Unfiltered

A Giants step for winekind, robots as sommeliers, sheep as vineyard workers and Dom dressed up
Apr 20, 2005

• It's distracting enough to taste wine in the presence of a celebrity; try explaining carbonic maceration when squeezed between two 320-pound linemen. That's what Christopher Silva, CEO of St. Francis winery in Sonoma Valley, faced last night when he hosted a wine dinner for a handful of New York Giants football players at Tribeca Grill in New York. In attendance were Eli Manning, Tiki Barber, Jack Brewer, Kenderick Allen, Luke Pettigout, Brandon Winey, Jesse Palmer and Charles Way, now director of player development. The event quickly turned into a high-spirited wine class. "How would you describe the color of this wine?" Silva asked, holding up a glass of his 2002 Behler Chardonnay Reserve. "Looks like a sample for a drug test," Barber quipped. "Hey Eli, are you chewing gum?" asked backup quarterback Palmer of his team's wunderkind starting quarterback. Palmer, best known for his stint on ABC's The Bachelor, had just finished watching Sideways for the third time and couldn't resist peppering the tasting with some of his favorite quotes from the film. The group ended with a glass of '01 Pagani Vineyard Zinfandel Reserve, which elicited a sigh of relief from Manning, who had recently been scared away from Zinfandel by a corky bottle. "Palmer and I tried Zin for the first time the other night and it was the worst wine I've ever tasted," says Manning, who is planning on buying a wine fridge and starting a collection. "I'm glad I gave it another try."

I, Robot Sommelier: Can I bring you a second bottle, sir?
• A small motorized contraption paddles its way across a pool of water and pours a generous glass of wine at the other end. Sommelier of the future? Nope. It's the winning entry in a contest held last week at the Technion, a technical university in Israel, to commemorate the crossing of the Red Sea during the Jewish exodus from Egypt. The pool represented the Red Sea, the wine the Kadeish (the first cup of wine drunk at a Passover Seder), and the machines--well, we're not quite sure. The goal of the contest was to create a contraption that could cross the 10-foot pool, pour a glass of wine and place it on the other side without spilling, without any human aid. The winner, 28-year-old Peleg Harel, received $4,400 for his prize. Next up: robots that try to up-sell diners in restaurants.

The newest accessory for movie stars and moguls? Dom now sports a white-gold sheath.
• Speaking of up-selling, does ordering a bottle of Dom Pérignon not make a big enough statement for you anymore? Next time you're out clubbing, you can really get noticed by ordering the prestige cuvée in a never-before-available jeroboam. About $3,500 gets you an individually numbered, three-liter bottle to park at your table while you party with your entourage. Only 100 bottles each of the 1993 and 1995 vintages are available at trendy clubs and restaurants such as Lotus in New York, Crobar in Chicago, Bed in Miami and Light in Las Vegas. (Could Moët be angling for a share of Cristal's hip-hop market?) But if that's not exclusive enough for you, stop by Hôtel Byblos in Saint-Tropez, which is offering the Byblos by Dom Pérignon collection—a total of 10 jeroboams of the 1995 vintage, each presented in a white gold-dipped case. (The design, as the press material puts it, "evokes a haute couture gown endlessly gliding down the red carpet.") If you happen to be at the Cannes Film Festival this May, where the product will be unveiled, you can put your name on the waiting list for a 12,000-euro bottle. Now that's some serious bling.

Is this your truck? BV winemaker Bob Masyczek wants to know.
* Work follows you wherever you go. Beaulieu Vineyard winemaker Bob Masyczek learned that last week while on vacation with his family in Montana. While on the way to Glacier National Park, Masyczek spotted a vintage truck, bearing the century-old winery's name and the image of a bottle, near the tiny town of Bigfork. Masyczek hopped out of his car and snapped this picture, and later called local businesses to inquire about the truck's owner. No luck so far. Masyczek guesses the truck is from the 1950s or '60s, and although it appeared to be in working condition, he doesn't think it is still being used to haul wine. "I think somebody just thinks the truck is way too cool to get rid of," he says. "I'm sure Montana has lots of wine lovers, but that truck was in the middle of nowhere. You never know what you're going to run into."

From immigrant roots to big shots: Robert Mondavi, Colin Powell, Murray Gell-Mann, Jeanne-Claude, Christo and Scott Parazynski
• What does Robert Mondavi have in common with international affairs, particle physics and space exploration? Yesterday, he shared the stage with Gen. Colin Powell, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann, and astronaut Scott Parazynski, all of whom have ancestors who arrived in the United States via Ellis Island. And all of them, along with recent immigrants Christo and Jeanne-Claude (the artists who staged The Gates in New York's Central Park) were honored there yesterday, with the Ellis Island Family Heritage Award. The recipients were presented with a framed copy of the original ship's passenger manifest documenting their family's arrival in America. Long before Robert dominated the world of California wine, his father, Cesare, came from Italy in 1906 aboard the Vanderland and first worked in a U.S. iron mine.

A perfect pairing for Napa Cab, in the vineyard and on the table.
• Mary had a little lamb: It's hard to find good vineyard help these days, so many California wineries are turning to four-legged employees to handle some maintenance. Don Watson, owner of Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Wooly Weeders, has been doing brisk business carting his flock of East Friesian sheep to wineries in Napa and Sonoma and renting out their services for about $100 an hour. "They can weed, mow and fertilize all at the same time," Watson says. This aspect of his business started, he explains, when his sheep were eating wild plants to control fire hazards around Buena Vista winery, and they accidentally escaped into the vineyard. Then-vineyard manager Mary Hall noticed they did a beautiful job hedging, left the grape clusters exposed and didn't eat any fruit because the sugar content was still too low. "The vineyard looked like a golf course when the sheep were finished," Waston says. After that, wineries such as Domaine Chandon and Mondavi started calling. Watson's sheep can be found out of the vineyard too--as lamb dishes served at Auberge du Soleil and Copia and at the upcoming Auction Napa Valley.
Unfiltered

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