• Three men have taken fine cuisine to new heights. In June, the Champagne Mumm Altitude Challenge team of adventurers broke the Guinness world record for the highest open-air formal dinner party, which they held at 24,262 feet above England's Salisbury Plain, hanging off a hot-air balloon. While mountaineer David Hempleman-Adams (who has walked solo to the South Pole) piloted the G-MUMM balloon through stiff winds that nearly blew them out to sea, ex-Special Air Service solider Bear Grylls (who has crossed the North Atlantic in an open boat) and Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Alan Veal (a display team skydiver) dropped to a platform suspended on four wires from the basket. After a brief mishap in which the platform flipped over, leaving Veal hanging upside down with his oxygen supply dislodged, the two men managed to enjoy a three-course meal of asparagus spears, poached salmon and a summer-fruit terrine in sub-zero temperatures, while dressed in formal naval attire (well, ok, they had a lot of warmer layers underneath). In between gulps of oxygen from their masks, they washed down the food with Mumm's new Grand Cru cuvée, whose launch was being celebrated by the daredevil feat. Once finished, Grylls and Veal toasted the Queen of England and parachuted back to earth. Some men will do anything for a drink.
• You thought America had strange political squabbles? Well, get this: An Australian politician has been attacked in the media for not spending enough time with wine. Margaret Keech, Queensland's minister for tourism, fair trading and wine-industry development, has been on the defensive since MP Jann Stuckey criticized the minister for publicly mispronouncing the varietals Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Queensland is home to more than 60 wineries, so Stuckey not only argued that Keech should know these things, she also suggested that Keech attend a wine-appreciation course. "Minister Keech needs to better understand wines in order to promote them effectively on a world stage," Stuckey told The Sunday Mail. "Her comical attempts at pronouncing different varieties have been embarrassing." According to the Queensland paper, Keech responded that spending $150 of her annual $249,000 budget on wine education would be inappropriate, calling it "absolutely outrageous for one cent of Queenslanders' taxes to be spent on sending me, as the minister, on a wine-appreciation course." Keech added that she drinks wine already--one of her favorites being a Queensland Verdelho. Unfiltered has a way of settling the dispute once and for all: Ask Keech to pronounce Gewürztraminer.
|Pretty in Pink: Charles Bieler of Château Routas and Lisa Simon of Iron Horse aren't shy about liking rosé.|
• Whoever thinks grapegrowing is strictly a rural occupation has never been to Rochester, N.Y. Wedged between some boarded-up houses in an inner-city area is a vineyard and organic farm owned by the Northeast Neighborhood Alliance. Under a program called the Greater Rochester Urban Bounty (GRUB for short), the land was acquired for $7,000 after it went into foreclosure. It was so overgrown with weeds and loaded with clutter that it took a $1 million Kellogg grant, several workers and 146 truckloads to remove all the debris. Uncovered during the cleanup, however, was a five-and-a-half row vineyard. "It's a gem. It's beautiful," says Shirley Edwards, president of the alliance. GRUB now farms this and another property with the help of high-school students and volunteers, and sells fruits and vegetables to restaurants and at local markets. The only downside is that we can't expect a GRUB wine anytime soon. "We have Concord grapes and some white table grapes. And a really nice red grape," Edwards says. "It's not like we have tons that we could sell to a winery." But there are some public spaces on the property, so at least locals don't have to drive all the way to the Finger Lakes to stroll among the vines.