• Unfiltered was flipping through the message boards for fans of the rock band KISS (like we do every weekend) and found out that guitarist Paul Stanley is the latest celebrity-turned-vintner. Stanley is perhaps best known for wearing makeup (he was the one with the star over his right eye) and cowriting and singing such hard rock hits as "Lick it Up" (presumably inspired by a spilled wineglass) in the 1970s and 80s. While touring in Australia about seven years ago, Stanley got in touch with wine specialist Andrew Roper, who introduced him to Barossa's Kaesler wines. Fast-forward to the 2008 vintage, and the Paul Stanley Collection (including a pair of Barossa Shiraz made with help from Kaesler) is born. "[Stanley] is absolutely involved in the selection and blending," says Roper, and indicates a Cabernet and Chardonnay are on the horizon too. The wines are scheduled to be released exclusively to U.S. restaurants and casinos next year, and will likely command triple-digit prices on wine lists. Later this month, Stanley is releasing some large-format bottles to an Australian Red Cross fund-raiser for victims of the recent fires in Victoria. The labels will feature original artwork from colorful images painted by Stanley himself, and the auction will include some of the original pieces.
|La Cercle Rouge's contingent celebrates a victory at D'Artagnan's Duckathlon.|
• Reality-show chef competitions are everywhere these days. But do you ever wonder what it would be like if the cameras stopped rolling and chefs started, well, getting real? This past Sunday, 24 teams from top New York restaurants braved the spring showers and faced off in the fifth-annual Duckathalon, a 30-event sprint to settle the culinary score. And things got real. Well, at least, really silly. The challenges ranged from testing formal skills (such as a timed contest to remove lobster meat from the shell intact and a blind tasting of three French Sauvignon Blancs in which participants tried to guess their correct regions) to testing talents that were less … essential in the kitchen. One involved a team member having to repeatedly dunk a sausage tied between his or her legs into a milk canister and another was a contest to see who could shoot a Champagne cork the furthest. The two-person team from Annisa, a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner, took home the top prize, while Tribeca Grill and Jacques Torres rounded out the top three. D'Artagnan, which organized the event, promises that next year's throwdown—pegged to their 25th anniversary—will be even more elaborate.
|Who knew wine label design was child's play?|
• Sicily's active volcano, Etna, may spew out globs of lava on a regular basis, but that hasn't halted the growing reputation of its slopes as a quality vine-growing area. Prospective winemakers are attracted to the particular combination of volcanic ash, sand and rock that seems to be the ideal terroir for the local red Nerello grapes. One of the latest tiny estates to appear on the northern slopes is the 3.2-acre Le Vigne di Eli, established in 2007 by one of Etna's latter-day pioneers, Marco de Grazia, Florentine wine exporter and, since 2004, owner of the much-lauded Tenuta delle Terre Nere estate, located in the same area. Says de Grazia, "The estate was established simply as an act of love towards my then two-year-old daughter, Elena (Eli is her nickname). Little Elena's baby drawings are the labels, which will change every year, graphically testifying her growth." To complete the junior theme of the new estate, de Grazia decided to donate some of the proceeds to Florence's Meyer Pediatric Hospital, where, he says, "my friends and I, as kids, spent many, many days getting stitches and casts or overcoming the many illnesses to which children are subject."
• Have you have ever wondered if that blue-chip bottle of wine that's hidden away in your cellar is the genuine article? A new authentication system may be able to determine its identity—by examining the DNA of the bottle's contents. Developed by Applied DNA Sciences, the system, called BioMaterial Genotyping, can authenticate a wine using its DNA like a fingerprint to determine if it matches a bottle with certifiable provenance. "Grapes have certain genetic profiles," says MeiLin Wan, director of project management at Applied DNA Sciences (the same people who brought you the DNA-based SigNature fraud-prevention system). Technically, two bottles of the same wine should have identical DNA patterns. Apparently you can take samples of any organic material from the bottle for comparison. According to Wan, the error rate for the procedure is one in 1 trillion. However, in order to determine a wine's true identity, both the suspect bottle and the certified bottle will have to be opened in order to obtain the necessary samples, not something most collectors would imagine doing. The system has not been formally launched yet, so there's no word on how much it might cost to test a bottle. We'll have to wait and see how effective the system is, but in the meantime we'll get to work on that CSI wine mystery script.