• Although in recent years, the Material Girl has lent her name to a Madonna-branded wine and allowed her father to use her image on offerings from his Michigan winery, she's more often spotted drinking health teas made of twigs or practicing yoga than she's seen enjoying an adult beverage. That is, until last Wednesday evening in New York, when Madonna sang and danced a 32-minute set for a capacity crowd at the Roseland Ballroom. In addition to performing with (and pawing at) much-younger entertainer Justin Timberlake, Madonna paused between lyrics to chug some Champagne—straight from the bottle. It's an attention-grabbing move, to be sure, but knowing firsthand how difficult, even painful, it can be to drink bubbly from the bottle, Unfiltered has to wonder whether she'd actually just filled an empty bottle with water—or perhaps one of those pungent teas.
Here's hoping that New Orleans' pigeons stay out of the glass.
• Being declared a "New Orleans musical legend" is quite an accomplishment, but it's even more notable if you're being honored for your love of Old World wine at the same time. Pianist Ronnie Kole, who composed jazz music to pair with wine for his Music of the Vines CD series, was honored for his life's work with a life-sized bronze statue, unveiled April 11 at New Orleans Musical Legends Park, alongside previous inductees Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, Fats Domino and Chris Owens. As you'll notice, the statue doesn't show the artist holding a musical instrument. According to Kole, nailing the design was tricky. "We couldn't do a piano around the waist, as Fats has that already," he said. So the next choice was obvious: a glass of wine. "It looks like I'm stepping on a piano to get to the glass, and I love it," said Kole, who just can't resist the urge to spread the love. "In fact, I haven't been this happy since I read that my good friends the Avrils [of Clos des Papes] grabbed the number one spot on Wine Spectator's Top 100 list for 2007."
• Would you like some Riesling with your bag of Bugles? For years, Japanese consumers have enjoyed the convenience of buying wine, beer and spirits from vending machines. (Their toilets are light years ahead of ours, too.) But Pennsylvania wine lovers may soon enjoy the thrill of buying wine without human contact. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is soliciting offers from companies to install 100 wine kiosks across the Keystone state in grocery stores and malls. The machines would store 500 chilled bottles of wine—about a dozen different brands—allowing consumers to buy wine without going to one of the state-owned liquor stores. Critics allege that this is a big temptation for kids to buy wine, but the PLCB says that all machines will be outfitted with security measures. Wine lovers will have to register before they can use the machines, which will perform a biometric or fingerprint check before dispensing any vino. Biometric scan? Hey, anything for a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio. Hopefully, though, the vending machines won't allow the bottles to shake, rattle and roll down the chute the way a can of soda often does—there's nothing convenient about getting sprayed in the face by a shaken-up bottle of sparkling wine.
• Unfiltered got a chance to talk Top Chef with the crew from the Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning Tribeca Grill at the annual Taste of Hope event, a benefit for the American Cancer Society, held April 30 in New York. The restaurant's assistant purchasing manager, Jason Colucci, was on hand to support head chef Stephen Lewandowski as he cooked his fava bean cavatelli with lemon thyme-poached chicken for the crowd. His choice to win the televised cooking competition? "Spike, of course!" (Though Colucci admits that he answers mostly out of loyalty, as contestant Evangelos "Spike" Mendelsohn cooks at Tribeca Grill's sister restaurant Mai House). Over 700 guests attended the Wine Spectator-sponsored tasting event, which featured dishes from New York favorites like Brasserie Les Halles and Landmarc, and such wines as Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Vineyard Chardonnay and Slipstream Shiraz-Grenache McLaren Vale. This year's event raised more than $126,000 for the ACS.
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