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NASCAR wine, Charlie Palmer's conspiracy and BV's big bottle
Jun 1, 2005

• 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.
• Who says size doesn't matter? Napa Valley's historic Beaulieu Vineyard has produced its biggest bottle ever of Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve. Weighing in at 27 liters, it's still no match for the 130-liter Maximus bottle that Beringer produced last year. But it does have a more active social life. BV's "ambassador" bottle is going on a cross-country tour with the rock band Collective Soul, partying in 10 cities before ending up at Las Vegas' 100th birthday bash on July 2. At its Vineyard to Vegas tour stops, BV is hosting wine tastings, interactive games and grape-stomping competitions to raise funds for local charities, while big Georges meets with local dignitaries and collects their signatures. The bottle (and its entourage) has its own big red tour bus and even its own blog at bvinvegas.com. BV, which is more than 100 years old, has been chosen as the official wine sponsor for Vegas' centennial celebrations (Georges de Latour was first produced in 1936, the same year the Hoover Dam was finished and gambling was legalized). After his nationwide travels, Georges will make his home in Vegas, at least until he's poured at a future event.

• 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.
• Veuve Clicquot has a new outfit for summer. Sporting a fashion more common among divers and surfers, the Champagne will appear as of July 1 with a neoprene "Ice Jacket" in classic Clicquot yellow. The insulated cooler bag, with leather trim, is meant to preserve the temperature of a pre-chilled bottle for at least two hours at the beach, on the boat or in the backyard--wherever you're doing your warm-weather entertaining. Plus, the neoprene padding helps keep the bottle safe during your travels. Anyone willing to forgo the $55 price is welcome to test if the wetsuit-clad bottle also floats when dropped overboard.
Unfiltered

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