• Like a Vintner: The Material Girl's inspiration and influence has yet again reached beyond music (not to mention movies, children's books and very adult books). This time, she's appearing on wine bottles. California company Celebrity Cellars, which already has a line of Rolling Stones-labeled wines, is releasing the Confessions collection to accompany Madonna's new album, Confessions on a Dance Floor. The wines, available in early January, include Barbera ($29); Cabernet Sauvignon ($40); Pinot Grigio ($29); and Confessions UnWine ($25), a "de-alcoholized" red table, uh, wine. They come with a choice of two labels, either the album cover or an image of Madonna "as a sexy disco diva illuminated by lights from a mirror ball," as Celebrity Cellars puts it. We don't know yet whether the wines are any good, but at least the reviews of Confessions have been pretty positive. No amount of wine consumption could have enhanced the experience of listening to her 2003 release American Life.
• National pride has its place, but when you have a group of important dinner guests, you want to uncork your very best. Someone needs to tell that to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. At last week's European Union summit in Brussels, according to The Scotsman, Blair, as host, offered his counterparts a Welsh white wine and English red wine. Swedish PM Goran Persson apparently wasn't impressed, and Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi took the opportunity to get some good press for his country by promising, in front of a group of journalists, to send Persson some Italian wines. He followed through with two cases. On the bright side, at least Blair didn't pair the British wines with trademark English delights such as jellied eel and mushy peas.
• What will TV executives think of next? HBO may soon serve up a comedy series based on Ruth Reichl's memoirs, Comfort Me With Apples and Garlic and Sapphires. In her books, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet and the former food critic for the New York Times detailed her transition from chef to writer, the end of her first marriage and the beginning of her second, and her attempt to balance the demands of motherhood with the numerous dinners out required for work. According to Variety, the show is being put together by executive producer Carey Brokaw, who worked on Angels in America, while Reichl will serve as a coexecutive producer. Between Reichl's romantic relationships and her glamorous job disguising herself to dine unrecognized at New York's finest restaurants, the show is being pitched as Sex and the City for foodies.
• It certainly ain't as romantic as the Silverado Trail, that's for sure. At the southern end of New Zealand's Marlborough region, in the Awatere Valley, a road that provides access to the vineyards of The Crossings has been renamed Prison Plantation Road. The Marlborough District Council agreed to the name change after a seemingly well-intentioned local resident submitted a petition, in recognition of the fact that the nearby forest was planted in 1902 by, you guessed it, prisoners. But according to the New Zealand Herald, The Crossings' parent company is less than pleased with the historical reference, and has enlisted the help of its lawyer, claiming that the name change harms the winery's brand. Unfiltered grants that the address may prompt some double takes. But Prison Plantation Road is only 600 meters long and is very remote, so it enjoys barely a fraction of the traffic of most wine-tourism thoroughfares. In our humble opinion, the road's name isn't likely to hurt the winery's reputation, just as long as all the employees don't do anything that would earn them jail time.
• Where else but Napa would afterschool programs intersect with wine? The CyberMill Clubhouse, a downtown program, teaches fourth- through eighth-graders about technology in the context of wine. Earlier this year, the CyberMill Awards, an Oscar-type night, handed out honors to young filmmakers who tackle such subjects as the dreaded glassy-winged sharpshooter. In fact, there was a whole movie category devoted to the vineyard pest. The first-place winner was Daulton Hippauf, 11, who produced Mr. Rogers: Not in My Neighborhood, a parody of the famous TV show, featuring a neighborhood devastated by sharpshooters. In addition, CyberMill kids have gotten a crash course in the technology behind grapegrowing through a partnership with Koves-Newlan Winery. Grapes picked by the students have been turned into the CyberMill Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2003, being sold for $40 (fully tax deductible) to raise funds for the program. This may make the CyberMillers the world's youngest vintners. Too bad they have to wait at least another decade to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions