Unfiltered

Emeril in space, Chardonnay in the nude and worms try to make it as wine critics
Aug 16, 2006

• Last week, the astronauts aboard the International Space Station got a nice break from their usual all-Tang-all-the-time diet. Emeril Lagasse worked with NASA for several months on New Orleans-style dishes that could be freeze-dried and sent into orbit for a dinner under the stars. On Aug. 10, the ISS astronauts finally enjoyed the foods of his labors: Mardi Gras jambalaya, mashed potatoes with bacon, green beans with garlic, rice pudding and mixed fruit, which they enjoyed with the celebrity chef via closed-circuit TV. This October, Food Network will air a special edition of Emeril Live showing how the food was tested, freeze-dried, packed and carried into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in July. How the astronauts held off from eating the food for three weeks we'll never know, but we're sure it was finally a nice change of pace from normal orbit cuisine.

 
We were afraid to ask about Naked Chardonnay, and it turns out we were right to be.
• Unfiltered receives all sorts of strange pictures. Baby photos, birthday photos, wedding photos … and now, naked pictures. In probably the most bizarre publicity stunt for a new wine--ever--Chaddsford Winery in Pennsylvania is promoting its new Naked Chardonnay (as in, unwooded), by claiming that a naked man has been seen running around its vineyard. Turns out it's just Chaddsford owner Eric Miller posing for the pic to make a point. "I got really bored with my own Chardonnays," said Miller. "They were getting too big and heavy. Now we're just makin' this lean, clean, mean style." The Naked Chardonnay has been in the works for about five years, during which Miller tried different yeasts and cropping levels. "It wasn't simple to make that transition," he said, and neither was doing a nude photo shoot when it came time to launch the new wine. "That little vineyard is right on Route 1, so thousands of people were going past me at the time that picture was taken." Thankfully there were no reports of accidents, but we would just like to point out one thing to Miller: People tend to get naked after they drink the wine, not before it's even made.

• Part worm. Part machine. All critic. The future of wine reviews? Unfiltered hopes not (we'd be out of a job). Some Aussie scientists, however, are attempting to build a better wine critic-with bugs. A collaborative project between Australian National University, Monash University and Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization aims to, according to the project's Web site, "co-opt the olfactory receptors of insects and worms to engineer a robust cybernose." That cybernose could be put to use making rapid, on-site assessments of complex odors, helping viticulturists determine the best time to harvest. The electronic nose, which researchers hope to prototype in around five years at a cost of about $4 million, would also be useful in the cellar. Stephen Trowell, the head researcher for the project, said that a worm's simple genetic structure makes it easier for scientists to understand its acute sense of smell and electronically mimic the process. "We aim to have, in wineries around Australia, a cybernose that will enable the wine industry to objectively measure aroma and flavor--a more reliable measure than chewing some grapes," he told Australia's The Age. Unfiltered applauds the effort, but remains skeptical of this worm … we never thought much of the one at the bottom of the tequila bottle either.

 
Relive the glory days.
• The San Francisco 49ers may have struggled the past few years, but Sonoma Valley vintner Steve Ledson is reliving the glory days with the release of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley "The Catch" 2005. The wine commemorates Dwight Clark's memorable touchdown catch during the 1981 NFC Championship, which led to the Niners' first of five winning Super Bowl appearances. The bottle features an image of Clark jumping for the ball, a moment many football fans will recall. The team was trailing the Dallas Cowboys, 27-21, in the final minute of the game, when Clark made a fingertip grab of Joe Montana's pass in the back of the end zone, giving the 49ers the victory. "Dwight loves good wine," said Ledson. "He was here tasting, and he really gravitated toward Pinot Noir, and I thought that was appropriate because you have to have some finesse to catch a ball the way he did. And Pinot is all about finesse." The wine is the latest release in Ledson's Harmony Collection, which features other celebrities such as Michael McDonald and Jeff Bridges, and the proceeds benefit several children's charities. "The Catch" retails through the winery for $75, or $95 for a bottle autographed by Clark.

• They could call the movie Mr. Zinfandel goes to Sacramento. Unfiltered has followed with interest the Zinfandel grape's trek through the corridors of California government. In February, state senator Carole Migden, a Democrat representing the San Francisco Bay area, introduced a bill to make Zinfandel the official state grape. Understandably, proponents of other varieties weren't so keen, so after some back-and-forth, Migden crafted another proposal designating Zinfandel the official historic wine of California. That was relatively solid ground, since Zinfandel has been in California since the Gold Rush era, and it seemed not to upset those more proud of California's accomplishments with Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The bill passed the Senate in June on a 21-to-13 vote and the Assembly on Aug. 10, with 46 Ayes and 20 Nays. So now it's up to Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the bill into law, which would be a nice ending to this legislative saga yet at the same time sadly typical of government in general: Happy to cheer past accomplishments, but forgetting that this year there aren't enough people to pick all the grapes!

Unfiltered

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