Gentlemen, start your corkscrews! Have you run out of Pabst while watching the Nextel Cup circuit? Now you can turn to a wine label that not even the most devoted NASCAR dad can sneer at: Childress Vineyards. Team owner Richard Childress, for whom the late Dale Earnhardt used to race, launched a winery last fall and is now busy getting its name out. The very idea of NASCAR and wine may shock some fans more familiar with the nuances of different motor oils than different grape varieties. But auto racing and winemaking already have a fine tradition in the United States: Mario Andretti and Randy Lewis both own wineries. Childress has chosen North Carolina's Yadkin Valley as the site of his estate, where he is producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah and blends under the direction of Mark Friszolowski, former winemaker for Pindar winery on Long Island. While the sight of wine jellies and grapeseed bath oil for sale at the Tuscan-style villa may strike horror in the hearts of good ol' boys, they may be comforted by the obvious racing connections, such as the checkered flag on the label of the house wines, the Tailgate and Finish Line gift baskets and the Fast Track wine club, which includes special bottlings made to commemorate team wins. And, perhaps to make wine sound more macho, the Web site contains this little tidbit: "Removing a cork requires a pull equivalent of lifting approximately 100 lbs."
International Sommelier Conspiracy might sound like the title of the latest John Grisham thriller, but it's really the name of Charlie Palmer's new private-label wine collection. (Hey, what was he going to do? Château Palmer was already taken.) At the invitation-only premiere in New York, the chef announced that his numerous restaurants will now be selling five ISC wines--Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah, all from California--specially blended to complement his cuisine. Consultant Keith Goldston, formerly sommelier at Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington, D.C., worked with master sommelier Fred Dame and California winemakers Daryl Groom of Geyser Peak and Jeff Stewart of Buena Vista to make the wines, which will sell for $25 to $60. But making wine by committee proved to be a challenge: Goldston, Dame and Stewart each created their own Chardonnay blend before deciding on a single wine to represent the label. Goldston and Dame's were similar, while Stewart favored a more oaked wine. In the end, Stewart gave in to majority rule. For Palmer, the real conspiracy was in the label design. He admitted, "The guy on the label isn't really a sommelier. He's the executive chef [at Charlie Palmer Steak] in Washington, D.C."
|Beaulieu Vineyard's big Georges bottle heads off on tour.|
Korbel may not often come to mind as a collectible worth snapping up at a charity wine auction. But when the Pasteur Foundation honored former President Bill Clinton for his work on HIV/AIDS at its April fundraising gala, he boosted the value of one of the lots considerably. Clinton put his seal on a redwood box containing a bottle of Korbel Special Inaugural Cuvée Champagne that was produced for his 1993 inauguration. The inaugural cuvée sold for $2,250--perhaps one of the highest prices ever paid for a bottle of Korbel (although the wine isn't tracked in the Wine Spectator Auction Index). But it was still upstaged by a bottle of Château d'Yquem 1967, which sold for $4,500.
|Veuve Clicquot dons a wetsuit.|