Much as we prefer not to admit it, those of us behind our weekly Unfiltered column are no different from anyone else. We claim to have read the FT thoroughly on our subway ride to work in the morning, but we were actually flipping through Us Weekly. We claim to watch Jacques Pepin on PBS, but we really watch Top Chef before kicking back with a good wine and speeding through the commercials in our TiVo'd episodes of The Hills.
If the stats are any indication, you're pretty much the same. You can't resist reading wine-related celebrity gossip any more than you can turn down a classic-scoring Napa Cabernet. Below are some of the most popular Unfiltered items we ran this year, and most of them involved celebrities and their wine preferences and experiences—or their complete lack thereof. We hope you enjoy this somewhat twisted stroll down memory lane, and that you look forward to more of Unfiltered in 2008. Cheers, and we hope you don't ring in the New Year by spray-painting yourself gold and cracking open a can of Rich Prosecco at midnight.
• Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of wine! Actor Johnny Depp, the 44-year-old Pirates of the Caribbean star, may have come up with a way to ensure he never has to utter the question, "But why is the wine gone?" According to several celebrity-gossip websites, Depp recently purchased a vineyard in Plan de la Tour, France, near the villa he shares with longtime girlfriend and singer Vanessa Paradis and their two children. Although Depp's publicist wouldn't confirm the purchase to Unfiltered, the story's gotten more ink than the tattoo on Depp's arm that reads "Wino forever" (a relic from a broken engagement to actress Winona Ryder). As the rumor goes, Depp purchased the vineyard to celebrate the release of Paradis' new album Divinidylle. A generous gift, certainly, but let's hope Paradis doesn't take it the wrong way: that she should be working in the vineyard instead of singing. We're sure that's not the case, but we can only wonder why someone didn't think of that for Britney Spears a long time ago.
Posted Nov. 28, 2007
• TheSmokingGun.com is known for publishing damning documents penned by celebrities, their mug shots and more. Exposing lies in James Frey's autobiography A Million Little Pieces is perhaps the site's greatest triumph, but lately the site seems to have a knack for uncovering outrageous backstage demands. Earlier this month, the site revealed that jazz singer Diana Krall's lengthy list of dressing-room requirements includes red wine from a list of "premium bottle[s]" she finds acceptable (Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon, Saintsbury Pinot Noir and Matanzas Creek Merlot among them). British rocker Amy Winehouse requests red wine from Rioja, Spain, and "chilled Champagne," according to the site, and rock group The Killers cite Merlot and Shiraz as good bets for their backstage booty. Mellow rocker Sheryl Crow asks for "good Australian Cabernet" and "good Merlot," but Iggy Pop's 18 pages of demands are far more specific: two bottles of "smooth, full-bodied Bordeaux-type red wine…probably French…and something we've heard of but still can't pronounce," according to the site. He goes on to request that the bottles be chosen from specific vintages ('86, '89 and '90) produced in "Medoc, St.-Emilion, Pamerol [sic] or Pauillac." He may have forgotten the spelling tutorial, but like Krall, we commend him on his taste.
Posted July 25, 2007
|Eric Clapton came unplugged when he found out his image appeared on a souvenir wine.|
• Putting celebrity images on wine labels finally went one step too far last month. It's been said that Eric Clapton is God, and last month the legendary guitarist unleashed a mighty and awesome fury upon winery owners in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who spent part of his life battling substance abuse, was slated to perform solo at the annual Mission Estate Winery Concert. Thousands gathered for the sold-out event on Jan. 27, but with mere hours until curtain Clapton threatened to nix the shindig when he noticed souvenir wine bottles branded with his name and likeness. The organizers confirmed to Hawkes Bay Today that the artist's "frustration" was palpable, but that a resolution was reached "to everyone's satisfaction." They snatched all wines from the shelves, and the show--though drier than a bottle of sand--went on.
Posted Feb. 7, 2007
• With all the controversy surrounding former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, currently serving time for running an interstate dog-fighting ring, one question has yet to be addressed: What will happen to his wine bar? Yes, it turns out that Vick is a minority partner in a suburban Atlanta wine bar and restaurant, and apparently it's in trouble, too. Unfiltered tracked down a person previously involved with the establishment, who said: "Compared to the other owners, he was a saint." The source claimed that the owners were several thousand dollars behind on rent, and added that the other owners used Vick for good publicity to open the restaurant, despite the fact that the food tasted like it was "from a nursing home. They hired an executive chef without tasting his food. Have you ever heard of that?" The source went on to say that Vick's initial investment was small and that he will not be paying in more. Sorry Michael, guess you can't expect to receive a file hidden in a bottle of Pétrus.
