Unfiltered

Two good reasons to live in England, one way to invest in wine and lots of winery cats
Aug 23, 2006

• England is quickly becoming the place for wine drinkers to fall ill. First one hospital's oncology ward announced it was allowing cancer patients to bring in wine to have with dinner. Now the King Edward VII hospital in London is offering a nightly wine list, consisting primarily of French and New World producers, for patients and their guests. Provided by wine merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd, the list contains 11 reds, 12 whites, three Champagnes, a house sparkler and a rosé. Most of the selections are priced between $13 and $31, and patients can order half-bottles or full bottles. "People understand more about wine these days," said BB&R spokeswoman Vicky Williams. "[The hospital doesn't] want to just pawn off any table red or white, they want to respect people's knowledge of wine." This is not the first time King Edwards has made wine available to patients. On May 11, 1917, a surgeon there used Champagne as the anesthetic during the amputation of a soldier's arm. It may have taken almost 90 years, but Unfiltered is happy to see wine in the recovery room rather than the operating room.

• Here's another reason to move to London: Wine service in grocery stores there is heading to a whole new level. Whole Foods Market, the chain that got its start in Texas, is planning to open a 125,000-square-foot megamarket in London next year, with 40 more U.K. outlets predicted to follow. Word is that the Kensington High Street store will feature a Champagne and oyster bar, a sushi and sake bar, a pub and three restaurants with wine lists. (Here in the States, we just get wine-tasting "stations" at our Whole Food stores, unless you're lucky enough to shop at the showplace Austin market.) Retail snoop Matthew Brown of London-based Echo Chamber, which spies on businesses for other businesses, said he saw the plans during a recent recon mission. "Only 75,000 square feet will be for shopping," he said, with the rest allocated for drinking and dining. While Whole Foods' spokesman Fred Shank confirmed that Champagne will be poured at an oyster bar, he neither admitted or denied the other claims and said he "cannot talk about the specifics of the store at this time." But was he giving Unfiltered a clue when he said, "We are always looking to better serve our shoppers with the most entertaining venues and food concepts, and when we design our stores, those plans are very fluid"?

Who needs a scratching post when you've got a whole vineyard?
• The obsession with winery dogs has, as could be expected, led to winery cats. Public relations specialist Jo Diaz decided to embark on a side project while starting her wine-industry career and working in the tasting room at Sonoma winery Belvedere, which was inhabited by Smoky the cat. "I started to call wineries to see if they, too, had cats," said Diaz. She drove all over the California countryside photographing fermentation-facility felines, and now her collection of images is on display at winerycats.com ... if the curiosity is killing you.

• Many Australian producers are struggling financially due to the country's current grape glut, but with exports soaring, the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio decided to invest part of the educators' pension funds in the industry. The system recently bought a 5.03 percent stake in Australian winery McGuigan Simeon, even though the Australian winery's chairman, David Clarke, recently announced losses of AUS$11.55 million for the year ending June 30, 2006 and, furthermore, doesn't expect to see an upturn in fortunes until 2009. The STRSO acknowledged it had purchased more than 6 million shares, and spokeswoman Laura Ecklar defended the move, saying, "We are investing in a company that we believe has good long-term value." Ecklar added that this is the only Australian wine investment the STRSO has, and it's just a blip in their holdings. "The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio has a $45 billion global equity portfolio with shares in more than 4,000 companies," she added. "This is just one of them." We're guessing that it seemed like a better investment than 2005 Bordeaux futures--$45 billion only goes so far.

• A new California vintner is using wine to satisfy the needs of the less fortunate. Gordon Holmes, 56, who sold his Wall Street publications Research and Buyside to pursue his dream of running his own winery, began bottling Lookout Ridge in 2000. Now, Holmes is donating a wheelchair to a person in need for each case sold of Lookout Ridge wines, which are made by Greg La Follette of Tandem and Marco DiGiulio (whose wines at Lokoya are no strangers to classic scores). Holmes was inspired by his wife, Kari, whose battle with multiple sclerosis has left her unable to get around without her wheelchair, and Ken Behring, former owner of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and founder of the Wheelchair Foundation, which has donated or committed more than 500,000 wheelchairs to people in need around the world. As for the cost of such philanthropy--each case only costs $400 to $500--Holmes says, "[The winery] isn't about making money; it's about making something special. To be able to change someone's life is pretty darn powerful."

Unfiltered

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