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Unfiltered

Kansas Gov. Sebelius disses her own state's wines, condensing the growing season to a single minute, camel racing in Australia, a tough year for wine competitions and a musical about wine tasting

Posted: November 14, 2007

• Insulting your constituents is never a smart move in politics, even if it's a rather small constituency. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius forgot that last week when she visited the state of Washington for a Democratic Party fund-raiser. Joking about how Kansas produced more wheat than Washington, she remarked, "You should be thankful we don't make wine in Kansas. If you ever see Kansas wine, don't drink it." Actually, Governor, Kansas does make wine. The state is currently home to 15 wineries, which produce more than 20,000 cases a year. A spokeswoman for the governor insisted that she just a made a poor attempt at humor about how Washington makes far more wine than Kansas, but it sure sounded like she didn't realize they made any—odd considering local wine was served at both her inaugurations and she signed a direct-shipping law. Kansas vintners, who can be forgiven for having a slight inferiority complex, were reportedly deeply hurt by the remark. So the governor might want to consider a wine-tasting tour of the state. Take healthy sips at each stop. Than she can report whether Kansas wine tastes better than her foot.

• Ever thought you might want to watch a movie about grapes and wine? No, not that movie. The website of the University of California's Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology has a must-see, time-lapse video of a grapevine's growing season that's only a minute long (with no Miles or Jack anywhere to be found, thankfully). Web designer Jon Schadt and staff researcher Greg Gambetta created the film as a way to better understand the water and nutrient needs of their vineyards. The star of the show is a Cabernet Sauvignon vine, and its journey is patched together from photographs taken during the daytime at one-hour intervals, 16 hours a day, for 150 days. The result is an intriguing short film showing the odd dance of leaves and tendrils twisting around as they look for light as well as something to grab on to. The climax occurs as the grapes start to ripen. If only the vine had been told about our video contest, it could have entered, won, and attended this year's Wine Experience. Maybe next year.

 
Watch out, Curlin.

• Horseracing and wine are both popular in Australia, so when Unfiltered heard about a horserace sponsored by a winery, we weren't expecting anything out of the ordinary … that was until we saw what else they were racing: Camels. John Goelet, owner of Victoria-based producer Taltarni Vineyards, which has been the main sponsor of the Avoca Cup Horseracing event for the past 24 years, decided this year to include a unique feature to the day's races, which were attended by nearly 8,000 fans last month. We were a little skeptical at first, but it turns out that camels can run as fast as 40 mph, and camel racing is a popular sport in the Middle East as well as Australia. No word yet if Kendall-Jackson founder and thoroughbred owner Jess Jackson has started a camel-breeding stable.

• New Zealand's wine-competition season came to a close with this week's announcement of the results from the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. No controversy has emerged yet, but we wouldn't be surprised, since the country's wine-show circuit had a pretty rough year. Last year there was "Withergate," when Marlborough's Wither Hills winery was discovered to have submitted—to five different competitions—a small-batch Sauvignon Blanc that was labeled as its standard regional bottling. Then a few weeks ago, the organizers of the Hawkes Bay Wine Awards were left trying to untangle two new foul-ups: First, the Gunn Estate Skeetfield Chardonnay 2006 was stripped of its best-of-show award because Tony Bish, the chief judge at the competition, is also the chief winemaker at Sacred Hill, which owns Gunn Estate; then, it turned out that there was a clerical error, and that Gunn Estate actually came in second, to the Vidal Estate Syrah Reserve 2005. After all that, confusion seems to be the real winner.

• In recent years, we've seen Broadway musicals based on an Abba song, a canned pork product, and some singers from the state of New Jersey, so why not a musical about wine tasting? In early December, Wine Lovers, dubbed "the world's first wine-tasting musical," will make its New York debut in a limited run off-Broadway (which makes it immune to the ongoing strike that's darkened many theaters). The show, which Unfiltered caught a dress rehearsal of earlier this week, tells the story of two students in a wine class who meet and—surprise!—fall in love. The show also touches on such topics as screw caps, the history of wine and the layman's fears about the beverage, and includes a six-wine tasting for all audience members as well as those onstage. Michael Green, who began writing the musical's score several years ago on Valentine's Day (and eventually pulled in collaborator Gary Negbaur, a composer and jazz pianist), said of his inspiration, "I think there's such an inherent theatricality in the whole food-and-wine landscape that to bring the worlds of wine and theater together is just an intuitive thing." Should Wine Lovers be met with success, Unfiltered might just come up with its own wine-based musical. Working titles include "A Bottling Line," "Damn Brettanomyces," and "The Best Little Crush Facility in Napa."

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