Baseball Wines for a World Cup Hangover

Plus, a Cowboys legend meets his namesake tank at Siduri, sulfur-free wine preservation, a Napa icon teaches Shakespeare and the rebirth of a New Orleans institution
Jul 10, 2014

• Like the rest of the world, Unfiltered has been watching a lot of soccer this month. It's the sport of the world's great winemaking countries, and it's interesting to compare the international success of the U.S. Men's National Team (with quite a few wine lovers among them) with that of our homegrown wines. But the World Cup ends this Sunday, and most of North America will go back to not caring about soccer for another four years. Fortunately, America's pastime will be here to lift the beaten hearts of everyone not German with the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game this Tuesday night on Fox, live from Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn. And not to be out-wined by all those European and South American soccer nations, MLB has commissioned its own lineup of baseball team–themed wines this year, building on the 2012 San Francisco Giants' Mumm Championship Brut cuvée. This season, MLB has unveiled six new team-specific wines: Three New York Yankees Reserve wines include a 2013 dry Riesling made by the Finger Lakes' own Anthony Road; two Washington wines made at Columbia Valley's Maryhill will be branded Seattle Mariners Reserve; and various California wines from Alexander Valley, Monterey County, Paso Robles, Russian River Valley and Santa Barbara County make up the rest of the wines for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers Reserves. There's also a limited run of MLB All-Star Game Midsummer Classic 2012 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the MLB-licensed wines are available through MLB.com/wine and most are priced at about $30 per bottle.


• At 6'3" and 325 pounds, with an assisted bench press of 705 pounds, there's little doubt that former Dallas Cowboys guard Larry Allen is a tank. Turns out, Larry Allen is also a tank at the Sonoma County winemaking facility of Siduri and Novy Wines, where owners Adam and Dianna Lee, native Texans themselves, have named all of their 16 wine tanks after Dallas Cowboys players. In 2013, Allen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but his most recent honor came June 21, when his alma mater, Sonoma State University—to which the Wine Spectator Foundation recently donated $3 million—hosted a dinner for their only NFL alumnus, to benefit the university's Student-Athlete General Scholarship Fund. "As Cowboy fans, we jumped at the chance to have our wine served at this event," said Lee, who contributed his Siduri Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir 2012 and Novy Sauvignon Blanc 2012 to the dinner. While in town, Allen stopped by the winery and posed for pictures in front of his eponymous tank. "Larry Allen is a great guy. He really came up from nothing; a true American success story," Lee told Unfiltered via e-mail. "He likes wine a lot. He likes to talk about football, but also about [his] kids and his mom. He gave me his cell phone [number] right off, and we keep texting each other." Knowing he's got Lee in his ear, Unfiltered looks forward to the day we can add the Sonoma native to our ever-expanding list of NFL vintners.


• Best practices for wine preservation have puzzled winemakers for as long as they've been making wine. Heat pasteurization is out of the question, as it would destroy sensitive components, altering color and taste, so sulphur dioxide (SO2) has become the preservative of choice among the winemaking community. Yet it’s not without controversy. Improperly used, SO2 can trigger allergies, including asthma, and the European Union (EU) requires that it be listed on the label as an ingredient. Now an EU-funded project is working with a new “cold pasteurization” method that may make SO2 unnecessary. Originally developed for preserving fruit juice by a Dresden, Germany, company, the EU project, including Stuttgart’s Frauenhofer Institute, is testing whether it also works for wine. It involves dissolving an inert gas under high pressure, then abruptly reducing the pressure. “Unwanted oxidizing enzymes are inactivated, while neither temperature-sensitive ingredients nor color and taste are altered," explained Frauenhofer’s Dr. Ana Lucía Vásquez-Caicedo. Fraunhofer next plans to build a mobile facility that would enable the technique to be tested in cellars.


• What's in a name? Montague, Capulet, Winiarski …. Founder and former winemaker for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Warren Winiarski helped define Napa Valley's Stags Leap District, not to mention the modern Napa Valley wine scene. But these days, Winiarski, 86, is spending less time in the vineyard and more time in the classroom. For the past 15 years, Winiarski has devoted his time to sharing his love for literature at his alma mater, St. John's College, which has campuses in Annapolis, Md., and Sante Fe, N.M. Winiarski returns to the Sante Fe campus beginning July 14 to co-lead a Shakespeare seminar for the St. John's College Summer Classics program, along with Judith Adam, former assistant dean at St. John’s. Winiarski has chosen Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, exploring the connection of love and woe in the play. Previous to becoming a winemaker, Winiarski gave up his job as a liberal arts lecturer at the University of Chicago before moving to Napa Valley. As a vineyard owner and lover of literature, Winiarski surely knows a thing or two about love and woe, both in the vineyard and in paperback. “When you’re talking about beauty in language, you’re not far from the same things that evoke beauty in wine,“ Winiarksi told Unfiltered, “it's important to daydream; it will make you a better winemaker and writer.”


• The old Creole townhouse at 417 Royal St. in New Orleans' French Quarter will soon have a new name on it, but it's a familiar one: Brennan's. More than a year after the classic restaurant closed its doors and the name was stripped off the facade, local restaurateur Ralph Brennan bought the rights to the name in a federal bankruptcy court auction July 9. He and business partner Terry White paid $3 million for the name, the famous rooster logo, the menu, website and even the wine inventory. They had already paid $7 million for the building, which was auctioned last year. It's the latest chapter in the city's most famous family of food. Brennan's was established by Owen Brennan in 1946 and moved to the Royal Street building in 1955. After Owen's death, his siblings and later his three sons managed it, but various disputes led the family to divide their assets in 1974—Owen's sons kept Brennan's while the other family members focused their energies on Commander's Palace and new restaurants. But by 2012, Owen "Pip" Jr. and brother Ted were fighting over control and quality had slipped. (The Grand Award-winning wine cellar had been killed by sweltering heat in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina knocked out power for weeks.) With creditors circling, Brennan's closed. Enter cousin Ralph, whose father John helped run Commander's and who has built his own successful restaurant group including Ralph's on the Park and Redfish Grill. He bought the building and began renovations. He also hired talented chef Slade Rushing of MiLa to run the kitchen. But what he didn't own was the rights to put his own last name on the building, until now. Barring yet another legal twist, the new Brennan's is slated to open this fall.

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