Which political pair would you prefer to be served your wine: Presidents Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy, or their respective first ladies, Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni? That was the question Alsatian winemaker Etienne Hugel was wrestling with recently when he was informed that one of his wines, the 2005 Hugel Pinot Gris Tradition, would be served at a gala dinner at the Rohan Palace in Strasbourg, France, this past Friday evening as part of the NATO summit. The dinner was prepared by celebrated chef Emile Jung, whose Au Crocodile restaurant in Strasbourg has held Wine Spectator's Grand Award since 1993. To Hugel's delight, it was the fashionable first ladies raising a glass of Hugel. "Knowing the popularity and personality of the first ladies, we are pleased to report that our wine was enjoyed at Michelle's and Carla's dinner, and from what we heard through the grapevine, they had lots of fun," Hugel said via e-mail while touring Asia.
|Winemaker Blair Walter: Unafraid to climb inside the cockpit of a jet labeled "Experimental."|
• We at Unfiltered have long been familiar with the concept of "flying winemakers." In fact, our own James Molesworth has tried his hand at it. So we usually don't blink when we hear about the latest winemaker zooming about from region to region, until pictures of Felton Road winemaker Blair Walter's 40th birthday adventure came across our desk, that is. Perhaps feeling the need to stave off an impending midlife crisis, Walter decided to celebrate by taking a ride in an L-39 Albatross fighter pilot training jet, built in Czechoslovakia to train MiG-29 pilots. Walter and a seasoned jet pilot took the Albatross, now retired to New Zealand, on a "strafing run" across New Zealand's Southern Alps, and then buzzed by Shania Twain's house in the Wanaka high country for good measure. "We took it nice and easy," Walter said. "The plane will pull eight G's but we didn't take it much over four ..." Sounds, um, exciting, but the next time Unfiltered needs a G-force fix, we'll probably just go watch the spinning cone do its thing.
• Finally, an April 1 announcement that's no joke: Cornell University's Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Susan Henry, snipped a grapevine this past April Fool's Day to signify the opening of the East Coast's first university teaching winery. With a $900,000 price tag, the new 1,800-square-foot winery will serve as a hub for Cornell's new undergraduate degree in viticulture and enology. Formerly, students made experimental batches of wine in a makeshift lab on the mezzanine of Stocking Hall, but the new winery building offers state of the art equipment, lab space and materials, much of which has been donated by New York wineries for students to learn their craft. Students and faculty will also have access to 3 acres of hybrid wine grapes at Cornell Orchards, adjacent to the winery, and to vinifera varieties at the university's nearby Lansing Vineyards. The focus of research and teaching at Cornell, which has long offered graduate degrees in winemaking and viticulture, will be on the challenges of cool-climate grapegrowing and wine production that best serves the more than 250 wineries of New York state and other East Coast winegrowing regions.
• Unfiltered has long been a fan of unusual wine names, so we were curious to see the results when we heard that Glenn Gundersen, chair of the trademark law practice at Dechert LLP in Philadelphia, had done the legwork of assembling some of the best to have been trademarked. In a recent issue of the International Trademark Association's Bulletin, Dechert surveyed the nearly 10,000 trademark applications for wine names filed between 2006 and 2008, and surmised, "a look at new applications for trademark registration suggests that many wine brands came to mind after a bottle of Cabernet." From Gundersen's list, which he's helpfully broken down into subcategories, here are some of the best names that you may soon see on your retailer's shelves: The Quirky: Head Snapper, Knuckleduster, To Be Continued; The Epithets: Cheapskate, Trailer Trash, Brayzin Hussy; Definitely Not a Château: Jackass Hill, Scaredy Cat Ranch; and Puns and the Play-on-Words: Screw-Pu-Lous, Shampain and Guilty as Zin. As for what's actually inside the bottles, your guess is as good as ours.
|Leighton Meester knows her vintage Champagne.|
• OMG! Gossip Girl fans caught a totally awesome scene on the latest installment of our favorite guilty pleasure TV show. We were treated to an unexpected fine-wine reference on the wildly popular soap-operatic teenage drama. After Blair Waldorf, the high-society high-school princess with a taste for the good things (played by actress Leighton Meester) is spurned by the current object of her affection, she sends her faithful servant Dorota away with a bottle of Dom Pérignon, meant for the trysting young lovers, to dump it down the sink, but then reconsiders, asking, "Oh wait, is that the '96?" before taking a sip and deciding the bottle should stay with her. Unfiltered certainly doesn't condone underage drinking, but we're nonetheless happy to see that the spoiled fictitious gossiper at least has good taste in bubbly.
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