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Pope Francis' Papal Visit Wine Pours

Plus, Harlequin romance wines, Canlis restaurant supports emergency workers in Seattle, Lake County relief efforts continue, and the touching story of the connection between Rhode Island state troopers and Kistler's winemaker
Photo by: Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Pope Francis celebrates mass at Madison Square Garden, where Finger Lakes wines were offered at Communion.

Posted: October 1, 2015

Pope Francis knows his way around a wine chalice. The grandson of a Piedmontese winemaker, he occasionally muses about wine in his homilies. His country of residence, Vatican City, consumes more wine per capita than any other in the world. So it only makes sense that his American hosts carefully prepared every enological detail for their wine-loving guest during his visit to the United States.

On his first stop in Washington, D.C., Francis celebrated a mass of canonization for the Spanish missionary Father Junipero Serra. Keeping in theme, a subsequent reception served Harbor Winery Amador County Mission Del Sol 1986, a dessert wine made from vinestock brought to America by Spanish missionaries in 1775.

During the New York leg of the trip, local Finger Lakes wines took their place on the altar. At services at Madison Square Garden, the Holy See poured "Chalice Red" from Hemlock Lake's O-Neh-Da Vineyard, a winery founded by the Bishop of Rochester in 1872. Winemaker William Ouweleen told Unfiltered that the decision to donate the French-hybrid sacramental wine for the ceremony, along with Finger Lakes Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc for official clergy dinners, came to him through "divine inspiration." He reminisced, "I was out mowing in the vineyard one day and thought, 'The Pope's coming to America. If he's in New York, we should make New York wine available.' I wanted him to see what the Finger Lakes are all about."

When he wasn't pontificating to 20,000 people, Francis enjoyed his downtime in the company of some of New York's preeminent chefs. Vivolo owner Angelo Vivolo joined Lidia Bastianich, who also cooked for Pope Benedict XVI during his 2008 visit, to serve simple, light and seasonal Italian dishes. Bastianich, owner of Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning Felidia and partner in chef Mario Batali's and Joe Bastianich's Grand Award–winning Del Posto, told Unfiltered, "It was an extraordinary experience and at the same time very serene and peaceful. It was like cooking for a family member served around a family table."

The chefs meticulously planned the meals, taking into consideration the Pope's family roots with a Piedmontese tonno tonnato, his love of rice with a "risotto in bianco," and his health-conscious diet with bowls of capon soup. The meals were paired with Bastianich family Proseccos, Friulanos and Bordeaux-style blends. "Since my son Joseph was one of the wine servers during the occasion," Lidia explained, "it seemed only appropriate that we would serve our family’s wines to complement the dishes." The thoughtful attention to detail did not go unnoticed by His Holiness: "He shared his warm wonderful smiles and acknowledgements the entire time."


Harlequin Introduces Wines to Blush For

The expansion of Vintage Wine Estates took a romantic turn in September. Having recently purchased California favorites like B.R. Cohn Winery, Viansa and Clos Pegase, the company announced its latest business move last week, aimed at a favorite of lonely housewives everywhere: a partnership with romance novel publisher Harlequin. Concocted by Windsor Vineyards winemaker Nancy Walker, the Vintages by Harlequin collection offers three wines priced at $15 each: a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a red wine blend, with swoon-inducing names like Pardon My Body and Substitute for Love. Terry Wheatley, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Vintage Wine Estates, said in a statement, "It’s a special experience to sit down with a good book and glass of wine. We look forward to offering Harlequin readers that moment of everyday indulgence." And Harlequin was happy to indulge its fans with blush-inducing back labels: "I have a thing for full-bodied reds, and she knew it …"


Grand Award–Winning Canlis Lends a Helping Hand to Aurora Crash Responders

Shortly after 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, four people were killed at the scene and dozens were injured when a Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle collided with a tour bus on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle. Following the tragic accident, Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurant Canlis lent a helping hand to responders at the scene.

