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Unfiltered: NFL Chooses California Wines for London Summit

Plus, Silver Oak rises from the ashes, bubbly gets a fancy leather jacket, soap stars and winemaker for charity and some oddly slender wines

Posted: October 29, 2008

• Are you ready for some football? Adam Lee of Siduri and Novy wines certainly is, now that he's harvested his last grapes of 2008 and has some time to relax. And apparently Lee's wines are the perfect pairing for pigskin: Siduri and Novy wines were selected as the exclusive wine of the second annual NFL Global Sport Summit, a sports and business conference which took place at London's Landmark hotel this past week. Among those in attendance at the annual conference (this year's theme was "Innovation vs. Tradition") were football, soccer, rugby, cricket and hockey commissioners, team owners and players, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino, legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice and recently retired Super Bowl champion Michael Strahan. The selection of his wines was particularly meaningful for Lee, as the Texas native and his family are avid Dallas Cowboys fans. He's even named his 14 fermentation tanks after retired Cowboys, the largest one having been named for Ed "Too Tall" Jones. Lee's assistant winemaker, Ryan Zepaltas, a Wisconsin native, once asked if they could name a tank after one of his Green Bay Packer heroes, but Lee had to veto the suggestion. "He asked if he could name a tank after Brett Favre," Lee recalled, "I said, "We cannot put the name Brett on the side of a tank.'" Unfiltered thinks that's just smart winemaking.

• California Cabernet producer Silver Oak has risen from the ashes (and high waters) to open a new winery and tasting room in Oakville. A devastating fire in February 2006 destroyed a 7,000-square-foot historic building which had been the winery's original home, along with about $3 million worth of wine. Earlier that same year, the facility was one of several Napa and Sonoma wineries hit by a flood. Founded in 1972 by Ray Duncan and the late Justin Meyers, the popular Silver Oak makes just two wines, both Cabernet Sauvignons: a Napa Valley bottling, and one from Alexander Valley. President David Duncan said that losing memorabilia to the fire, including old photos and the original Silver Oak sign, was a "poignant reminder of how important the past is." The new facility honors the winery's history with a "history gallery" and a time capsule, which will be sealed after a release party next February.

• With the world in a continuing state of economic turmoil, Unfiltered had thought that perhaps the age of the absurdly opulent Champagne accessory had passed. Then we heard about Moët & Chandon's limited-edition "Midnight Gold," a $600 "ice jacket" wrapped around a bottle of Brut Imperial NV, made of gold lambskin leather, Swarovski crystals and gold beads and designed by French artist Camille Toupet. Though the jacket, meant to keep chilled bottles cold, is form-fitting, it's also secured with a gold leather "necktie" that the Champagne house's reps helpfully suggest can be worn by the bottle's human handler as a fashionably edgy wristband at this year's holiday parties—or perhaps for Halloween, if you've been inspired by such things as $600 gold leather Champagne jackets to dress as a visitor from the year 1999.

• For one night, television soap opera stars put aside their day job duties of boldly emoting, feuding and scheming to team up with top New York chefs at the 16th annual Feast with Famous Faces charity event. On Oct. 27, One Life to Live actors and real-life couple James and Kassie DePavia enlisted a crew of their coworkers to help serve dishes at the walk-around tasting in support of the League of Hard of Hearing. The DePavias first became involved with the charity when their son was diagnosed with hearing loss. Actress Hillary B. Smith, who plays lawyer Nora Hanen on One Life to Live, has attended the event every year since its inception and was excited to be back, saying, "It's the best event, because you get to eat!" And there were plenty of great options: The roster included chefs from Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence-winning Asiate and award of Excellence winners Brasserie 8 1/2 and Butter. The Wine Spectator-sponsored event raised over $400,000.

• In other charity news, Italian wine producer Fantinel is pairing red wine and blue-green algae in an effort to feed the world's hungry. Launched in partnership with the United Nations, Fantinel's Celebrate Life campaign features a limited-edition Merlot from Friuli called Celebrate Life that retails for $15, with $1 from each bottle sold going to the Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-Algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition (IIMSAM). This program is devoted to cultivating and distributing spirulina, a nutrient-rich algae that's often sent to developing countries to help alleviate hunger. "The winery has been around 40 years already," said Marco Fantinel. "And we decided that it's time to give something back."

• Unfiltered prefers to drink wine unadulterated, but it seems that some wine drinkers—and winemakers—like to add a little extra sweetness to their glass. Dr. Charles Thomas, founder of Chateau Thomas winery in Indiana, is producing a brand called Slender that is being touted as a "naturally sweetened sugar-free wine." Slender wines are fermented until they're bone-dry, with the vast majority of the sugar converted into alcohol, and then a no-calorie sweetening agent called Zerose is added to mimic the flavor effects of residual sugar. Sheila Kavanaugh, the company's general manager, says that the wines are designed for diabetic or diet-conscious consumers who like sweet wines.

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