• We’ve long known that a panda eats shoots and leaves, but if offered the chance at a wine pairing, what would it choose? Based on our experience with Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, where bamboo shoots and sprouts are most prominently used, we’d go for a Riesling. While we don’t suggest offering any wine to the fauna themselves, enophiles in our nation’s capital this month will have the opportunity to taste a variety of wines in the company of the exotic animals residing in the Smithsonian National Zoo. Grapes with the Apes, a benefit wine tasting, will be held in Washington, D.C., at the National Zoo on Sept. 23. Guests can tour the zoo after hours, check out the Great Apes house and animal demonstrations, sample wines from producers including Barefoot Bubbly and northern Virginia’s Philip Carter winery and groove to live music. VIP tickets include a Champagne tasting and hors d’oeuvre-and-wine pairing, among other extras. Tickets range from $35 to $85 and proceeds directly benefit the National Zoo’s efforts in conservation, sustainability and education. Unfiltered just asks that visitors keep the vino away from the bird house—hungover owls have gotten enough attention online this week.
• One of Popular Science’s 2010 Invention Award winners caught Unfiltered’s eye recently. Dutch entrepreneur Pieter Hoff was a successful lily grower in Holland until he sold his business seven years ago to focus on designing a water-recovery system that could potentially turn deserts into oases. Hoff got the idea for the Waterboxx while watching his lilies at night. He noticed that while the plants lost heat, the cool surface of the leaves sucked droplets of moisture from the warmer, humid air. Hoff spent an estimated $7.1 million developing the Groasis Waterboxx, a device that collects moisture from the air and funnels it via a cloth wick to the roots of a plant. In 2006, Hoff took 25 Waterboxxes to Morocco’s Sahara and, after one year, 88 percent of the trees he treated had green leaves, while 90 percent of those watered weekly using traditional local methods had died under the scorching sun. In June, 300 Waterboxxes were assembled at two Robert Mondavi vineyards in the Napa Valley. Most of them were placed on replants in the historic To Kalon Vineyard that lacked an irrigation system. “It’s a great idea for dry-farm vineyards,” said Matt Ashby, director of vineyard operations at Mondavi. “I can go out and plant new vines and I don’t have to babysit them. I can just walk away.” Another set of Waterboxxes are being tested on a brand new 10-acre vineyard at Mondavi’s Wappo Hill property, and the device has the potential to save untold thousands if not millions of gallons in irrigation water for vineyards in arid climates. Hoff says that the Waterboxx, currently priced at around $28, will be available to the public through Home Depot beginning in spring 2011.
We can't think of a better place to hide one's identity than behind a stack of Veuve Clicquot cases.
• How many people is it possible to outrage by giving away Veuve Clicquot? New Zealand’s National Business Review (NBR) in Auckland got a rough idea last week when it held a contest to shower one winner in their body weight of the venerable bubbly, in celebration of the paper’s 40th anniversary. The rules were simple: entrants would suggest how they would drink up the Champagne, and readers would vote on the worthiest. Except the NBR (and Veuve) misjudged the strength of New Zealand’s blogger community, which threw its considerable weight behind one “Busted Blonde,” who noted, “I weigh heaaaps!” and promised a pontoon picnic blowout. The prize instead was awarded to Michael Havill, who wrote a poem, and Blonde was slapped with the “Social Media Award,” all of one magnum. Social media, however, slapped back: Busted Blonde blogs about politics and counts many friends in the blogosphere. There were angry e-mails. An anti-Veuve Facebook group arose. Jancis Robinson Tweeted her support of the people’s champion. “It took 48 hours or so,” Blonde told Unfiltered, “for the NBR to realize that they’d made a mistake.” While Blonde acknowledged her entry was a little blue (“It did use the word ‘wankers,’ which was probably not that appropriate.”), she defended the sentiment. “None of us are poor, but we’re not hugely rich either. It was about what we think Champagne is—having fun in a lighthearted way.” NBR publisher Barry Colman quickly reached for his wallet to personally buy Blonde her rightful 60 bottles and a magnum. She confirmed that she has received the wine (and a “full apology”) and is in talks with charities on how she can best put her upcoming bacchanal to good use. While Blonde’s Kiwi wine of choice is Wycroft Pinot Noir, she was “absolutely” already a major Veuve drinker even before her treasure haul. But who is Busted Blonde? She preferred Unfiltered not reveal: “I work for the government. That’s all I can say.” In respect for the obvious new power of social media, Unfiltered will respect her anonymity (but if she wants to share her stash of Veuve, we won’t object).