A bombing at a French winery, an unusual restaurant wine list and a California Cab-in-a-box
Posted: March 16, 2005
• Le Bomb at La Baume: Languedoc producer Domaine de la Baume was attacked last week by a group of dissident wine producers calling themselves the CRAV (Comité Regional d'Action Viticole). On the eve of an unrelated March 7 demonstration by local grapegrowers, explosives went off outside the winery's barrel cellar, damaging the door and roof. But the wines and production capabilities were unharmed, said La Baume winemaker Frédéric Glangetas. The message "CRAV--final warning" was written on the cellar wall, and unexploded dynamite was also discovered at nearby Domaines de Virginie. The attacks were likely a statement against globalization; La Baume is owned by Les Grands Chais de France, France's largest wine exporter, while Virginie is part of Groupe Castel, another French beverage giant. "Unfortunately there are still some winegrowers who do not yet understand that it is necessary to move with the times," said Bruno Kessler, head winemaker at Les Grand Chais. The demonstration, at which thousands of grapegrowers marched through Montpellier to protest the French government's inadequate response to their wine industry's crisis, also turned violent. Some protestors attacked riot police, who retaliated with tear gas.
|A glass-and-steel tower holds TWO. urban licks restaurant's wine cellar—in barrels|| |
• Before glass became the material of choice for wine containers (about, oh, 400 years ago), restaurants and retailers served wine out of the barrel or terracotta jug. Now Atlanta's new TWO. urban licks restaurant is taking a page from history, though its process is far from archaic. It serves wine from 42 stainless-steel barrels that are stacked in a 26-foot-high, temperature-controlled, glass-and-steel tower; the wines are tapped using a no-pump gravity system and are preserved with argon gas. Diners can order pours in five sizes, ranging from a 3-ounce half-glass to a 32-ounce carafe. The selection focuses mainly on smaller California wineries, including Andrew Geoffrey, Trefethen and Au Bon Climat, which all agreed to sell their wines by the barrel. Co-owner Todd Rushing
, who assembled the list, likes the minimalism of the wine tower. "My goal was to break wine down into its simplest form," he said. "In this case, there's no marketing, no label, no cork. It's just the beauty of the wine itself, just the juice." Just don't ask to examine the barrel before your selection is poured.
|No, these aren't juice boxes: Three Thieves winery is packaging Bandit wine in Tetra Pak cartons.|| |
• Who would put California Cabernet in a box? The Three Thieves, the men who brought jugs back
to the wine world and who introduced an Italian white in a carton
last year. Now they're back with Bandit Cabernet, an $8-a-liter wine in a Tetra Pak container, the same type used for juice boxes, soy milk and the like. The 2002 Cabernet (82 points), blended at Napa Wine Co. in Oakville, consists of 50 percent Lodi grapes, 25 percent Napa grapes and 25 percent Sonoma grapes--not the average composition of a boxed red. Being rolled out next month, it offers good depth to its pleasant plum, mocha and currant flavors. Why put serious wine in a bright purple box? For one, to keep the price down. Partner Charles Bieler
says, "We spend about 13 cents on the carton material, which is about the cost most wineries pay for their labels." Plus, it's easier to take to the park or beach. Bieler says Bandit is about more than the trend toward irreverent marketing of wine. "Irreverent doesn't have to be a dumb product; it can be interesting and complex in its taste. We resist the idea that we're producing gimmicks."
• Charlie Palmer is apparently the chef to fête this spring. Last night, two trade groups, WineAmerica and Winegrape Growers of America, gave him their 2005 Restaurateur of the Year Wine Leadership Award. He earned it for Charlie Palmer Steak restaurant in Washington, D.C., where diners can order wine from any of the 50 states. That's even more than were represented at the Congressional Wine Caucus' reception where the award was given. The winemakers, growers and elected officials who mingled on Capitol Hill got to sample wine from 21 states.
• Palmer, who runs Aureole in New York, among other restaurants, was also honored at the Careers through Culinary Arts Program benefit for being a "creative and trend-setting force in American restaurants." The Feb. 28 event, held at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, raised $525,000 to provide foodservice-career opportunities for underserved youth. In addition to Palmer, more than 35 chefs from top New York restaurants showed off their spring menus with tasting dishes that ranged from Aureole's seared diver scallop with arugula and balsamic-glazed strawberries to Mesa Grill's Key lime tres leches cake. Institute of Culinary Education students assisted the top toques, who included Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit and Riingo, Dave Meade of Nobu, Kerry Heffernan of Eleven Madison Park and Wylie Dufresne of WD-50.
|Sideways author Rex Pickett (left) and Hitching Post II owner Franki Ostini at the World of Pinot Noir.|| |
• Sometimes devoted enophiles have to go to great lengths to get into popular wine tastings. Rex Pickett
had to write Sideways
. The author, who has tried without success to get tickets to the sold-out World of Pinot Noir for the last three years running, says, "I had to write the definitive Pinot Noir novel so that they'd let me in!" He and his friend Frank Ostini
, owner of the Hitching Post II, spent March 5 and 6 in Shell Beach, hanging out with some 700 Central Coast Pinot Noir fans at the fifth annual event, which featured tastings with more than 130 Pinot producers, a party at Au Bon Climat and a screening of the film Sideways.
"It was just the opposite of Miles drinking his Cheval-Blanc by himself out of a paper cup at a fast food joint," Ostini says. "Wine lovers share. And that's what [this] was all about. Sharing good Pinot."