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Oscar-night wine, a banned Bordeaux ad and what figure skater Peggy Fleming and golfer Mike Weir share in common

Posted: February 23, 2005

  • What do Olympic figure skating and California wine have in common? Peggy Fleming. The gold medalist has her own backyard vineyard, with husband Greg Jenkins, a dermatologist. No, they're not making ice wine. But they are making Chardonnay (from 1 acre of vines at their home in the Santa Cruz Mountains), Syrah (using grapes from a Livermore Valley ranch owned by John Madden, who, like Fleming, is a sports commentator for ABC) and a Syrah rosé. Fleming, who grew up on a California farm and was introduced to great wine during her travels by Italian skating coach Carlo Fassi, and Jenkins were impressed by the results when Clos LaChance used their grapes in its Chardonnay. So the two decided to try their own hand at winemaking and are now sharing space at Novitiate winery in Los Gatos with Testarossa. The first vintage of Fleming-Jenkins, the 2003, will be released in June, but less than 100 to 150 cases of each wine were made, making them nearly as rare as American-won gold medals at the 1968 Winter Games.
  • Mike Weir takes a swing at making wine on the Niagara Peninsula
  • Someone who could make ice wine is Canadian PGA Tour golfer Mike Weir, who is launching his own estate on Ontario's Niagara Peninsula. Who knows why, but golfers seem to have an affinity for winemaking. First came Greg Norman, then Ernie Els, then Arnold Palmer's recently introduced line from Luna Vineyards. Now Weir has partnered with Creekside Estate Winery, founded in 1998 by Peter and Laura Jensen; 50 acres of vineyards have been designated for Weir's label. Actually, Weir is starting off with 300 cases of a 2001 Chardonnay and 1,100 cases of a 2002 Cabernet-Merlot blend, to be released in April. Proceeds will go to children's charities in Canada through the Mike Weir Foundation, created last year. Weir--one of the top-ranked golfers in the world--announced his new label at the Nissan Open in California last week, where he presented each of his fellow golfers with a limited-edition magnum of his 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve and an invitation to the annual Bell Canadian Open. We're wondering when Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson are going to start their own labels.
  • What The Graduate did for plastics and Forrest Gump did for shrimp, Sideways is now doing for Pinot Noir. According to the Global Language Monitor, which tracks language trends across the globe, "Pinot" was the "Top HollyWORD of the Year," meaning it had more influence on the English language than any other movie-biz word of the year. Runners-up included "genius," from the Ray Charles biopic, Ray, and "hand washing," from Howard Hugh's OCD in The Aviator. Another Sideways word also made the top 15 list: "frass," as in Frass Canyon Winery, the film's fictional name for Fess Parker Winery. Before you start throwing frass around in casual conversation--especially discussing wine--take note: The word actually means insect droppings. For the character Miles, an acceptable usage would be, "This Merlot tastes like frass!"
  • Sterling's Red Carpet Reserve will be poured at the official Academy Award party and reception
  • What wine do you serve with an Oscar? Apparently not Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, even though Sideways, which highlights those wines, received five nominations. The low-key region has been snubbed in favor of more chichi Napa Valley. For the second year in a row, Sterling Vineyards will pour its wines at the Governors' Ball (the official Academy Awards party) and the preshow reception. Sterling's 2002 Reserve Chardonnay and 2001 Red Carpet Reserve--a Cabernet Sauvignon blend created for the ceremonies--will be served with Wolfgang Puck's dinner for 1,650. And reception guests will quaff Sterling Vintner's Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2003 and Shiraz 2002. Sterling has a fair claim to the biggest movie event of the year: It sponsors the National Film Preservation Foundation, various film festivals and a summer series of outdoor classic movie screenings. But that isn't stopping a humorous protest from Hitching Post II owner Frank Ostini, who will be throwing his own red-wine-stained-carpet party during the Oscar broadcast. (The festivities will benefit Santa Barbara-based Direct Relief International, a charity that has been providing support to tsunami victims.) The dinner features top Santa Barbara wines, and for every Sideways win, guests will toast with one of the movie's stars, Hitching Post's Highliner Pinot Noir.
  • A French court approved the Bordeaux ad on the left, but banned the photo on the right for being too seductive
  • She's too sexy for her wine. In France, bare-chested models can pitch any product from perfume to sports cars, but a mere hint of allure near a glass of wine is a faux pas. Fetching vigneron Catherine Gachet was slated to be the next face of Bordeaux in an ad campaign organized by the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux, until a court decided the original image (right), was "too sexy" to promote wine, citing the 1991 Evin Law, which restricts how wine can be advertised. Gachet says the court even doubted that she was a winemaker. "According to several detractors, one cannot be a cultivator of vines and wear a pretty dress!" she complains. So the Bordelais opted for a second, more "appropriate" shot (left). Notice the absence of the bedroom eyes, the hair brushed back from the face, the high-necked sweater and, especially, the wineglass held off to the side, as if being exchanged for a diet soda. Which photo does Gachet prefer? Do we even need to ask? "Without hesitation it's the first one, because I recognize myself in this photo and not the other one, which was very much retouched by a computer."
  • After months of turmoil and flak about financial irregularities, the James Beard Foundation has settled on an interim director, Edna Morris, the former president of the Red Lobster chain of seafood restaurants. Because she wanted to stay in her home in Orlando instead of relocating to New York, Morris will only temporarily take the helm of the nonprofit culinary organization, which has being going through choppy waters, including the indictment of its former president for stealing foundation funds, the restructuring of its awards program and plans for a new board of trustees. No word yet on whether the James Beard House will begin hosting all-you-can-eat crab dinners or handing out bibs.
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