"The sommelier will have your wine in just one moment, sir. He's just putting on his wetsuit." That could be the new trend in Chile, where Viña Casanueva, in the Itata Valley, has introduced wines that have been aged in the ocean. At least five seaside restaurants in different cities are already storing their own stocks of the Muscat-Chardonnay and Cabernet offshore and are offering to dive for the wines as they're ordered. The idea began when Patricio Casanueva, general manager of the winery, was searching the seabed for a lost anchor and was struck with a vision of a cavern filled with wine bottles and other treasures. While vintage Champagne and other wines have been recovered from shipwrecks in relatively good condition, putting wines in the deep intentionally for aging seems to be a new concept. Nevertheless, Casanueva is convinced that aqua-cellaring works wonders and claims that the corks sealing the bottles prevent seawater from leaking in (though the winery is also testing synthetic stoppers). "These wines are at least six months underwater, and with a constant temperature of 8 degrees Celsius [about 46 degrees Fahrenheit]," he says. "Also very important is the sunlight refraction that crosses the sea and reaches the bottles. And of course, the water currents." While cool conditions are certainly beneficial, we're not so sure about the light and currents. Sounds fishy.
When they're not wrapped up in the stress of crush, many winemakers blow off steam through a hobby. Judd Finkelstein's just happens to be playing the ukulele. The winemaker at Judd's Hill in Napa Valley even has his own band, The Maikai Gents, which performs classic Hawaiian songs in the hapa haole style. When Finkelstein isn't busy making his family's Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot or overseeing custom-crush clients, he and his friend Michael Tumilty can be found playing parties, resorts and clubs along with the Mysterious Miss Mauna Loa. (Not to ruin the mystery, but that would be Judd's hula-dancing wife, Holly.) They got their start in 2002 when Finkelstein couldn't find a Hawaiian band for his themed birthday party and decided to learn the ukulele so he could provide the entertainment himself. Now they've released their own 16-song CD, The Wiki Wiki Grog Shop, available for $15 at the winery. But after listening to You'll Want to Ami Ami Oni Oni Too and My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawaii, Unfiltered started craving mai tais instead of Merlot.
|Australian Greg Norman takes a swing at California wine.|
French women don't get fat? Maybe they're countering all that cheese and chocolat with low-calorie wine. A Bordeaux-based company called Lir claims it has developed a way to remove half the calories from wine, by removing half the alcohol, without hurting the aromas and flavors. (Just as long as you don't mind the lighter body.) The company says it spent four years and more than $600,000 to develop its secret, 10-step molecular process. "We wanted to respect the winemaker's wishes, the terroir," explains marketing director Catherine Linarès. The company's 30-plus vigneron clients send in their wines and get back their new Lir product with around 6 percent alcohol. The process of "Lirisation," Linarès says, addresses a regulatory and social climate that is currently chilly to overindulgence. "Maybe alcohol is becoming less fashionable in France. People want to [consume] less fat, and respect the strict drunk-driving laws." We don't know about you, but Unfiltered is depressed that even the French have given in to lite drinks.
In case you haven't been following recent news in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger--in a move guaranteed to avoid another drop in his sagging approval ratings--has proclaimed September to be the official California Wine Celebration. In a signed, gold-sealed document, he recognized the nearly 5,000 grapegrowers' and more than 1,000 wineries' "remarkable contributions to the flourishing agricultural industry in our state." (But state agriculture secretary A.G. Kawamura was the one who got the celebration-size, 9-liter commemorative bottle from the Wine Institute for presenting the proclamation at the California State Fair.) How does one properly celebrate California wine, other than just drinking it? Stores such as Safeway are highlighting the state's bottlings this month. And through October, the Wine Institute has created weekly themes for tie-in events (we're looking forward to Sept. 26: "California Wine Fun Facts") and is issuing weekly fact sheets on different varietals. Unfiltered is curious about the Oct. 31 pairing of "Spooky California Wine Tales" with Zinfandel. We're not sure what they're trying to say.
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