• The dream is officially dead. We all wanted to see the irresistible--if wallet-stressing--restaurants of five world-class chefs under one roof in New York's Time Warner Center. But legendary Chicago chef Charlie Trotter decided this week not to open a seafood restaurant alongside Per Se, V Steakhouse, Café Gray and Masa, which have all been up and running for a while now. As the planning continued over two years, construction costs continued to rise, sending the budget from $6 million to $11.5 million. "We continued to strip things out to try and save money. We never went in there saying we have to build the most expensive thing, yet the prices continued to escalate. At some point, you have to say enough is enough," Trotter told Unfiltered. "The final couple features that I thought were essential to the project, if those were taken out, I'd be left with a fairly generic space. That would be one thing if it cost $3 million, but if I'm left with a generic space that costs me $12 million…. I'm a dreamer and I'm an optimist, but I'm not foolhardy." Trotter expressed disappointment for everyone who worked on the project, but said he still plans to find a way to open a restaurant in New York. "It'll happen someday. I'm confident of that."
• In the wake of Trotter's decision, some were left to wonder if there's trouble in the rest of paradise. There are also rumors that V may soon shut its doors. Kenneth Himmel, president and CEO of Related Urban Development, which built the Time Warner Center, told The New York Times that he's seeking a replacement for V. But Phil Suarez, a partner with Jean-Georges Vongerichten in V, disputed this, saying, "My status is status quo." If V does leave the center, Suarez said it would likely reopen elsewhere in New York. "Absolutely. That'd be no problem if we found the right venue." Though the Times reported that Per Se is the only restaurant of the four at which it remains difficult to secure a reservation, Suarez claims that the restaurant business in the center is just fine. However, he said, "Like anything else, some venues work better than others."
|It's a bag, it's a bottle chiller, it's Grande Dame in Pucci.|
• Burgundy vignerons are known for their passion for wine, but earlier this month one group took things further, ransacking the Mâcon offices of the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO). The INAO, which supervises France's strict appellation system, enacted yield reductions for all of the nation's wine regions on Sept. 8. Burgundy producers were told to cut yields by 32 gallons per acre for red wines and 23 gallons per acre for whites. A mob of vignerons responded that night by dumping several hundred pounds of grape must in front of the Mâcon offices, vandalizing the building and setting fire to INAO documents in the street. Police fired teargas to dispel the crowd. With French wine sales slumping badly, the government and several wine-industry organizations have been trying to curb rampant overproduction, but a vocal minority of vignerons has been resistant. Burgundy didn't fare that badly though, with cuts of only about 5 percent of production, much less than Bordeaux's 12 percent cut. "I do not understand what these producers were looking for," said Dominique Lafon of Domaine des Comtes Lafon in nearby Meursault. "I have the feeling they are very isolated."
• Someone decided to give one Bordeaux estate unsolicited help reducing its yields--by cutting down 800 Merlot vines. Last week, Daniel Cathiard discovered an attack on an isolated parcel of his Château Cantelys vineyards in Pessac-Léognan, where someone had systematically sawed through the trunks of the 10-year-old vines. Cathiard and his wife, Florence, have owned Cantelys for 12 years, as well as nearby Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Police are investigating, but there appears to be no obvious motive. One possibility is that the culprit meant to target Cantelys' immediate neighbor, Château de Rochemorin, which is run by André Lurton, whose family owns several Bordeaux châteaus, as well as properties in Spain, Argentina and Chile. Radical farmer José Bové's La Confédération Paysanne tore out several vines at André's Château Bonnet in Entre-Deux-Mers last April, though a spokesman for the organization denied any connection with the Cantelys attack. All was not lost: Cathiard and his workers were able to harvest the grapes off the fallen vines. And although he assumed he would have to replant, without the financial help of his insurance company, which doesn't cover attacks on vines, he's now waiting a year, because neighbors told him some vines might grow back.
|Cristián Muñoz went from Chile to Tribeca Grill (and sommelier David Gordon, left), all for the cause of Carmenère.|
• "Would you like a glass, or do you prefer to drink it straight out of the can?" That's what wine drinkers already hear in 13 countries when they order Barokes, a single-serving Australian wine in a can. Canned wine isn't a new concept in Australia, and the United States already has Sofia sparkling wine, but Barokes has successfully spread throughout Asia and Europe with its patented method that it claims maintains wine quality and stability. Barokes--which makes still and sparkling versions of Chardonnay-Sémillon and Cabernet-Shiraz-Merlot--also licenses the technology to other wineries. The company says South Africa may be the next adopter, and it plans to enter the U.S. market soon as well. For those who doubt that wine should be taken seriously if it's not in a bottle, Barokes claims that its shelf life--er, cellaring potential--is five years.
• Wine seems to be gaining favor in the global medical industry. According to Russian news agency RIA Novosti, pharmacies in Moscow will soon start stocking wine to sell to the infirm. The report didn't specify which illnesses wine might cure, but did add that it will compete for shelf space with the tried-and-true Russian cure-all: vodka. Meanwhile, an English hospital is allowing patients in its cancer wing to have their favorite beverage with their evening meal. While wine, beer and spirits won't be showing up on food trolleys or in the cafeteria, visiting relatives can bring alcohol in, and nurses will regulate the amount patients drink. "We try to make things as civilized and normal as possible," said Gina Hanafin, spokeswoman for North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke. She added that in other English hospitals elderly patients are sometimes prescribed a glass of stout to boost their iron intake. "If someone's appetite is poor, their sense of taste bad [due to treatment], then a glass of Sherry or Guinness may help stimulate that." Given that red-wine polyphenols have shown promise in fighting heart disease and lung ailments, as well as cancer, and may help increase longevity, Unfiltered predicts that other patients will be demanding their own glass of bedside Bordeaux.
• For some people, "leftovers" have a different meaning. For guests at A Taste for Life, leftovers include the likes of 1975 La Mission-Haut-Brion, 1959 Lafite and 1959 Romanée-Conti. Outrageous lineups of wine are just par for the course at the annual charity tasting, auction and dinner in San Francisco, where diners pay as much as $5,500 for the most desired seats. The Sept. 17 event, which raised about $130,000 for the Diabetic Youth Foundation, featured eight themed tables, such as 2001 Napa Cabernets (including Screaming Eagle, Pride Reserve, Sloan and Shafer Hillside Select) and A Century of Rare Bordeaux (from 1928 Mouton to 1990 Haut-Brion). But the evening turned downright surreal after the end of the sit-down tasting, when participants wandered over to other tables picking over what was left. How surreal? Well, how often do you dump 2000 Château Lafleur to try 1998 Grange? Or 1970 Pétrus to sample 1934 Dr. Barolet Corton? At least it was for a worthy cause.
• India, with its billion-plus population and fast-growing economy, is viewed as the next big export market for wine-producing countries such as Australia. So this week, an Australian trade delegation is attempting to appeal to Indians' palates through their true national obsession: cricket. Cricket stars tend to be idolized at home and abroad, so joining 30 business leaders on the tour to promote wine and other products is Australian national-team regular Darren Lehmann. If having a star of his stature along for the ride turns out to help, U.S. wineries should bring David Hasselhoff on any trade missions to Germany.
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