• Critics may have mixed opinions about Ellen DeGeneres as an Oscar host, but one thing's for sure: Her signature can rake in thousands of dollars. DeGeneres signed 49 3-liter bottles of Sterling Gold Standard Reserve Chardonnay (made exclusively for the Oscars) that were auctioned off at Oscar-night charity events across the country. Officials are still tallying the monies raised from each event, but at press time, the biggest earners were the lot in Louisville, which netted $1,600 for the Family & Children First charity, and the bottle in Seattle, which snagged $1,800 for the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation. DeGeneres also signed a 9-liter bottle of Sterling Red Carpet Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that was auctioned off at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar viewing party, held after the awards ceremony at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. The lot, which included a wine-country getaway for 10, went for $70,000. Cheers to Hollywood for not thinking solely of itself on the one night it usually does just that.
• A negative review can cost restaurateurs big money in lost revenues. Earlier this month, when the New York Times panned the new Kobe Club steak house, it cost Jeffrey Chodorow approximately $30,000--which he spent on a full-page ad in the paper's dining section. Chodorow, whose China Grill Management group operates 28 dining outlets worldwide, including China Grill and Asia de Cuba, penned an open letter to dining section editor Pete Wells, decrying critic Frank Bruni's zero-star treatment of Kobe Club. Chodorow, who appeared with Rocco DiSpirito on the ill-fated reality show The Restaurant, has established a blog that further details his distaste for the Times' review process, and has even instructed staffers to refuse Bruni service should he be spotted at any China Grill Management property. With Chodorow soon to open Wild Salmon, a New York restaurant to be helmed by former Ray's Boathouse chef Charles Ramseyer, is he really prepared to keep the critic out? "Well, there's a difference between saying it and being able to physically execute it," admitted Chodorow, "but I and most restaurant people would live very happily without his reviews ... I think restaurants really should have the option of deciding whether they want to be reviewed or not." And if Bruni does make it inside, Chodorow has some advice for him: "If he has any integrity, he would bend over backwards to try and be fair." Unfiltered's advice? Keep your eyes on the door, and don't go to the restroom without backup.
If Top Chef winner Ilan Hall keeps up his current spending habits, he'll be lucky to open a lemonade stand with what remains of his prize money. The former Casa Mono line cook, whose winnings on the televised chef competition included $100,000 toward opening his own restaurant, was spotted by intrepid blogger Jennifer Leuzzi in New York's JFK airport on his way to the South Beach Food & Wine Festival, decked out in a $12,000 Patek Philippe diamond watch and toting pricey Louis Vuitton accessories. Top Chef enthusiasts will remember that Hall won the trip to the festival in episode 5, courtesy of Miami-based chef Michelle Bernstein of Michy's. To repay Bernstein's kindness, Hall cooked at the Michy's table for the Wine Spectator "Best of the Best" event. Leuzzi, who chronicles all things food on her blog Snack, says, "I was really hoping to run into [Hall] at the gala. I kept an eye out for some Dolce & Gabbana couture or a Hedi Slimane Christian Dior Homme suit, but no luck." Unfiltered thinks that maybe he never made it to the event. We hear there's lots of high-end shopping on Collins Avenue ...
|Cask wine is fine, but can they do something about the name?|
• In line with the rest of the booming auction market, the Feb. 25 Premiere Napa Valley 11th Annual Barrel Auction raised $2.16 million for charity, besting last year's record-setting total of $1.87 million. But this is no ordinary wine auction. At Premiere, the vintners put together one-of-a-kind Napa wines that aren't sold to the public. The top bid was $50,000 for a five-case offering from Rombauer Vineyards of 2005 Stice Lane Block D. The second-highest bid was a five-case lot of Hourglass 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, nicknamed "36-24-36." The perfect hourglass figure … get it? "Because we know sex sells," explained proprietor Jeff Smith. One of the most unusual lots was Benessere's 2006 Sagrantino, an Italian variety seldom planted here. In fact, proprietor Chris Dearden claims he's the only Napa vintner to have planted Sagrantino. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was seen hanging out by the Ahnfeldt table during the barrel tasting and former 49er executive Carmen Policy was also seen swirling and sipping. We didn't know Smith was interested in wine, but we certainly support him if wine is what helps him forget the 49ers' disappointing 7-9 season.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions