When Unfiltered recently ran an item on Ravenswood sponsoring a NASCAR team, the people who represent Bennett Lane in Napa were quick to remind us that it was the first winery to sponsor a NASCAR team. In fact, the Bennett Lane grape logo has been emblazoned on vehicles and team outfits since 2003--though winery owner Randy Lynch had an advantage in that he's a former racer himself and owns his own NASCAR West team. Now the Bennett Lane car is even one of five featured in a new documentary called Car Stories, which takes a look at American car-racing culture--something Lynch is trying to change by turning NASCAR-watching beer chuggers into NASCAR-watching wine connoisseurs. But to get wine connoisseurs really hooked on NASCAR, we think it's time for a race between the Ravenswood and Bennett Lane cars. Loser has to drink white Zinfandel.
|Would you pay $28,000 a magnum for this wine?|
Most wine consultants don't make half a million bucks in a year, but Yolanda Stopar of Victoria, Australia, made that much in one week. Last night, the plucky wine-industry professional raked in more than AU$932,000 (around US$684,000) in cash and prizes during her eight-night run on the country's popular quiz show, Temptation, which "tempts" contestants to gamble their earnings on the chance to win more and more. Australia's Channel 9 said Stopar is the biggest winner yet for the long-running, nightly show. According to the Australian press, Stopar walked away with a new Volvo S40, a Bang & Olufsen home-theater system, a trip to San Francisco and $586,000 in cash. (That may sound like a lot of dough, but nowadays it won't even get you four cases of mature DRC.) For now, you're less likely to find Stopar purchasing wine than lolling on a beach in Tahiti, where she said she intends to spend some of her jackpot on a dream vacation.
Some studies on the potential health benefits of wine consumption are not as upbeat as others. In contrast to a recent study indicating that the red-wine compound resveratrol could contribute to a longer life, a new study from Japan came up with another way that wine can increase longevity. The research, published in the March issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that light and moderate drinkers were less likely to kill themselves than nondrinkers and heavy drinkers. The National Cancer Center in Tokyo looked at 43,383 healthy men, aged 40 to 69, for an average period of eight years, during which the scientists recorded 168 suicides. By comparing the stats across the men's drinking habits, the team concluded that nondrinkers and heavy drinkers (more than 21 drinks a week) were almost 2.5 times more likely to take their own lives than light and moderate drinkers (one to 14 drinks per week). The study did not comment on why drinking habits may affect one's motivation to die. But Unfiltered does find that a glass of a grand cru now and then drastically improves our mood.
One has to wonder about the new product introduced by Tom and Shari Scholten, owners of Wine Spectator Award of Excellence-winning Fritz Alpine Bistro in Keystone, Colo. The Scholtens were having such a hard time selling screw-capped wines to customers that they conducted a year of research on the subject. Turns out that many diners thought screw-capped wines were cheap and preferred the traditional tableside ceremony associated with--you guessed it--a corkscrew. Because screw caps don't require a tool for opening, the Scholtens did the logical thing: They invented one. The new Wine Fritz is basically an empty metal cylinder that goes over the cap, pulls it off and holds it. "We felt we needed to invent something radically different from a corkscrew to give screw-cap wines the presentation protocol they deserve," explains Tom. Not only is the restaurant now selling screw-capped bottles, the Scholtens have sold about 500 Wine Fritzes since the product's introduction two weeks ago. Unfiltered has to give the couple high marks on more than one count. They've won a few hearts and minds over to a better means of preserving wine and they're raking in the money--selling a tool that does the same thing that a hand with an opposable thumb is perfectly capable of doing on its own.
Scattered violence by protesting vignerons in Southern France has escalated into a fullblown terror campaign during the past two weeks. Members of CRAV (Comité Regional d'Action Viticole), a militant vintner group in Languedoc, have attacked negociants' warehouses and tanker trucks, destroying more than 2 million gallons of foreign wine. Angry winemakers have also disabled train service, set fire to police cars and trashed a bank. French vignerons are suffering severe economic pain as domestic consumption and exports continue to shrink, and Languedoc--France's biggest source for low-cost, everyday wine--has been particularly hard hit. The French government and the European Union have offered subsidies and loans, but CRAV members--estimated to number more than 1,000--and other small winemakers argue that the Chirac administration needs to do more. Monday was the worst day of violence yet this year. More than 120 masked CRAV members, armed with iron bars, attacked two wine warehouses and a tanker in the port of Sète. They then formed a roadblock on a nearby highway between Montpellier and Béziers, attacking police vehicles and a tanker of Spanish wine bound for Burgundy. Agriculture minister Dominique Bussereau will convene a special commission next month to devise what he calls an ambitious plan for the entire country's wine sector. Though he called the violence unacceptable, Bussereau told reporters, "The government must quickly find meaningful and lasting solutions." Unfiltered is keeping its fingers crossed.
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