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• Rightly relegated to the background amid the far more serious events surrounding the earthquakes in Nepal is the story of a few men, Fladgate Partnership CEO Adrian Bridge among them, who were pursuing a rather unique record on Mt. Everest at the time: to host the highest-altitude formal dinner. (Presumably first-class dining on international flights and chef Emeril Lagasse's astronaut menu don't count.) Bridge, who oversees the Port houses Croft, Fonseca and Taylor’s, among others, along with Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains and a few other climbers, had set out to enjoy a three-course, black-tie, gourmet—though sensibly freeze-dried—meal accompanied by Champagne from G.H. Mumm, Great Wall Red and a 62-year-old Taylor Fladgate aged tawny Port, in honor of the fact that Everest was first climbed in 1953. The event was intended to raise more than $150,000 in donations for Community Action Nepal, which benefits Nepal's mountain people.
Bains cut his climb short after succumbing to high-altitude pulmonary edema, a condition in which fluid builds up in the lungs and that can only be alleviated by returning to a lower altitude. But the rest of the team was planning to continue on with the charity dinner when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, killing more than 8,000 people.
“Having assured our families we were OK, we stayed on the mountain that night, the 25th, carried out our Puja ceremony [a Hindu prayer ritual] the next morning and waited for news," Bridge told Unfiltered. "We had a second quake at lunchtime on the 26th but again no damage was sustained. After a further night at 21,000 feet we pulled out. We felt that regardless of whether the mountain would be shut or not, the idea of having a black-tie dinner on the North Col at 23,000 feet was inappropriate given the events on the other side of the mountain and in Nepal. I may well have a go again, but at this stage I am still thinking about it.”
The people of Nepal now need help more than ever, and despite the cancellation, the event has still raised more than $72,000 to date. Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/everestdinner.
• Celebrity chef–bad boy and Wine Spectator cover model Anthony Bourdain has found a home for the hotly anticipated Bourdain Market, according to Commercial Observer: Pier 57 in New York's Meatpacking District, just steps away from the new Whitney Museum of American Art, which opened this past week. Unfiltered's sources inside the Bourdain camp could not confirm the news. The new market will reportedly occupy 100,000 square feet of the pier and will include a farmers market, bakery, oyster and tapas bars and a wide range of international street food vendors.
• Tesla CEO Elon Musk, our closest thing to a real-life Tony Stark, is back in the news with a new home battery solution, which has been undergoing some real-world testing in far more demanding energy-dependent applications: the production of wine. Ask any winemaker (or better yet, their accountants), and you'll hear fiscal horror stories of just how important energy conservation is to their bottom line, say nothing of the environment.
Kendall-Jackson parent company Jackson Family Wines was approached by Tesla as a pilot program for the new Tesla Energy product, having all the hallmarks of an energy-dependent industry that would showcase the benefits of the new tech. Tesla installed 21 batteries across six of Jackson Family's wineries in Sonoma, Napa and Monterrey counties for a combined storage capacity of 4.2 megawatts. The batteries can be used in conjunction with solar cells to store captured energy for use later at night or during cloudy days, or in the absence of solar cells, can capture and store off-peak energy that is cheaper than peak energy and then use the battery power during the day when demand, and therefore price, is higher.
Batteries aren’t all that Tesla has been investing in wine country. In addition to the new energy-storage technology, Tesla has been adding what it calls “Destination Charging”—not to be confused with the faster, more powerful “Supercharging Stations” that dot the country—to several wineries and resorts in and around the Napa area. Aside from Jackson Family, Mike Reynolds of Hall winery has also added two complimentary charging units, capable of recouping 58 miles of range per hour (so take your time with that barrel sample). “We are excited about this partnership with Tesla, whose forward-thinking technology is changing the way people think about cars and transportation," Reynolds told Unfiltered. "In 2008, our St. Helena winery was the first in California to be awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold Certification, and the addition of a seamless and convenient Tesla Charging location will further enhance Hall’s sustainability efforts.” Other wineries with Tesla’s Destination Charging include Ram’s Gate, Flanagan, Turnbull, Round Pond, ZD, Joseph Phelps, Long Meadow Ranch, Spottswoode, Storybook Mountain and Chateau Diana.
