Sparkling Wine for Sparkling Seas

Plus, Cave de Tain tags a graffiti artist for a new label and ecofriendly Napa Valley harvest tourism
Oct 21, 2010

• The Green Valley of the Russian River Valley AVA soaks up a great deal of fog coming off the Pacific Ocean through the Petaluma Gap. So since the wineries there rely on the sea for their distinctive microclimate, they have a particularly vested interest in keeping it clean of cruise trash, mutant fish, ghost ships and the like. Hence, the pairing of Iron Horse Vineyards with National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative. Iron Horse vintners Joy and Lawrence Sterling met with sustainable seafood chef Barton Seaver to create a special cuvée of vintage 2005 blanc de blancs sparkling wine, the Iron Horse Ocean Reserve. Iron Horse is donating $4 for every bottle of the Ocean Reserve sold to National Geographic, for the establishment of new marine protected areas and the support of sustainable fishing practices. Iron Horse has already sold through more than a third of the 1,000 cases made, and with another third reserved for mailing-list members, the wine is already an endangered species (“nearly depleted resource”?). Joy is already looking yonder to another vintage of the partnership. The sparkler retails at $40, available at your local Whole Foods or Le Bernardin. Says Joy, “What put Iron Horse on the map was that our wines were chosen for the Mikhail Gorbachev summit meetings back in 1985. So as you can imagine, my family has taken complete credit for ending the Cold War. And now we’re just going to save the planet.”

• Napa Valley harvest-season tourists have a new environmentally friendly option for touring the Stags Leap District this year—an official AVA-sanctioned bicycle tour program to run in conjunction with the 2010 harvest season. Nancy Bialek, executive director of the Stags Leap District Winegrowers Association, told Unfiltered about how the tour was conceived at an association meeting last year. “We were talking green, talking bikes, and talking about reducing traffic,” Bialek said. “The sense of smell and visuals you get on a bike add real dimension to the harvest experience.” And you don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to ride with the pack. The ride is designed to move at a leisurely pace through the 3-mile long, 1-mile wide appellation, with planned stops for a deli-style picnic lunch and VIP tours of four of the district’s 12 participating wineries, which include Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Cliff Lede and Terlato. The $149 fee includes equipment rental (bike and helmet), lunch, and a knowledgeable personal guide. According to Paul Burditch of Burditch Marketing Communications, $5 of the fee will be donated to the new Napa Valley Vine Trail, a 44-mile long hiking and bike trail that runs the entire length of the Napa Valley. The tours are run daily by Yountville-based Napa Valley Bike Tours, a company that has been doing bike tours in the valley since 1987. Optional add-ons include an early morning hot-air balloon ride and brunch.

• Unfiltered witnessed the premiere of a new Crozes-Hermitage cuvée last night, along with a show by the artist who inspired it and designed its unconventional label. Jonathan “Meres” Cohen is perhaps the world’s most famous graffiti artist—he owns the 5 Pointz building in Queens, N.Y., where aerosol artists from around the world come to practice their craft (legally), and Meres regularly travels around the world himself, creating original works of art on commission. Julie Campos, general manager of the Northern Rhône Valley’s Cave de Tain l’Hermitage cooperative, has long been a fan of both the graffiti art movement, which in the past decade has received mainstream acceptance in the art world, and Meres himself, and after years of trying, finally received the opportunity to meet him face to face last year and propose a collaboration. Meres, who’d had very little experience with wine at all, let alone designing a wine label, told Unfiltered he presented a series of designs to Campos, and the two then embarked on a creative process of elimination and encouragement. Campos told us his first few submissions were “timid,” but she encouraged him to go “free rein with his creativity,” which included Cave de Tain handling the difficulty of a non-traditional label shape. “We couldn’t limit him to working inside a box,” said Campos. The Cave de Tain Crozes-Hermitage Meres label, a special cuvée which will retail at or just below $20 per bottle, was specifically crafted as an iconoclastic bottling for an iconoclastic art form, a “vibrant wine for vibrant art.” While she was clearly an admirer of graffiti as art, Campos admitted, “I’ve never tried it myself—I’m too conservative … and too scared!”

Artists Environment Unfiltered

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