The days of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll are clearly over. We've gotten older. Graduated. Moved on...to wine and rock 'n' roll. Wente Vineyards in California's Livermore Valley has teamed up with the band Foreigner, which throughout the 1970s and '80s brought us hits such as "Hot Blooded," "Cold as Ice" and "I Want To Know What Love Is." At 19 concerts in 2006, the band will host preperformance wine tastings for small groups of about 100 ticket-buyers. The Legends of Wine & Rock promotion was the brainchild of the band, which had played in the concert series regularly held at the winery's outdoor amphitheater, according to Christine Wente, vice president of marketing for the family business. "They actually approached us," she says. "They wanted to recreate the Wente Vineyards experience for some of their concert guests." Each tasting will feature four Wente wines, a presentation and the opportunity to mingle with the band members. "It's a great fit because the music lovers are discovering our wines," says Wente, "and people who know our wines are rediscovering Foreigner." How they ever let their Jukebox Heroes slip away in the first place, we'll never know ….
It's never too late when you are the host of The Late Late Show on CBS. Comic Craig Ferguson earned a certificate from the London-based Wine & Spirit Education Trust in the 1980s, back when he was working as a wine waiter and trying to make it on the comedy circuit. Recently, according to the Scottish publication The Daily Record, he asked the Glasgow restaurant that employed him for several years to ship him the certificate, for which he had to learn to identify grape varieties and countries of origin. The Ubiquitous Chip was more than happy to oblige, and the diploma now graces Ferguson's CBS set. Unfiltered isn't sure if he's proudly showing off his wine knowledge or making sure he'll have something to fall back on if he ever has to look for a new job.
When push comes to shove, many parents might have a favorite child. But regard for the feelings of the other offspring usually prevents them from publicly announcing that preference. So Unfiltered was a bit surprised by the political daring--if not the impulse--behind California state Sen. Carole Migden's recent proposal to designate Zinfandel the official state grape. "…Zinfandel is the quintessential California wine. It's about time that we give it the recognition it deserves," said a statement from Migden, a Democrat representing the San Francisco Bay area. Zinfandel arrived in the state in the 1800s, and some of the ancient vines still produce grapes, so we see the senator's point. However, she's not about to win any friends among producers of Chardonnay and Cabernet, which account for more of the state's acreage and more of its top bottlings. Introduced on Feb. 8, Migden's bill, SB 1253 is not the first such effort to vest Zinfandel with special status. But like a phylloxera-stricken vine, those efforts withered in the face of controversy.
Vigneron protests are sadly becoming a regular part of life in southern France, as are acts of violence. Thousands of vintners took to the streets last Wednesday in Narbonne, Beziers, Nimes and Avignon to call attention to the financial crisis engulfing their industry. The vintners would like the French government to provide more help in dealing with poor sales and oversupply through loans, subsidies and tax relief. Some vignerons took more serious action, attacking train and phone lines in Narbonne and prompting the railroad to suspend passenger service between Beziers and the Spainish border temporarily. When some protesters lit fires in trash cans in downtown Narbonne, riot police fired tear gas. A European Union commission met the day after the protests to discuss new ways to combat the oversupply of wine. While the usual response has been to provide subsidies to distill surplus wine and rip out vineyards, European newspapers report that the commission may announce a more drastic plan later this year. Anything please, just so long as Unfiltered never has to use the words "militant winemakers" together again.
It's Oscar time and that means it's Unfiltered's turn to stand on the red carpet and tell you … no, not what the stars are wearing, but what they're drinking. Each year, California wineries trot out their dressed-up bottles for the awards parties in hopes of attracting a bit of star attention for their brands. Sterling Vineyards is making its third consecutive appearance at the official Governors Ball, following the 78th annual Academy Awards ceremony. Last year, the Napa winery created the limited-edition Red Carpet Reserve for the 1,650-guest dinner, which is again being prepared by chef Wolfgang Puck. Remade for the 2002 vintage, the Cabernet returns this year arm-in-arm with a petite (380 cases) young thing, the 2004 Gold Standard Reserve Chardonnay, in her debut at the occasion. If the Sterling wines make it back next year, they'll have lasted longer than most celebrity marriages.
Not to be outdone, Clos du Val, which sponsored the People's Choice Awards in January, will be pouring at the EXTRA Awards Lounge, where all the Oscar nominees and presenters can show up to pick up some swag. If you're an A-lister, you too can hang out in the presidential suite at Le Meridien Beverly Hills and sip the 2002 Ariadne white blend or the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District. Or take home a gift bag with a split of the 2004 Chardonnay Carneros, an offer for an additional three-bottle gift set of Cabernets and a bag of Clos Du Val Chardonnay peanut brittle, which the winery calls "addictive." We suggest that the stars avoid sampling it until after they're done squeezing into their skimpy party outfits.
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