• Any pitcher who leads his team to three World Series victories while sporting a handlebar mustache is pretty cool in Unfiltered's book, so we were excited to learn this week that former Oakland A's pitcher Rollie Fingers, the prototype of the modern bullpen closer, has his own California Cabernet Sauvignon, called Cooperstown Cuvee. The Hall of Famer partnered with a friend with experience in the wine wholesaling business to issue the $15-a-bottle wine. Fingers says he hopes to partner with other players now enshrined in Cooperstown, such as Brooks Robinson and Harmon Killebrew. Good plan, but does he know about the wines of current players issued by Charity Wines? Might be time for a tasting showdown, between the Cabernet of a Hall of Famer and the Merlot of future Hall of Famer Johan Santana. However, until we've tasted the Cooperstown Cuvee at least, we're still giving the nod to Tom Seaver's GTS, since he actually grows his own grapes.
|TV star Neil Patrick Harris helped kick-start the premiere benefit for the new Mario Batali Foundation.|
• Disney-Pixar's latest animated film Up may have had its official world premiere at this week's Cannes Film Festival, but last Saturday in Tribeca, attendees at the kickoff for celebrity chef Mario Batali's new foundation got a sneak peek. About two-thirds of the guest list were of the pint-size variety, and by the looks on their faces and the minor chaos surrounding the carnival games, balloon animals and cupcakes (provided by Japanese dessert bar Kyotofu) at the after party, they were thrilled. Some of the taller attendees, including Neil Patrick Harris of CBS' How I Met Your Mother, also got caught up in games, where the prizes included high-ticket items such as an Apple computer. As for Batali himself? He was busy circulating through the crowd, making sure everyone was enjoying the food, which included gelato and salumi selections from his Greenwich Village pizzeria, Otto, and barbecue from Daisy May's. He had sage advice for Unfiltered regarding the barbecue sandwiches ("the pork one is the best, then the beef"). This was the first event for the Mario Batali Foundation, which will raise money for children's charities.
• If you've ever wondered why your mind wanders from time to time, a team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh says to blame it on the sauce. Literally. The title of the research paper, as published in this month's Psychological Science, is actually "Lost in the Sauce: The Effects of Alcohol on Mind Wandering." Led by psychology professor Michael Sayette, the study finds that even moderate amounts of alcohol make the mind wander more than the minds of people who don't drink. The drinkers, whose minds were wandering for about 25 percent of the time during the study, were also largely unaware that it was happening. Granted, the test subjects were forced to read Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace off a computer screen 30 minutes after half of the subjects had been given alcohol and half had been given a placebo. "This double-whammy, with more zone-outs that take longer to recognize, may explain why alcohol often disrupts efforts to exercise self-control—a process requiring the ability to become aware of one's current state in order to regulate it," said Sayette. Of course, the obvious question is, Why on earth would a college student drink alcohol if they knew it would cause them to … to … Uh, are those nachos?
• Wolf Blass, noted Australian producer (and member of the Foster's Group), has decided it is high time that wine and PETs be brought together. No, they aren't delving further into the furry-animal label sector, but rather toward the polyethylene tetraphthalate end of the wine-marketing spectrum. PET, the acronym for the aforementioned plastic compound, will be the latest entry into the eco-friendly market. The light-weight plastic bottle is intended for use with wines that are typically consumed within 48 hours of purchase, and the plastic employs a "barrier technology" that renders the bottle inert, with no effect on flavor, color or nose for up to a year. Already test-marketed in Canada (we assume because Canadians would appreciate that it doesn't explode when mistakenly left in the trunk of the car in sub-zero temperatures), the bottle will result in a 90 percent weight savings over traditional glass, as well as a 29 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
• Unfiltered often reminisces of the days when our week's supply of milk arrived on the doorstep. Of course, as adults, it seems wine is a more essential household staple these days, so it struck us as a novel concept when we learned of Northern California's Natural Process Alliance and its approach to creating an environmentally friendly wine brand by turning to a practice of yesteryear. Jennifer and Kevin Kelley are using the milkman concept to deliver their wines, and are eliminating waste by reusing stainless steel canisters as wine vessels. A Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Chalk Hill Pinot Gris are both available in the stainless steel bottle (made by Klean Kanteen) that looks more at home on a hiking trail than at a wine bar. The bottles, and even their caps, are made solely from food-grade stainless steel that adds no flavors or aromas, and like Wolf Blass' aforementioned PET bottle, butter-fingered customers everywhere will breathe a sigh of relief when the bottle simply bounces off the floor. The "milkman model," in which the NPA delivers full wines and empty bottles are returned to the winery for sterilization and reuse, is just one part of what Kevin Kelley calls "thinking downstream." The winery also emphasizes minimalist natural winemaking and forbids the use of commercial yeasts, enzymes, chemical or natural additives, animal byproducts, fining agents and filtration. Unfiltered can only assume the wines are delivered by solar-powered car.
• Parisian pawn brokers decided in 2008 that they could start lending money against wine alongside the usual family heirlooms. It would seem that word got around quickly, as some 50,000 bottles have since been swapped for cash. This past Tuesday, the Crédit Municipal de Paris, the local state-owned pawnshop, went ahead with its first auction of 2,300 bottles of grands crus. The selection, including Cheval-Blanc, Yquem, Margaux and Romanée-Conti, was sold for a grand total of $270,000. The most expensive lot sold was a half-case of 2000 Château Lafite Rothschild that went for $5,350 (apparently Paris pawnshop provenance is pretty good—that's just an 8 percent drop from Lafite 2000's current Wine Spectator Auction Index average). When it comes to other forms of collateral, most people end up repaying their loan, as they want to get their precious items back. This does not appear to be the case with first-growths, generally pawned off by the masculine gender. "We've noticed that only around 50 percent of the wine taken in ends up being bought back by its owners," said Crédit Municipal de Paris spokesperson Olivia Stauffer. "Women are clearly more sentimental about their jewels than men about their wine."
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