• This past Sunday, when Barry Bonds smacked career home run No. 715, he shared a Champagne toast with his team, the San Francisco Giants, in the locker room after the game. The players organized the toast, not the team. "It's something we wanted to do as a team, to toast him in our own way," said Mark Sweeney, the Giants' first baseman who was on deck when Bonds slammed a 3-2 fastball from Colorado Rockies pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim over the centerfield wall to pass Babe Ruth on the all-time home-run list. The glasses will be engraved with the date and returned to the players as mementos. The home run came on the last day of the Giants' homestand, which came as a relief to Sweeney. "We can't travel with those glasses," Sweeney said. "We'd crack them all."
• The Taittinger family, in conjunction with French bank Crédit Agricole, has finally bought back their storied Champagne house, according to reports today, but the bidding process has produced hurt feelings and accusations of French intolerance. American private-equity fund Starwood Capital Group, which bought the estate in July, whittled down the list of bidders to half a dozen in April, then asked for final bids, which were submitted last week by several interested groups. But one bidder, Indian firm United Breweries Group, the world's third largest spirits company, announced on Monday that it was dropping out. A spokeswoman implied that nationalism was at work, after Starwood had asked the company to raise its bid by 15 percent to 20 percent to match an increased bid from a French group. Earlier this week, Bruno Paillard, owner of a Champagne house and leading member of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, and Patrick Le Brun, head of the Champagne winegrowers union, both expressed concern about United Breweries because India does not recognize and protect the use of appellation names such as Champagne. A column in the Hindustan Times accused Europeans of anti-India sentiments. And United Breweries executives, in a fit of pique, said they didn't think Taittinger and its California winery, Domaine Carneros, were worth that much anyway. But if Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger and Crédit Agricole are willing to pay an extra 15 percent to keep it in French hands, it's the American firm, Starwood, that has the last laugh.
• Tuesday was a mellow night for Wine Spectator's annual Bring Your Own Magnum Party in Sonoma. Guests mingled under a picture-perfect sky, nibbling creations by chef Charlie Palmer. Gina Gallo (pretty in red), Jess Jackson and wife Barbara Banke, Daryl Groom of Geyser Peak, Bob Cabral of William Selyem, Adam Lee of Siduri, James MacPhail, Julianna Martinelli and Lou Foppiano were just some of the Sonoma wine-country stars in attendance. Dan Kosta, Michael Browne and Chris Costello of Kosta Browne winery were in a particularly celebratory mood--after seeing the just-published scores for their upcoming Pinot Noir releases, including the 98-point rating for their 2004 Sonoma Coast Kanzler Vineyard bottling. Michael's wife, Sarah, said she was shopping in Macy's when she got word from Michael. "I started screaming," she said. The partners stopped by Cyrus restaurant in Healdsburg before the party to mark the occasion with a bottle of bubbly. As if that good news weren't enough, vintner John Holdredge told Unfiltered that he and Kosta had recently been fishing, and they reeled in a huge marlin. We raise an eyebrow at exactly how big this marlin was, but we like a good fish story.
• Oh, how those winemakers like to play around. Approached by Unfiltered at Wine Spectator's Sonoma party, longtime St. Francis winemaker Tom Mackey wasn't so interested in discussing market conditions, the progression of the current growing season or even his impressions of the 2005 vintage. No, what has Mackey really jazzed is the 200-case bottling of his first-ever rosé, produced last year from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Malbec. Yields throughout California were very high in 2005, and some Sonoma vintners experienced harvest rain, so Mackey performed a bleed, or saignée, to amp up concentration of his reds by increasing the proportion of skin to juice. Mackey liked the aromatics of the bleed juice, so he fermented it in stainless steel. With a hefty 15 degrees of alcohol, this isn't your father's rosé. So Unfiltered recommends that anyone envisioning imbibing it at an afternoon picnic also plan on a late afternoon siesta.
• Over on the other side of the mountains, Unfiltered learned that Cindy Pawlcyn is building a small restaurant empire in Napa Valley. The owner of Mustards Grill and Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen will open the Go Fish Grill in August in the former Pinot Blanc location in St. Helena. The theme is a West Coast-style fish house. "It will be like an update of the Tadich Grill," the chef said, referring to the classic old San Francisco fish house. "Ever since I was a little kid I've wanted to have a fish restaurant." Andrew Budnyj, formerly of Michael Mina's Arcadia in San Jose, will be executive chef, while Ken Tominaga, whose Hana restaurant in Sonoma County is considered the best spot for Japanese food north of San Francisco, will oversee the sushi bar. Pawlcyn and her partners are giving a total makeover to the place, which has been vacant since January, when star chef Joachim Splichal closed Pinot Blanc after a 10-year run. As for the wine list, it will feature whites from around the world but will also emphasize food-friendly reds from Northern California. "Fish is the No. 1 seller at all my restaurants, and red wine is by far is the most popular wine," Pawlcyn said. "People are drinking a lot of red wine with fish."
• He seemed to be the only leader in Bordeaux with a plan, and now he's leaving. Christian Delpeuch, president of the trade group Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux, has announced he won't serve another year. Delpeuch has been spearheading an aggressive plan to improve sagging sales of low-cost Bordeaux. His two-year term ends July 10, but efforts were underway to have him serve for a third year. On May 30, however, he threw in the towel, complaining that neither the French government nor Bordeaux vignerons were cooperating. The government has been slow to approve loans to help small estates pull up excess vineyards, while the vignerons have resisted measures to improve wine quality. Instead, the vignerons union tried to impose price controls on négociants last December, and some vignerons bricked up the entrance to Delpeuch's office one night. "I understand their despair, but not the demagogy," Delpeuch told reporters. "Moreover, the government displays irresponsibility." For now, he gets to return to his day job as manager of the wine merchant Ginestet, while the union has nominated Entre-deux-Mers vigneron Yves d'Amécourt to succeed him. Unfiltered found Delpeuch ambitious and pragmatic. If he couldn't get Bordeaux's house in order, can anyone?
• When it comes to pairing wine and food, chef Mark Walpole of EastDell Estates, a Canadian winery and restaurant on the Niagara Peninsula, has gone to new lengths. He's created baking flour made entirely from grape skins. Called Vinifera Flower, it can be used to make wine-bread, -crackers, -pasta and even wine-cookies. The purple-hued flour creates bread that looks similar to pumpernickel and, according to the Food Technology Centre at Guelph University in Ontario, is higher in antioxidants and resveratrol than typical wheat bread. The flour is quickly gathering a following: Toronto celebrity-chef Jamie Kennedy uses it to thicken and flavor sauces, as well as to make crackers. The flour has also caught on in Italy and (who would guess?) Norway. Vinifera Flower even comes in a variety of flavors: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, ice wine and a grape-skin blend. Bordeaux-style baguette anyone?
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