If you've been waiting a long, long time to uncork your elderberry wine, now might be the moment, because the Rocket Man himself, Elton John, is presenting just the decanter to serve it in. Last month, the glass masters at Riedel announced the release of the Amadeo Double Magnum Rainbow, an enormous swan-style decanter with Technicolor stripes running along its contours. Riedel will donate $27,000 worth of sales to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
"This year, we launched a new collection under the Riedel umbrella called Fatto a Mano, which is a colorful wineglass collection, and that inspired me to consider something big, something special," Maximilian Riedel, president of Riedel, told Unfiltered. "We wanted to team up with somebody who stands for a good cause. I have a friend, who is a friend of a friend—because that's how it goes—and this connected me with the Elton John AIDS Foundation."
"The rainbow has so many wonderful associations—from hope and promise to inclusion and tolerance," John said in a statement. "We are delighted and honored that Riedel is donating funds from this beautiful piece to support the work of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, funds we can use to promote compassion in the fight against HIV and support services that will bring us closer to an AIDS-free future." Only 50 decanters—which retail at $2,900 apiece—will be made for this limited-edition series, and Sir Elton himself will auction off five of them over the course of the year.
Last Thursday, Brazilian artist and sculptor Ernesto Neto took the stage to address a wine-thirsty crowd of connoisseurs at New York's Guggenheim Museum, sporting an all white-linen get-up and Malcolm Gladwell hair. Neto had designed the ninth edition of Ornellaia's Vendemmia d'Artista large-format bottle series for the 2014 vintage. Some of his bottle-works were on the auction block to benefit the museum, and Neto had plants on the brain. He began intoning a chant that Unfiltered could best discern lyrics along the lines of "Planty planty, seedy seedy, grapey grapey, winey winey …
"The vine is a plant of power. It makes you forget the [trivial] things of life," Neto declared. (It's no longer his muse of choice, though: "I discovered some things in the Amazon with the indigenous people.") Neto's bottles were meant to form a little community, with the largest, a one-off Salmanazar, as king, flanked by Imperial-sized nobles and 3-liter subjects. "In society, some have hats and some don't"—in this case, the hats being mini-turbans atop the corks of the biggest bottles, while all the bottles wear cloth capes fastened at the neck with a seed-shaped metal clasp. Neto expounded on the inspiration of the seed, the seasons, the cycles of the vine, and ended with an exhortation to "use our art to elevate our environment, to be in a world with more friendship" ("—and less guns, shall we say," he added).
Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong expressed his appreciation, Ornellaia chairman Ferdinando Frescobaldi cracked wise and winemaker Axel Heinz rapped about the wine. "The difficult thing about 2014 was no discernible summer. Everything else was fine!"—though ultimately he summoned an outstanding wine and named "L'Essenza" the one-word "theme" of the vintage for Neto to capture. Then, Sotheby's auctioneer extraordinaire Jamie Ritchie gaveled off nine lots, and by night's end, the Guggenheim could toast to a $112,500 donation.
Just as soon kiss a wookie than hear Star Wars references on May the 4th? Too bad—this Unfiltered item is for all of the scruffy-looking nerf herders out there. George Lucas’ California-based Skywalker Vineyards has acquired Château Margüi in Provence. The estate's history can be traced back to ancient Roman times, and the land includes 40 acres of vineyards and an olive grove. If you think it’s an odd move, we find your lack of faith disturbing: After all, the Skywalker Vineyards portfolio already includes a property in Umbria, Italy, called Il Convento, in addition to the original 28-acre Skywalker Vineyards in Marin, just north of San Francisco.
Skywalker Vineyards spokesperson Tom Johnson told Unfiltered that Lucas always envisioned Skywalker Ranch as a place to be creative and productive, and feels the Force is also strong with this French property. Winery deals can be tricky things, but Unfiltered imagines Lucas channeled Han Solo: Never tell him the odds!
Ornellaia, of course, is hardly the only drink to hang museum pieces on its bottles. In the spirits world, 1800 Tequila has announced the work of Puerto Rican artist Enoc Perez will adorn the newest batch of its Essential 1800 Artist Series labels, which have previously featured art by the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Shepard Fairey. Perez is best known for his brightly colored paintings of iconic modern buildings and landmarks, six of which will dress up the tequila labels.
Among the Perez picks are his wildly colored imaginings of the United Nations headquarters in New York, and London's bullet-shaped skyscraper nicknamed "the Gherkin."
Don't count out corks yet. Just a few weeks ago they popped up in this space as inspiration (and material) for homemade art, and now corks are touting their sustainability cred. Literally: Sonoma's Dry Creek Vineyard recently won a patent for its new cork design, which, in teensy, laser-printed font, makes the eco-case for cork. The corks convey information like the source and harvest date of the cork-bark material, the age of the cork forest and names of the critters that make these forests their homes. “Our patented design is an effort to increase consumer awareness of the important role the world’s cork forests play in the ongoing challenge to protect the environment,” marketing and communications director Sara Rathbun told Unfiltered in an email.
Because the cork pays homage to the “pre-Prohibition nature of [our] vines,” Dry Creek president Kim Stare Wallace told Unfiltered, the stylish design evokes the look of "an old ticket, like the one you would get on a steamship crossing the Atlantic."
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