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Le Terminateur Heads to Cheval-Blanc; University Wine Whizzes Face Off at Lafite

Also in Unfiltered, wine's place-name police deputize Texas and a good dog does double-duty at Honig
Photo by: Stéphane Klein pour Ville de Libourne
"I call them 'girlie men.'"

Posted: June 29, 2017

Unfiltered readers might expect Arnold Schwarzenegger to be a Grüner man, but after meeting with Emmanuel Macron, the Governator and Kindergarten Cop was naturally swayed toward the French president's favored Bordeauxs. Schwarzenegger, a climate activist and founder of the non-profit R20, visited Macron and snapped some selfies. While in the neighborhood, he figured, as one does, that he'd head down to Cheval-Blanc for lunch with winemaker Pierre Lurton on Sunday.

Appetite for claret evidently whetted, Schwarzenegger made a cameo appearance at the Libourne Wine Festival (the town neighbors St.-Emilion and Pomerol). The invitation had been extended during a chance encounter in Paris with Libourne's enterprising mayor, Philippe Buisson. "He's a Hollywood star but he's also one of the most influential voices for saving the planet, defending the Paris Agreement," said Buisson.

Schwarzenegger made some remarks to the large crowd of Libournais packing the public square: "I came to France to meet with your president, Macron, and we had a fantastic meeting. He was like a soul mate. He believes 100 percent in a clean-energy future."

But unbeknownst to the star, the Libourne Wine Festival had mobilized its forces to induct him into the Grand Conseil des Vins de Bordeaux.

"No one told me I was going to end up on this stage, in front of thousands of people, receiving this medal and this great, great honor. I'm totally surprised." Then Le Terminateur delivered what the whole Right Bank had come to hear: "I want to thank you, and I'm not going to say, 'Hasta la vista, baby.' I'll say, 'I'll be back.'"


University Teams Throw Down (Wine) at Bordeaux Wine Bowl

There was plenty of action on the Left Bank as well this month, as eight teams of wine all-stars descended into the Château Lafite Rothschild cellars for the most refined of collegiate drinking challenges, the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup. On June 16, the teams from around the world—Hong Kong to Lyon to New Hampshire—faced off in the annual battle of wits and palates, navigating quiz questions on wine arcana and blind tasting classified Bordeaux. "The tasting is … incredibly hard, especially when they asked us to find a [specific] château!" Jacques Beauchene, who played for the EM Lyon Business School team, told Unfiltered via email.

Commanderie du Bontemps
Cellar-worthies.

Before the sip-off, though, teams spent the week doing palate-conditioning exercises up and down the Left Bank, with tastings, lunches and dinners at a few addresses you may recognize: Haut-Bailly, Pedesclaux, Phelan Ségur, Beychevelle, du Tertre, Rieussec and others. (The Commanderie du Bontemps de Médoc, des Graves, de Sauternes et de Barsac, a robed, be-toqued confrerie of Bordeaux bigwigs, puts on the LBBC tour every year, and they like to make sure the next generation of triple-digit-bottle drinkers don't forget their friends on the Gironde.) "We all came away with a fresh fascination with Bordeaux, and I am in fact drinking a de Fieuzal '06 as I write this," wrote Ben Bradford of the Columbia Business School team, to Unfiltered.

Do you know which château is home to one of Barry Flanagan's hare sculptures? What's an 18th-century invention of the then-owner of Château du Tertre? Think you could identify three wines as Pessac-Léognan rather than Margaux? The teams trained with a commensurate level of diligence: A mix of book learning, tasting ("I think I may have spent more time tasting wines than going to my courses!" says Beauchene) and some lucky encounters, like when the Columbia team dined over a 5-liter bottle of 2000 du Tertre, at du Tetre, and learned the story of how the jeroboam had been invented … at du Tertre. (The Flanagan is at Smith-Haut-Lafitte.)

