In the Marchesi di Barolo Cellar with Hilary Swank

Plus, California battles a vineyard scourge with impotence, a retirement community with a sommelier, convenient wine at 7-Eleven, the science behind pairing wine and fish, and more
Nov 5, 2009

When Unfiltered last heard from two-time Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank, her production company had just purchased the rights to former Veuve Cliquot executive Mireille Guiliano's 2004 bestseller, French Women Don't Get Fat, and was angling to play the lead in a film adaptation of the book. We know that Swank learned to fly a plane in order to properly portray Amelia Earhart for the current feature film Amelia, so one would assume she’d be doing her research for a Champagne-themed film in France, but it seems that Swank has been pursuing a passion for all things Italian. In September, Swank and her brother Dan wined, dined and even truffle-hunted as the guests of proprietor Ernesto Abbona at Piedmont’s Marchesi di Barolo winery in Barolo. According to Christina Cacciato of WineWave, which imports Marchesi di Barolo to the United States, “Ernesto was quite pleased to discover Ms. Swank’s ability to discern and appreciate the key differentiating notes between the cru wines.” If it means a visit from the becoming actress in the course of her research, Unfiltered hopes that her next role has Swank playing a wine journalist.

• The light-brown apple moths of Carneros, considered by some to be the new scourge of California vineyards, will be getting some impotent new neighbors this week when 3,000 to 4,000 sterile male moths will be released into Carneros vineyards. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman Larry Hawkins, the first release of the sterile males will begin this week, when the moths will begin looking for female mates. The sterile moths have also been fed a dye that changes their color, allowing their distribution to be tracked by the scientists. According to Hawkins, the purpose of this release is to supply data about the light-brown apple moth and its habits to researchers, who then hope to draw up a game plan for eradication. No word yet on what color the sterile moths have been dyed, but despite their threat to California’s vineyards, Unfiltered couldn’t help but feel blue for the test subjects.

• Is your idea of retirement selling it all off and heading to Boca, drinking fruity drinks with miniature umbrellas while soaking up the sun poolside? We say no, follow us to Canada. What? The land of hockey and ice fishing doesn’t exactly scream “golden years” to you? Well Unfiltered found a reason to give it serious consideration, specifically the Canterbury Gardens retirement home in Peterborough, Ontario, about 50 miles northeast of Toronto. The retirement community recently employed its own sommelier to pair its seasonal menu with the appropriate wines, a feature available every night of the week to the community’s residents. If that wasn’t enough, the establishment has partnered with Ontario’s Colio winery to make their own private label, made up of four wines in all: a Cabernet/Merlot blend, Gamay, Chardonnay and Riesling. Unfiltered thinks this not only beats applesauce and prune juice, but would ensure more visits from the family if they knew they could temper grandpa’s relentless stories of the good old days with a nice glass of wine or two.

• Buying wine got more convenient this week when 7-Eleven parent company Seven & i Holdings Co. of Tokyo announced the launch of its first global proprietary label, Yosemite Road. They will offer a Chardonnay and a Cabernet made from California grapes that retail for a modest $4 per bottle and will be on the shelves at 15,000 of the company’s outlets in the U.S. and Japan. This isn’t the first proprietary label for the store; in 2005, 7-Eleven introduced Thousand Oaks, followed by Sonoma Crest Cellars in the fall of 2007, which each retail for $10. Carole Davidson, a 7-Eleven spokesperson, said wine is a strong seller for the chain, particularly value-priced wines under $5, which have seen double-digit sales growth during the past few years. About 2,000 of the 6,300 7-Eleven stores in the U.S. sell alcohol, with a typical store carrying 35 to 40 wine labels. While the idea of a proprietary label next to the pork rinds has taken some ribbing, Laurie Jones of the Wine Group, the producers of Yosemite Road, said that “What we should be looking at is that this is just one more step toward wine becoming absolutely mainstream in America. That anytime you want to grab a wine, it’s available.” Unfiltered pressed her for a wine-and-convenience store fare pairing, and we think she made a pretty good recommendation, considering her options: “I’d look for a heat-and-eat tortellini with cream sauce and have it with the Chardonnay,” she said.

• Japanese scientists have now provided an answer to the frequently consternating question of what wine to pair with seafood. According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers from Mercian winery in Japan wanted to challenge the basic pairing principle of red wine with red meat and white wine with fish. After getting professional wine tasters to try 38 red wines and 26 white wines while eating scallops, the volunteers evaluated their experiences. The aim was to measure which pairing produced unsavory chemical compounds, including a ferrous ion which is a "key compound in the formation of fishy aftertaste in wine-and-seafood pairing." The ion can originate from various sources, including the iron content of soil, dust on the grapes, or during the fermentation process. They found the lower the level of iron in the wine, the better it pairs with fish, regardless of the color of the grapes used to produce it. But the results aren't putting professional tasters out of business yet. The authors of the study admit that, unfortunately, the level of iron in wine varies greatly, not only by country of origin, but by vintage and harvesting conditions as well. “In daily life, it is difficult to predict the iron content in a bottled wine without opening it,” they conclude, so “it is still a problem for the customer.”

• Unfiltered was a mere spectator at this past weekend’s annual New York Marathon, but there was at least one wine-industry sighting in the actual race. We’ve yet to confirm, but we’re pretty sure that Cristina Mariani-May, co-CEO of Italy’s Castello Banfi, finished first among vintners (she finished 813th among all women, with an impressive time of 3 hours, 33 minutes). “I had a blast! I felt fantastic, and my time was much better than expected, so I am thrilled,” she said. This year, Mariani-May’s run benefited The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a charity that provides a residential summer camp and year-round support for children and families coping with cancer and other serious illnesses. Cheers to Mariani-May for turning an impressive personal accomplishment into a gift for deserving children and their families.

Actors Pairings Vineyard Pests Unfiltered

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