• From dribbling balls to dribbling wine? Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Bird, the former Boston Celtics star, is the latest sports figure to enter the world of wine. He's teaming up with Cosentino Signature Wineries in Napa Valley to release the Legends label in December. Bird is not exactly a wine rookie, according to winemaker Mitch Cosentino, since he has dabbled in home winemaking and grapegrowing. The label will feature the signatures of Bird and Cosentino, and the first release will be about 500 cases of a 2003 Napa Meritage, a predominantly Merlot-based blend from Oakville that will retail for $70 to $80. About 3,000 cases of a 2005 Chablis-style Chardonnay will follow in early spring, and a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon, both from 2004, are also on tap. But Bird, who is president of basketball operations at the Indiana Pacers, isn't extremely hands-on with the winemaking, Cosentino says. "We'll be sending him some blends just to show him where we're at. Running the Pacers is a full-time job." With Bird shooting for wine celebrity and Michael Jordan already scoring as a restaurateur, Unfiltered can't help but wonder if there will be a Dream Team bottling. Anyone hear from Patrick Ewing or Magic Johnson?
• What does it take to get your wines served to royalty? When it comes to Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, it probably helps to be an admired California estate with an English connection. After Charles and Camilla toured the United States earlier this month, Peter Michael Winery was quick to point out that the couple was served Peter Michael wines on three occasions, which is fitting since owner Sir Peter Michael is a knighted London native. During the royals' White House visit on Nov. 2, the Peter Michael Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County L'Apres Midi 2004 was served at a luncheon with President George W. Bush, first lady Laura, Barbara Bush, the president's sister Doro, and Wine Institute CEO Bobby Koch, Doro's husband. At the 250-guest dinner that night, the Peter Michael Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Le Moulin Rouge 2002 accompanied buffalo tenderloin. One of the two other dinner wines, the Newton Chardonnay Napa Valley Unfiltered 2002, came from a property founded by London native Peter Newton, although the Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee Sonoma County Green Valley 2002 has no English connection of which Unfiltered is aware.
|The prince and the pourer: Charles samples wine at a California market.|
• I need your clothes, your boots, your motorcycle … and your wine. The Terminator is on a mission--a trade mission to China. Among Arnold Schwarzenegger's goals as governor of California is to sell wine to a nation of tea drinkers. Among the companies accompanying him on this week's visit are representatives from Girard, Rudd and Silver Oak wineries, hoping to capitalize on the country's burgeoning wine market (see Wine Spectator's Nov. 30 cover story) and to convert the Chinese to California wine. Last year, the Governator took a trade mission to Japan accompanied by reps from the Wine Institute. Will these visits mean an increase in yen and yuans for the California wine industry? It's difficult to say. In China, Arnold is known more as an action hero than a political statesman (let alone a highbrow cultural icon), and crowds have mobbed him in the hope of glimpsing the Terminator in action. But if the Chinese can forgive him for box-office embarrassments Junior and Jingle All the Way, maybe they'll be willing to pony up $100 a bottle for a Napa Cabernet.
• Unfiltered loves a bad play on words. So we're thrilled that we get to write the next line: Wine has gone to the dogs. And cats. And quite possibly gerbils and parrots. Windsor Vineyards, the master of direct-marketed, personalized wines, has put out a holiday gift alert. You can customize wine labels with your pet's photo, and the proceeds will be donated to the ASPCA. Unfiltered has been trying to train our dog to sniff for TCA for years. Sounds like the perfect gift.
• Sauternes and foie gras. Champagne and strawberries. Pinot Noir and … pretzels? Discount airline JetBlue is now serving wines selected to complement its complimentary snacks--Terra Blues potato chips and Rold Gold pretzels. Passengers that order wine get complimentary tasting notes, too. The first two bottlings--selected by the airline's newly appointed "Low-Fare Sommelier," Best Cellars cofounder Joshua Wesson--are the Twin Fin California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which are suitably low budget, normally retailing for $10 a bottle. Unfiltered wonders why JetBlue didn't go with a more obvious brand-name tie-in: Blue Nun. After all, it goes with everything.
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