There are no real losers in a week of Bordeaux fêting, but EM Lyon emerged victorious at Lafite. This doesn't mark the end of wine-tasting season for either Beauchene or Bradford, though. The former is now considering a career in wine, and the latter—whose brother makes wine at Washington's Cor Cellars and whose cousin, Andrea Franchetti, owns Passopisciaro and Tenuta di Trinoro—is already at work on a wine start-up idea.


Wine's Place-Name Police Deputize Texas

Vinexpo, the wine extravaganza held biennially in Bordeaux, is a prime place for networking, "tasting" and talking shop in the sweltering heat.

Among the announcements: Wine Origins, a group that works to protect wine place and origin names from pretenders, added three new members: Canada's British Columbia Wine Institute, Australia's McLaren Vale region and the Texas Wine Growers. They were appropriately welcomed with a big tasting of all members' wines.

B.C., McLaren Vale and Texas join a cadre of elite terroirs like Champagne, Bordeaux, Chianti Classico, Port, Tokaj, Napa Valley and Long Island.

Carl Money, founding member of the Texas Wine Growers and owner of Pontotoc Vineyard in Texas Hill Country, hopes the partnership will spur the state's wine industry to protect the sanctity of Texas turf. As it turns out, C-Money is something of a Lone Star on the issue—a rebel with a cause.

Currently, state law allows producers to label their wines "Texas" even if they only contain 75 percent Texas fruit. "A lot of wineries are just trucking in juice from California, which I just think is wrong," Money told Unfiltered. "They're pulling the wool over consumers' eyes." In the 2017 legislative session, producers pushed for legislation that would require wineries to use 100 percent Texas fruit in their Texas-labeled wines. The bill got a hearing, but didn't pass.

Money created the Texas Wine Growers as a result of the failed bill: "We're never going to be taken seriously, nationally or internationally, unless we have this law changed."


Good Dog Does Double-Duty at Honig Vineyard

The folks at Honig Vineyard and Winery in Rutherford will soon be adding a new member to their pack: Honey, a “dual-purpose” service dog. Honey's foremost purpose will be as a diabetic alert dog (and companion) to the Honigs' eldest daughter, Sophia, 10.

Devin Cruz Photography
Honey's got paws in many pies.

Sophia has type 1 diabetes and, unlike patients with the more common type 2 diabetes, those with type 1 don’t produce any insulin at all. Any drastic drop in blood sugar may precipitate seizures, brain damage or other life-threatening problems. As a result, the Honigs must check Sophia’s blood sugar levels 15 to 20 times a day and twice during the night.

Enter Honey, a 9-month-old yellow lab currently being trained at Bergin University of Canine Studies in Rohnert Park as a diabetic alert dog. Once Honey has completed her training, she will be able to recognize a dangerous drop in Sophia’s blood sugar levels 15 minutes ahead of the mechanical device that Sophia wears and alert her and her parents.

Honey's other job? Detecting vine mealybugs, a less formidable threat but a pest nonetheless. In 2005, Michael Honig worked with Bergin University staff to train two litters of yellow labs to recognize pheromones from the female mealybug, alerting workers to the presence of the critters in the vineyard earlier than more conventional means would. “As with all vineyard pests, early detection is the key to pest management,” says Honig. Who's a good early detector of vineyard pests? Who?!?


A Cool New Look: Matua Gets a "Chill Check" Label

New Zealand wine lovers wanting to ensure their whites are properly chilled for service no longer need look further than the label. Matua winery has incorporated thermographic technology on its labels, starting with the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 and Marlborough Rosé 2017.

Treasury Wine Estates
You actually WOULD like Tak Moko when he's angry.

When the temperature of the bottle hits 45° F (the optimal serving temperature, according to chief winemaker Greg Rowdon), Matua’s label art, a Ta Moko traditional Maori face tattoo, will darken. The image will stay dark for about 30 or 45 minutes, depending on the ambient temperature, before it starts to fade.

“We wanted to take away some of the anxiety about serving wine,” explained Hilary Berkey, brand manager at Treasury Wine Estates, to Unfiltered. This is the first time the thermal ink has been a major part of a wine's label design. So if you've never encountered it before, don't be alarmed: When the scary face gets angry, it means the wine is chill.


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