Mayor Bloomberg's wine habits, Drew Nieporent goes from restaurants to retail and a breathalyzer for birds
Posted: March 2, 2005
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pulled out all the stops in the city last week when entertaining members of the International Olympic Committee, trying to convince them to hold the 2012 Summer Games in the Big Apple. He even hosted the committee at his Upper East Side town house for a celebrity-filled dinner (imagine Henry Kissinger, Whoopi Goldberg and Christo in one room) where he served roast turkey, chocolate cake and New York state wines. No word on which brands or whether the committee members were impressed, but you won't find cult California wines or big-name Bordeaux when the mayor, a tireless promoter of all things New York, entertains at official functions. Bloomberg confessed during his weekly radio appearance to perhaps indulging in one glass of red too many at the dinner, after being asked which movie he last saw. That turned out to be Sideways, about which the mayor joked, "I'd rather drink the wine than watch a movie about it."
Drew Nieporent is already well-known among wine lovers for restaurants such as Tribeca Grill and Montrachet in New York and Rubicon in San Francisco--each of which holds a Wine Spectator Grand Award for its impressive wine list. Now he's a partner with longtime friend Robert Schagrin and Josh Guberman in a new Manhattan wine shop that specializes in small-production bottlings. Named Crush, the store is located next to Schagrin's pop-culture memorabilia gallery and auction house Gotta Have It, on a well-shopped stretch of East 57th Street between Lexington and Third avenues. In keeping with Nieporent's other ventures, the new store is stylish, dramatically displaying many of its 8,000 bottles against a glowing, serpentine wall of light--in a climate-controlled environment, of course. Among Crush's other unique features is an elegant tasting room where customers can sample a dozen wines and that will host intimate events, such as vintner visits from Francis Ford Coppola and tastings of wine and sushi from Nobu. Crush had its soft opening today, as well as its official christening when the first bottle was dropped while the shelves were being stocked. "Tell me that wasn't the Puligny-Montrachet!" Nieporent moaned from across the room. It was.
|Crush owners Josh Guberman, Robert Schagrin and Drew Nieporent in front of their glowing wall of wine|| |
When former construction-company owner Ken Post decided to start Lunada Cellars in Madera, Calif., last fall, he asked winemaker John Sotelo for advice: Who could design an unusual bottle label? Sotelo, who helped make the Cabernet-Merlot blend, suggested his neighbor, painter Dennis Francesconi, for the job. Francesconi is no ordinary artist, though. Paralyzed from the neck down since the age of 17, he is a mouth-painter--meaning that he controls his paintbrush with his teeth and mouth. Because Lunada means "festive moon" in Spanish, Francesconi painted a moonlit vineyard for the front label. Although he makes his living from painting as a member of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA) cooperative, Francesconi didn't ask to be paid for the image--having his name and the MFPA promoted on the wine's back label and the winery's Web site was payment enough. But the artist admits to another perk: "When I run out [of Lunada wine], I just tell Ken to send over a few cases. My favorite is the Zin."
The situation at Rust en Vrede is starting to settle down again after a long-running family dispute prompted the departure of manager Jean Engelbrecht, 37, and winemaker Louis Strydom, who are credited with turning the estate into one of South Africa's best. Jean's father, Jannie, 67, who founded the winery in 1978, is back on top as managing director, and Jean's sister, Angeline, has been appointed general manager. The 2005 vintage will be the first to be made without the guidance of the younger Engelbrecht and his winemaking team, who have joined the Engelbrecht-Els joint venture with professional golfer Ernie Els. The partners have just completed construction on their own winery, which will also be home to the Guardian Peak label that Jean bought out as part of the deal. In a game of musical chairs, former Guardian Peak assistant winemaker Etienne Malan has been put in charge at Rust en Vrede.
|Dennis Francesconi used his mouth to paint the label for Lunada Cellars|| |
Don't Drink and Fly. It's a tough world when even the birds get pulled over for Breathalyzer tests. Brigham Young University biologist Ken Hatch has developed a special beak mask to test birds' breath to see what they've been eating while they migrate. While he's not worried about whether they can fly a straight line, he can determine if they are traveling under the influence of alcohol. Some species of birds, such as cedar waxwings, can't seem to get enough of fermenting berries and have been known to crash drunkenly into buildings. Such instances of inebriation in nature have led a few scientists to believe that humans may have evolved the taste for wine and other drinks as we sought out sugar-rich ripe fruits. Hatch's work has a different angle: He is monitoring the diets of birds to help protect natural habitats where the birds make "rest stops" to refuel on their migratory routes. But trapping birds in nets and strapping on the beak-sized devices seems to have proven too easy for Hatch. Preferring to live dangerously, he next plans to develop breath-testers for snakes and bears.
|Biologist Ken Hatch checks to see if birds are flying under the influence of fermented fruit.|| |