• In September 2013, Thibault Liger-Belair, an organic winegrower in Nuits-St.-Georges with another 27 acres under vine at Moulin à Vent in Beaujolais, went on French television to explain the stance taken by a group of growers against mandatory spraying to counter flavescence dorée, a bacterial vine disease spread by leafhoppers. “I’m a winemaker, and my objective is to protect the vine. I’m not against spraying when there is a real attack, but only at a precise moment,” Liger-Belair told Unfiltered. He said, the obligatory vine treatments, passed as government decrees during a period of panic, were “unrealistic, stupid and incoherent.” (Fellow Burgundy vigneron Emmanuel Giboulot's fines and jail sentence for refusing to spray pesticides were overturned on a technicality last year.)
Liger-Belair's appearance on national television did not go unremarked. Two months later, government inspectors arrived at his vineyard for a surprise audit, and not so surprisingly found that he had not sprayed the prescribed pesticide. The closest infestation of flavescence dorée was on Chardonnay vines 25 miles away in a place called Plotte. What’s more, his Gamay vines spanned two departments, and only one department called for obligatory sprayings. The inspectors filed criminal charges. Liger-Belair expected to plead his case before a correctional judge May 19, but the case was delayed until November. By then Liger-Belair hopes a new decree will be in place, one which no longer requires obligatory spraying in his area. “But I’ve already paid more in lawyer fees and time than I would have paid in fines,” said Liger-Belair.
• “It will truly provide a capital for the world of wine,” pronounced George Sape, president of the American Friends of the Cité des Civilisations du Vin (AFCCV) of the 151,000-square-foot monument to the history, culture and, well, civilization of wine. The Cité (the full name is “a mouthful, even for the French”) is in Bordeaux—a 10-story, wine-swirl-shaped structure “visible from anywhere in the city”—and it will house a multimedia, “multisensory” journey through the history, geography and science of wine, as well as “tasting laboratories,” transportation to area vineyards, a restaurant and (of course) a wine bar. “Never before has such a diverse collection of wine been assembled,” said Sape, and the Cité means it—it will serve and showcase wine from more than 70 countries.
As the Cité will function as a sort of U.N. of wine, it made sense to launch the AFCCV at the actual United Nations in April. The AFCCV’s goal: Raise €1 million for the Thomas Jefferson Auditorium, to be the “centerpiece” of the Cité, which is slated to open in 2016 and receive 450,000 visitors a year. Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé took the dais to tell the assembled what to expect. Bordeaux is “the world capital of wine. If there is any disagreement, I am sure we could gather some U.N. representatives to resolve it, preferably over a bottle of Bordeaux!” he led off. The Cité would boost the city’s economy, he said, but it would be a global celebration, and to prove it, the AFCCV had 54 countries of wine on hand at the U.N., representing 54 different customs agencies of international alcohol shipment.
“There are wines here you’ll never see again,” enthused Sape to Unfiltered. “Tahiti! Ethiopia!” Why should Americans care about some wacky-shaped French wine EPCOT Center? “This will generate a lot more interest in the role of wine whether you’re in Bordeaux or Uzbekistan. American wine benefits” from the greater education. “Try to sell California wine in Paris!” In addition to Tahiti and Ethiopia, Unfiltered also tasted wine from Denmark, Japan, China, Algeria, Turkey and even Long Island. Unfiltered also polled the somms who had helped pull everything together on some of the surprise favorites. The Danish bubbly polled well, as did Moldova, Russia and Syria. On the other hand, when we posed the question to Sape, he deadpanned, “Cos-d’Estournel,” the Bordeaux blue chip.