Few folk-rock buffs know this, but if you parse the lyrics, "Cinnamon Girl" is actually about a hauntingly beautiful Syrah Neil Young once fell in love with ("Heart of Gold," meanwhile, is an ode to Sauternes). So it follows that Bonterra Organic Vineyards was on hand as a sponsor of last weekend's Farm Aid benefit that Young famously plays every year. The Sept. 16 concert in Burgettstown, Pa., is only the latest to put wine in a front-row seat, with the eco-friendly California pours dispensed at a Bonterra Bar. Vineyard director Joseph Brinkley even took a break from harvest in Mendocino County to speak with concertgoers about organic and biodynamic winemaking, while Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, rock vintner Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Sonoma wine supporter Sheryl Crow, the Avett Brothers and other acts joined Young in jamming for the cause.
“Farmers are the American heroes today," Young said to a sold-out crowd of 23,000 fans during his set. "They’re living a real life.”
To date, Farm Aid has raised more than $50 million to support programs that help family farms thrive. The organization is also working to assist farmers and ranchers impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Champagne has long associated itself with the beaux arts (and Beaux-Arts), with big-ticket names like Philippe Starck and Jeff Koons among the latest to adorn equally big-money bottles. But out West, sparkling-wine houses support the pioneering spirit of starry-eyed starving artists instead. For the second year, Oregon's Argyle winery has partnered with the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) to provide scholarships and some wine education to three art students, getting three original art labels in return.
Culled from a pool of more than 50 candidates, the three students were “plunged” into the viticulture and winemaking processes during a visit to Argyle, program creator and marketing and sales director Chris Cullina told Unfiltered, as inspiration for their Willamette-themed pieces. The results: Student Damien Dawahare reflected on the valley’s climate and land use in a woodcutting of a Knudsen Vineyard old vine. Catherine Ross' abstract evokes the excitement and energy during harvest that celebrates the laborers involved, while Madison Camcam created a textured oil painting to celebrate the winery’s spirit.
“Although all of our work was rooted in our experience at the Argyle facilities, we were each given freedom to produce the work that we wanted to make without limitation,” explained Camcam to Unfiltered via email.
“Starting the Art of Sparkling scholarship was a natural extension of Argyle’s long support for the arts in our local community in Portland,” said Cullina. “I didn’t expect the insight into our brand and our winegrowing community in the Willamette Valley in general that would come by simply putting trust in the hands of these remarkable young artists.” The "Art of Sparkling" box set—three brut 2014 méthode traditionelle wines—debuted Sept. 16, but if you want an original Camcam, Ross or Dawahare label, you'll have to put in a bid soon, as only 500 cases were made.
Sunday night's Emmy Awards brought plenty of surprises, but when it came to toasting to the newly crowned kings and queens of the small screen, the Television Academy kept with tradition. Napa Valley's Sterling Vineyards and Italian bubbly producer Ferrari both reprised their roles in capturing Outstanding Lead Still and Sparkling Beverage at a TV Awards Show.
Winners like John Lithgow, Sterling K. Brown and Donald Glover sipped on Sterling's limited-edition Iridium Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 while waiting to have their statuettes engraved at the Winner's Circle. “Tasting notes of … success!” Glover concluded, swirling his glass of Cab with the swagger of a first-time Emmy winner.
Meanwhile, Ferrari president Matteo Lunelli, known friend of the Hollywood liberal elite, personally hand-delivered special Emmys-engraved bottles of Ferrari Trentodoc Brut to winners Alec Baldwin and Julia Louis-Dreyfus—and a bonus gift bottle to Susan Sarandon, "just because she's an incredible actor, and she's also of Italian origin," Lunelli told Unfiltered. But the highlight of the evening for Lunelli was when he had the chance to speak with one of his "favorite actors ever," Robert De Niro. "He wanted to understand more about the wine and where it was coming from," Lunelli said of the thespian-restaurateur. "Meeting him in person was a great honor. The fact that we started speaking in Italian was very special."
Everyone got a taste of Sterling and Ferrari at the Governor's Ball, the award show's official after-party, where some 4,000 celebs and VIPs clinked glasses over a three-course dinner directed by chef Joachim Splichal of Los Angeles Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Patina. Unfiltered did the math while watching recaps from the couch: Together, Sterling and Ferrari served around 60,000 glasses over the course of the evening to winners, nominees and just-happy-to-be-there guests.
Last time Unfiltered checked in on the robots, the Terminator was lunching at Cheval-Blanc back in June. The rise of the machines has continued unabated in the time since: The latest development in wine A.I. goes by the innocuous name VineScout, and this guy, about the size of an extra-large bumper car, rolls through vineyards taking measurements on vine vitals like water availability, leaf and canopy temperature, and plant vigor. There’s no remote control involved; VineScout uses GPS and motion sensors to navigate the rows of vines.
A project of the Agricultural Robotics Lab (ARL) at the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain, in conjunction with Portugal's Symington Family Estates, the company behind the Wall-Ye pruning bot, and a few other partners, VineScout is on track to go commercial in 2019, but that goal is not without challenges. “They have to be reliable, robust, and easy to use by the non-ICT [information and communications technology] expert,” ARL's Francisco Rovira-Más told Unfiltered via email.
Aside from managing uneven terrain, the robots also need to be affordable to the average wine farmer, Rovira-Más said—he's hoping for a basic model to come in at around $12,000 to $15,000. And of course, there's the "human" resources issue: Will vineyard workers resent their new robot overlords?
“People need to understand that the robot is not replacing workers but making their life easier, that is, robots will do the part of the job nobody wants to do because it is physically demanding and unhealthy,” said Rovira-Más, citing trials over the summer in the Douro. “In June we reached temperatures above 104° F many days, resulting in a leaking battery and overheated electronics. This is not the right environment to have workers taking data … but this data will be key for the production of premier wines.”
Symington managing director Rupert Symington is one human who's already on board. “As you can imagine, we are extremely excited to be part of a well-advanced scientific project to bring technological innovation to bear in traditional vineyard management, something that we believe needs to happen for our business … to remain sustainable,” he told Unfiltered in an email. VineScout will be back in Symington's vineyards for the 2018 season; for now, it silently plots and waits.
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