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Backstage at the Oscars with Piper-Heidsieck

Plus, Fabio woos lonely Valentines with Dom Pérignon, more juicy details from retailer Premier Cru's bankruptcy proceedings, and wine regions take to the Web with new wine-themed domain names
Photo by: Richard Harbaugh/Todd Wawrychuck/©A.M.P.A.S.
From left: Rooney Mara, Leonardo DiCaprio and Lady Gaga power lunched with Piper-Heidsieck Champagne.

Posted: February 11, 2016

Piper-Heidsieck, the official Champagne of the 88th-annual Academy Awards, revealed this Monday its limited-edition Oscars cuvée, which made its debut at the nominee luncheon with stars like Lady Gaga, Sylvester Stallone and Leonardo DiCaprio at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Only 1,000 magnums of the special-edition brut were made, featuring a gold filigree label that spells “Oscars 88” and can be taken off the bottle to be worn as a gold tiara (although Unfiltered found it harder to remove than the cap of a childproof bottle of aspirin). We'll have our fingers crossed for celebrity Piper tiara selfies at the Oscars.

This year, after award winners receive their Oscar and disappear behind the curtain, they'll receive a glass of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Rare Millésime 2002 to sip while their name is etched into their statuette.

Piper-Heidsieck isn't the only F&B star at the Academy Awards. Chef and Oscars veteran Wolfgang Puck will be overseeing the cuisine for the Governors Ball after-party dinner, a role he's played for the past 22 years. Along with the menu of more than 50 dishes, this year he’s whipped up a special dessert to pair with the Piper-Heidsieck: raspberry panna cotta with Champagne caviar and white chocolate. And that's not all they'll be getting! The “Everybody Wins” acting and best director nominee gift bags, valued at more than $150,000, will include a bottle of Greenhill Winery's blanc de blancs sparkling Chardonnay from Virginia, among many, many other things. We guess it really is an honor just to be nominated ….

Let Fabio Woo You with Dom Pérignon this Valentine's Day

Still searching for a hot Valentine's Day date? Look no further, because Fabio—yes, romance-novel cover boy Fabio—is here to woo you like you've never been wooed before. For reasons that are a bit unclear, the sex symbol stars in an 18-minute online video, wearing a seductively unbuttoned shirt while lying on a rose petal–strewn bearskin rug. A crackling fireplace roars behind him while smooth jazz plays in the background. After welcoming his digital date with a "Hello, Gorgeous," Fabio fills two Champagne flutes with Dom Pérignon and offers one to the screen. He spends most of the video in silence, posing provocatively, rubbing his thigh and winking, although every few minutes he peppers in a romance novel–worthy one-liner. "Our love is like the wind," he says, as gusts of inexplicable indoor wind blow through his luscious locks, "We don't see it, but we always feel it." At one point, he picks up his cell phone and scrolls intently. "I just went through your Instagram and I really like your photos," he croons.

After watching the full 18 minutes, you may find yourself asking, "Why?!" (We did). If you really need to know, Fabio is hawking Feeln.com, an online movie-streaming service. But don't ask questions! You have Fabio's full, undivided attention on Valentine's Day! Go get yourself a bottle of Dom, sit down in front of the computer screen and enjoy your date.

Premier Cru's Computer Guy May Uncover Retailer's Accounting Woes

Who is Brian Nishi and why has he become the flashpoint of lengthy legal wrangling in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy case of the once-prominent and now-under-investigation wine retailer Premier Cru? According to Michael Kasolas, trustee charged with liquidating the assets of the Berkeley-based debtor, which went belly up on Jan. 8, only Nishi, the firm's computer guru who never finished college, understands the intricacies of the retailer's allegedly sophisticated accounting system. Is evidence of financial hanky panky hidden away in those hard drives? Or in the private laptop of Premier Cru president John Fox, which has been turned over to the trustee by order of the bankruptcy court? How did Premier Cru end up with $70 million in debt, most of it owed to 9,000 customers it stiffed, and only $6.8 million in assets? Kasolas asked bankruptcy judge William Lafferty for permission to hire Nishi at $100 per hour to help unravel the mysteries hovering over the corpse of Premier Cru.

That request didn't sit well with Margaret McGee, a regional U.S. Department of Justice bankruptcy trustee charged with oversight of the case. Her issue is that the law requires that "professional persons" hired to assist in a bankruptcy case must be "disinterested." But Nishi is not disinterested: In the last desperate days of Premier Cru, Fox, with Nishi's permission, used the computer analyst's personal credit card to the tune of $25,000. Fox paid back Nishi with wine he valued at $25,000. He did not pay Nishi his final paycheck of $2,500. So how can Nishi be "disinterested?" At a recent hearing, McGee warned the judge that, if Nishi is hired, "what he communicates to the trustee could be based on his discretion, or whatever he thinks the trustee ought to know, or whatever." Mark Bostick, a lawyer representing the estate trustee, countered that Nishi's entanglements with Fox "are not infecting the relationship" and that he is "a very straightforward guy … who's worked in the warehouse and knows customers, and will be instrumental in finding wines [owned by Premier Cru] for us overseas."

After hearing 30 minutes of arguments, Lafferty ruled that Nishi may be hired by the estate trustee in an "almost exclusively technical role" so long as he is not "exercising judgment or discretion." The FBI, which is also investigating Premier Cru, will no doubt also be curious about what Nishi reveals. As a lawyer who once worked with the FBI told Unfiltered, "If you want to know how Al Capone handled the money, you have to hire the guy who can spill the beans."

Chaos Fails to Reign as Wine Regions Claim New Domains

It would appear that the wine industry's concerns over the release of two wine-centric Internet domains—.vin and .wine—were largely unfounded now that they have been rolled out. The French government had been concerned with how the governing body of all things domain-related, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), would handle arguments as to who should have, for instance, Bordeaux.vin (Internet domains are typically handed out on a first come, first served basis). The trepidation was enough to cause the release of the domains to be delayed.

Now that those hotly contested .vin and .wine domains have finally been released for sale, what has happened? According to Jeff Davidoff, the CMO of Donuts, Inc., the company in charge of selling the domains, everything seems to have gone far better than the bleak picture we'd been previously painted. “Sherry.wine, Champagne.wine, Champagne.vin, Prosecco.wine and Port.wine are examples of live and active sites focused on wine marketing, sales, education and community building," Davidoff told Unfiltered. "These regional bodies are making active use of these names.” Regarding the threat of cybersquatting (the registration of a domain name with the intention of profiting from another party's trademark) or infighting over who should get what, he continued, “We've received zero complaints of cybersquatting. The process has been excellent thus far. We've had nearly 9,000 domain name registrations in .wine and .vin to date and are very pleased with the progress.”

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