• It's the middle of harvest in the Southern Hemisphere right now, and most winemakers don't have time for guests as tons of grapes come pouring into the winery, but sometimes you have to make an exception. Viñedos Emiliana and its winemaker, Álvaro Espinoza, received some royal visitors at the biodynamic Chilean winery this week—the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall stopped by on Tuesday. (We assume they didn't show up in Prince Charles' bioethanol-fueled Aston Martin.) Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles met with Emiliana's general manager, Rafael Guilisasti, and his brother, José, the agricultural manager, to discuss the winery's sustainable and organic farming practices. It's Their Royal Highnesses' first trip to Chile, and they are meeting with many of Chile's leaders in the field of organic agriculture at the request of the British government. Charles and Camilla toured the winery and participated in a tasting of the Emiliana's wines led by Espinoza. "Their Royal Highnesses' visit today was of immense benefit and significance to all those among us who support organic agriculture and, in turn, organic wines," said Rafael Guilisasti afterward.
|An onlooker watched as the destroyed Boodles restaurant continued to burn.|
• The list of Wine Spectator Restaurant Award recipients is sadly one name shorter this week after a natural-gas explosion destroyed Wine SpectatorAward of Excellence-winning restaurant Boodles in Bozeman, Mont., on March 5. The powerful blast took with it Boodles and its nearly 1,000-bottle inventory, as well as the Rocking R Bar, the Montana Trails art gallery and the American Legion club. An employee of Montana Trails was killed in the blast, and is presumed to have been the only one in the building at the time. Montana State Rep. J.P. Pomnichowski was on the scene within hours of the explosion and has been fast-tracking business loans and unemployment benefits for those affected. A fund has been established at First Security Bank in Bozeman for anyone wishing to make donations. A community fair-style benefit has been scheduled for March 28 at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds, just 15 blocks from the site of the explosion. "The owners that I've reached have every intention of coming back better than they were," Pomnichowski said. "I still can't process that one of the best restaurants in Bozeman, Boodles, is gone."
• Customer service renaissance or wasteful spending amid a possible $2.3 billion state budget shortfall? That's the question being debated among the media, Pennsylvania taxpayers and members of the state's Liquor Control Board after the board awarded a $173,000 contract to an employee-training firm with the goal of improving customer service in the state's nearly 650 retail liquor stores. A number of news outlets, including the Associated Press, MSNBC and United Press International reported the story as a case of state employees being sent to a form of charm school, a characterization that Liquor Control Board spokesperson Nick Hays calls "crap." "It's not manners training; it's one component of a customer service training that is part of an overall rebranding of our store system." Unfiltered sees nothing wrong with the state taking steps to improve customer service, but wonders, how do they plan to improve the people skills of the 100 automated wine kiosks they're considering installing across the state so that customers can avoid the state-owned liquor stores altogether?
• French wineries breathed a big sigh of relief this week while French teenagers cried, "No!" (or "Non!"). The country's National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, has been debating alcohol laws. On Monday, the lawmakers adopted an amendment raising the drinking age in bars from 16 to 18 and banning nighttime alcohol sales at gas stations. While French wine consumption has plummeted in the past decade, concerns over binge drinking by teens has grown, especially since fewer teens learn about wine at the dinner table now. Last week the assembly also banned all-you-can-drink events in bars, but in a victory for the wine industry, the language was amended to allow wine tastings in wineries and stores. The lawmakers also redressed a bizarre situation in which alcohol advertising was forbidden online simply because the "Evin" law that severely restricts such ads was passed in 1991 and made no mention of the Internet. A new amendment will allow web ads, as long as the language is limited to technical facts and wine is not portrayed as healthy, part of a fun lifestyle or being drunk by models. That still doesn't sound very French to us.
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