Posted Aug. 22, 2007
|Beauties and the beasts.|
• When Unfiltered thinks road trip, we think greasy fast food, so-bad-it's-good music, and questionable hygiene. When public television producers think road trip, however, they think beautiful young actresses and superstar chefs. For their forthcoming series Spain … on the Road Again, American Public Television has recruited Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali—along with curmudgeonly food writer Mark Bittman and Spanish actress-singer Claudia Bassols—to introduce viewers to the wine, food and culture of Spain while traveling together in a camera-equipped station wagon. Batali, who spoke with Unfiltered while waiting for a Madrid flamenco bar to open—at 3 am—actually lived with his family in Spain in the 1970s, during his teenage years, and he recalled eating food that was "swimming in olive oil, with burnt pieces of garlic floating in it … they have amazing products and an amazing cultural history but they were [messing] it up for a long time." Aside from their aesthetic value, Batali predicted that his comely female cohosts "will be a foil to the snotty Mark Bittman and the overexuberant Mario Batali." Bittman agreed, adding, "Gwyneth and Claudia will likely display a level of professionalism that I am incapable of providing." Sounds like there might be a grease-fueled, slightly dank late-'80s rock sing-along on that road trip after all…
Posted Oct. 3, 2007
• Forget counting points or cutting carbs. "Get the Party Started" singer Pink has discovered a new diet that's much more fun: Drinking tons of wine. "I run 60 minutes a day, I do an hour of yoga and then I drink a lot of wine—I think that helps, I honestly do," the pop star told World Entertainment News Network. No word on which varietal Pink prefers, but she might be onto something. After all, resveratrol, found in the skins of red wine grapes, boosts the endurance of mice--and perhaps pop stars, too, fueling their monster workouts. But what makes this diet really special is that it's apparently reversible. Victoria "Posh" Beckham, former Spice Girl and wife of soon-to-be LA Galaxy soccer star David Beckham, is said to be guzzling wine to bulk up her size 0 frame, amid speculation of an eating disorder. "It's the reason she has a drink," a source told Closer magazine. "If she has a wine or two then she'll have an appetite like everyone gets when they're on a night out and drinking." Let's just hope it's not the Liebfraumilch the Beckhams served at their World Cup party in 2005.
Posted April 18, 2007
|Tyra Banks isn't known for her fermentation sense.|
• Remember how in high school the only reason anyone smoked cigarettes--or just stuck one behind an ear--was to look cool? It turns out that supermodel-turned-talk-show-host Tyra Banks, 33, feels the same way about wine. "I'll only take two sips, but I'll keep holding the glass 'cause it makes me feel sexy," she explained on her website. Banks' sipping strategy isn't about counting calories or following Pink's diet plan. Rather, the Top Model host says she thinks wine "tastes kind of nasty," and that she's "not really an 'alcohol girl.'" But despite her aversion to the grape, Banks recently traveled to Napa, according to her website post. "I learned how to pair wines with certain tastes, how red wine tastes good with salt and bitter things like lemon." Sounds like somebody wasn't paying attention in class.
Posted June 6, 2007
• The last time the Boston Red Sox were on such a tear, they grew their hair long and called themselves "the idiots." But the team with baseball's best record so far this season is trying to cultivate a more sophisticated image now: a wine-loving image. Three of Boston's best players--slugger Manny Ramirez and pitchers Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield--will unveil their own wines Thursday at Fenway Park, hoping to raise money for their respective children's charities. Wine-loving baseball fans across New England will be able to buy Manny Being Merlot, Schilling Schardonay and CaberKnuckle (a Cabernet Sauvignon) starting Friday. The wines are the brainchild of VinLozano Imports, which specializes in wines for charity, and sports marketing consultant Charity Hop. "VinLozano mentioned that they wanted help to launch a baseball wine for charity and always dreamed of a Manny Merlot," said Charity Hop marketing director Brett Rudy. After partnering with the players, each of whom has a charity they support, VinLozano sourced a Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile's Central Valley. About 264,000 bottles have presold, according to Charity Hop, but Unfiltered has yet to sample any of the wines. We suspect the Manny Being Merlot shows up late but packs a concentrated fruit-bomb punch, the Schardonnay is cerebral and well-aged with a touch of aggressive oak power, and the CaberKnuckle flutters wildly on the palate. No word on a Daisuke Matsuzaka Sake, a David Ortiz Rum or a zippy Julio Lugo Sauvignon Blanc ... yet.
Posted May 30, 2007
|If you're going to cook naked, remember: Nothing that splatters.|
• Remember the group of Bordeaux vintners who released a nude calendar a few years ago to promote their wines? At least one person did: Al Wagner, vineyard manager for Clos Du Val in Napa Valley. And it inspired him to create his own calendar to benefit the Napa County Farm Bureau (NCFB), a nonprofit organization that helps preserve Napa Valley's agricultural land. The 2008 calendar, dubbed "Napa Uncovered" (or "nu" for short, literally "nude" in French), features 13 male members of the NCFB, representing wineries including Chappellet, Hall, Hanna, Grgich Hills, Honig, Grace Family and Regusci. Although none of the models, who were photographed at their respective wineries, stripped down to their birthday suits, the photos leave little to the imagination. And despite the revealing nature of the pictures, it was relatively easy to get volunteers. "In the beginning, everyone thought it was a big joke," said Wagner. "And then once we started getting into the project, others jumped on board." So far, the calendar has generated enough buzz to inspire talk of publishing a "nu" calendar annually. The $18 calendar will be officially released in October, along with select autographed copies for $36, and is currently available for presale at napafarmbureau.org. So if farmers' tans are your thing, here's your golden opportunity to spice up your planner.
Posted Sept. 5, 2007
• In between removing all of the toilets from his parents' house and attending his beyond-raunchy Las Vegas bachelor party, professional skateboarder-turned-television star Bam Margera found some time for a semi-civilized wine tasting on the latest episode of his MTV reality show Bam's Unholy Union. The show documents preparations leading up to the wedding of Margera and fiancée Missy Rothstein, including a tasting of several wines at Pennsylvania's Chaddsford winery. Margera (a native of West Chester, Penn., just a few miles down the road from the winery), Rothstein and their friends "were actually very nice and polite when the cameras weren't rolling," said Lee Miller, co-owner (with her husband Eric) of Chaddsford. But when it was time for action, the group engaged in such charming behavior as contributing their own phlegm to the shared spit bucket, and then forcing a member of their group to ingest it. The happy couple ultimately chose bottles of Chaddsford's Proprietors Reserve Red to give as favors to their wedding guests, said Miller, who added that she was "excited," for the TV exposure but "horrified [by] the crudeness." Has she already forgotten about that naked photo of her husband that circulated on the Internet just months ago?
Posted March 28, 2007
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