of every aspect in the making [and] I can't wait to share this Chardonnay with the world." The initial run of 500 cases of the 2013 vintage will be priced at about $15 a bottle at retail and are made in partnership with Tyson and Jenni Rippey of the Vintners Group. "Brandi has a great sense of humor … [Unfiltered Blonde] is a wine for people that say what's on their mind," Tyson said. "And it's a wine that speaks its mind, as true Sonoma Coast Chardonnay should." We at Unfiltered were initially concerned that Real Housewives and the natural-wine movement would have few common fans, but fear not: Unfiltered Blonde Chardonnay is in fact 100 percent filtered.
• It’s no secret that Emeril Lagasse loves wine, and now the star chef and his wife, Alden, have teamed up with Sonoma vintners Dan and Allison Kosta to launch a new label, AldenAlli. The first wine, a 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, will be released in April and will be sold through AldenAlli.com, in Lagasse’s restaurants and in select major markets. “We’ve been talking about this for about three years,” Kosta told Unfiltered. The two wives, who combined their first names for the label, are heavily involved in the project, with both men keeping their day jobs. (Kosta, of course, is one of the founders of Kosta Browne.) The key grape source for the 2013 AldenAlli was Campbell Ranch in the mountainous Annapolis area of Sonoma Coast. The Pinot was aged in 30 percent new oak and carries 14.1 percent alcohol. “Knowing it was going to be more of a restaurant wine, we wanted it to have a more feminine side,” Kosta said. About 750 cases of the 2013 were made and it will be priced at $56. In the future, the foursome will release a 2014 Sonoma Coast Pinot, as well as a 2014 Zinfandel from Limerick Lane in Russian River Valley.
• Watch out, Bethenny Frankel, there’s a new low-calorie cocktail TV personality-turned-entrepreneur on the scene. Sandra Lee, Food Network host, cookbook author and longtime girlfriend of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has created a line of ready-to-serve margaritas. Cocktail Time is debuting with two flavors, Key lime and strawberry, and a 750ml bottle will retail for $16; the premixed cocktail brand will be distributed by Diageo. Similar to Frankel’s Skinnygirl line of adult beverages, Lee’s Cocktail Time margaritas tout a “virtually guilt-free” indulgence, with a 4-ounce serving clocking in under 150 calories (a comparable serving of a Skinnygirl cocktail has about 95 calories; a normal 4-ounce margarita has about 200 calories).
While the waistline-friendlier nutrition label may be the draw for some, Lee insists that flavor has not been compromised. “My endless search for the perfect margarita has come to a happy end,” she said in a statement. The Cocktail Time ingredients include infused fruits, cane sugar, blue agave silver tequila, Triple Sec liqueur and other natural flavors that will “make any time of day … the best time of the day." When participating in said “best time of day” (which, if you haven’t connected the dots yet, is cocktail time), consumers may choose to enjoy Lee’s margaritas either straight from the bottle or as the base of a “semi-homemade” creation (Lee is known for her “semi-homemade” philosophy, which suggests cooking with 70 percent packaged foods and 30 percent fresh produce). To translate this principle to cocktails, each bottle of Cocktail Time features drink recipes on the label that call for the pre-mixed margarita as a base for various fresh additions to create cosmopolitans, mojitos, coladas and martinis.
• Corked: bad news for wine, but possibly the newest trend in kicks. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of its Air Max 90 sneaker, Nike will release the Nike Air Max 90 "Infrared Cork"—a cork-covered, neon-accented basketball shoe—according to U.K. retailer Urban Industry. (Nike has not yet made the announcement official.) Urban Industry expects to have shoes in stock by early April—alas, not in time for the Nike-coined Air Max Day on March 26. This is not the first time that Nike has incorporated Quercus bark into its footwear: In 2013, it launched the Lebron X "Cork," a sneaker whose athletic function was questionable but which fulfilled its intended purpose of recalling every basketball player's favorite postgame rite, Champagne popping. No word yet on the price of the Air Max 90 "Infrared Cork," but if Nike's $250 price tag for the Lebron version is any indication, it's not likely to be any cheaper than a bottle of Dom.
• The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued an advisory this week to vintners thinking about jumping on the underwater wine-aging bandwagon. “The FDA has advised us that aging wine in a way that bottle seals have contact with sea or ocean waters may render these wines adulterated,” the TTB statement read, citing the increased pressure on bottle seals created by increased depth below sea level and contaminants commonly found in the ocean, including gasoline, oil, heavy metals, pesticides and “various types of filth.” Perhaps not coincidentally, “gasoline,” “diesel,” “seawater at low tide,” and “dead shellfish” were just a few of the colorful descriptors sommelier Larry Stone used last week to describe a 150-year-old bottle rescued from a Civil War shipwreck.
Today, Napa Valley's Mira winery, one of those that have been experimenting with underwater bottle aging, issued a statement in response to the TTB's advisory. "Unfortunately, innovating and challenging conventional wisdom with 12 cases of wine has now attracted the attention and heavy-handedness of the federal government," said Mira president Jim Dyke, Jr.. "In the production and aging of wine, details matter. It is in no one’s interest, especially a small producer of premier Napa Valley wines, to produce a product for the consumer that is adulterated."
• Cava, Spain’s go-to value alternative to pricier sparkling wines, may be getting a boost to its profile with a new proposal for a single-vineyard designation: “Cava del Paraje Calificado” (Qualified Single Estate Cava). The actual terms of the classification are still being debated despite hopes that it could be approved in the coming months. “Those differences will depend on several criteria such as vineyard conditions, the maximum amount of grapes accepted per acre, longer periods of aging, etc.,” Luis Marco of the Consejo Regulador del Cava—the governing body of Cava—told Unfiltered. It appears unlikely that there will be a geographical designation when the new category is introduced, but rather that the criteria will be defined more by vineyard management and winemaking styles, meaning anyone within Cava proper can meet the requirements for the new designation, providing they at least own the property from which the grapes originate and satisfy the winemaking criteria.