Celebrity Pairings to Celebrate
• Unfiltered is always happy to note when wine and musicians come together. We’ve covered winemaking projects from Tool lead singer and former WineSpectator.com guest blogger Maynard James Keenan, rock icon Sting, KISS guitarist Paul Stanley and Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood, to name a handful. The latest development to come across our desk was a little different, but no less exciting: Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio invited R&B star John Legend to perform at Colicchio’s Craftsteak restaurant in New York, as well as help plan the menu for a dinner pairing Colicchio’s food with Legend’s music and Simi director of winemaking Susan Lueker’s wines. Despite the restaurant’s clear focus, there was no beef featured at the Pairings: Food + Wine + Music event—dishes ranged from roasted lobster paired with Simi Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2006 to Guinea hen and black truffles with Simi Cabernet Alexander Valley Reserve 2006 to roasted porchetta with the 1996 Reserve Cabernet. This was the second in a series of events pairing the three art forms (the first featured Dave Matthews performing to the tune of John Besh’s cuisine at the Robert Mondavi Winery). No word yet on who the next Pairings event will bring together, but expect Unfiltered to have our ears tuned and our mouth watering when it’s announced.
• Is Sen. John McCain lashing out at wine lovers for having helped put rival presidential candidate Barack Obama in office in 2008? One might infer as much from a report from McCain’s office this month, which lists 100 projects funded by stimulus grants that McCain and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma see as frivolous wastes of money. No. 11 on the senators’ list is a federally funded plan to relocate the tracks of the Napa Wine Train, a popular Napa Valley tourist attraction, in order to avoid potential flood damage. The whole truth, as explained by Barry Martin, a representative of the Napa River Flood Control Project, is a bit more nuanced: The Wine Train tracks are being moved as part of a nine-year plan to protect the city of Napa, not just the Wine Train, from flood damage. According to Martin, the tracks must be moved so that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can excavate new channels to divert water. In response to the criticism, Wine Train representative Melodie Hilton wrote a “Christmas letter” to McCain, posted on the train’s website, which read, in part: “Napa County has an award-winning flood-control project and design; one that was proposed, and approved by voters, many years ago. This is the project that is being funded,” and concluded with, “You are invited to come to Napa. Talk to the officials behind this project; learn what is really going on. It is your right and your responsibility. And, while you are here, we hope you take a ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train.”
• Château Mouton-Rothschild has just unveiled its 2007 vintage and, in the estate’s grand tradition, its label features the work of a master artist. Bernar Venet joins the ranks of Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon, whose creations have all graced the first-growth’s bottle. Venet, a Frenchman known for his mathematically precise sculptural displays reminiscent of upturned curly fries, has sketched an uncluttered, harmonious design for the 2007. Mouton's press release describes Venet’s figures as curvatures that “evoke chalices rooted in the earth and open, like vinestocks, to the precious gifts from above.” We won’t argue it; above the label, after all, is where the wine comes out. As is the custom, Venet will be compensated not in money but in Mouton—10 cases, including five from 2007. It may seem unorthodox, but he’ll hardly be the first artist ever to drink his paycheck. Bordeaux suffered a fickle climate in 2007 and in general, it’s an inconsistent vintage, but Venet shouldn’t worry: The 2007 Mouton looks to be outstanding.
• Unfiltered found a bright spot in the unfortunate closing of New York's famed French restaurant Chanterelle: Much of the wine from the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence-winning cellar was purchased by fellow award recipient Nice Matin, also in New York. Nice Matin acquired more than 700 bottles, including standouts like the Latour 1970, Château Yquem 1976 and Dom Pérignon Oenotheque 1976. But it's not only bottles of French origin. Also included were New World cult wines such as Cabernets from Harlan in California and Quilceda Creek in Washington. Nice Matin, however, didn’t get the entire stock. New York's Barbounia bought more than 300 of Chanterelle’s bottles from nearly 200 different producers to add to its cellar, including several Dujac Burgundies. Unfiltered was sad to see Chanterelle go, but we’re happy to see its wines have found some new homes.