Long live the King? For wine-loving fans of kitsch, it's pretty hard to top the Marilyn Merlot peek-a-boo Velvet Collection label. But if anything can, it's Velvet Elvis, a 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that comes--yes, you guessed it--with a black-velvet label in a velvet-lined gift box. The 3,600 numbered magnums, priced at $100 each, are being marketed as collectibles. (If the 1985 Marilyn Merlot can sell for $3,500, who's to say what the King will be worth?) Signature Wines, which makes custom-label bottlings for universities and organizations such as the Sierra Club and Ducks Unlimited, launched an entire Graceland Cellars line in 2003. So for those Elvis fans on your holiday shopping list, you can also choose the 2003 Blue Christmas Napa Cabernet ($18), with a young Elvis smiling on the blue label in front of an artificial white Christmas tree, and a quote from him on the back. There's also a three-bottle holiday set ($35) of 2003 Blue Suede Chardonnay, 2003 Jailhouse Red Merlot, and 2003 The King Cabernet Sauvignon, complete with the Elvis Presley Its Christmas Time CD. (None of the wines have been rated yet, so though we can sing all the lyrics, we can't vouch for the taste. But the man did count peanut butter and banana sandwiches among his favorite foods). Unfiltered is just waiting for a bottling that comes packaged in a white sequined jumpsuit.
Conspicuous consumption aside, Unfiltered wonders why the trend toward ultra, ultra, ultra … uh, ultra items has become so popular. Case in point: Chicago restaurant reserve (the lower-case spelling is ultra-intentional) has just unveiled a luxury cocktail that costs $950. The drink, called reserve ruby red, mixes Dom Pérignon Rosé Champagne with Grey Goose L'Orange, Hpnotiq liqueur, pomegranate juice and orange juice. So why the hefty charge? Well, garnishing the glass--assuming you don't choke on it first--you'll find a one-carat, A-grade ruby. Not to be outdone, Unfiltered is working on a pimped-out cocktail recipe that incorporates expensive Champagne with white truffles. And Kobe beef. And keys to a sports car.
Whips, chains and … Muscat? That's what visitors to Sexpo Melbourne 2005 will find later this month, as R.L. Buller & Son in Australia's Rutherglen area has decided to become the first winery--that Unfiltered knows of, anyway--to sponsor a sex exhibition. Buller is known primarily for its sweet and fortified wines, so the sponsorship fits rather well with the "Sweet & Sticky" marketing theme the winery currently uses. The family winery, which also offers a range of table wines, figured it couldn't pass up the opportunity to introduce its wines to an obviously open-to-anything crowd of 70,000 (Sexpo Melbourne claims to be the southern hemisphere's largest sex show). But there won't be anything sexual about the Buller booth at the show--just tastings and pairings of the sweet wines with chocolates. We advise interested attendees to check their floor plans carefully, since Kama Sutra Wines also has a booth at the show.
At one time or another, we've all dropped a glass of wine on the carpet or accidentally broken a bottle. But the cleanup was a bit more costly than usual when a recent visitor to Australia's Parliament dropped a bottle of red wine on the white stone stairs leading to the Senate parking garage. Although the culprit reported the damage immediately, professional cleaners eventually had to be called in to get rid of the red stain completely. The cost: A$800 (US$588), on top of the A$8,176 (US$6,010) just spent to renovate the steps. According to reports in the Australian press, Parliament has no plans to stick butterfingers with the bill. Maybe the politicos think that the loss of the wine was punishment enough.
|Fine art comes in many forms.|
One year ago, New Zealand winery Craggy Range lost its winemaker, Doug Wisor, a 31-year-old American, in a freak kite-surfing accident. Following his death, a fund was established in Wisor's name to bring one young American winemaker to New Zealand each year to work a harvest. The program, which is being managed by the American Australian Association, has just awarded its first scholarship to Diane Choo from Napa, Calif. Choo, 26, is working on her master's in viticulture and enology at the University of California, Davis, and is currently interning at Domaine des Comtes Lafon in Burgundy. Once she finishes there in mid-December, she'll head down to Craggy Range in Hawkes Bay in late February or early March. Though Choo has recently spent most of her time handling Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, she says, "I'm looking forward to working with all [Craggy Range's] different varietals and to broadening my horizons. Their Syrah grabbed me." Though she hopes to return to California someday, she's excited about exploring New Zealand's wine regions. "For the time being, it seems like there's so much to learn. I just want to learn about growing wine, and how things are done differently and similarly in all these places."
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