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Mr. Big talks about Penfolds online, armed robbery avoided with a bottle of Bordeaux, the NRA's wine club, student-made wines for sale and the power of Tokaj

Posted: July 18, 2007

On the TV show Sex and the City, Mr. Big, played by actor Chris Noth, seduced Carrie Bradshaw with wine. But these days, the actor is bonding with the boys in between sips: Noth is the guest on episode two of "Character," the new WebTV talk show by Australian wine producer Penfolds, on which he was joined by Matt Lane, sommelier from Penfolds' Magill Estate restaurant, and TV personality Glenn O'Brien. The 20-minute, unscripted show aims to attract consumers to wine "in a new and engaging way," according to a spokesperson, and the trio tastes and chats about Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2006, Yattarna Chardonnay 2004, Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 and St. Henri Shiraz 2002. "I like to have the real thing in my glass," remarks Noth, griping that actual wine is seldom used on movie sets. Could the forthcoming Sex and the City film, in which Noth is expected to reprise Mr. Big, be an exception? Perhaps, especially if Noth has a say: "There's always a rainbow at the end of the glass if you keep looking." Obviously, Noth likes a little cheese with his wine.

• Want to stop crime? All it takes is wine. Last week, the media ran wild with a story from the Washington Post, which reported that a would-be robber entered the backyard of a Capitol Hill-area home, where an outdoor dinner was just winding down. The robber pulled a gun and threatened to start shooting if he wasn't given money. Instead, one of the guests offered him a sip of Château Malescot St.-Exupéry, which he accepted and said, "Damn, that's good wine." After another sip or two and a bite of cheese, the robber settled for a group hug instead of money, and left peacefully. Jean Luc Zuger, who makes the wine, was understandably pleased with the coverage as well as the good outcome, so Unfiltered asked him what would have happened had the hosts been serving a different Margaux wine. "I hope he would have the same reaction!" Zuger said, but he didn't seem to go for Unfiltered's idea of selling more Malescot St.-Exupéry in high-crime areas to make the world a little more peaceful. At the very least, we've learned that instead of that expensive ADT home-protection system we were thinking of installing, a bottle of Malescot will work just as well at keeping the family safe.

• Over 21? Like wine? Want to support the Second Amendment? The NRA Wine Club--yes, that's the National Rifle Association--may be just what you're looking for. The club, which was the brainchild of Mike Marcellin, a longtime NRA employee and wine lover, donates a portion of its proceeds directly to the NRA. Members of the NRA Wine Club can shop online for a selection of recent vintage boutique wines handpicked for club members. There are even variety packs, such as the Big Ass Sampler 2007, which includes one bottle each of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel for $32; or for that budding summer romance, try the Italian Spring Fling Sampler and receive two sweet sparkling wines for only $25. Spend $500 total and you can even get a rebate that pays for your NRA membership. To supply the wines, the club partnered with Vinesse, a company that runs several online wine clubs, and since its launch in January 2007, the NRA Wine Club appears to have garnered some success. "'It's about time' is a common thread from new wine-club members," said Nick Perdiew, general manager for Vinesse. "Admittedly, some reactions outside the NRA have been a little surprised at the nexus of wine interest and NRA membership." We're not surprised; we think they want to shoot the empty bottles.

• Kudos to student winemakers at California State University, Fresno. Their wines make a debut this month at Trader Joe's, the retailer best known for hawking the ever-popular Two-Buck Chuck. Three student-made wines--a Special Selection Merlot ($5) blended exclusively for Trader Joe's; a 2006 San Joaquin County Pinot Gris ($7); and a Rhône blend called Eclipse ($6)--are now on the shelves of Trader Joe's stores in Fresno, Modesto and nearby Clovis, all in California's Central Valley. The student winery, bonded in 1997, is the first and only licensed, bonded commercial winery on a university campus in the United States. Not to worry, though, the students don't take all the money you spend on their wine and use it to buy kegs of beer. Proceeds from the sale of the wines are plowed back into the department of viticulture and enology at Fresno State.

• The latest buzz in Hungary's Tokaj wine region? Not a new wine, sadly. It's a proposal to build a power plant nearby. A consortium of local growers, called the Tokaj Renaissance, is working to stop construction of the coal-fired plant, which will be located 12 miles from vineyards in northeastern Hungary, across the border in Slovakia. The Tokaj growers claim the plant will pollute the area's microclimate and threaten the noble rot essential for giving wines such as Tokaji Aszú their unique flavors and sweetness. Also, say producers, a power plant would just be plain ugly. "Tokaj is a beautiful wine region, one of the oldest in the world, and very well preserved, and it is also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site," said Rita Rakaczki, deputy ambassador for the Tokaj Renaissance. "This power station would be seen from many parts of the vineyards." Rakaczki also wonders why Slovakia chose the proposed location. "If it would be in the middle of a coal field, it would be more understandable, but it is not; the coal will arrive from somewhere, probably from Russia." Rakaczki said she has the full support of not just grapegrowers, but also of the Hungarian government. And lest you think the odds are stacked against them, the Tokaj Renaissance has a winning record. In 2000 the organization successfully lobbied to have a car-battery disassembling factory moved to the south of the country, far away from Tokaj.

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