Unfiltered: NFL's 1st Rule of Winemaking: Do Not Talk About Winemaking

Plus, MLB Hall of Famer skips All-Star Game to tend vines, rapper Ludacris opens restaurant, UK to shrink wineglasses and California increases tasting pours
Jul 23, 2008

• Unfiltered is no stranger to professional baseball and hockey players slapping their names on wine labels for charity. So when we heard about the NFL's Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson's new wine label, TwentyFour, we just shrugged at first. Upon closer inspection, however, it appears that Woodson actually knows his wine. When he played for the Oakland Raiders, whose training camp is based in Napa Valley, Woodson toured Robert Mondavi Winery and was instantly hooked on the business—he stayed for four hours that day. (Though to be honest, playing for the Oakland Raiders could cause anyone to turn to the bottle.) The 2005 TwentyFour by Charles Woodson Napa Valley Stags Leap District Cabernet will be released this November, and just over 200 cases were made. Unfortunately, Woodson is unavailable for comment—by contract. Although the project started long before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell took office, one of Goodell's new league rules is that NFL players are forbidden to endorse alcoholic beverages. After Woodson gave his first interview at the wine's release party in his home state of Michigan, the league offices informed his representatives that he was not permitted to promote the wine in any way (even though his name is all over the bottle). Unfiltered wonders how Goodell finds the time to crack down on a serious winemaker between cashing all those checks from the beer companies whose commercials we have to sit through during every timeout.

• In other news from the worlds of sports and wine, New York Mets Hall of Famer Tom Seaver chose grapes over baseballs last week. According to New York's Newsday, Seaver missed the July 17 All-Star Game festivities at Yankee Stadium in order to put new vines into his vineyard in Napa Valley, Calif. His vineyard produces Cabernet Sauvignon under the label GTS (as in, George Thomas Seaver) Vineyards. The 62-year-old former pitcher started mapping out the vineyard once he moved with wife, Nancy, to a 115-acre property in Diamond Mountain in 2000, but his love of the grape began at a much earlier age, as his father was in the raisin business. So Unfiltered, perhaps unlike some Mets fans, won't hold it against Seaver for making wine his top priority.

• According to rapper and actor Chris "Ludacris" Bridges' song, "Grew Up a Screw-Up," the life of a high-profile musician involves "five-course meals, no more Popeyes and Blimpies, from hanging 'round the block to throwing parties in the Hamptons." While he's actually doing business a bit further south than the Hamptons, Bridges is fulfilling his vision, having recently opened a new branch of Straits Restaurant in Atlanta with partner Chris Yeo (and perhaps creating some competition for R&B singer Usher's Atlanta wine bar, The Grape). Yeo also operates three Straits Restaurants in California, and although the menu is heavily influenced by Singaporean cuisine in all four locations, the Atlanta menu also features Southern ingredients like watermelon, grits and okra, plus a wine list with 60 selections. Bridges has yet to venture into the winemaking business like his fellow hip-hopper Lil' Jon, but he did tell Unfiltered that his favorite wine is Opus One, the legendary Mondavi-Rothschild collaboration, so perhaps a Lil' Jon-Ludacris cuvée is in his future.

• Pubs in the United Kingdom may have to serve wine and spirits in smaller glasses, according to a report in the Times of London. The move is part of a government plan to help control the binge drinking it blames on oversize servings in pubs. Some bars' standard wineglasses are reportedly so large that they can hold a third of a bottle of wine, which can easily push someone over the drinking-and-driving limit. The government hopes that mandatory 125ml glasses would help cut down on the increased number of alcohol-related hospital visits, and encourage more responsible drinking. Meanwhile in the U.S., the law is moving in a slightly different direction—that is, toward larger pours. California winery tasting rooms are now at liberty to give visitors a full glass of wine to sample, thanks to a new bill recently signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also recently legalized garagiste winemaking competitions. Previously, wineries were limited to 1-ounce pours for prospective customers.

• From Boissett, the company that brought you French Rabbit wines packaged in 1-liter Tetrapaks, comes the latest in eco-friendly wine packaging: plastic and aluminum bottles. Boissett, based in the Burgundy region, is launching three new wines in plastic bottles, which are not only recyclable but also light-weight, which means less fuel is used in shipping them to retailers. Yellow Jersey Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, named for the jerseys worn by Tour de France race leaders, are made from the grapes from the Limoux and Minervois regions, and the Bonus Passus Côtes du Rhône is produced by Louis Bernard. A Mommessin Beaujolais Grande Reserve, meanwhile, will be packaged in a light-weight, recyclable aluminum bottle, which comes with a dot that switches color to indicate when the wine has reached the correct serving temperature. In light of these innovations—plus recent news that Inglenook and Almaden will soon switch from their iconic glass jugs to bag-in-a-box—we wonder, will glass soon go the way of the Automat, the Edsel and the dodo bird?

Unfiltered

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