• The Charlie Trotter Culinary Education Foundation launched its initial fund-raising campaign this past Friday, Jan. 10, with an evening at the James Beard House in New York. Chef David Bouley prepared the dinner, which was held on the 21st anniversary of the day Trotter and Bouley first collaborated at the Beard House, and took place just three months after Trotter’s sudden death of a stroke at 54. To accompany dishes such as sea urchin with monkfish liver and porcini flan with crab and black truffles, Larry Stone—longtime steward of the Grand Award-winning wine program at Charlie Trotter’s—chose wines that had held special meaning to Trotter. Rochelle Trotter, the chef’s widow, who will serve as the foundation’s director and treasurer, welcomed the sold-out crowd and led a series of heartfelt remembrances. The evening raised $12,500 for the foundation, which funds culinary education programs for young people. “I will be hitting the ground running on creating a book in honor of Charles,” Rochelle said, “which will focus on his management principles of cuisine, wine, service and ambiance. And 100 percent of the book proceeds will benefit the foundation.” Subsequent foundation goals, she noted, will include the creation of the Charlie Trotter Center for Excellence (“Don’t think cooking school; think lectures and seminars”) and a memorial exhibit of artifacts that tell the story of her husband’s life and career. Added Rochelle, “I’m really excited, and I’m really honored, by the continued outpouring of support that’s being shown for Charles.”
• South African winemaker Ntsiki Biyela arrived at Château d’Arsac in the Médoc this week to blend the eighth vintage of Philippe Raoux’s Winemaker’s Collection project. Each year, a guest winemaker has carte blanche to produce a 2,500-case cuvée. Why? Raoux believes we forget an important facet of terroir. “The human hand counts. It’s not just terroir and technology. Each winemaker brings something unique to the wine,” Raoux told Unfiltered. “I want the concept to underline as much as possible the influence of the person making the wine on the winemaking. I want to prove that wine is a cultural product, not an industrial product.” Michel Rolland, Denis Dubourdieu, Andrea Franchetti, Stéphane Derenoncourt, Eric Boissenot, Zelma Long, and Susana Balbo have all taken their turn. “To be amongst these big names, it’s very exciting,” said Biyela. Biyela is from Kwa-Zulu Natal, and she’s one of a handful of black female winemakers in South Africa. A scholarship from South African Airlines to study enology took her 1,000 miles from Zululand to Stellenbosch. It’s been an extraordinary journey. “Every vintage is different; a winemaker is always learning,” she said. She describes her winemaking style as low-impact, focusing on balance. “I let the vineyard present itself.” In 2015, Dany Rolland will make a red as well as the project’s first white wine. Raoux just released a gift box with the first six vintages, starting with Michel Rolland’s 2005.
Wine Spectator senior editor and lead taster for the wines of Bordeaux James Molesworth tasted the 2005 to 2011 vintages of the Château d'Arsac Winemaker's Collection in an informal blind tasting, and found nearly all of them to be in the very good range. "I found the wines actually showed vintage character more than winemaker character," Molesworth said. "While they didn't all necessarily scream the same specific estate/terroir, they were clearly Bordeaux to me."
• Unfiltered readers of a certain age have watched graffiti evolve from street-level property crime to high-end gallery poke in the eye. Street art is as ubiquitous as ever, but it's no longer on our cleaned-up streets; it's behind glass, and in mainstream advertising. So it makes sense that we may be seeing more and more of it on wine bottles. We saw it on Georges Duboeuf's 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau, and now it's popping up on Manhattan's well-to-do, family-friendly Upper West Side, with a limited-edition cuvée from specialty retailer 67 Wine & Spirits and Bronx-born graffiti artist Cope2, aka Fernando Carlo. Cope2, who started practicing the dark art of graffiti in the late 1970s, rose to prominence in the 1990s, and by 2010 had earned the Time magazine billboard commission in SoHo, his own Adidas clothing line, special-edition Converse shoes, and his unique bubble-letter tag appeared in DreamWorks' Shrek the Third and the hit video game Grand Theft Auto. "I have always been a huge fan of street art, from graffiti to stencil to mixed media," wrote 67 Wine's Oscar Garcia. "I had the idea of creating an exclusive wine label for 67 Wine … to make something unique, something that served as a bridge for my love of art and my work in the wine business." La Caldera 67 ($20) is a 2009 blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Monastrell made by Bodegas Luzon of Spain's Jumilla wine region, with the label being supplied by Cope2.
On the other side of the world, Australia's Longview Vineyard is about to embark on the fourth vintage of its graffiti-fueled wine project. LV The Piece Shiraz features a label designed by the winner of an annual graffiti contest held at the winery—the next piece of art will be chosen this Sunday at Longview Vineyard's Piece Project festival in Adelaide Hills. Unfiltered knows that three graffiti-inspired wine labels officially make it a trend, so you might be asking yourself, how long before Mouton-Rothschild tags a street artist for its label? The trendsetting Bordeaux first-growth already has, putting Keith Haring to work back in 1988.
• As the people of Pennsylvania know, legal means of acquiring fine wine not carried by the state distributor can be challenging. And thanks to lax enforcement of wine-shipping laws around the country, some resort to the black market. In a rare show of prosecution, 49-year-old Pennsylvania attorney Arthur Goldman is facing misdemeanor charges of importing and selling wine—wine that was not available for purchase through the state liquor monopoly, which does not allow drinkers to bring in wines from other states, order wines shipped to their homes or procure wine in pretty much any way except through the state-run stores. Goldman allegedly ran an illegal wine smuggling business out of the cellar in his Malvern, Pa., home for over a decade. "This was not some casual exchange of wine between friends—the defendant was running a highly organized, high-volume illegal business operation to make money," said assistant DA Michael Noone in a press release. A raid on Goldman's home netted 2,426 bottles valued between $150,000 and $200,000. He faces up to $200,000 in fines. Despite the potential windfall of selling private liquor licenses, and that Pennsylvania is in the unenviable company of only Utah when it comes to alcohol-sales regulations, the iron fist of the law spares no such barefaced transgression. "This was a brazen violation of the law by someone who clearly knew better," Noone said. Goldman knew better because he allegedly asked an undercover agent, "How do I know you aren’t an agent for the PLCB?" before agreeing to deal some wine. Now that Goldman has been curbed, his customers can go back to dealing with the limited selection at Pennsylvania's state stores. And perhaps Pennsylvania wine lovers will have a little more motivation to convince their lawmakers to open its borders.