• Ah, youth! Why so mysterious? What do they want in a wine? Random facts and confusion, says film director and winemaker Francis Ford Coppola—or at least that's what we surmise after scanning knowine.com, the website for Encyclopedia, his latest line of wines. Unfiltered has so many questions: Why the funny Erlenmeyer flask-shaped bottles with screw caps? Why the name Encyclopedia, since there are only four wines? Are there plans for 26? Instead of answering these questions on the website, however, Coppola has instead supplied the obtuse travel diary of one 26-year-old "Nick," who has been sent to Europe in search of wine-based adventure and discovery, with decidedly mixed results. Here's Nick on Luxembourg: "…um, anyone know what language they speak in Luxembourg?" On Paris: "In 1909 a circus elephant came and walked up the first two levels of the Eiffel tower. … There's no real connection to wine, but it's pretty insane." On Spain: Well, we think Nick might have done too much "research" in Spain, as there's no text, just photos of him drinking, and a shaky video of a bullfight. We guess we're supposed to identify with him, but there's nothing like a confusing marketing campaign to make us feel out of touch with the kids today.
He never has trouble finding a parking spot in the company lot.
• You may consider NASCAR to be the domain of tank tops, bad hairdos and beer drinking, but one Napa Valley wine producer (not to mention Richard Childress and Mike Skinner) is trying to change the beer-drinking part of the equation. Bennett Lane Winery owner Randy Lynch has recently announced a two-year partnership with Sonoma, Calif.'s Infineon Raceway, in which his winery will be the title sponsor of the upcoming NASCAR Camping World Series West Event. The raceway will also begin serving Bennett Lane Maximus and Cabernet Sauvignon by the glass. Lynch, himself a former amateur racecar driver, is no stranger to the racetrack. He currently owns a NASCAR West division team, whose No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery car won the 2007 West Series championship. This year Lynch's wife, Lisa Lynch, will be heading up a second Bennett Lane team, represented by the No. 24 Maximus, which will compete against the No. 2 Bennett Lane car. Unfiltered is still working out the kinks on its own racecar, which will feature a wine fridge in the trunk, a cork dashboard and an engine that runs on grape pomace.
Sharp and spiny, with hints of pain.
• Just in time for the upcoming Olympics in Beijing comes a new line of Franco-Chinese beverages in a class of their own. Anhui Cactus winery is currently marketing a range of drinks made from a combination of Languedoc vins de pays and cactus juice. The red and white wine drinks, sold under the label "Cactus," contain 5 percent of the prickly plant's juice—not a lot, but enough to knock your socks off. "It's similar to a cactus-flavored Campari," said company spokesperson Eric Lathan. Chinese drinkers, who prize cactus juice for its nutritive and energy-giving qualities, purchased more than a million bottles of the brand last year. Lathan added, "You can pick up the [cactus] aromas straight away and the attack on the palate is really surprising." We bet it is. How do you say "Waiter, there's a needle-sharp spine in my wine" in Cantonese?
"Enjoy that coffee, did you? Let me tell you a story ... "
• Would you spend more than $5 on an espresso? No? Well, what if we told you that some animals with very good taste (and talented digestive tracts) had individually selected each bean? It seems that posh London department store Peter Jones is selling just such a shot of java, for $100 (US), to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, a charitable organization. The coffee, billed as "the rarest cup of coffee in the world," is a blend of Jamaican Blue Mountain and Kopi Luwak beans, the latter sourced from Indonesia. Kopi Luwak are considered rare because the beans are, ahem, hand-harvested from the fecal matter of Asian palm civets (tree-based wildcats) after they've transmigrated the seven-pound animal's digestive tract, their outer layer and internal proteins being slightly digested along the way, which purportedly contributes to the brew's smooth quality. The civets are said to only select and eat the ripest and best-quality beans, and fewer than 400 pounds of the coffee are harvested every year. "Caffé Raro," as it's called, will be available by the cup at the store's Espresso Bar, as well as in 100-gram bags, throughout the month of April. "Armed with a wealth of knowledge, customers will be able to serve an impressive after-dinner coffee," said Joe Teixeira, head of catering at Peter Jones. Unfiltered suggests saving the story of how the coffee is "made" for after the guests have enjoyed a cup. Or possibly for never.