The restaurant, located near the scene of the accident, closed its doors to patrons for the first time in 65 years. “Canlis will close tonight in response to the tragic accident. Join us in thought and prayer for the victims and their families,” the restaurant posted on Twitter. Throughout the day, restaurant workers passed out food and water to emergency crews, city officials and members of the media.

Owner Mark Canlis emphasized to Unfiltered that the restaurant wanted the attention to be focused on the victims. “At Canlis we believe that everything we are, we were given," reads a statement on Canlis' website. "Hospitality means more to us than just taking care of those who come in through our doors.”

On Sunday, a fifth victim passed away in the hospital from injuries sustained in the crash. The state has suspended all Seattle Ride the Ducks services until a full investigation of its vehicles and drivers has been completed.


Lake County Rising from the Ashes

Relief efforts continue in Lake County as firefighters work to extinguish the devastating Valley fire. The Lake County Winegrape Commission, Lake County Winery Association and Lake County Wine Alliance are combining efforts to support the #LakeCountyRising Valley fire relief fund. Vintner Andy Beckstoffer has donated $50,000 to the fund; to make donations or learn how else you can help, visit www.Facebook.com/LakeCountyRising.

Napa Valley Vintners announced a grant of up to $250,000 to UpValley Family Centers, which is assisting those affected by the fire with clothing and security deposits for temporary housing. Constellation Brands announced this week that its program of doubling its employees' charitable contributions resulted in a $100,00 donation to the American Red Cross, and Dario Sattui of V. Sattui Winery and Castello di Amorosa has also donated $10,000 to the American Red Cross for Valley fire relief. And 20 wineries will be participating in Sonoma Wine Country Cares' Raise the Roof fund-raiser this Saturday at the Sonoma Jet Center. Net proceeds from the $100 tickets, available at RaisetheRoof2015.BrownPaperTickets.com, along with proceeds from a silent auction, will be donated to the Redwood Credit Union Lake County Fire Relief Fund.

And last night, Sept. 30, Alpha Omega winery hosted a fund-raiser with barbecue, music and a silent auction, in partnership with Darioush, St. Supery and the Napa Valley Film Festival, that benefited both #LakeCountyRising and UpValley Family Center. With more than 300 in attendance, the event raised $100,000.


Kistler's Winemaker Toasts Rhode Island State Troopers

What did nine retired Rhode Island state troopers drink when they gathered this past Thursday on the deck of a waterside seafood shack? You probably wouldn't have guessed it was the personal label of Kistler Vineyards winemaker Jason Kesner. Under a near-full moon at Matunuck Oyster Bar in Narragansett, they washed down local shellfish with Kesner Wines Heintz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2013, but the evening was tinged with melancholy. Just a stone's throw away, in the aftermath of vicious Hurricane Carol 61 years ago, the body of another trooper, 23-year-old Daniel O'Brien, washed ashore.

At the height of the storm, O'Brien had rescued a vacationing couple by pushing their stalled car to higher ground. When O'Brien returned to rescue others, he was swept away by the raging sea. Kesner's grandparents were the couple saved by O'Brien. "Growing up, my grandmother and mother impressed on me the story of Trooper O'Brien, and I have raised my own children to understand his sacrifice," Kesner said. His son bears the name of the trooper. Among those honoring the man and his deed that evening were O'Brien's cousin and nephew as well as a 91-year-old who was sworn in on the same day as O'Brien. Unfiltered joins them all in a hearty cheers to Trooper O'Brien.

James Gerace
Phoenix, AZ, USA —  October 6, 2015 9:32am ET
We had the pleasure of meeting Jason and tasting his wines with him. We found him to be a warm friendly sincere man. We have met a number of winemakers, mostly with positive experiences. But, there was something special about Jason. This story shows what he is made of. We are honored to have met him and frequently recall our visit with friends. Sipping Kistler and Kessner wines brings back the memory. Kudos to Jason, thank you WS.

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