Celebrity Nuptials in Wine Country

Plus, St.-Emilion's budget crisis and some impressive charity donations from Opus One and Heron Hill
Oct 27, 2011

• He's the owner of Pym Rae, a Mt. Veeder vineyard planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and other grapes, but when it came to choosing the venue for his recent wine country wedding, funnyman Robin Williams let the staff at the Meadowood Resort in St. Helena do the heavy lifting. Williams has been quite forthcoming about his struggles with dependency, joking earlier this year to CBS News that he “did rehab in wine country, to keep my options open,” but refreshingly, in this age of celebrity wedding as pointless televised spectacle, the comedian and his new bride, San Francisco-based graphic designer Susan Schneider, kept the guest list and other wedding details to themselves—though Williams' 22-year-old daughter, actress Zelda Willliams, did tweet a vineyard photo just before the big event, remarking, “I sense that there's wine and moonlit dancing in my near future.” Earlier this month, comic actor Seth Rogen, best known for his roles in the films The Green Hornet, Knocked Up and Superbad, also had a wine country wedding, marrying writer Lauren Miller at Kunde Family Estate (which was last seen in Unfiltered hosting a dog hike for charity). Like Williams, Rogen eschewed a Kardashian-style tabloid wedding event; a Kunde representative confirmed that the pair were married on site, but when pressed for wine, food and guest list details, explained, “We agreed not to disclose any details of the event.” Privacy: a hot celebrity trend that we can really get behind.

• Bordeaux's St.-Emilion is struggling under debt and has sold a beloved landmark, the 14th-century Cordeliers convent, including the crumbling cloister and leafy park, to its renter, sparkling-wine producer Les Cordeliers, for a mere 750,000 euros (just over $1 million). The outcry has been tremendous, with critics—including some well-placed château owners—lambasting the mayor for a dodgy transaction that lacked transparency, potentially deprived the town of its last public park and a beloved historical monument, and failed to pull them out of the red. "It's not coherent and it doesn't solve the long-term problem," said Guy-Pétrus Lignac, president of the St.-Emilion historical and archaeological society and owner of grand cru Château Gaudet. "There was no public invitation to bid; everything was done secretly," said Jean-Luc Boisseau, owner of the Colporteur bookstore and member of the historical society. "It was not a competitive price for the real estate," said one prominent château owner with many property investments in the village who did not wish to be identified. Financial acumen does not appear to be the mayor’s forte. According to a 2010 audit, St.-Emilion has four times the debt of other French towns of the same size, with a steady downslide since 2007. The mayor blames his financial misery on the burden of being a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts a million visitors a year while having a small tax base and few inhabitants. Meanwhile, the new owner of the Cordeliers convent, Jean-Paul Cales, vice president of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce, assured Wine Spectator that the park would remain open to the public. And the St.-Emilion historical society is considering a foundation to raise money to save other historical monuments.

• It takes a special evening to net $350,000 in dinner checks, but Grapes for Humanity pulled it off earlier this month with two incentives: First, that money would be going to Grapes for Humanity's global charitable interests in Haiti and Cambodia. And second, diners got a few good pours for their money, headlined by five vintages (back to 1985) of famed Napa/Bordeaux collaboration label Opus One. To lead off the night at Manhattan's Four Seasons Hotel, the hosts popped Cristal 2004. They concluded it with Imperial Estate Hetszolo 6 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszú 1996. Elsewhere in New York, the Finger Lakes' Heron Hill Winery dipped into its coffers and contributed $5,700 to Seneca White Deer, Inc., for the preservation and protection of the cherished local species. Napa's pockets are obviously still far deeper than the Finger Lakes', but Unfiltered is happy to see that both wine regions have philanthropy at heart.

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